This is not easy to say but I need to clear my conscience by apologizing.
To Steve’s Tire and Auto on Poplar Avenue: I am sorry. Your crew has replaced tires, repaired breaks and been a terrific example of customer service. I can’t believe I considered someone else.
To my neighbors: I am sorry. We live in a neighborhood close to everything we need. I can’t believe I risked damaging that by taking my business across town.
To my city: I am sorry. For all of the moaning I do about building community and connectivity and supporting the hometown… I should really set a better example.
My wife’s car needed brakes and like any good husband would, I agreed to handle it. Plus, I had a $20 gift certificate to Christian Brothers Automotive that I picked up from a U of M event they graciously sponsored. The coupon had multiple locations on it, so away I went heading toward the corner of Germantown and Winchester Roads. The traffic was as expected; I knew this would be a long trip.
Where did everybody go?
I rolled passed what must have been a million square feet or more of empty shopping centers, free standing restaurants and parking lots. Not blighted in the traditional sense. No boards on the windows or graffiti on the walls. Just vacancy. Abandonment. Miles of it. It was as if people were mysteriously transported somewhere else by aliens or war or famine, leaving behind perfectly good storefronts.
On Winchester alone, I saw where Kroger and Best Buy used to be. I passed two former K-Marts and what looked like a half dozen empty Applebee’s before finding my destination (or what I thought was my destination). I couldn’t find Christian Brothers Automotive. I found a Coleman Taylor and an Express Oil Change and a few other places that could probably take care of my wife’s brakes. But I never found the place offering $20 off.
So, I headed back to town. I had already burned up a few dollars worth of gas and fair amount of time. No need to make things worse by driving in circles. Plus, I had not yet really cheated… right? Perhaps it doesn’t count if you never actually make it to the date.
This place is a zoo.
I eventually hit Madison Avenue. The guilt started to set in the second I saw Mercury Valet Cleaners. What would they say if I snuck around taking my clothes to someone else? Then I passed an old stand-by, The Bar-B-Q Shop, and the brand new restaurant, Fuel. They are working to make my neighborhood special, shouldn’t I? I turned toward Poplar and quickly noticed Café Society, one of our favorites. I also spotted the renovated and expanded Joe’s Liquor. Would I drive to Winchester for wine?
I pulled into Steve’s Tire and Auto and walked in as if nothing was going on. I explained the brake issue, handed over the keys and then was offered a ride if I needed one. Funny thing… I didn’t.
I walked out the front door debating what I could do for breakfast. I passed on CK’s Coffee Shop and chose to grab milk and donuts from Circle K. Why a convenience store? Because it was across the street from Overton Park.
I sat in the park, read my newspaper and ate donuts. That is until my sister called. Within minutes, she and my two nieces were meeting me for a day at the zoo. I don’t know what you do when your brakes are being repaired but, from now on, I go to the zoo. I walked out of Steve’s and found myself at the sea lion show! Where else can you do that?
Please don’t leave me!
The day turned out to be marvelous and the car is running fine. I don’t know if Steve’s brakes are $20 more than the other place. And, I am sure Christian Brothers would have been fine when I figured out where they were.
I do know that I don’t want my neighborhood to look like Winchester. I don’t want new businesses to think I take them for granted. I don’t want old buddies to close their doors and disappear. I don’t want to miss out on waving to the dog walkers and Frisbee throwers and stroller pushers when walking from the garage to the zoo to my house.
I hope my apology is accepted. I look forward to replacing the tires soon.