It had changed enough, I didn't really recognize much.
By Rob Carrigan, email@example.com
It is odd that I know my way around there in the dark.
After all these years.
The key turns the lock in the steel door on the side. The ground steeply slopes up to the cinder block building. I can see the old grey tractor behind the incinerator and my dad is unhooking the old GMC wrecker. He will park back by the fence next to it.
Inside, it is a stumble, over to the side wall and the light switch, near the steel plate pedestals used at one time to set the camber and tow for alignments, and there is a six inch rise in the cement there.
I turn on the back light near Dad's bench, because no sense lighting up the rest of town.
I know my way.
I can smell transmission fluid in the ever-present stand near the bench, and his creeper is on its side under it. Then the compressor kicks in Pa. da..da..da... da... with a start. Loud and obnoxious, can barely hear myself think, but it will only run for a minute or so, before the big electric blue-colored tank in the corner is full and compressed again. No impact wrenches running at this time of night.
In the daytime, Fred's would be hammering in the next stall over, and you would hear Herb and the pressure washer running in the grease rack, maybe Tom at the tire machine in the center. Dale calling out from the parts door... and Jack pounding on something in the body shop. That was just for starters...
Or at certain times of the day, most of them would be setting there on the old bus benches they used as couches, by the coffee pot, eating doughnuts and telling stories. No doughnuts? I would swipe cubed sugar intended for the coffee.
But it's late, 1 or 2 a.m. and quiet, except for the occasional chime of the compressor.
Dad enters through the man door and then rolls the overhead door up about 12 feet with a skyward shove. "Decided to put this inside," and rolls in a wheel out of the back of the pickup he towed in.
"I need to run to the back," I said.
"Turn on some lights," he cautioned.
"I know my way," I answer.
The door back by the compressor is a stiff push open as the closer is set to make sure it quickly closes, and there is an immediate drop off, down the cement ramp, through the room full of stock windshields in wood racks. The light switch, of course, is on the other side of the room, on your way into the body shop. Dark. Spooky, with all those high racks, and the moon shining through the body shop windows and reflecting off the tinted windshields there.
It's Okay, however, because I know my way.
Back into the body shop and the unpainted drywall creates its own light, enough to find the bathroom back near the paint booth. Turn on the light in there, do your business, and then retrace your steps in the dark again.
I head back. By that time, Dad is squeezing out GoJo with the hand-cleaner pump between the two big doors, to wash the grime off from rolling in that wheel.
I can't remember it very well, but he references time at the shop as being divided.
As "before the fire," and after. I think the fire was clear back in 1960s.
The tire machine was pulled out unscathed then, and is appropriately catagorized as a "before" item. Most everything else is "after." He had to buy all new tools for the most part, because, though they looked fine, they would snap like a stick upon the first hard use.
Years later, maybe about 10 years ago, I went down there, after the building had been converted to another use, and asked the owners if I could wander around some.
It had changed enough, I didn't really recognize much. I imagine the building is still there, still useful in other ways.
Though I'm not as comfortable about knowing where I am headed in there anymore, with the changes of time and space.
But once, a long time ago, even in the dark, it was Okay.
Because, I knew my way.