Dozer, the bulldog

Dozer, the bulldog
Dozer: Spring training is upon us!

Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...

Backstage at Reggae on the River, 2017...
The author of Mark's Work

Hollyhocks

Hollyhocks
Why I grow flowers

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.

HappyDay Farms bees are happy bees.
Air-borne bees

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast

HeadSodBuster and BossLady at the coast
Love is the greatest power.

Beauty abounds!

Beauty abounds!
Crossing the Eel River at French's Camp

If you've seen one butterfly, you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.

If you've seen one butterfly,  you've seen 'em all, said no one ever.
Butter in the fly...

July Jewels

July Jewels
Bees to the Kingdom

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017

My souvenir from Reggae on the River, 2017
Something I have always wanted...

Mahlon Masling Blue

Mahlon Masling Blue
My friend and brother.

Mark's E-mail address

bellspringsmark@gmail.com

Friday, November 4, 2011

United Auto Stores, #3: Shave and a Haircut

Shave and a Haircut
One did not have to speak Spanish to work at United Auto Stores, but it sure made life easier.  There was just so much to learn in the beginning, back in the Fall of 1974, when I first began working there.  It was fine when someone needed spark plugs and points/condenser for a small block Chevy, and he spoke to you in English.  But how about the guy who needed inner engine parts for a V-8 Ford, who didn’t know for sure what size engine he had, and who did not speak English?  Let’s say it is a Saturday, and people have been pulling numbers from the machine since we opened the doors.  Now with the place rocking, I look up at the number machine and bellow out “49!”  Up steps Juan who tells me in broken English that he needs piston rings, bearings and a complete gasket set for a ’67 Ford Fairlane, with a V-8.  [HEY, JIMMY.  BRUNO.  HELP!]  
A guy standing in line asks Juan a question in Spanish and tells me Juan is pricing the stuff out, so if I can give him a figure, and he can afford them, he will buy them today.  Both Jimmy and Bruno are in the middle of their own crises, and I have to go to Jaime, who is also helping someone, but it is obvious that it is a no-brainer, so to him I go. Jaime is on the path to becoming a San Jose cop, and he had what might be construed as a predisposed attitude toward a certain segment of the general population. 
“Jaime, what catalog do I look up piston rings in?”
“TRW, you dirty hippie.  What size engine does he have?” asked Jaime, reaching over and thumbing open the proper catalog.
“He says it is a ’67 Ford Fairlane, with a V-8.” 
Jaime looked at me as though I were a banana slug.  “Of course it has a V-8 Squid, you long-haired, Commie Pinko.   What size?”
I scuttled back to Juan.  “What size engine do you have?”  Juan turned to his neighbor, who asked him, “Que motor tiene?”  The man listened a moment and said, “351 cubic inches.”
I went back to the catalog.  “Oh, heck,” I said, or something like that.  There was a listing for a 351W and a 351C.  What the heck is that supposed to mean?  I went back to Jaime, who was just taking money and giving his customer the receipt.
“Ford put out two different engines with the same displacement,” he said.  One is a 351 Cleveland and the other is a 351 Windsor.  If you didn’t have so much hair on your face, you would know that.”  Huh?
I went back to my customer and by proxy, told him, “There are two different 351 cubic inch engines.  Can you tell me whether you have a 351C or a 351W?”  From the blank expression on his face, I could tell what the answer was. 

“Is the car out front?”  I asked.  I received an affirmative, so I went back to Jaime. 
“He doesn’t know what size engine it is, but the car’s out front.  How do I tell one engine from another?”
“Well, it would help if you had a hair cut, because then hair wouldn’t be in your eyes.”  Since I wore my hair in a pony tail, there was never hair anywhere near my face.  “But if he does his own tune-ups, ask him if the spark plugs take a 13/16 inch socket, or a 5/8inch.  If he doesn’t know, just go out and take a look, if you can do it without leaving a trail of slime for me to slip on, Squid.”
There was so much of this technical kind of minutia that I had to learn, and that doesn’t even go into the question of why Ford felt it was necessary to have two engines that are the same only different, in the same year.
Jaime, as incorrigible as he was, also knew his stuff.  I found it hilarious to hear from Mike and the other old-timers, that he was one of the slowest to pick up the trade of all the squids who’d slimed their way through UA’s doors.  Now it was his turn to dish it out, and who better than I to be on the receiving end of his barbs?
I asked him one day, just to extend the olive branch [again], “Why do you want to be a cop, Jaime?”
“So I can bust dirty hippies like you, Squid.”
“Well, of course.  But besides that?  I mean not everyone in San Jose is a hippie.”
“No, but there are a lot of them, including you.  I have a lot of work to do.”  
I felt special.  Don’t you just love a man with a vocation?

2 comments:

  1. SQUIDS!!!!! What a funny word that was to use for the newbies! How long did one stay a squid?

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  2. Me? A very short time. Others? An eternity. One stayed a squid until one could hold his/her head out of the water, without the physical, hand-holding support of the veteran counter clerks. Squids are slimy, and no one wants to chill with a squid. The auto parts industry is a hard ice cube to crush, and be able to blend into the martini of life. As a career, I got a lot of satisfaction out of mastering the counter and the clientele. Those five years at Sunrize Market paved the way...

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