Maybe my hatred for car dealerships is linked to a traumatic memory. Perhaps the time my Toyota Corolla burst into flames while I was driving back to college on a cold November night. Or maybe it is the fact that they infuse the building with the scent of rubber, cologne, diesel, and new car.
It could be that I know the car sales guys’ hearts beat faster every time they lay eyes on me because I am a female brain. And their hearts should beat faster: I know nothing about cars. Also, I’m hot.
Whatever it is, I resent that Man Brain makes me take care of my own car issues. Because when it benefits me, I like to revert to sexist roles. But don’t bash me for that. I am the CEO of lawn care in our household. I can weed whack with the best of them.
I typically take my car to Valvoline for maintenance. Valvoline doesn’t require appointments, they get things done quickly, and they follow a predictable routine. First, Tech #1 gains my trust by telling me that my air filter is dirty but that I can save money by replacing it myself. Next, a chipper tech lists everything I have neglected and recommends a long list of services. Everything sounds necessary, and it only adds up to $700.
I always tell them to do it all because I’m a female brain, and I trust anything a car tech tells me. To complete the routine, I sit awkwardly in the air-conditioned confines of my RAV4 while it is swarmed by techs. I follow social norms and avoid eye contact until a grease-covered knuckle knocks on my window.
The last time I was there, the predictable routine was ruined when Tech #2 told me that they couldn’t take some cap off my car to check some fluid level. He tells me I should take my car to the dealership to see if they can get the cap off. It sounds boring, so I put it on my to-do list for next year.
Anyway, two years later, here I am today at the car dealership.
I sit at a high top, laptop open, furiously clacking away, waiting for them to change some fluid in my car.
“Which fluid?” the car guy asks when I arrive.
“Heck if I know,” I think.
I dial up Man Brain and let him inform the guy of all of the car problems I have. Car Guy and Man Brain speak in a secret language, what sounds like a form of pig Latin with an emphasis on manly terms like “differential” and “money.” Before Car Guy hangs up, he says, “Okay, I will have Female Brain give me your number so we can bypass her the next time I have an update.”
He leaves me to go do things. Car Guy things, I presume.
And consistent with any other time I visit a car dealership, the next ghost of Christmas past appears. It’s Car Sales Guy.
He begins, “I’m sure you’ve seen in the news that there is a huge used-car shortage.” He reeks of the leading brand of car-salesman cologne, “Untrustworthy.” I glare over the top of the blue light glasses that I only wear to make me look smarter.
“Sorry, there’s no way I’m selling the car.”
“Why?” he asks, a bewildered look crossing his face.
“Because I love it so much. It’s the best car ever.”
“Not even for the right price?” he asks, trying to appeal to the money side of my brain.
And with that statement, he realizes he is dealing with a female brain, dripping with emotion and vacant of any logic. He leaves, dejected.
The next update occurs. Car Guy tells me he is waiting for a tech to put the car up. He says he hopes the cap on my car isn’t stripped, because he says, “that could be costly.” I roll my eyes, regressing to my high school self.
He continues, “If it is stripped, then I’m going to have to drill and tap it.”
“That’s what he said,” my brain muttered to herself.
I give him my best glare and say, “Well, Valvoline said it is stripped.”
His eyes light up. “So Valvoline stripped it! You can go back to them and get money.”
“No, they said they found it stripped.”
He purses his lips at my female brain. “If they tried to open it, they likely stripped it.”
And I nod in understanding, hoping Car Guy and his superior male brain will leave. He does.
I am alone again, in a lounge surrounded by bored humans. To prevent anarchy, there is a TV playing some mechanical show. Don’t they understand that if I am here, I am not interested in mechanics? The guy on the show is welding something.
In front of me, a tatted-up guy leans forward in his seat, eating the free chips and nodding along to the show. He understands what they are doing. And he agrees. Whatever the guy on the mechanical show is doing, he is doing it right.
