Come Thursday, Pandora’s Box HAD to be moved to Jonesboro. (It’s not like the Jackson shop gave a fuck about her.) And while J Loren has the voice of a thousand hurricanes, I’m much bigger than he is and I’d like to think I can muster up the voice of at least a half dozen hurricanes.
Seriously, there simply wasn’t any more time. She had to be moved to HotWired in Jonesboro or she wasn’t going to be finished before J needed to be home. The Jackson shop agreed to move her to Jonesboro for us at the close of business on Thursday. Rose Haley ended up driving from Little Rock, Arkansas (almost 5 hours) to join Lorie Beth, Rickie, and Trevor to do as much as could be done with the ambulance stuck in Jackson.
I asked Lorie Beth to stay with Pandora’s Box until she left, to make sure the ambulance made her way to HotWired. The shop owner in Jackson agreed to send his mechanic to Jonesboro on Friday to finish the job for us. It took until just after midnight, Friday morning, for the driver to load up and begin to move Pandora’s Box back to Jonesboro. The last thing the shop owner told the driver who was hauling her back was, “Do NOT unload it without payment in full.” He asked if their shop was going to send a mechanic to work on it on Friday, and the owner responded with “probably not.” Lorie Beth overheard this and let me know. This should have given me barely enough time to formulate a plan, but because the shop suffers from a severe case of incompetence, they actually ended up giving me much more time –
Their truck lost a cylinder while pulling it, so the ambulance didn’t arrive in Jonesboro until 5:06 am, only six hours from when J’s flight was landing.
So if you’re keeping score on this blog:
- The truck the Jackson shop used to pick up the ambulance, broke down on the way back.
- They couldn’t repair the ambulance, or even diagnose the exact issue in three weeks of working on it.
- The truck they used to bring the ambulance back to Jonesboro, broke down.
I was told they had to collect payment in full before they would unload the ambulance. The guy reached into his pocket and handed me a folded up post-it note, and said, “Here’s your bill.” I opened it up, and it was a thousand dollars more than our maximum budget. I loudly used multiple explicative words as I described the utter incompetence I was dealing with. Not only did these guys NOT deliver even remotely close to on time, they didn’t fix the issue, they continued to act like they knew exactly what was wrong, they came in a grand over the maximum that I told them I was willing to pay, and they never gave me a quote until I got the bill on a hand written post-it note.
The hand written post-it note ironically included sales tax.
I asked if they were sending their guy to come finish the transmission job in the morning. They assured me they were. That was the last lie I was taking. I wrote them a check that read “Void Void Void” across the currency line in cursive, and filled the rest of the check out as they requested. On the memo line I put a note to the shop owner that read, “Please do the right thing, send your guy here and finish the job.” I handed it to them and thanked them for delivering Pandora’s Box to us at 5:06 am. I parked the ambulance behind a utility truck and a dumpster — the exact fashion the Jackson shop used to keep me from getting her before — just in case they decided a voided check wasn’t sufficient for the job they didn’t do. My intent wasn’t to steal from them, or avoid paying what was owed. However, I couldn’t risk paying them all of our money and them not finish the job. Giving them a voided check would force them to either finish the job or agree to take less than what they were attempting to bill me for since they didn’t actually finish the job, and were almost a month behind schedule.
On Thursday, I had a sneaking suspicion things might go down that way, so I made a quick call to Austin Kelley, and asked him to be ready to go Friday morning on the transmission. Austin is a diesel mechanic, but isn’t a transmission guy. However, at this point he was my only hope. I needed a trained and competent mechanic that might be able to get the job done at the HotWired shop, while teams worked around him repairing the damage from the Jackson shop and finishing her up.
Over the next several hours Friday morning, my calls to the shop in Jackson went unreturned. It wasn’t until shortly before I picked up J that the shop owner called and accused me of check fraud. I quickly unloaded a month’s worth of built up frustration with him as I went into detail explaining their lack of professionalism, inability to do the job asked, and how they fucked us over on being able to do this job at all. I also told him that in NO WAY was that check given to him in any fraudulent manner. It clearly said VOID on it THREE times, and had a note written to him on it. I let him know that if his guy fixed it today [Friday] as agreed, I would pay him his extremely high bill, in full, IN CASH. I explained if his guy was able to get it fixed Saturday, I would pay him my original maximum, and he could deal with the rest because he never gave me an estimate or a quote, and just demanded a grand more at the end. I concluded my conversation by saying if he was unable to fix it by Saturday night, I’d give them exactly half to cover the parts, and I would have to pay the rest to someone else to cover their labor.
I hung up the phone and sent him a recap of our conversation via text message, including the amounts and the time frames to make sure there was NO misunderstanding.
He didn’t respond, and they never sent a mechanic.
Within minutes of talking to the Jackson shop owner, I picked up J Loren from the airport. He hadn’t slept the entire night before, and he felt terrible. I was equally as grouchy and sleep deprived, but slightly more stressed.
I took him for energy drinks and BBQ. Once we sat down, I explained to him what was going on with the transmission, and that the entire project might not be 100% as advertised because I simply fucked up by not getting the ambulance moved sooner. He acted like it wasn’t a big deal, but I’m not sure he fully understood the gravity of the situation. I didn’t want to stress him out anymore and ruin a weekend he had been looking forward to, and I had faith in team HotWired, Lorie Beth, and Austin Kelley. They have as much heart as I do.
Friday night was scheduled to be the night J would hang out with the Jackson team and thank them for their efforts. However, I knew if I was around any of them I would lose my cool. So instead, we had a quiet evening at my house. My kids gave J a Paper Jamz guitar and asked him to play for us, so he did some stunning renditions of the preprogramed rock/pop songs. After dinner, we relaxed and had a few drinks. I had to ask J his opinion of his songs being put into Gizoogle and posted on the HURT Forum. He wasn’t sure what I was talking about, so I read him the lyrics to ‘Rapture.’ He laughed, and quickly asked me to pull up ‘Role Martyr X.’ I did, and had him sing us the “Gizoogle” version. I can still hear him singing “since I be da most thugged-out humble playa up in tha ghetto. Right back up in yo muthafuckin ass” as I type this.
The HotWired team grew dramatically Friday night. Brandon, the store owner, put out an “all hands on deck” post on Facebook. They worked throughout the night and made tremendous progress. I felt very guilty hanging out with J while everyone else worked their rear ends off tirelessly all night.
To be continued…