Eddie and the White Smoke

by Brian on February 18, 2014

in Only in Israel

We love our 1995 Toyota Corolla. It’s in fantastic shape and is our only car for driving out of Jerusalem. (Our other car is a Better Place electric vehicle which is now essentially a very expensive “city car” – but that’s another story.) So, when a car repairperson rolled down the window in his vehicle and called over to my son while he was stopped at a red light near work and informed him that white smoke was coming out of the tailpipe, we were all understandably concerned.

The repairman in the next car handed over his card between the windows – he specialized “in just this sort of thing,” he said – and he’d of course be glad to take a look.

Not so fast. We’d just replaced the catalytic converter in the car a few weeks before that – it had failed its air pollution test; these things happen from time to time – so we decided that the best bet would be to take our car back to the shop where we’d had the work done as it was still under warranty. That meant a visit with Eddie.

Eddie is not your typical car mechanic. Stylishly dressed with a button down shirt, longish hair and speaking close-to-perfect English, he comes across as something between a presentable version of Johnny Depp (one not in pirate costume) and a 50’s rock and roller. Which is fitting given that, in his free time, Eddie plays in a local Jerusalem band.

1961 Plymouth Valiant (Wrascal, Wikimedia Commons)He also has a fully restored beautifully bright red 1961 Plymouth Valiant in the back of his shop in Jerusalem’s Talpiot Industrial Zone. “It was the first automatic car to be imported into the country,” he told us with irrepressible pride. Does he drive it? He happily nods: to meet-ups of other vintage car owners. (These get togethers are held fairly regularly on Fridays in the parking lot of the Israel Museum. Who knew?)

Art's AutomotiveEddie reminds me of Art, the owner of the car repair shop we used in Berkeley before we made aliyah. Art also outclassed the other mechanics in the neighborhood. His waiting room was decked out in pastels with filtered water and soft music. (He did a good job of fixing the car, too.)

Eddie doesn’t have a fancy waiting room yet (he has a few bean bag chairs off the main garage – more hipster than high class) but, despite his youth (he’s in his 30s), he projects a clear confidence. So when he floored the accelerator trying to generate the tell tale white smoke and it wasn’t forthcoming, we believed him when he said the car was fine.

He then offered an explanation for our run-in with the repair guy at that red light. Eddie’s shop is right next to the air pollution test facility, which car owners must pass through each year to renew their registrations. “Look how empty it is,” he said, waving towards the adjacent building. “No one buys cars at this time of year.”

Since you have to take your car in for its check on the annual anniversary of when you purchased it, a lack of customers right about now would seem to back up that claim. “They’re all waiting until after Pesach when the 2015 models are delivered.”

With so few people getting their cars tested in the lead up to the holiday, he went on, repairs are also down and businesses need to try “creative” ways to generate new customers. The unstated correlation: an unscrupulous repairperson might flag you down for an “invented” problem with an unnecessary (and expensive) solution.

Could the reason really be so cynical? Yes, probably. (Fortunately, that’s not an indictment of Israeli mechanics; deceit knows no borders.) We’re glad we found Eddie. And he didn’t charge us a shekel for some sound insight.

This article appeared originally on The Jerusalem Post.

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