“That’ll be $160 even for the ball joint part, labor, and oil change.” Ronnie is kind when he hands me the bill. “Just sign here Ms. Schultz.” He points to the dotted line.
I sign without a flinch – $160 is chump change compared to what I thought I was up against, what with visions of my guitar having mechanical diarrhea, falling apart from the inside out. “I can’t thank you enough, really. You guys do fine work here. This is a real deal.”
We shake hands, my firm grip cupped by his stronger, well-oiled bear paw.
“If you have a minute I’d like to show you the part though,” Ronnie says, nodding in the direction of the garage. I follow him around the counter, through a narrow doorway, down a low step, and into the heated garage. There are two car lifts and one other mechanic, his presence made known only by the two legs protruding from underneath a Chevy.
“This here is your ball joint,” Ronnie says, placing his hands on the worn part. He wobbles the mechanism side to side, then pulls it up and down. “And see that?” He jostles the part some more and it rattles at his touch. “That’s supposed to be a smooth connection. Nothing loose or moving up and down like this. The whole thing was just fixin’ to go and when it finally did, that’s what you heard. It locked up the wheels which is why you felt so much resistance trying to steer it onto the wrecker afterwards.”
“Wow,” I say, still a little unsure how all the parts fit together. Still, there’s no denying the broken part in his hands – the fissure and broken seal are plain to see.
“Thing is, you’re lucky that didn’t happen when you were going sixty,” Ronnie says in a serious tone.
“Well, we justed pulled off of I-26 where we were doing sixty,” I say, “then we parked. When I got back in the car later to leave, we didn’t get more than three feet before it gave out.”
“Like I said, if it’d gone out on you at sixty, probably woulda wrecked you. Your wheels would have locked up at full speed, no telling what after that.”
“Oh God,” I say, shaking my head.
“The Lord was looking out for you, that’s for sure.” Ronnie looks at me, then opens the door as I walk back past the service counter to pick up the keys.
On the way home I try to shake off his words but the fact is, he’s right: for whatever reason, my friends and I lucked out – to say the least. Thanks Goodness.