Motor Mystery

Today’s guest post comes from Clyde.

In June one morning I rode my bike through the industrial park and saw an arresting sight. In a large parking lot about 75 cars were parked near the entrance to a manufacturing plant. In a distant corner of the lot were two cars parked side-by-side. One was a perfectly maintained BMW Z4. The other was an old Dodge Dart, a rust-bucket rattletrap. I spent the next couple of miles guessing how these two cars ended up in their shared isolated position.

I could imagine several stories.

I forgot about it until two days later when I rode by to see the same placement of cars. This time it struck me that Pixar would make a movie out if it, in the style of Lady and the Tramp. The two cars would be in the alley behind an import garage sucking on radiator hoses simmered in 5-10 motor oil flavored with herbs de Peugeot as they sipped on chilled canisters of penetrating oil. Their union would result in six bouncy little Vespas and a mo-ped.

Three days later, I rode by the scene again. This time I imagined a murder mystery in the style of Three Bags Full or Thereby Hangs a Tail but as seen through the headlights of a car, not the eyes of sheep or a dog. Using pure German rationalism, the BMW would solve the mysterious murder of a VW beetle by a black stretch limousine. The Dart would be the BMW’s snitch in the style of Stuart Margolin playing Angel in The Rockford Files. They were holding a meeting in the parking lot for the Dart to tell the BMW that the VW was an industrial spy.

Circumstances kept me from riding by the parking lot for more than six weeks. But now the BMW was alone and has been on every ride since. Hmmm? In fantasy or real life, I bet there’s a story to be told.

What’s your version of this story?

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59 thoughts on “Motor Mystery”

  1. Good morning. Thanks for coming up with this challenge to our imaginations, Clyde. Having worked for a few years in a manufacturing plant, I can come up with a story about two people that work at the plant that would fit that parking pattern. The two people who parked at at the edge of the lot are strong individualists who don’t like to be lumped in with the other workers and even like to park separately from them. They are good friends so they park side by side and walk into work together from their spot at the edge of the lot.

    One of them is very picky about the car he or she drives and saved up to buy the nice car. The other is free spirited and doesn’t mind driving an old car. At the end of the story they are married and now ride to work together in the nice car, but the free spirited one still has the old car at home. In the future there may be some changes and the car they ride to work in might be a little less perfect and have some free spirited features.

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    1. the only problem with the story is that if it is the woman who drives the bmw the pig who drives the dart is in for a long haul and if its a woman driving the dart he will never be satisfied with her laid back view of the world as he irons his shirt to have crisp collars and shines his penny loafers.

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      1. Yes, you could be right, tim. However, I am thinking of some very individualistic people I have meet. These are people who might have the capacity to maintain their own individuality while adapting to the habits of others who are not at all like them. Thus, they would have the ability to do unusual things such as marry a person they admire who is very different from them.

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  2. Morning all. Nice start, Clyde!

    This is a classic star-crossed lovers scenario. The well-heeled rich boy BMW drawn to the down to earth, poor Dart. Their families have feuded for decades so they are forced to meet at the outside edge of the parking lot. The ever-hopeful parking lot attendant has allowed them to meet but eventually it will all go south. The Dart’s family wlll force her into an arranged match with a beat-up older Datsun and the BMW will be left alone.

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  3. The BMW driver is a guy named Martin (“don’t call me Marty”) who is uptight about many things, especially things he owns. He has recently bought this BMW because he thought owning such a splendid car would make him happy, but instead it has made him sick with worry because he can’t protect the BMW all the time. He sometimes literally lies awake at night fighting fears of some dickhead slamming his car door into the side of the BMW, denting it for life. Martin is an accountant for a mid-sized custom machine shop. He has no wife, no family and not many friends because he is so boring and shallow.

    The Dart is owned by Tyler, a laid-back African American whose father was white and his mother was black. Like Obama, Tyler has grown up without knowing what race he was, and long ago he decided that there were far more interesting issues in life than that. Like Obama, he has no home group. He tends to spend more time with white people than black, but the ironic smile you sometimes see on him is an indicator that he finds white guys amusing. Whereas Martin worries about everything, Tyler seems to worry about nothing.

    Tyler has another secret. His passion in life is flyfishing for trout with delicate equipment (his favorite flies are a size 22). Very few blacks care much about flyfishing, but Tyler isn’t concerned about what other people care about. He is neither black nor white. Rather than thinking of himself as interesting because he is a black guy who loves trout, he sees himself as Tyler, a man who loves trout rivers, and he lets others try to figure out what group he belongs to. He secretly thinks of his race as “gypsy.” Tyler sometimes thinks he will end up being married, but in over 30 years on earth he has yet to meet a woman as interesting as a fine trout stream.

