Sunday, August 16, 2009

Chuckie vs. the Quick Lube Guys

Yesterday morning was my LARGE FUN day-my 'me' time, sort of. I had an appointment for the local lab to draw blood for an upcoming endocrinologist's visit (I was surprised, and not pleasantly, when the lab tech shared that, in addition to blood, she wanted me to fill a cup with urine. "From here?" I asked some eight feet away. So much for that career in stand-up). I have diabetes, auto immune pancreatitis, and at least two other auto immune diseases that a posse of doctors watch and monitor, so blood tests (for one or more of them) are pretty much a monthly routine.

Because it was still early and more importantly because it needed to be done, I headed to the place in Montville, off Route 32, where I have the oil changed every three thousand miles. Yeah, I know, I've heard all about the new math and read all the car-care columns on the new and longer oil-change increments and that's all well and good but many years ago my friend and neighbor, Eric, who knows more about cars sound asleep than you and I will ever know wide awake told me to get the oil changed every three thousand miles and that's what I do. And it works like a charm.

There were four or five people getting routine maintenance accomplished and I joined them while the oil was changed and the fuel injectors were cleaned. I was reading one of the local newspapers and, probably like yours, on the front page was a color photo of two men holding signs on opposite sides of the health care argument, snapped while demonstrating in front of our Congressman's office on Friday (when you can't hear what people are saying they look goofy when all you have is their picture. And these guys made me smile even if the topic is very serious and our behavior on both sides of this issue is awful).

The newspaper on an inside page had Charles Krauthammer's thoughts on the health care reform proposed by President Obama and while I enjoy his writing, I don't often agree with his arguments and yesterday was no exception. Meanwhile, one of the fellows who changes the oil came into the waiting area with the filthiest air filter I have ever seen, from a Chrysler Pacifica (he said) and spoke with the guy who drives the vehicle (who looked to be about my age, but with pointed (and muddy) cowboy boots and a trucker type ball cap) to confer.

The vehicle, said the young guy who had just been under the hood, needed a new air filter (obvious to ALL of us) and, opening his left hand, he showed the owner the oil drain plug that had been in his vehicle and that was pretty much worn down. The employee suggested the driver buy a new plug for four dollars since the old one was cross-threaded. A new air filter was nineteen dollars and some change, plus tax, and there was a mention of replacing the windshield wipers as they were fraying, and the blades were closer to twenty bucks a pop. I could see from where I was sitting, the owner had zero desire to do any of this and sure enough, he looked at the employee and told him "that's okay, I'll take care of it all later."

All of us, to include the kid holding the air filter containing the sands of the Sahara, knew this guy was full of carp (I hate typing 'crap', it's so coarse; oh, waitaminit!) and I returned to Krauthammer's article because it was really about the same thing, but maybe the fish was different. I lived in my wife's country, Germany, for fifteen years where there is universal health care and from what I've read and experienced, her countrymen are in considerably better shape physically than mine because the system works. There are probably a lot of reasons for that, but being able to afford and finance preventive care is, I suspect, no small part of the equation. And more significantly, to me, might be projecting what NOT having preventive care costs us as a society.

When we spend as much time as we have arguing about how socialists and liberals have 'stolen our country', how we'll have 'death panels' (I've worked very hard to NOT say mean things about a former Governor and failed vice-presidential candidate but she really needs to shut up as she's not adding anything) and build camps for the terminally ill, we need to realize we're not in Kansas anymore, Toto, and concede that we're actually not discussing health care.

I took a good look at the Chrysler Pacifica, still on the rack as I drove away, realizing there's an excellent chance the next time I see it, it'll be by the side of the road with the hood up and the emergency flashers on. I'm pretty sure the repair bill total on that day will be considerably higher than what it might have been yesterday, but the owner did get to exercise his free will as a God-loving and socialist-fearing American, and that, I'm sure, will be very comforting when the wheels stop turning, assuming, of course, they don't just fall off.
-bill kenny

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