In Beijing I actually took the Honda to a certified Honda dealer once, and they still screwed up. They screwed up my brakes. I hope they screwed them up on accident, but you never know. These are the same people, after all, who waited until my husband was out of the country one fine spring day, and I was in the back of an ambulance with my baby, rushing to the hospital with sirens blaring, to break into my car and disconnect the battery so the car wouldn't work when I returned home from the hospital the next day.
Bygones, Chinese government drones. Bygones.
I only found out how badly they screwed up the brakes when I took the car to a mechanic here for the first time, and he was horrorstruck when he saw the condition of my brakes. Apparently it was a Very Bad Thing they did.
So, this mechanic. His name is Shukri, and he has a shop not far down the road from the Embassy. I've never actually been to his shop, not on purpose, anyway, because when my car needs anything, he takes it there himself and returns it to me when he's done.
(I was accidentally at his shop just this week, when I was stuck in traffic in a strange area of town, and it turns out I was stuck directly in front of his shop. He came out in the street to chat for five minutes while we waited for traffic to clear.)
Shukri knows what he's doing: he was trained in the U.S., speaks impeccable English, and knows where to source real parts that really belong inside my car. He's honest. He's reliable. When he says he's going to do something, he does it. I had a friend whose car broke down on the side of the road, late at night, and Shukri drove to where she was, then gave her the keys to his own car so she could get home while he waited for one of his mechanics to show up. Who does that?
When I took the side of the car off after failing to see a teeny tiny stone wall that jumped out in front of me one afternoon, he didn't laugh, or even roll his eyes. He simply fixed the car.
When he had to repaint the bumper (okay, that was SO not my fault), he warned me not to let the boab wash the car for 24 hours. But the next morning at 6am, I staggered sleepy-eyed into the kitchen, and when I glanced out the window, I saw the boab preparing to wash the car. I shrieked and ran outside in my pajamas, only to realize I couldn't remember the Arabic words for "don't wash the car." So I called Shukri. At 6 in the morning. His wife answered, and she was very confused, but when I managed to explain who I was and why I was calling, she offered to talk to the boab herself. I handed him the phone, words were exchanged, and the problem was solved. I was kind of embarrassed when I finally met Shukri's wife in person and had to explain that I was the one who'd woken her up to ask what the verb "to wash" is in Arabic.
Two weeks ago, I got a flat tire on the way to work. Only I didn't know it - the guards at the Embassy pointed it out when I got there. I found Shukri in the cafeteria: he found a nail in my tire, and he patched it up and returned the car to me, shiny, clean and drivable, for the low, low price of about $8.
Today, when I was at lunch, he tracked me down. "I noticed," he said, "that one of your tires looks low again. We should probably check it out." I gave him the keys and he went out and found another nail. Seriously. Nails are a hazard here, apparently. But he patched it up while I was at work and returned the car to the parking lot, with 0% inconvenience to me.
So today, I am grateful for Shukri. He was paying attention when I wasn't, and he saved me from getting a flat tire somewhere out in the wide world tonight.
Good things happen sometimes. And good people are everywhere. You just have to pay attention, I guess.