I sat in my truck in one of the many quick oil change places in Clarksville. I only vaguely paid attention to the calls of, “Ready on bay 1,” and the gentle rocking of the truck as they opened the hood and checked the fluids. I was about to ponder the usage of the word “instant” in relation to oil changes when a very nice car pulled in to the bay beside me. I watched as the worker directing the driver subtly motioned to his co-workers. The one who just opened my hood quickly moved in toward the new customer. All work on my vehicle stopped. I peered into the new car and it all came clear.
Contained within the shiny, expensive car was an undeniably attractive woman. She clearly knew this as well, because she literally batted her eyes at the attendant who then dropped his clipboard. The staff fawned over her and I knew my oil change would take longer and probably wouldn’t be resumed until she left. I watched the scene unfold and though, must be nice to be so popular.
As most who know me can attest, I’ve never really been cool. While I long ago gave up on trying to attain it, I still catch myself wondering what it would be like to be cool (or when I’m being completely honest, popular). I don’t know if it’s the type of daydream that afflicts others, but it’s one that dogs me occasionally, especially when confronted with a well-defined example.
I fantasized about leaving the oil change place, buying a flashy car and coming back like something out of movies such as Can’t Buy Me Love (the original with Patrick Dempsey before he became McDreamy) or similar fare. Of course, I still couldn’t have competed with her looks (nor would I want to with a shop full of men). It just annoyed me that they treated her so specially. They were solicitous and kept wanting to do things for her. They wouldn’t leave her alone and she seemed to enjoy the attention.
It reminded me too much of school where I watched the football team get a pass for any unusual behavior and the attention of many girls. It wasn’t so much that I wanted a group of girls to surround me and ask me questions to get my attention (of course, I totally did want that), I just didn’t understand why they seemed oblivious to anyone else in the room. I also couldn’t understand why they kept asking when said popular guy kept brushing them off.
I snapped from my reverie when the attendant knocked on my window and asked if I wanted an oil change. the other customer had clearly left. I lowered my window and resisted the urge to say, “Oh, is that what you do here?” I settled for “yes, please,” after which we went through his checklist of make/model, etc. There was one thing I wanted to make absolutely clear in the beginning.
“I know you’re supposed to try to up sell me on services, but I just want an oil change and that’s all I want to pay for.
Of course, if you’ve ever been to one of these establishments, you know what happened next anyway. It wasn’t long before he was at my window again.
“I checked your air filter. You need to replace it.”
“I’ve already got one, I just haven’t put it in yet?”
“Oh? YOu have it with you? I can go ahead and install that for you, it only costs -”
“Uh, it’s at home. I’ll get it.”
“Ok, but you should replace it soon. I can still go ahead and put one in and you could return the one you already have.”
“No, thanks, really, just the oil change.”
“No problem.” Apparently it was a problem though, because he came back with more questions, none of which regarded an oil change.
“I noticed your windshield wipers look a little worn. We have replacements in stock and I could – ”
“No, thanks. They’re doing pretty well still. I think they have some life left.”
“They’re showing signs of wear. You should really consider replacing them. They can cause serious damage to your windshield if you don’t address it.”
“I appreciate it, but there’s no way they’re that bad. They get the water off and everything.”
“Well, I’m sure their adequate, but let me just show you our high performance -“
“Look, I appreciate that you have to up sell, but I just came for an oil change. That’s really all I want. To have my oil changed.”
“No problem, oil change it is. Oh, we are offering a special on lubing your universal joint. We recommend you lube the U-joint -”
“I recommend you just change my oil. Please.” He walked away for what I thought was the last time. He came back with the dipstick from my truck.
“I wanted to show you this. See how dark your oil is?”
“Yeah, it looks a lot like oil used for 3,000 miles or three months, whichever came first.”
“Actually, it’s darker than it should be. This could be a sign of engine wear. We can flush the system for -”
“No, my system does not need to be flushed. I needs to have it’s oil changed. Which is why I’m here, at an oil change place. I want my oil changed. I only want my oil changed.” I thought if I repeated enough, it might sink in.
“It is recommended that you flush the system every -” Nope, it wasn’t sinking in.
“Who recommends? The manufacturer? Why isn’t that in my owner’s manual?” I reached for my glove compartment to show him.
“It’s not a manufacturer recommendation.”
“Then who recommends it?”
“What do you mean?”
“You said it was recommended. So who recommends it?”
“Uh, we do.”
“Let me get this straight. The people who recommend a system flush are the ones who make money off of it? Weird. How about we just change my oil. Oil. Change. I believe your sign reads “rapid,” though it’s not.”
“Okay, okay. No need to get upset. I can take a hint.”
“You really haven’t shown an ability to so far.”
He walked over to the engine and reached for the oil dispensers above him, but paused a moment. He looked about to walk back so I stuck my head out the window and said, “No, I do not want the superior synthetic or whatever else you’re about to try to sell me. I just want five quarts of whatever weight the manufacturer recommends, thanks.” He quickly turned back.
They finally finished changing the oil. He came up to the window with his clipboard. As I got ready to pay, he said, “While I was changing your oil I noticed your belts seem a little worn. You might want to -”
“Are you kidding me? You’re still trying to sell me on more than an oil change?” I pulled in expecting a simple oil change. I knew he would try to sell more and that was his job, but I told him up front exactly what I wanted. Since then, he pestered me non stop trying to get me to agree to more when I just wanted the oil change.
And then it hit me. I was the hot girl at a party who just wanted to hang with friends and listen to the music, but gets accosted every few minutes by a guy wanting to dance, or to ask her out, or get her number. It was incredibly annoying and I suddenly felt a little sorry for all the popular people (but just a little).
I paid and waited for my receipt. Then I drove away, content that I would never be popular or cool like that and therefore never have such problems. Sometimes being average and normal is the best in the world. At the very least, you can simply enjoy the music.