royalty-free-gamble-clipart-illustration-442188The Armenian Hostage Crisis (Part 3)

Some people take a vacation from their jobs. I took a vacation from my car problems.

Yes I was excited to visit a good friend who had just moved to Miami, a place I’d never explored before and was anxious to see.

But I was just as excited to get away from my Volvo XC90, which hadn’t been operational in 61 days. I also wasn’t going to miss “Papa”, the Armenian mechanic I trusted to install a new engine over two months ago. Today, he’s more like my captor than my mechanic.

I took a gamble, based on a friend’s recommendation, that Papa could do the job in a “reasonable” amount of time. As the days passed, all hope for reasonableness vanished. It was clear I had gambled and lost. But there was no turning back.

Just before heading to the airport, I visited Papa and my car. No progress. No sign of my new engine, which I had paid for (in full, mind you) 61 days earlier.

Papa charges considerably little for big jobs, like replacing an engine. For your savings, however, you pay up front, and he works at his speed.

As I walked away from the auto shop, dejected yet again, I said to myself:

“That’s it! I’m going to go to Miami and party like I’m on Spring Break. When I get back, if there’s no obvious progress on my car, I’m going to go completely ape shit. I’ll stop at nothing.”

I’ve used the term “going postal” in my life, but never meant it like this before.

Miami was marvelous. Then I came home, back to reality. Back to Papa.

“You need ‘nother part,” he said in his broken English.

Let me just explain here, Papa has never called me on the phone in our 60-plus-day acquaintance. The only time we’ve talk on the phone is when I call him. I prefer to see him in person, because he’s impossible to understand over the phone. So this “other part” issue was sprung on me when I paid him a visit, after my vacation.

“OK,” I said. “Did you get the other part while I was out of town?”

”Three hundred dollars,” he said. “Give me $300 for part.”


(That’s me going postal.)

“Where’s my new engine?” I yelled.

“San Bernardino,” he said.

“That’s what you said before I went on vacation! Why isn’t it here?”

“You need bracket. Engine doesn’t come with bracket. Three hundred dollars for bracket,” he snapped.

He was agitated at me? God, this guy has balls.

That was it. I’d reached my breaking point. Before storming off, I stated emphatically:

“I’ll be here in the morning with a tow truck to get my car. And I want my money back!

Off I went in a huff.

What, exactly, I was going to do with a broken-down car with its engine ripped out was unclear. How, exactly, I was going to get my money back from Papa wasn’t clear, either.

What was clear was that I needed to get around town. I wasn’t going to rent yet another car. As close as I could figure, I had spent over $1,500 on rentals since this mess began. No more.

So I decided to see if I could buy a car. That was the plan anyway, just not right now. I was going to sell the Volvo and, with that money and funds from the sale of my house, I was going to buy a car with cash. Because I was fairly certain I’d never qualify for a loan with my credit, being in the throes of debt consolidation.

Now, I had no choice but to find out. I was in full car-buying mode.

First, though, I called Ken, my mechanics-minded friend who referred me to Papa in the first place. I say Ken’s a friend but he’s really one of those people you know but don’t talk to much. So I hadn’t bothered him with the gory details of my experience with Papa. It was time to bring him up to speed.

He was shocked the engine wasn’t installed yet.

“I figured, when I hadn’t heard from you, everything went OK,” he said. “The engine’s not in yet? I can’t believe it. I’ll call him right now.”

Within 20 minutes, Ken called me back:

“You really don’t have a choice,” he said, after speaking with Papa. “You should just pay for that bracket. I think he’ll get the job done pretty quickly once he has it.”

At this point, I trusted Ken a lot more than I trusted Papa. If Ken says do it, and the alternative makes no sense, then I’m going to gamble, a second time, and give Papa money, AGAIN.

I went back a day after yelling at him and gave him $300 cash. At this point he has $1,700 of my money. Still, no new engine in sight.

Even with Ken’s reassurance, I was skeptical that my car would be fixed anytime soon.

I had been thinking for months about what kind of car I wanted to buy. Renting all those cars was actually helpful, like long test drives. I had it narrowed down to three: Versa, Yaris and Mazda 2.

So the day I decided to try and buy a car I, shockingly, bought a car.

Apparently there are plenty of financial institutions willing to loan money to people like me, at 13% interest. I didn’t care about the interest rate, I was more than happy to agree to it. The loan was going to be paid off once my house sells, anyway, presumably in the next couple months.

So in the span of an afternoon, I qualified for a car loan and was driving off in my fuel-efficient new (used) Mazda 2!


I thought it only appropriate that, on my way home from the car lot, I stop by and see how Papa was doing. It’d been about a week.

There was a difference in his demeanor. He seemed marginally excited to see me, and give me some news.

“I go get engine tomorrow. In San Bernardino,” he said, kind of excited, like he was happy, and like he meant it.

“Tomorrow?” I asked, sarcastically and unconvinced.

“Yes,” he insisted, definitively.

Sure enough, two days later, there it was, the new engine. And there was Papa, showing it off like a proud, um, papa.

Did me going postal on Papa light a fire under him? Did Ken say something during that phone call that changed things? Who knows. And I don’t care.

All I know is it looks possible that the Armenian Hostage Crisis, now in Day 72, is reaching a resolution.

It is also possible that, within a week or so, I might actually own TWO working vehicles.

(To be continued…)



  1. Don says:

    You never did say which (used) car you finally ended up with? Good luck with Papa!

  2. Jim McTrip says:

    Ooops. Love my readers/editors! It’s a Mazda 2. As I tell people, it’s a car that may not get me laid, but it makes gas prices almost insignificant to me!

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