Sunday, March 29, 2009

The International Cast of Characters

So my Thursday and Friday were a little crazy last week. In fact, I would say it was a cultural experience of its own. On Thursday I drove up to Greely, CO for a job fair (check out another post coming soon about that experience) and when I drove back it was right in the middle of that nasty Colorado snow storm that we had here. It took me over three hours to travel back, in the time that it would have taken me about an hour normally. However, one thing I learned really quickly was that even though Colorado residents live near the mountains they honestly have no idea how to drive in the snow. Really, I saw more cars in the ditch than on the road at times. It was a little weird that a mini van from Minnesota was passing Colorado residents, but then again I guess I should be – I should be able to drive in a little bit of snow. Needless to say, I finally got back to the Wartburg West apartments and then I waited a little while and drove out to the airport to pick up my parents. Got them in and then was driving them to their hotel and I turned around a corner and bam – the check engine light came on and it all went dead. The Rugglemiester had come to a stop and for no apparent reason. So I got out and checked everything over and kicked off some of the sludge and ice that had covered the vehicle by that point and then got back in. The van started right up and I thought it must have been a short in the line somewhere and now it is gone, but then right as we got to the top of the next hill it did it again – check engine light, loss of power, and engine shut off. So there I am stuck in a van with my parents and about ten minutes away from the hotel and twenty minutes away from my roommate. So I did the same thing I did before, checked everything, looked around, and then tried to start the engine. No luck, yet again. So I tried it again, still nothing. There we were, three Minnesota residents stuck with a broken down Rugglemiester. So here’s where this story gets good, so I was talking to my roommate and got him to come and pick us up, but we still had this van sitting near the intersection on a major road in Denver. What were we going to do? Thankfully a really nice guy from area offered to tow the van to a gas station just around the corner. So we jumped at the chance (it turns out that he had pulled out two ambulances and a variety of other vehicles that day too) and he towed us there and we waited for my roommate to pick us up. The next day I walk down to the recommended auto garage in town and talk to Yang, a Chinese man who is running the shop for the morning. I tell him everything that happened to the van and he agreed that there was a problem, but that he could not fix it until they got it into the shop. So he took down my information and told me that he would call back with the tow truck information. Awesome, I’ll get the van towed and then hopefully it will all get fixed that day. So I walked the few blocks back to the apartments and as I was nearing them I received a phone call from what appeared to sound like a Middleastern accented individual. Through his broken English I understood him asking me if I needed a tow and I said yes. Then I repeated for him the location of the vehicle, make, and license plate information so that his tow truck driver could go get it. Sounded good, but then ten minutes later someone with a very Hispanic accent called me and asked the same information. He said that he was the “tow truck driver.” Ok, I thought to myself, I am finally making some headway here. Then about an hour later the “tow truck driver” called me and told me that he was with the vehicle, but when I described to him the vehicle again I heard him say, “Darn it, I think that is the other one,” which I could only infer to mean that he had begun to tow the other vehicle that must have broken down in that lot. The language barrier was a little interesting at times. So finally the “tow truck driver” got the van to the auto shop and he was unloading into a garage filled with Mexican Americans. It was quite an interesting experience, all of them talking in Spanish about my vehicle. In fact, I really wanted to know what they were saying, but that was not going to happen. So the vehicle got in and now I had five Mexican Americans working on it and I did not understand a word they were saying. It was hard to step back and really give them your baby, your lifeblood, your mode of transportation when you do not even understand what they are saying, but I did because I knew that it was the only way that it was going to get fixed. So from there I leave and go hang out with my parents and get back in the afternoon to check on the vehicle. So my dad and I talk to the Caucasian owner of the shop for an hour and a half about a whole variety of stuff, including getting my van repaired. So all in all, between the variety of people in contact with my car it has been a very culturally diverse experience.

During the event, the whole episode with the “tow truck driver” especially, I was a little upset about service that I was not used to – deadbeat, white, low-income mechanics doing hard work to fix people’s vehicles. Instead, it seemed like I got an international cast of brothers who all seemed to know, respect, and understand each other like no other. I was angry at times that the individuals on the other end of the line, the “tow truck driver in particular,” did not understand my instructions the first or even the second time, but eventually it all worked out. Having a large majority of Mexican Americans work on my vehicle was very interesting, because it was a new experience and I had never seen someone of that background tackle a mechanic job like that before. I guess there is a first for everything. During the event I was really upset and wanted everything to work out right; however, now I understand that everyone was doing their job and trying to make some money off me at the same time.

This experience tells me that at times I can be very prejudiced about individuals based on previous behavior. For instance, I got a little short and snippy with the “tow truck driver” when he did not understand my instructions, most likely because he did not understand my language or native tongue. So that made me really upset at the time, but looking back on the situation I was really frustrated because I wanted everything to work out and it was not – at least not the way I wanted it too. In the future I need to be mindful of what I say and really be open minded with all individuals until I actually meet them in person. The “tow truck driver” was really different off the phone and in person, so I think I need to pass judgment on other individuals until I meet them in person. The same principal fits the Mexican Americans also. They worked really hard on my vehicle and think they may have figured out the problem, but there is no reason for me to assume or be frightened because of them only based on the language they speak or how many of them.

Currently I am waiting for my vehicle to be fixed by the international cast of individuals, which I hope comes soon because I would really like to have the Rugglemiester back in action. Furthermore, I will wait to pass judgment on others until I meet them. Finally, I will not assume stereotypes of people until I have proof from that individual that they fit that mold. I want to remain as open and honest to myself and to others when considering their interactions and relationship with me. All in all, I hope they fix my broken down van quickly, but most of all I have learned that an international cast of characters can come around a broken van and teach me, the driver, a lesson or two in relationships and stereotypes.