Sunday, October 25, 2009

My mechanic and me...a love story

Bet that got your attention, and it is almost exactly as it seems. I have had a mostly adoring relationship with my auto mechanics over the years. A good one is oh-so-hard to find. But once you have the right guy, one who's honest to a fault, who can pinpoint a problem with unerring accuracy on the very first try, do not let him get away.

Years ago, I used to joke that the very best reason for getting married was to have someone who'd take the car to the garage when it needed repairs. I naively believed that's how it worked. Men dealt with cars and -- oh, sexist me -- women got to deal with the fun stuff. Then I discovered that almost every one of my friends not only took their own cars in for repairs, they took their husbands' cars, too. I was very distraught after learning this.

And then one day, when I had my car at the shop I then used on Miami Beach -- mostly because the mechanic was a very cute and courtly Cuban guy -- I mentioned my philosophy to him. He beamed back at me. "No problem," he said eagerly. "We marry and I fix in the driveway!" I should have taken the deal.

To this day, whenever the slightest thing goes wrong with my car, I'm the one who feels like a failure. Apparently I have a very weird attachment to that hunk of metal and mechanical stuff. Just before leaving for Florida this fall, I had a tire that was going distressingly flat. Not that I could tell immediately since low profile tires always look flat to me...but that's another gripe. In a panic, I pumped in a bunch of air and raced to the next county to my current favorite mechanic. I threw myself on his mercy, or his wife's actually because she holds the key to actually getting inside that garage. No big deal as it turned out. Just a nail. The tire was plugged and I was on my way in a half-hour. I still felt as if I'd failed my car.

Then on Wednesday, it started going low again. Same tire. I looked for a nail. I looked for an air compressor. Then I looked for the mechanic who eats breakfast where I do...every day but the one on which I needed him. By the time I found him...at the grocery store...I had a bag of frozen food and no time. I pumped the tire full of air and said a little prayer. As of today, the air's still in the tire. Quite possibly, so is a nail. At least, though, I'm on high alert to the slightest change in air pressure. Like Scarlett, I'll deal with it tomorrow...or the day after.

This has all reminded me of how totally reliant we are on our vehicles as we go about our daily lives and, thus, how critical a reliable mechanic is to our lives. The mechanic I use in Virginia told me a couple of years ago when we were discussing various new car options that I needed to stick with the make I currently had because anything else would probably drive me insane...and by extension him. I don't cope well with the unexpected little glitches many cars are prone to.

Then, again, if I were to track down that once amorous mechanic of mine and his offer were still on the table, perhaps all of this would be moot. I'd be at the courthouse in front of a judge by noon...and my car would live happily ever after.

Sherryl Woods

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Wait, what city am I in?

I've been travelling again, which is always a reminder to me of just how much we've turned some aspects of our cities into carbon copies of other places.

This is most obvious, of course, in malls. Once you walk through the doors of the typical mall, other than some variation in general decor or modern updates, you will find the same stores, which means every woman in America can find their bras at Victoria's Secret, their T-shirts at the Gap, clothes for the grandkids at Baby Gap, ice cream at Ben & Jerry's or Haagen-Daz, skin potions at Bath & Body Works and so on. After a few minutes, it's easy to forget what city you're in, much less which state.

Back out on the streets, there's a Starbucks every few blocks, a collection of familiar fast food restaurants. We've come to expect that no matter where we travel, we'll be able to get our favorite hamburger or coffee fix.

More surprising to me, however, was the discovery on this trip that features I thought were unique to my local television stations in Washington, DC, aren't unique at all. I suppose this shouldn't have come as such a shock. After all, even when I was reporting on the television industry a very long time ago, there were companies that sold the same on-air promotional themes and packages to news departments across the country. I didn't think, though, that the same kind of syndication would have lapped over into news content.

To be specific, my local CBS affiliate began some time ago promoting a Moms Like Me website and inviting local viewers to sign on for information, discounts, blogs and so on. Much to my surprise, I found the exact same website promoted by another CBS station in South Carolina. I suppose this wouldn't matter had not the implication by both been that this was a local feature being offered solely to their viewers.

Then, not minutes later, there was a Heroes Central report featuring a hero from the community. While the individual in the spotlight was local, the Heroes Central packaging was not, right down to the identical logo.

This got me to wondering just how widespread these two specific packages are. If one of your local stations promotes the Moms Like Me website or has a Heroes Central segment on your news, click on comments below and tell me about it. Were you aware that it didn't originate with your local station? Does that even matter to you? I'd love to hear your reactions. Be sure to include your city in your response.

Sherryl Woods
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