Auto Plaza Rag
Adam C. Engst

Ever feel as if you were in a different time zone from the rest of the world? Some people are like that all the time...

I took my Chevy Nova in to be fixed last Friday. I drove it up to the BMW/Mazda/Subaru/Chevrolet/Volvo Auto Plaza and the door opened and I drove it in. Ed edited my name on the computer, adding a comma. "It won't be long," he smiled.

Waiting room. Blue-gray concrete block walls with charcoal trim outlining the doors. In case you can't find them. Lots of glass and chrome. Window in front of me reminds me of the Swedish flag except it is clear. Sign: "Your satisfaction is extremely important to us!" Double line. "If you have any concerns or suggestions please ask to speak with our customer assistance manager Wendy Wallenbeck or if you prefer please call: 272-9292." Triple line. Couldn't Ed add some commas to the sign too? I want to sleep with Wendy Wallenbeck. I want customer assistance.

Proctor-Silex coffee pot three-quarters full for customers only. Windows stare at me. I stare back. Anderson Rent-All across the street. "Hi, I'd like to rent Wendy Wallenbeck." Matter of fact tone. Sign on the window. Mazda, "We surround you with satisfaction." Snow flakes like cotton balls, like bunnies hopping down the bunny trail.

Blue-gray concrete block walls and clear windows. Grey seats. Tasteful post-modern garage decor. Gold oval clock near the door. On time. Four minutes slower than my watch because my watch is four minutes fast in this time zone. Sign on the door. "PUSH." Second sign on the door. "Notice of liquidation." Curling at the corners. Van pulls up outside the windows. Federal Express man wearing Federal Express coveralls and a Federal Express knit hat unloads long, fat, oblong, thin, short packages. Chiasmus. Slowly. One at a time.

Snow slows to motes in the whites of god's Eye. "Don't shoot until you see the whites of his Eye." Tall blonde on tall heels clicks past four minutes fast. Wendy Wallenbeck? Styrofoam cups--the cockroaches will build houses with Styrofoam cups curling at the corners and en-spaces or is it em-spaces when the world blows up. Short woman from PartsPlus wearing a PartsPlus coat pulls up outside the windows. Carries in a small cardboard box labeled in big letters "Air Filter." Blonde shoulder length hair shorter than Wendy Wallenbeck's. I want to sleep with Wendy Wallenbeck.

Two men next to me. "Fifty cents on the TomTran to work. Fifty cents back. You gotta keep a truck out of the salt and slush to keep it nice." Gold clock sticks out. Wendy Wallenbeck couldn't have picked it out? She looks pained when I mention it. Second short woman from PartsPlus pulls up outside the windows. Dirty brown hair crawling on the last legs of a perm. Wears PartsPlus overalls under a brown PartsPlus jacket. Two men, "One dollar a day. Thanksgiving Day I went over every inch my truck. Not a speck of dirt on it."

Sign on the window. Volvo, "We are ready to service you." Are Volvos from Sweden? Can't hold it longer. Bathroom. Two switches. One light, one fan. I turn off the fan. Blue-gray decor except for the charcoal outline of the door, should I be unable to find it. Sit down. Elliptical toilet paper dispenser. Gives more torque, prevents more than five sheets of bathroom tissue from coming off at once. Frustrated, I pull at it again and again, generating lots of torque. Someone tries the door, which I've locked in a fit of paranoia. I cough unconvincingly so they don't use their keys or simply break the door down and drag me off for interrogation. "How do you know Wendy Wallenbeck?" It's a very effective technique, you know, abducting suspects from the toilet.

Plump blonde woman from United Parcel Service pulls up outside the window. She has short curly hair and is wearing a UPS nylon jacket. "Artificial milk or artificial sugar for your coffee, sir?" asks Wendy Wallenbeck. The fake sugar is in a blue-topped plastic dispenser and the fake milk is in a white-topped plastic dispenser. "Mr. Slite. We've finished the alignment." That may or may not be my name. It isn't a good idea to give out your name to strangers. Some Indian tribes used to think if someone knew your name, that person could control you. Now if they know your name, they can call you and send you private offerings in the mail and ogle your credit rating. It's all the same thing, I suppose.

"You don't have to call me sir," I tell Wendy Wallenbeck. "You can call me--" Drowned out by "Carl Franks. Please dial five hundred. Carl Franks. Five hundred." Two men, "Fifty cents to and from work. Three months of this and I figure my truck will stay nice." Hundreds of millions of years pass. "Mr. Slite. We've finished the alignment on your Nova." "Ed, is it now a super nova?" Yes, he replied and I thought I saw the motes in his eyes glinting as it exploded.

Adam C. Engst is the editor of TidBITS, a free weekly newsletter focusing on the Macintosh and electronic communications. He lives in Issaquah, Washington, with his wife Tonya. Not content to be mildy busy, he writes books about the Internet, including the bestselling Internet Starter Kit.

InterText stories written by Adam C. Engst: "Auto Plaza Rag" (v4n1), "Still Life" (v4n2).

InterText Copyright © 1991-1999 Jason Snell. This story may only be distributed as part of the collected whole of Volume 4, Number 1 of InterText. This story Copyright © 1994 Adam C. Engst.