3.3 Fall 2021

November 6, Mechanic

Korea requires emission testing every two years and as a proud car owner, I had to face that reality several weeks ago. The serviceman told me there was a hole in the exhaust pipe and that I needed to replace it and return for confirmation if I didn’t want to face a fine.

After a week of asking Yana, then Anthony, then Yana’s husband, we concluded that my best bet would be the Chevrolet Car Center. Everyone promised that the branded service center wouldn’t up sell or rip me off, which might be the case if I go to a local mechanic shop. This is quite different from the U.S. where once the Hyundai Service Center tried to sell me extended warranty when I came in because of a recall. Nevertheless, Korea has its own quirks and I found myself rushing first to school on Saturday morning to grab the car test results that I left behind, dodging what felt like half my students who were ambling in for weekend class, and finally managed to drive to the car center. It was much more bare bones than I had in mind of a branded company; the mechanic shop was an open warehouse and the office was nearly indistinguishable, save for a few flimsy cubicles and a waiting room silently playing a reality TV show. I stood in the open doorway with a few other patrons, watching as the serviceman drove my car ten feet to a jumpsuit clad older man.

An older gentleman wearing what my mind equated to a cowboy hat, though that’s impossible, struck up a conversation like old men everywhere in the world tend to do. I fell into it easily being both American and hungry for small talk, and we chatted in Korean briefly about the city and my students. He rushed into the lot a few moments later and I excused myself to the waiting room to write an essay about the freshman who hit on me for homework. I like to keep my Korean teacher amused.

I was lost in Naver dictionary searching for how to write “maybe he thought I stole something” when the man, now hat-less, came into the waiting room and thrust a business card at me.

“If you have any problems with your car, please come back here again.” He said cheerfully, and I looked at the paper in my hand.

Mr. Lee, Service Center President

My luck with old men strikes again!

Wait no, that sounds weird.

My habit of chatting with old men who turn out to be high ranking strikes again!

Wordy, but warmer?

The mechanic finished my car within the hour, replacing the exhaust pipe and doing an oil change before I could even start my conclusion paragraph.

The president reiterated that I should come back if I ever had any issues, and I drove away feeling accomplished.

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