My precious truck, my key to freedom in the real world, has begun to have problems recently.  Today, I stopped by the local auto repair shop and talked to Enrique, who we all call "Ricky".

I bought this truck from Ricky and he wanted $2,500 for it.  When I was able to talk him down to $2,150, I scratched the check immediately!  He wouldn't have reduced his price for just anyone, but we are like family here.

I stopped in at his shop today, and I described the symptoms to him, and he said it could be one of two things: either the MAP sensor or the pickup coil.  I can replace the MAP sensor myself, but to replace the pickup coil requires removing the distributor, and I am not the guy that needs to be doing that.  Once you pull the distributor, your timing is jacked!

I don't want to mess with any of that stuff.  I asked him what we might be looking at in labor costs, and he looked it up on his computer and told me "the computer says $66.00 in labor, but for you I will make it $45.00."  How cool is that?

I now know that I am going to get my truck fixed, for much less than my fearful mind had imagined.

I remain in Huntsville, although it is not a place of my choosing, because of the network that we have among us as neighbors.  We are truly family here!

Ricky told me of a woman who is raising three daughters on her own, the rear-end gears failed in her car.  For a new rear-end, it is going to cost her $600.00, and that is the best Ricky can do.  She doesn't have the money, but Ricky fixed her up with one of his "loaners", one of the cars that he fixed.  Since nobody ever came to pay the bill, he has a mechanic's lien on the car.

Now this single mother can get her kids to school and herself to work.  Where else will you find this type of generosity?  It's risky, due to insurance matters, but Ricky wants to see those kids go to school, and he is willing to take that risk.

Ricky came over here on a visa.  He made damn sure his wife got her citizenship before he got his, and his children were born on American soil, and so they are automatically American.  I may disagree with some of the politics of it, but as long as we have immigrants coming into this country and playing to the letter like Ricky has done, we shall continue to blossom, and this nation will continue to be the greatest nation on this earth.  It's cats like him who are making it all happen!

He started out working in the machine shop and then he collected enough savings to build his own shop behind his house, a three-bay garage with a dirt driveway, which he soon paved over.  Today, he has about ten employees working for him, and is swamped with work, because he treats people right.

We had a most interesting discussion and he asked me if I was better off financially than one year ago. Well, "no", I replied.  He said "neither is anyone else out there, people are hurting".  Ricky is directly affected by everything that goes on within our economy and government, and he told me today that his business would be hurting if he wasn't willing to adjust his labor rates.  He adjusts his labor rates on a case-by-case basis, but is willing to help those who simply haven't the money to pay.

The dealerships, particularly, have raised their labor rates to $97.50 per hour!  Ricky still charges a flat rate of $45.00 per hour.  Where would you go?  Ricky mentioned that in this economy, you can't have all you want; you have to work with people.

He also told me that because the dealerships and other shops insist on "by-the-book labor rates", he is overrun with business.  He doesn't even have room to park the cars waiting to be serviced.

We are all like family here.  Ricky buys from the locals, the locals refer customers to him, and Ricky continues to give a most excellent service at a price you will find nowhere else!

Yes, it's much like family here, and although Huntsville is not necessarily the place I would choose for home, I have the benefit of "family" here.  And that is a very strong attraction, particularly given these economic times!
Mike's Musings...
A Huntsville Family
Pickup truck