Monday, July 21, 2008

Love in the Body Shops

His bald head showed scars, and I immediately knew how he got them. He owns the auto-body shop. The scars on his tanned scalp were pink and white, all shapes, some more vivid than others, so he'd collected them over time. He wore a short-sleeved, very clean, very creased, tucked-in blue shirt, with an oval over his heart with his name, embroidered in brown: Don.

Underneath cars most of his life, Don had cut his brow open on them at least six or seven times, badly enough to leave permanent scars. Another body-shop owner could have probably read them like a book. I saw in them his love of cars and loved him for loving anything that much, even when it hurt him.

"Adds up fast," he said, apologetically, handing me the estimate: $606. "That's 'cause in that one place it's scratched down to the metal. We take off the door handle so you won't have any tape marks on 'er when it's repainted. You'll have to leave her here two-three days, so the paint can dry. . . "

I would have to look for a lower estimate, and drove to another body shop with an office not 8 feet by 12 feet, lots of it taken up by four-drawer steel file cabinets. A neat rack of car keys hung from the door. The estimator, a stringbean with glasses, name Jim -- no other name was possible -- had color pictures of his 20ish daughter on his Steelcase desk, and all sorts of little certificates and state licenses and awards and thank-you plaques exactly lined up on the wall. I loved him for loving his daughter and for lining everything up just so. He typed up his estimate for me: $470.

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