Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Day 310 Bob the Mechanic

Dear friends,

My van is in the shop. It is being fixed by the Excellent Derek, son of the late Excellent Bob, my all time favorite mechanic and an all around good guy. I've always wanted to tell the story of Bob, so I guess now is as good a time as any. Bob didn't live to see our family experience the crash of November 8, but if he had I can assure you he would have jumped in with both feet to help in any way he could. So here's a little story about a man I miss, and who probably didn't ever think his life was very important, but it was.

I started bringing my car to Powertane back in 1989, when I worked in the marketing department for Mohawk Fine Papers, (a truly great place to work, by the way). Ed Sr. (God rest his soul too) recommended this little joint down the street when the car needed work, and so began our 20 plus years relationship with Bob and Powertane.

Bob was a very large man, probably at least 400 pounds, but it was 400 pounds of good will and kindness. His shop looked like something out of a sitcom - the plants, most of them dead, one with a piece of masking tape across the plastic pot saying "not for sale"; vinyl seats for the customers with most of the vinyl gone and the stuffing coming out; those machines where you put in a quarter and the skittle like candy drops to catch, except there was a quarter jammed in one of them for so long you wondered what the candy would be like if it ever got unstuck. Powertane was the host to many of Bob's "charity cases" - cats from all over the neighborhood, usually missing an eye, a tail, or one of their limbs, and probably abused or neglected by their original owner. Bob always had an overflowing dish of dry cat food and bowls of water in the waiting area for all his captain hook style felines. The parking lot was always full of cars in the works, many of which he fixed for folks on a payment plan since they couldn't afford the whole bill at once (despite his extremely low prices).

Over the years I had many, many conversations with Bob (I've always driven used cars, and back then they were even more used), and I overheard many of his with the parade of people who traipsed in there on a daily basis. One day while I waited for my car I saw the UPS man come in and sit with Bob, lamenting about his girlfriend troubles while the big man listened with compassion. Next came some fellow from Cohoes reporting all his plumbing problems, giving details on pipes and wrenches that could put an amphetamine junkie to sleep. Bob listened, offered advise, and shook his head knowingly. Then came the girl with some money trouble, and I can't be sure but I have a feeling she left his office with some cash for groceries. The man was the Counselor of Cohoes. Everyone came in to his ramshackle little garage all day long, with their various tales of woe. He listened. He cared. More than once he let people get gas without the money to pay for it, until finally he had to close the gas business because he was losing too much money. One time, after we moved to East Greenbush, he came down an gave us a free tow when our car broke down in the driveway. There were countless times he worked on our car at the last minute, when we got in a pinch.

There were lots of times I talked to Bob about God. He had never set foot in church a day in his life, and his understanding of a life of faith was very limited. But he was always interested in hearing about the good news of the grace of Jesus, and he always was glad when he knew I was praying for him. As time went on, Bob's diabetes got worse, and eventually he lost both his legs from the knees down. The last time I saw him he was in his wheelchair behind the bar of a new tavern he was opening named after his wife. I went in to talk to him, and actually wound up going behind the bar and praying for him right there. He was so receptive to having someone pray for him, even though he didn't understand theology and didn't know the scriptures. The Great One can meet anyone where they're at, with the light they have, with enough truth to show them the God who sent His Son in love. I never saw Bob again after that day. I cried when I heard he died, hopeful that he reached out his hand to the One and Only, knowing that he humbled me by the life of love he lived.

I wish you all could have known Bob. He made my life richer. I'm glad I got to tell you a little about the simple man who fixed my car, and took car of hurting cats and hurting people. May we all have a legacy so grand.

Your friend on the pilgrim road,


1 comment:

Anonymous said...

hello loriann,

i am writing because i to know bob and derek. ive lived in cohoes my whole life and still live here, bob was a great guy and always will be!! bob and his family care about everyone in cohoes, and to this day derek still helps people out by giving them a payment plan! i am so glad to read you got the chance to know this fine family!!! may god rest bobs soul and continue healing steve and hannah

Tiffany Radley, Cohoes NY