Danny: The most awesome mechanic in the world

America’s big on credit. People will give you a fair shot, even if you’ve miss a few… or take advantage of your poor judgment, depending how you choose to see it.

BAD CREDIT OK says the sign. The guy who owns this place chased me away, demanding to know why I was taking pictures.

So I wasn’t sure that I’d actually bought a car legally. But my registration went through at the Santa Ana DMV without a hitch, in five minutes flat. No queues, no mess, no fuss. We all know how I love the Civic Centre in Cape Town, but you don’t expect to get anything done there in less than an hour. The guy that sold me my car had only had it six months, and it was suspiously well priced, and some chick already tried to scam me on a Caddilac – here’s the letter she sent me when I queried the price, wondering why it was so low.

Hello,

I have received your email regarding the 2004 Cadillac De Ville , Mileage: 49,000 miles . The car is in perfect condition,with no scratches on it,no damage, clear title. Here have the vin number:1G6KD54Y34U152771. The price for the car is $3000 with shipping included.
The car was my husband`s as he loved it very much, but he did not enjoy it as he died in a IRAQ 3 month ago. It brings very bad memories to me, I want to get rid of it. The buyer will receive the car with all papers and receipts that he needs to register it to his name.
Shipping will be done whit DAS and it will take no more then 2-3 days. I have a friend there who will manage me a low price shipping and I assumed that it is my duty to pay for shipping it. It will be delivered directly to your address.
Anyway, I have to let you know that I want a fast deal so if you are really interested
in buying it,please reply with the following information’s:
-Your full name;
-Your shipping address.
The transaction will close only through eBay so we both will be protected.
I want ebay because as they are the biggest company on the internet I think that we can close this deal fast and safe for both of us. Also I am not very familiar with the internet transactions and eBay is the only one I know.
I will look for your email,so that we can move forward with this deal!
Let me know.
For more pictures with my car please click the link below:
http://pbckt.com/sm.mmZ
Sincerely,
Kasie Ragsdale

Yeah, right, I thought. Still it’s clever letter, which proves the saying “You can’t fool an honest man.” Anyone who went for it would willingly be trying to take advantage of her grief. Her fake grief, of course… but they don’t know that, or they wouldn’t be sending her a couple of grand for a car worth double that!

I didn’t end up with the car I imagined I’d buy. I imagined a cool car like a Cadillac or a Mustang – though due to some insane superstition of my mother’s I’m “not allowed” to get a red car, which rules out 90% of the classic Ford Mustangs I found in my price range. Anyhow, my eventual purchase, a 2004 Hyundai Elantra 2L only has a tape deck and isn’t at all cool. But it does have working aircon, and drives like a bomb, and apparently I didn’t pay too much. Or so says Danny – not my brother; Mexican mechanic Danny of Danny’s Auto Repairs. The only work needed to get my clean, SMOG-certified green machine ready for about 100 000 miles of roadtrips was an oil filter change, tair filter, replacing three belts, skimming the brakes (he keeps saying “skinning, ha ha ha!” – they call it “resurfacing” here) and something else I don’t understand or remember.

Danny is the guy behind the desk. My car is the light green one in the background, with the wheels off. It's better now.

At Danny’s, you take your car in and then you wait and watch the work – maybe pop out for some food at a nearby restaurant like Calima, where I had the most amazing Huervos Rancheros (ranch style eggs – with beans, green chili sauce, rice, salad and soft corn tacos on the side), followed by some home-made flan, while listening to Muzak version of none other than The Macarena. The restaurant had blue chairs and great big fruit sculptures stuck to the walls.
Damn delicious. Home made is different.
Calima made me think of a ex and former friend who broke my heart one too many times for even me to forgive him again without him apologising. He would have loved the place so much. The guy who ran it was a brilliant restaurateur, greeting everyone, justly proud of his food. He had exactly the same hairstyle as Danny the Auto Mechanic: peppery and balding, with a moustache in the centre of his face.

Off the wall humour at Danny's

When I went back to Danny’s, he taught me everything I have ever known about car engines and parts, showing me what was new, what still had a year or 100 000 miles to go, what should be replaced, and where the other mechanic had broken stuff.

“See this? He break it off. Probably some Mexican guy. You should never take your car to a Mexican guy. They don’t know what they doin’. They mess it up.” I laughed and he said: “I give you a new one for nothing.”

Mechanics (and software developers) are just like hairdressers. Always shocked at the horrendous job the person before them did.

Danny was good luck for me, I think. My brother and I haven’t always had the easiest relationship though we were incredibly close as kids, but I took a leap of faith choosing Danny over the other 6 in the complex, in a city of millions where I know nobody at all. And for a couple of hundred dollars, my car’s going to be perfect – ready to head to LA, San Diego, Santa Barbara and maybe San Francisco for another big adventure. It’s time. I’m getting to comfortable here.

Danny’s is decorated with love and humour, and more love. He obviously loves cars. And  he expects you to pay attention when he explains what’s going on with yours. “Why don’ you know?” he asks me, when I giggle nervously as I take my first look at the engine and can’t identify the fan belt.

He told me, as he helped me use his fax machine to sort out my insurance, that he’d just come back from a cruise to Mexico the day before. He showed me pictures of his daughter and his grand daughter and the boat. I have never, ever, felt so good about giving someone my car keys.

Someone brought this hummer in for repair. The numberplate thing says "Not as lean, just as mean" at the top. Horrible.

While they do the final hour of work, I’m in a diner. After 11 days of fantastic service, I finally found one of those places from the movies where everyone seems to have given up on life, the floors are really dirty, not all the ceiling fans work, and most people only order drinks.

The deadly diner. *name changed to protect privacy of those involved.

It’s the real thing, baby. An overweight dude who looks like elvis after  he died just slopped in ordered the cheapest grease on the menu. An old man with dirty chinos is drinking a Sprite by the window opposite. He gets his burger and doesn’t say thanks or please, just “KETCHUP” to the waitress. The radio is blasting while the waitress sullenly fills the sugar dispensers. One guy has a beanie on (and shorts, and dirty shoes with no socks). It’s about 90 degrees in the shade. Three fat teenagers in identical green too-tight-tees, skinny jeans and pumps are trying to decide which of the hamburguesas they want, while co-parenting a techy toddler. A new customer just waltzed in, in a white golf shirt, with his mullet curls shining with gel, and the ubiquitous moustache munching happily at his upper lip… and oh boy, I’ve never seen such pure white sneakers in my life. Style!  When he flirted, the waitress smiled for the first time since I’ve been here.

I'm never going to another mechanic. I'm Danny's forever. Seems I'm not alone.

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