April 3rd, 2019
I took the Ford Focus to get an oil change. I went to one of those shops where they get you in and out of the garage in about fifteen minutes. Pretty much all they do at this place is quick oil changes. Usually, there is no small talk between the customers and the busy employees. The workers do what they need to do, say what they need to say, and then they send you on your way with a smile. It is almost always polite, professional, and coldly impersonal.
But not this time.
I don’t know the young man’s name. I never bothered to ask him. It is probably better so. He initially struck me as being friendly, but a bit goofy. He greeted me with a toothy grin and quickly went to work on the Focus. I went to the waiting room to wait. Well, that’s what you do in a waiting room.
He came to me after a few minutes with a concerned look on his face.
He asked me, “Is there some trick to starting your car? I thought at first that maybe it was a stick shift, but it’s an automatic. I kept trying to start it, but it wouldn’t go.”
Actually, there is a trick to starting the Focus. The ignition switch is fickle, and a person has to push the key all the way to the left to get the ignition to engage. I explained the trick to him.
The young man smiled, and then he left me and finished his work. He came back into the office to process the bill.
I don’t know how it happened, but somehow we entered into a conversation. I think that he asked how I was. Like a fool, I told him how I was.
I mentioned the fact that I knew a girl who was struggling. I mentioned that she was on probation, and that she generally was in a world of hurt.
He nodded, and said, “You know, I was in that kind of place. How old is this girl?”
I replied, “She’s twenty-eight.”
The young man nodded again and said, “Yeah, she’s my age. I was originally diagnosed with Asperger’s. You know, that’s the highest form of autism. No, I mean it’s the lowest form of autism. Well, whatever. Do you know what I mean?”
I told him, “Yeah, I get it.”
The young man went on, “Well, when I was in school, they pumped me full of all these different drugs. It was bad. I finally told my mom, when I turned eighteen, that I wasn’t going to take these meds any more. She told me, ‘Then I’m throwing you out of the house’. I told her, ‘Okay, then sign the paperwork to emancipate me, and I’m out of here.’ She did that.”
I asked him, “So, it was okay then?”
He deflected the question and asked me, “Is the girl in jail?”
“Not right now, but she’s been there a lot, and she has two years of prison hanging over her head.”
The young guy shook his head and paused for a moment, and then he said, “That’s no good. I did three in and three out. I went into prison at eighteen.”
I asked no questions. I just let it all hang.
I just said, “Jails and prisons don’t do any good. They are just warehouses for humans.”
The oil changer went on, “I was dating this girl. I had just turned eighteen. She was sixteen. We had a party for my birthday. Her dad gave me a carton of cigarettes as a gift. I was still smoking at the time. I thought we were all cool. When I had sex with his daughter, the dad called the cops on me.”
I thought to myself silently, “Sixteen will get you twenty.”
The young man was not nearly done. He told me, “You know, this guy knew that I was with his daughter. What did he expect? I mean, what was I supposed to do? Was I supposed to ask him for permission to screw his daughter? I mean, really, who asks that kind of question?”
I replied, “I never asked that kind of question.”
The young man piped up, “See?! Nobody would ask that shit!”
It got quiet for a moment.
The oil changer looked at me and said, “I hope it all goes okay with this girl.”
“Yeah, I hope so too.”
The young man shook my hand. He said, “Good talking with you.”
I replied, “Yeah, the same here.”