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Welcome to Pep Boys

18 April 2022

The Summer of 1999 was exactly one year after the Milligans moved to the country fixer-upper in Newcastle from the brand new suburban tract-home in Roseville, California. I hosted a bar-be-cue for friends to help me, Dear Hubby, and our two children celebrate Settling into the Abode.

The previous winter had been harsh, with the old shack lacking adequate heat. That summer was proving to be equally challenging — since both of the swamp coolers had to be replaced . . . but I was working with it!! I invited my dear friend and workplace colleague, Mr. O, Instrumentation Specialist (as he liked to call himself). He had to drive, with his two teenaged daughters, all the way from Woodland, in the county of Yolo — or Yoyo — as that hey-wow location is non-affectionately called by the more reality-based citizens in Placer County.

Newcastle is situated in Placer County. The distance between the two towns is about forty miles. That trek is not onerous, by the commuting standards of today. Distance, however, is not necessarily the defining part of the automobile gauntlet to a destination. It’s what happens on the road that can make the road trip so very memorable. Somewhere along I-80 East, Mr. O and his 1965 Mustang (unrestored, and bearing its very oxidized and original springtime yellow paint) experienced a blow-out of the rear tire. The car spun around, the full 360-degree spin-out. He and his progeny were safe, but he had to somehow procure road assistance, which he was not able to do (technicality with AAA). He therefore decided to mount the spare, and drive to a store in Sacramento to buy a new tire. This delightful drama took place during the Pre-cell Phone Era, when a person relied on his own wits and savvy wisdom to confront the unexpected complexities of life. Mr. O got the hobbling Mustang off of the freeway — with the use of a spare. This tire was pre-doughnut. The wheel was a baldie, but it did the job — for a short distance. Mr. O and his daughters thereby made it all the way to the auto-parts palace known in this region as Pep Boys.

I found out about this freeway incident after Mr. O arrived at the Peach House, about two hours late for the cook-out. He explained, in great and articulate detail, and with more than adequate eye-movements and hand gestures, the story of his trip to Pep Boys in Sacramento, in the 100+ degree scorching dry heat. This retailer was located somewhere along Arden Way. For those not in the know (and they’re the lucky ones), Arden Way has never offered upscale retail. In the late 1970s through the early 1980s, the Gallego serial-killer couple, aka the Love Slave Killers, kidnapped and murdered at least ten people after taking them hostage at the Arden Fair Mall. I am quite sure that this protective father kept track of his lovely adolescent daughters every second of his venture into this store on Arden Way. Mr. O had walked up to the counter, intending to buy a real tire for his Mustang. What then took place was later related by this comedic man to the assembled guests at my one-acre country-estate: the entire saga of the journey on the freeway, the spin-out from the blow-out, the lack of time due to being behind time, the urgent need to buy the tire, and to get driving further up the road to the Newcastle BBQ.

This information was all related with some excitation, and hurriedly. The tempo of telling the tale came to a rather thespian climax as Mr. O imitated . . . The sales clerk, loudly and slowly, announcing: “Welcommmmme to Pep Boys.” The Pep Boys are Manny, Moe, and Jack. I don’t believe Mr. O met them personally on that hot summer day. He did, however, come face-to-face with the colossally incredible incongruity between Customer Reality and the Sales-Training of the Hired Help. Every day, I come face-to-face with the colossally incredible incongruity of Customer-Citizen Reality and The Sales-Training of the Hired Help, the idiots who pompously boast of being the Adults in Charge of America, and California too! There are moments — many moments, actually — when, in my mind, I hear the words: “Welcommmmme to Pep Boys.” We the People are not driving our vehicles with a baldie spare tire to Pep Boys, or to anywhere peppy. We the People are not driving our vehicles much, or at all, unless absolutely necessary.

This morning, I asked Dear Husband if we should cancel our order for the Ford Bronco. It’s still parked on Ice Mountain, a dark and distant hill which has undoubtedly thawed. I am afeared that the self-propelled equine beast will cost us too much, in too many ways. “No one is cancelling the Bronco. It’s too hot an item. They’ll flip it.” I do not wish to use my hot wheels for a hot profit. I just want to grab hold of the steering wheel and drive the thing before gas gets to $10 a gallon! I dearly need a new car. The 2005 Caddy will no longer be dependable if we run it into the ground. The used 2013 Edge still annoys the heck out of me to drive. I’d explained to Dear Hubby about two months ago that — in anticipation of the Bronco arriving, I am going to “wean myself” from driving that infernal Automatic. “That won’t take long,” he quipped. In purchasing a new automobile, I do not wish to appear as if I’ve just cut a fat hog, as some people around me here in California have been doing during the past two years. I find it incredulous that — in the midst of a State economy, and a national economy — being driven by its Governments into the ground, some people behave as if the Boom Years are upon us!

With speechless amazement, I think: “Welcommmmme to Pep Boys.” The Milligan Bronco is in dire need of a train so that the newly built iron beast can be loaded onto it, and then transported from the environs of Detroit to California. Finding an available and empty freight train appears to be the latest snafu, amongst countless snafus in a nation that has been snafu’ed in ways we’re learning more and more about every day. I am dealing with this frustration in a musical manner. Oscar Peterson’s “Night Train” soothes my nights. Duke Ellington’s “Take the A-Train” soothes my days. Instinctively, I do not foresee a night train or any a-train coming to the rescue of John Bronco. It was said that Mussolini got the trains to run on time. Our puppet-dictator cannot even get the trains to run. “Welcommmmme to Pep Boys.”


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