Friday, November 20, 2009

People watching: oil change edition.

As the person in charge of car maintenance for a two-Toyota family -- they never break, if well maintained -- I spend a fair bit of time in the service area waiting rooms of my local dealership. Some folks like to drop off their cars and pick them up later. For me, each oil change represents a chance to do some uninterrupted reading/writing/to-do-list updating. An opportunity to spend an hour without being asked for anything is not one to miss, even if it is in a waiting room.

I generally prefer the waiting area with tables, but this morning the man who sat down next to me smelled so bad that I had to move. Really. I imagined this memo:

TO: Revolting person who just sat down
FROM: The person you just sat down next to, who would really rather be minding her own business

RE: malodorousness

Sir: I regret to inform you that you stink. Yes, I said, YOU STINK. Would it have killed you to wash this morning? Really? How about brushing your teeth? Mouth breathers need to pay extra attention to that little chore, you know.


But because there's no good way to say any of that, I moved to the other room, which is usually intolerable because of a blaring television. Last time I was there, Regis and Kelly were screeching from the TV. Their guests were two English women whose self-appointed job it is to tell people what they ought to be wearing in order to look less like ordinary schlumps, and more like tarted-up schlumps with bunions and staggering dry cleaning bills. One of the examples shown of the fashion horrors these preening bitches had witnessed on the streets of Manhattan that very morning -- they were still recovering! -- was a woman wearing the exact same shoes that I had on my own feet as I stood at the coffee/tea counter beneath the infernal screen. Fuck you, English fashion police bitches, I thought. And fuck you, Regis and Kelly. My shoes are cute. Granted, they are maybe more appropriate for Cape Cod than Times Square, but still. Get stuffed.

Television sucks. I digress.

Thankfully, nobody had yet turned on the TV when I sat down this morning. We were all readers or writers, waiting for our cars. Hurray! So I got to work.

After a few moments a gangly woman with long stringy black hair clomped in on chunky square-heeled boots. She had the pigeon-toed, hunched posture of the self-consciously tall and broad shouldered. She wore skinny black leggings under a giant purple shirt, and her makeup was a tad clownish. Although she was about my own age, there was an affected carelessness about her that you'd associate more with teenagers. She definitely stood out in a room full of jeans and windbreakers.

Now, I like watching people, but sometimes what I like better is watching other people watch people. There was an unabashed observer, a casually well-dressed woman of about 60, in the waiting room this morning. (Well dressed, I say, except that she had one of those Coach handbags with a metallic gold strap and that big Coach "C" logo all over it. I hate those bags. Their primary purpose is to broadcast "Look! I have enough money to buy one of these hideously overpriced bags covered in the letter C!") The Observer had a good seat next to the coffee machine, and everyone who approached it got a most thorough once-over. Peering over reading glasses, she looked each of us over slowly, from hair to shoes and back up, staring as we took our seats. You could all but see her judgments pass across her forehead as she made them: some approval, some dismissal, quite a bit of disdain, some horror.

Her horror at the awkward, clomping woman in purple was poorly concealed. Lip curled in distaste, eyes wide, she didn't just do a double take and look away, but stared unrelentingly. I stared at her staring. I wanted her to know she was busted in her snottiness. She never looked my way, though. I suppose I had already been assessed and (I'm guessing) dismissed. Clomper clomped off with her coffee into the room with Smelly McStinkypants. The Observer went back to her novel. I went back to my writing.

Who should moments later appear to my wondering eyes but a dead ringer for George Costanza's mother, who, to my delight, scowled at everyone and sighed a big "well, what can you expect" sigh. I turned to The Observer, watched her take in this woman's plump countenance, her orange hair in newly set curls, her archly pencilled, agitated brows, her brown polyester stretch pants, her cheap shoes. The Observer registered predictable disdain. Mrs. Costanza sighed some more, got herself a blueberry muffin and sat down next to me.

The next woman to join us was carrying the brown version of that stupid "C" bag. This one actually rated a twitchy little smile of approval from The Observer. Acceptable. Her own kind.

As my name was called to pay up and get the heck out of there, in came a woman in a huge, safety-orange puffy coat and bright red lipstick. The Observer glared at the coat as the woman peeled it off and announced to us all that she was SOAKED to the SKIN, it's as if NOAH and the FLOOD are UPON US!

"As long as it isn't snow," grumbled Mrs. Costanza, scowling at her muffin.



  1. priceless. so real. i experience similar watching in our car repair shop!!! too funny!

  2. We got a couple of Toyotas too, and a Hyundai and of course I drive a Dodge Minivan with 160K miles on it. The Wife , the daughter and the kid all have newer better cars. But hey, I am not about to think that a car makes me. The kid says to me one day, Dad--Why do you change the oil yourself ? He felt sorry for his old man laying on the cold concrete floor to do the chore. I explained to him about the cost of maintaining 4 cars and two kids in college and relative economic choices. Now I will just tell him cause some lady in the waiting room at the Toyota dealership doesn't like the way real people smell.

  3. Believe me, anonymous, if "real people" smelled like this dude, I'd never leave the freakin' house. There were easily two dozen people in the place -- only one of 'em stank.