Retirement Age Stories

Not so Advanced Auto Parts

Not so Advanced Auto Parts                       By Octo G. Enario   

We city fellows from the North take a lot of ribbing from some of the regulars at the gym. They are always chiding us for our inability to work on our own cars and tackle even simple maintenance jobs on our houses. Heck, we were office workers. What do we know from wrenches, pliers, and ball peens (whatever those are)?   When the heckling got too intense one morning, I rolled out the story below.

Some people are intimidated by the IRS (ooh, I might be audited), some fear going into biker bars, and others are nervous about public speaking. Have you ever heard of anyone being timid about entering an Advance Auto Parts store? Sounds crazy, I know, but I have good reason. My distaste developed after a few encounters with the retailer during the years I lived in North Carolina. Whenever I asked some car question (where does the engine oil go in, or how do you put on new wiper blades), the macho men behind the counter treated me with disdain as they answered my questions. The clerks locked eyes, as did some customers, probably thinking, “How could a grown man ask such questions?”  I always left the store with my ego deflated.

One incident turned that all around. While visiting my parents in Winston-Salem, N.C., several years ago, my wife-to-be and I were discussing the merits of adding a storage box to her new pickup truck so that we could store valuables out of sight in the cargo bed. Should we get one or not? How big should it be? Should it be silver or that cool black? I knew that an Advance Auto Parts store was just down the road, so we decided to pay them a visit. As we approached the store (hand-in-hand, for we were still in our courting days), Septa noticed my anxiety.  I forewarned her that I was going to be a fish out of water in this place and told her to brace herself for the derision I would likely incur inside. Screwing up my courage, I cautiously entered the store. Oh no, there was a gritty, tough-looking, bearded character wearing a shirt with racecar logos on the sleeves, standing behind the counter. “Here we go,” I thought, then asked him where within the store I could find the pickup truck cargo boxes. 

As he paused, I stiffened, awaiting his haughty, snide reaction. Finally, he said, “Do we sell those things? Err, what exactly do they look like?” This was not the response I had expected nor the one I told Septa I would get. We walked through the store, the bemused clerk in tow, and found the cargo boxes displayed on the back wall.  As we inspected the various choices, I asked how the boxes are attached to the truck bed. His inexplicable answer was, “So, do they have to be attached?” Huh, I knew more than the expert. Septa’s skeptical look accused me of exaggerating more than a tad when prepping her. I felt like Alice behind the looking glass.

Now feeling more composed, I engaged the sales clerk in conversation and learned that he was not a regular but was filling in for the day for his son, a racing enthusiast who was at the races and had given his dad the shirt that made him look so intimidating to me.  Obviously, even I knew more than the Advance man in this case.

I learned a good lesson that day. Do not try to control all outcomes with excessive preplanning…life will not let you control everything!