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No Good Deed Slides Unpunished

, , , , , | Right | January 22, 2019

I’ve always loved old machinery, especially old cars and — since I’m a Michigander — snowmobiles. Since I enjoy wrenching, I’ve opened up a shop of my own. I cater mostly to old snowmobiles, the type of thing people usually can’t find a shop willing to work on. They can also be difficult to find parts for. One day, a guy with a cane limps into my place. He explains how he just bought an old sled and it needs work.

He says he doesn’t have much money and is hoping we can work out some kind of trade. He’s got two old machines at his home that he’s willing to put up as payment if I’ll fix the one he just bought. He says he got it for his young son’s birthday, and the kid just can’t wait to go for a ride on it.

My stupid heart of gold takes over and before I know it I’ve agreed, pending a look at his trade. I follow him out to his house and find two machines in pretty sorry shape. The first one is absolute scrap, as in not a single usable part. He is a bit delusional, telling me how it’d be worth “a fortune” to a collector if it was all fixed up. I don’t want to burst this guy’s bubble by saying that I’m a collector, and examples of that model, even in mint condition, can’t even be given away. The second machine isn’t as bad, and I decide I can probably flip it or sell a few parts from it and make my money back. We shake on it.

That’s when he drops the first surprise on me. He doesn’t have a truck or trailer, and the sled he just bought is still at the seller’s house. Since it is on my way home, I agree to pick it up there and then bring it back to his home after repairs are complete. Roughly two hours later, I am home with his sled and have just begun gathering parts. I haven’t turned a single wrench on it when the phone rings. It’s the guy, and he wants to know if I am done yet! I tell him nope, just got started. It’ll be probably four hours before I’m finished.

He reiterates that his kid can’t wait to go riding. I tell him I know, and that I’ll call as soon as it’s done. A half-hour goes by and the phone rings again. It’s him again, wanting a progress report. By now I’m starting to lose patience a little. Most shops have a week to two-week lead time, so the fact that I am getting on his job ASAP is a rare phenomenon in itself. I can’t believe how impatient he is. I tell him I’ll call as soon as it’s done, and that every time I have to answer the phone, the repair takes longer.

He waits maybe 45 minutes and then calls again with the same question. I try to break it down as simply as I can. Every time I have to drop what I’m doing and answer the phone, I lose my place and have to start all over again. It’s far more efficient if he just lets me call him when I’m done.

As I’m tightening the last bolt, he calls again. This time I answer and tell him I’m just finishing up and that since I worked through dinner, I’m going to eat something quick, and then I’ll be right out with it.

He has the gall to sound disappointed, like I should just bring the sled out immediately and eat something on my own time! By now I’m anxious to drop it off, gather my payment, and put this one behind me. After this, no more sympathy deals! A half-hour later I arrive at his house. His kid is going absolutely ballistic, so that makes me feel a little better and eases some of the tension. While the kid buzzes around on the sled, I tell his dad I’m ready to pack up the two machines we agreed on and head home.

He looks at me like I’ve got two heads and says, “Two sleds?” I tell him, “Yes, like we shook on.” He tells me I must have gotten confused, and that the deal was only for one sled, and guess which one? Yup, the absolute junk one. I level with him and tell him it’s not worth anything to me, or anyone else. I’ll be losing if I take it as payment. I want the two that we agreed on.

He keeps trying to backpedal, telling me how it’ll be worth so much money when it’s all fixed up. I tell him, rather heatedly, that he’s not honoring our agreement. I tell him I made a special exception and agreed to a trade with him, went and picked up his sled, fixed it with him looking over my shoulder the entire time, and then dropped it off at his house, and now he’s trying to screw me?

He seems uncomfortable, but just keeps repeating the whole “worth a ton when fixed up” thing. I say, “So, your word is worth nothing? Is that what you want to teach your kid? That you can lie to people and never face consequences?” I tell him to keep the piece of junk if he thinks it’s worth so d*** much, and to never come near my property again.

I know it’s immature, but for a long time after, every time I pass his house and see him in the yard, I honk and give him the single-finger salute, just as a token of my appreciation!

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