The coffee machine is broken, and a sign on the wall says, “For steeping tea selection, please see cashier.” This either means that the tea is not free, or that too many people were stealing tea bags.
Thankfully I brought my own espresso. I am jittery, shaking like an addict as I chug my coffee, laughing at the poor souls who discover there is no coffee. Maybe if I start charging people for sips of my coffee, I can offset the “costly” maintenance my car is undergoing.
Some lady spats, “Need coffee!” and shoots an evil eye at the people who work in the parts department. Then she looks at me. I want to say, “You could see the cashier for the steeping tea selection!” But, I value my life. I quickly look down.
The lady next to me is feeding her dog a bag of the free chips. He licks one and then refuses to eat it. He can smell the freeness of them. He is a wise dog. The lady mutters, “Not your cup of tea, huh?” This dog is wise, and I approve of his presence. He understands what I understand.
He understands that in this place, time slows. That the fluorescent lighting sucks the life out of my soul. The salesmen with gelled hair, the ladies who sit behind the desk looking nothing like friendly Jan from the commercials, all these things create misery that cannot be reduced by a free bag of chips.
Car Guy appears. “Can I take you to see your car? Bring your phone. You might want to take pictures.” Dread pools in my stomach as he leads me back through a labyrinth of diesel-smelling halls. He pushes open a swinging door, where I expect to find an intubated family member in an ICU bed. I expect he will ask me to decide whether or not to pull the plug. Instead, I am standing in a large open warehouse full of cars in the air. He leads me to Old Faithful.
Then he begins uttering a litany of everything wrong with my car. He bashes Valvoline multiple times. And then, as if trying to “gotcha” me, he says, “And there are a bunch of lights on in your car.” I am prepared for this accusation. “They are on because of the oxygen sensor, which we are not interested in fixing.” Female Brain finally contributes something of worth to the discussion, and we are both shocked by that.
Before we leave, we walk past a whiteboard with tech names and money amounts next to each name. I presume these are the profits each tech acquired by swindling Female Brains. He brings me back to my place in the waiting area. “Give me a few minutes while I write a quote,” he says. Back in the car ICU, I learned that the cap on my car is stripped, so I presume it will be costly.
Some lady stole my spot at the high-top table, and I’m pissed. I have now been at the car dealership for seven hours. Just kidding, it has only been an hour. The longest hour of my life. I am hangry and need to pee, but I don’t want to risk losing my spot. I am past the point of no return when it comes to bitchiness. The only way I will return to a state of loving-kindness is to get out of this prison.
Man Brain calls.
I unleash the kind of fury that only a Female Brain can create, “Just so you know, I am going to have them fix everything they find for whatever cost they quote.”
“Please have them call me,” he says. I imagine his eyes are doing the slow-blink thing that he does when he is pissed.
We both know a female brain can’t make these kinds of decisions. The female brain lacks knowledge of the man world, of cars, and mechanical things like welding, and it certainly knows nothing about money, except for how to spend it. Much better to trust Man Brain with these decisions, I concede. It would be silly of me to have them fix whatever they find.
I say, “Because I have been delegated this task, I have the power to make the financial decisions.” He sighs, tells me he loves me, and hangs up.
I am finally summoned by Car Guy. He starts, “We don’t have the plugs, so we will have to order them.” I am annoyed. I just want to leave. “What are the plugs for?” I ask. He purses his lips. “Your differential- the thing we’ve been talking about this whole time,” he says. “Let’s call Man Brain.”
“Great idea,” I say, pissed yet strangely relieved that he only wants to talk to Man Brain. We call up Man Brain. In pig Latin, Car Guy details everything he thinks should be done with the car. Man Brain asks some questions. Car Guy drops the price: one thousand dollars.
Man Brain tells him to do it all.
My jaw drops. Car Guy’s eyes light up gleefully. Man Brain made a Female Brain decision. Turns out I didn’t need his help after all.