So last weekend, someone smashed into my car while it was parked on the street. I found it Monday morning, the rear driver's side quarter panel was fucked.
I've never been in an accident
before (okay, technically one time some asshole rear-ended me on the
highway when I was driving my parents' van), but a hazard of street
parking is that my car is just covered with dings and dents. Someone ripped off one of my hubcaps like the Hulk. There's a massive pound in the side door, scratches all along the body, the bumpers look like a cat's scratching pole. I just leave them there. I kind of like them.
But this new one was going to need repair. I haven't been looking forward to it, going through the motions of taking it in for
an estimate, they would probably just change the whole damn panel,
So this afternoon I'm shopping around for
Halloween costume gear. An old red van pulls up behind me as I'm
getting back to my car.
"Honey, you look like you need
some body work done," the driver growls, smiling through dark brown
teeth. "What would you say if I told you I could fix it up here, right
now, and give you a good price?"
"I would say fuck off."
He laughs a deep, hacking belly laugh and turns to the guy riding
shotgun. "She reminds me of my daughter Rassles." Now for the sake of
story, he didn't say Rassles, he said my first name. But as I have yet to mention my first name on this blog I'm going to keep it that way. Most of you know it already. Whatever.
I turn and look at him. He's probably in his mid-sixties, a dirty looking bastard, and his friend isn't much better off.
"Listen," he says, "I'll give you a good price. Now if you were to take that car in your deductible would be what, $500?"
"$250," I answer.
"Okay, well, I'll do it here and now for $250. If you were a man I would say
$400, but I know how you girls are." He chuckles. "I got five
daughters and eleven grandchildren, believe me, so I know how you girls
are, with your shoes and your make up."
Obviously this man doesn't know me.
"Tell you what, you can just watch us work, it'll take thirty minutes, and I promise it'll look 90% better."
Now, I don't really need it to look 90% better. I have no
problem driving my dented car. It suits me. Drivers avoid me on the
"You're thinkin' right now, right now you're thinkin' these dents give it character, ain't ye?" He laughs. "You're thinkin' that people get out of your way on the highway."
"Yes, that's exactly what I'm thinking."
"I'll tell you, we'll make it look real nice. $250 asking price, that's a deal."
I pause. "You have all the stuff you need in your van?"
you what. If you teach me how to do it, I'll give you $200. And you
teach me and let me do it myself. I've had enough strangers fuck up my
car, so if anyone's going to make it worse, it'll be me."
He laughed again. "Damn if she don't remind me of Rassles! She look
strong enough to you? Yeah, I think she can. Okay, you've got a deal.
Now we can't really do it right here, so how about you follow us down
over there by the street?"
"You got it." I hopped in my car and followed him to an empty
area of the parking lot, just next to the busy street. Am I doing
this? Am I going to fix my car in the parking lot of JoAnn Fabrics?
Why the hell not.
He lumbers out of his van, and he's much shorter than I thought, a good 300 lbs. He wobbles over on bow legs, matting down the greased hair on his head, chewing on a Marlboro.
"You got a card or anything?" I ask.
"No I don't, but here." He gives me his cell phone number and then asks me to call him so I can watch him answer it. "Hello?"
"Hello!" I say.
"What's your name, ma'am?"
"Rassles. What's yours?"
"Ha! Wouldn't you know? I'm John. Pleasure to meet you. You do sound just like my daughter." He tosses his cigarette and ends the call, then sticks out his hand, hard and yellow and covered in grime.
I shake it without hesitation. "Likewise."
"Okay, you ever done body work before?"
"Well, ha! You're gonna learn." John smiles and I nearly wince at the sight of his jagged, stained teeth. They look almost like wood. Either way, he feels friendly.
We open the trunk, and he sees that I've already pulled the side felt of the trunk off. "You try to do this yourself already?"
"No, sir, but my fuel door is broken so I open it through the drunk."
"Smart girl. Been like that long?"
"A few years. One time I pulled into a gas station and a guy with the exact same Civic pulled next to me, and we simultaneously opened our trunks and popped
the door from the inside. It was nice to know I wasn't alone."
He chuckles again and brings out a body hammer and a thick dirty towel. "You sure you want to do this?"
I nod and take the hammer, wrapping it in the towel.
"Okay, now you just roll it on in there. Slow. You want to
roll the hammer from the outside toward the middle, not just hack at
I take a deep breath. I feel rad. I work at this for a minute or two.
"Okay, now come
around over here. Now this here's a slide hammer. And what I need you
to do is screw this right into the body and yank it out o' there."
"You want me to drill holes in my car?"
"Don't you trust me? You think we'd just put holes in? We're gonna fill 'em up, don't you worry."
He points to where I
need to put the bit of the slide hammer, and sure enough I screw the
damn thing into the side of my car and yank it out. He points to
another spot and I do it again. Five holes later, and John thinks I'm the greatest person in the world. This is because I am the greatest person. In the world. We sand it down.
His friend, Hal, comes over with a tray of goo. "Bondo
mud," Hal explains, "it's a fiberglass body filler. This is the body
filler," he says, and then he squirts some blue shit onto there, mixing
it up with a spreader, "and this is the hardener. I'd let you do this,
but it's kinda messy."
"There's an art to Bondo," John says. "It takes practice. Now,
your hand is gonna look different than my hand. And I say that I would
probably do a better job of this--"
"I'm sure you would, but I want to learn." I take the tray and
start spreading pale blue shit all over the holes, all over the dent,
all over everything, while he and Hal ramble on.
"Now, you're gonna want to ask your boyfriend, providin' he's
worth his salt, you're gonna wanna ask him to help you sand this down."
"No boyfriend," I say, crouched down on the ground, smoothing out the Bondo.
"Pretty, smart girl like you? It's a damn shame. All these fool
boys runnin' around with girls can't help themselves out of a paper
bag. You tell any man you have your eye on to give me a call, and I'll
let him know what he's missing."
Hal tells me not to wash the car for at least a day, wax it down later. As if this car has ever gotten a wax. Ever. I'm excited and proud of my work, and I hear the rattle of a spray can, and turn to see John spray-painting the shit out of my car.
Kind of. Spray-painting with silver that nearly matches my car.
Spray-painting only over the mud. Spray-painting lightly and only in
that one area. He offers to do the bumper.
"Please don't. It's just gonna look more fucked up when it gets tapped again. And again. And again and again."
They laugh. I pull some cash out of the ATM and give to them.
"Thanks a lot guys."
"Thank you, Rassles. Now don't forget to call me with any questions on further touch ups. Free of charge."
"Oh, I will."
As they drive away, I look at my car. My parents are going to kill me. I'm 31 years old, and my parents are going to fucking kill me because I did this to a car that I paid for myself, and what happens when I sell it or trade it in or whatever....I know people are going to think I'm an idiot. I know that they'll think I got talked into a scam. I know that it looks...it looks like shit. It looks like some amateur asshole couldn't afford to get their car fixed properly.
And I don't give a fuck. I feel like a bad ass.