Photo © Rim and Wheel Works, Inc.
One thing about my job as a wheel repair guy - I meet a lot of people. A pretty good cross-section of humanity has passed through my shop doors or called me on the phone looking to repair their wheels. The vast majority of people I have met are wonderful, polite and stable examples of the human race. However, inevitably there is a small minority of my customers who are apparently insane. Sometimes those are my worst customers, but quite a few have been hilarious, making for funny memories and some very good stories.
Here's a look at some of my funniest customers:
The Drill Sergeant:
This gentleman was a retired Marine sergeant who came in one fine morning to ask me to look at his wheel. I walked out to his car with him to discover that his wheel was cracked on the outboard face, next to one of the spokes. I explained to the gentleman that his wheel could not be repaired, as cracks like the one he had were considered to be a structural issue, and were therefore unsafe to weld. Approximately 30 seconds passed in silence as he digested that information, his face growing redder by the second. Finally, he responded - by bellowing "REPAIR MY WHEEL!" in a splendiferous full parade-ground voice, as if I were a troublesome private - I nearly popped to attention and saluted.
The Video Enthusiast:
Then there was the gentleman who brought in his heavily modified hot-rod, complete with a small TV screen set into the dashboard. One of my tire techs accepted the keys in order to drive it in to the garage. As soon as he started the car, I saw him collapse into hysterical laughter in the driver's seat. When I walked over to see what was going on, he wordlessly pointed to the in-dash TV screen. The owner had apparently been driving around while playing an extremely nasty porno flick on his dashboard. To this day I wonder - since nobody had the guts to ask the driver - what the heck was he doing?
We often have some great conversations in our waiting room, but few beat the day that a police officer came in to get his wheels straightened (He had run over a curb while chasing a suspect) and greeted the other man in the waiting room like an old friend. It soon became clear from their conversation, however, that the other man was a drug dealer who had been arrested by the cop on several previous occasions. After a pleasant time spent catching up, they parted with a handshake and went their (very) separate ways.
Once we had a guy that had just been drafted as an offensive linesman for the Patriots. He gently put up with a bunch of star-struck tire techs for awhile ("Tell Bledsoe he's gotta get out of the pocket!" "Yeah, right" he said sarcastically, "I'm gonna tell him that, sure.") and then he apparently got bored. A few minutes later I received a phone call from a very angry-sounding individual who claimed that we had ruined his wheels. After spending a few minutes trying in vain to find his name in our computer, I realized that the Patriots linesman was in front of me doubled over laughing while holding his cell phone. He had prank-called me from our waiting room.
Husbands Behaving Badly:
One type of customer that we see somewhat often is a type I'll call Blameless Guy. This is a guy who scratched up his own wheels, but whose masculinity will apparently not allow him to admit it to anyone. Therefore, when he comes to our shop, it is his wife or girlfriend who made that parking error, or cut that curve too shallow.
The absolute best example of this was an older man who brought his wheels in for repair. He was spitting mad, announcing to all and sundry that his wife would never be allowed to drive his car again, and he was believable enough to convince us that we had a bona fide case of wife-related damage. Unfortunately, when the wheels were finished it was the wife who came to pick them up, and when she did my wife mentioned what her husband had said when he dropped them off.
"He said that?" she marveled, "I can't drive a stick shift! I've never driven his car in my life!"
This kind of thing happens so often that simple honesty becomes quite refreshing. Once a young man brought in a heavily damaged wheel, and one of my straighteners, while examining the damage, asked "Let me guess: Your girlfriend did it?" The young man colored slightly, "Nah," he said, "I was (bleep)ing drunk."