The Armenian Hostage Crisis

Posted: February 25, 2014 in McTrip posts, Uncategorized
Tags: , , , , , , , ,

Broken_CarPart 1
“God save the queen,” my friend shouts, driving off in his Jaguar, leaving me at the Greyhound Bus station in a rather seedy part of downtown Los Angeles.

Very funny. I get the joke. I won a costume contest 20 years ago dressed as Queen Elizabeth, a fact my Jag-driving friend finds extraordinarily funny, and references frequently.

But there’s a double meaning to his queen quip. He’s known me a long time, since the days when I had some money and spent like I had a lot of money. The days when I wouldn’t have dreamed of going the cheapest route, unless it was also the fastest and sexiest route.

And now, in a very different time and place, he was dropping me off at a Greyhound Bus Terminal. Why? Because it was the cheaper of my two options. It was by no means the sexiest option. In fact, “Greyhound Bus Terminal” and “sexy” may be the most polar opposite concepts known to man.

The reason I’m at this Greyhound station epitomizes my riches-to-rags story . Thank you in advance for allowing me to stretch way beyond the definition of both “riches” and “rags”. I’m trying to illustrate a point here.

If this were pre-2008, I simply would have bought my way out of this problem.

But today, with no savings, no credit and a fixed/moderate income, the Greyhound bus terminal seemed to be the most feasible of my options.

Because I no longer have a car (details to follow).

If I had a car, I would have driven it to Phoenix. But my car’s engine died just before Christmas. I’m not sure why.  Other than knowing where to insert the key and gas nozzel, I haven’t the slightest understanding of how cars work.

If this were pre-Great Recession, I would have simply sold the car for parts, taken whatever money I could get for it, added more to it, and gone and bought another car for cash.

But it’s no longer the good ol’ days. I can’t buy a car with cash. Or credit.

So I’m left with these realities.

With a working engine my car is worth $5,500. AS-IS it’s worth $2,000. The dealership wants $5,000 to put in a rebuilt engine, which then makes it worth $5,500. Who would do that?

Just so happens a friend of mine is a gearhead and knows a lot about Volvos. He swears by a mechanic he’s used in the past who’s Armenian. Armenians happen to control the junkyard industry in LA, he tells me. They work together. This guy can find a good, cheap engine. Interested?

Based on my friend’s recommendation, and the mathematics (spend $1,500 and the car will be worth $5,500; do nothing and it’s worth $2,000), I turned my car over to the Armenian gods of Los Angeles.

I was warned that this job might take some time when I had my car towed to his shop on Jan. 3. It’s the price you pay for a huge discount, I’m told.

My Armenian mechanic (who has a bricks-and-mortar shop, not just a shade tree) is nearly impossible to understand on the phone. But his shop is close to my house, so I go by every few days to get a progress report.

He calls himself Papa. Well, actually he calls everyone Papa. He’s Papa, I’m Papa. His star mechanic is Papa.

If that weren’t confusing enough, he refers to himself in the third person. So when he’s talking about “Papa,” I’m not sure if he’s talking about himself, his right-hand man, or me. Or MY father.

I’m fairly certain his English vocabulary consists of just these words: Papa, tomorrow, I put in, engine, two more days, please.

Oh, and “Happy new year,” which he says every time he sees me. Including the last time, which was February 18.

One more thing about Papa. He loves to fist bump. When I stop by to see my car, he always walks towards me with his fist out. To fist bump. If fist bumping weren’t annoying enough, try doing it with a guy who’s holding your car hostage.

I’ve heard Papa’s projections about the near future for well over 50 days now. I’m not sure how many times he said “two more days” before I realized he probably didn’t even know what those words meant, in English.

Around about Day 30 of the hostage crisis I had to make some decisions. I needed to be in Phoenix on or about February 4. The LA-PHX road trip is one I make frequently and prefer to do by car.

But I have no car, (although one is available to me in Phoenix). I first looked into flying. Do you know what a round-trip ticket costs between LA and Phoenix with fewer than seven days’ advance purchase? Nearly $400! For a city 370 miles away! A one-hour flight!

Do you know what a round-trip bus ticket costs between LA and Phoenix? $82.

Flashback to most recent bank account statement.

Enter Greyhound Bus Lines.

Next week: The sites, sounds and smells of bus travel.

(To be continued…)
JMcT

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Comments
  1. morgan says:

    “Well, actually he calls everyone Papa. He’s Papa, I’m Papa. His star mechanic is Papa.” I was rolling by the time I read this! This is a beauty, Jimmy.

  2. Google says:

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      I think the reason writers get block is because they’re afraid of writing garbage, which keeps them from even starting. My best advice would be, allow yourself to write garbage. That’s why there’s a delete button on the keyboard 🙂

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