I was on a mission: buying gifts for an upcoming baby shower. Just as I was pulling out of the parking lot of Bed, Bath, and Beyond, I heard someone say, "excuse me, ma'am." I turned around and looked out my window; there was a young man leaning out of the passenger side of a mini-van, pointing at my car. At first I thought maybe he was indicating I had a flat tire, but then I noticed he was pointing to the unsightly scrape and dent above the back wheel-well.
"I do body work, ma'am, and I can fix that for you."
"Really? Where do you do your work?" I asked him.
"I work for a body shop in the South Valley, but I can fix cars anywhere. If you want, I can give you an estimate, and I can even fix it today."
As you can imagine--especially if you are a Breaking Bad fan--several scenarios were running through my head, but something about him and the unlikely nature of the situation, made me say, "Okay - at least name your price." Whoever was driving the minivan then parked the vehicle, but stayed inside. My new body-repairman examined the damage (that I had inflicted when I backed into a truck bumper in a parking lot about a month ago), and another scrape on the front bumper from when I misjudged a parking space barrier and pulled up too close. He said, "I can fix both for $175.00. It will take about an hour. I can do it right here, or wherever you want, because I have all the tools in my car." "Really??!" I said. "What about the paint and matching the color?"
"No problem. While I'm fixing the dent and priming the surface, my guy will go get the paint. We match the paint using the make/model and the last 4 digits of the VIN number. You don't pay me anthing until the work is done, and then only if you're satisfied."
"Okay, I said, but I was on my way to Target to get a few more things. Can we do it there?" "Sure," he said. "Just park away from other cars so I don't get any paint on them."
So I hopped into my car; the van followed for the mile or more until we parked at the edge of the Target lot. Out hopped a little girl, about 6 or 7 years old -- the body man's daughter. His pregnant wife stayed in the car, looking very hot and uncomfortable. The van driver (brother-in-law?) got out the tools, and body man got to work immediately. I asked his wife if she needed anything in Target; she asked for some water. I went inside and bought 2 large bottles of cold water; as soon as I got back, the van-load left to go buy the paint. Meanwhile, the car was already sanded--the dent was gone. By then I was feeling more confident that this really was going to work out, so I finished my baby-shower shopping inside Target.
When I returned to my car, the van was still gone, so the Body Man and I talked for awhile. He told me of his dream to have his own shop some day, but for now he is just trying to make it as an employee, and doing odd jobs on the side. He told me he thinks many body shops and mechanics rip people off, and that makes him uncomfortable. Finally the van returned, with the paint can. About 5 minutes later, it was all done and my car was restored to its former glory!
One last step: the van followed me to an ATM where I got enough cash to pay for the work. I gave him $180.00, about 90 minutes after we had met. I drove east, he drove west. I have his name and phone number in case anyone I know is looking for some honest labor.