Shortly after getting settled into my first real adult job in a small town in North Carolina, I made a dental appointment for a routine cleaning. The technician, who also happened to be the wife of the dentist, got to chatting with me and when she found out I was originally from Ohio she got a big grin on her face. “You know, people always talk about Southern hospitality. But my husband and I spent a few wonderful years in Minnesota while he was going to school and, I swear, no hospitality anywhere compares to what we experienced while living in the Midwest.”
While I haven’t really lived in the Midwest since graduating from high school in 1983, I am consciously grateful for having had a Midwestern upbringing and I do appreciate the examples of its hospitality when I go home to visit.
I had one such experience this past week when I was home continuing to help my dad get his affairs in order. It just so happened that the AC in my 2005 VW Beetle had conked out while making my way there. July is not a good time to be without AC! If it had to happen, however, I was grateful for the timing since I could now take it to my dad’s car guys, Glenn’s Car Care, who had worked on this car many times before —ahem!—and always at lower costs than what I’ve been able to find in Baltimore.
The problem? July 4th. I wasn’t made aware of the AC issue until Saturday, July 1. I knew Glenn’s wasn’t open on Saturdays. So I called them on Monday, July 3, hoping they might be working. They weren’t, so I left a message. The shop, of course, was closed on Tuesday. So it was Wednesday before they returned my call. But I was busy all that day tending to Dad’s chemo appointment and needed my car to transport him. So it would be Thursday morning before I could drop it off, only leaving them two days to work on it before I headed back to Baltimore. Jason, the front desk guy, told me they were really busy that week, but they’d see what they could do.
He called me Thursday afternoon to say that he had spent multiple hours trying to find an elusive part called a “line”—seriously, the VW dealer said that’s how it was referred to and it didn’t even have a part number for easy researching, it was just the “AC line”—but since VW no longer makes Beetles, they had stopped manufacturing its various parts and no random “leftovers” were showing up anywhere online after an exhaustive national search. I didn’t relish the thought of no AC for the rest of the summer but figured I’d tackle that problem later. So I thanked him for his efforts and told him it would be Friday before I could arrange a ride to come pick up my car.
Late Friday morning he called to say that he had done a little more searching and had found the needed part but, since I was leaving that weekend, they wouldn’t get it in time to do the necessary work. I thanked him again for going over and beyond the call of duty and assured him I would be by to pick up my car once my brother got home from work around 2:00.
Jason then called back around 1:00 to let me know that Mike, the main mechanic, had found a general “repair kit” that could be delivered immediately. He wasn’t 100% sure that it would have the elusive “line,” since this kit wasn’t specifically for VWs, but he’d ordered it, with fingers crossed. Assuming the best, he’d need the day to work on it, however, so Jason told me not to come for the car until the end of the workday.
He called again at 4:00. “You’ve got AC” was his response to my “Hello?” I was thrilled, of course, but I couldn’t help worrying about how much all this was going to set me back.
When I arrived within the hour to pick up my car, I naturally asked for the full story of this miraculous car healing. He mentioned, again, that the repair kit was generic and while it had contained a “line,” they’d used some extra clamps to secure it since it wasn’t specifically made for a Beetle. He also mentioned that the kit had cost over $700—which made my heart skip a beat—but that since it wasn’t a “one and done” kind of kit, they’d be able to use it for several other cars’ issues in the future. “Well, that’s good,” I thought to myself, “but I wonder what percentage of that $700 they’ll pass on to me … not to mention the HOURS they had spent looking for this part online and the MANY phone calls that had been made—all during a very busy and truncated holiday week—plus the labor costs for the actual installation … cha-ching, cha-ching, cha-ching!”
He placed the bill in front of me. $262.32.
Was that a typo? Nope. That, my friends, was Midwestern hospitality.