    The cars are parked together because Martin worries so much about parking lot dings. He protects the BMW by parking far away from most cars. He has talked Tyler into parking near him because that protects one side (Tyler would never ding his car, he knows). What Martin doesn’t know is that Tyler’s life is governed by a number. He works as a custom toolmaker at a high salary, saving almost all the money. When his earnings hit that magic number, he suddenly quits, even if he is in the middle of a big job. One day he is there and the next day he is gone, gone fishing on a spring creek in Idaho where he has found perfect conditions for indulging his love of fishing for big trout with delicate equipment. He will be there until the money runs out and it is time to look up another machine shop.

    That would be my guess.

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  4. OT: we have tentative plans for a gathering at my cabin next weekend. Two of you have indicated an interest in making the trip. We have room for more. I think this will be my last cabin trip ever. The leaves are guaranteed to be spectacular. Local orchards should be full of apples and other fruit. Dress will be casual!

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    1. Don’t think I can make it if it’s next weekend. I’m open the last weekend in September, though.

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      1. Arrrgh! I thought next weekend WAS the last weekend in September. No, that is when I want to go. So you are still penciled in. Sorry to be so chuckleheaded about dates, folks. The trip is for the weekend of September 29.

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  5. The wealthy heir/heiress fell in love with a commoner and is under threat to be disinherited. There will be a series of obstacles, misunderstandings, and bruised feelings, but in the end their passion and devotion will overcome all objections. Happily ever after.

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  6. Morning-
    I stress out over parking than a normal person should. Going to a big event down town? ‘Oh my goodness! Will there be enough parking!!?? We better arrive two hours early so we can get a space!!’
    I don’t think I’ve ever had trouble finding a parking space… but for some reason, I have unnatural phobia about that.

    At the college, I had a favorite spot in the back row where the spaces angled a bit so that one spot was wider than the rest. I parked there for two years. Then someone one else, a new hire!, started getting there before me and taking that spot. Grrrr….
    And now the parking lot has been redone and there isn’t one desired spot. They suck equally.

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  7. It’s a case of embarrassment. Woman of the BMW has just inherited it from a deceased aunt. She’s afraid if her friends and co-workers see it they will ostracize her, and she will also not get a needed raise if her boss sees it. So she’s been coming in early, staying late, and parking way over in that distant corner.

    Datson owner has the reverse problem. He is actually the boss, going through a messy divorce so doesn’t want anyone to know he’s doing quite well financially, thank you – one of his wife’s best friends works there. So HE has picked up this beater Datson, comes in a little late and leaves early, and parks it in the corner to avoid questions.

    One night he has to stay late, and they are forced to meet… their stories are told… “There will be a series of obstacles, misunderstandings, and bruised feelings, but in the end their passion and devotion will overcome all objections. Happily ever after.”

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  8. Both owners are actually gear-heads. The one likes sleek racing machines (the BMW owner), the other prefers muscle cars. The Dart is the car the second driver uses as his/her “weekday” car – his/her real baby is at home in the garage and is not driven for mundane things like going to work. It is a vintage 1966 GTO convertible in a well-buffed deep aubergine. Twice a year the GTO rumbles out on a stretch of open road for a flat out pedal-to-the-floor race against others of its ilk. The BMW comes to watch and cheer on his co-worker. The Dart owner, in turn, shows up on Formula 1 race days at the home of the BMW owner with a hand-picked craft beer that they can enjoy while watching high-performance racing on a big screen TV. At work, on breaks, they talk about their dreams of speed and plan their fantasy trip to the salt flats of Utah to see if they can flirt with speeds that break the sound barrier. The Dart was sold for parts on Craig’s List to raise the last $150 needed for the plane tickets. They leave Friday for Utah.

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  9. Obviously the Dodge Dart has magical properties, such as shape-changing, since it can also be a Datson.
    My first thought, and a sort of Occam’s Razor answer, is that the BWM belongs to the head honcho of the place who parks it there to avoid dents’ and the junker belongs to some smart ass line worker who parks it there as a sneering joke. Smart-ass line workers who make sneering jokes don’t tend to last long through their own devices or those of the bosses.

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    1. I thought the same — because it’s what I’m tempted to do whenever I see somebody with a fancy a** car parked away from the madding crowd. And I also think how nice it would be to park so close that the fancy a** car driver would have to climb through the passenger side!

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      1. Not driving a fancy a** car, and having been parked in in that manner once or twice none-the-less, although tempting, I implore you against it. Climbing over a stick shift in a skirt (yes, it happened once at work…grrr…) is not a fate I would visit upon most any woman, with the possible exception of Michelle Bachmann.

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  10. Those two cars are not what they appear to be. In fact they seem to show up there mysteriously and no one know where they come from or how they get there. The plant authorities are not very careful about what goes on in the parking lot and the workers don’t care. They are actually operated by aliens from another planet. They are part of a plan of the aliens to remotely explore Earth before revealing themselves to people on Earth. They found out as much as they can using the old car, but they are still puzzled by what they are finding using the new car.

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    1. I think these are the same aliens who explored the earth in AMC Pacers in the 1970s, but found that they needed better cover this time as it was discovered quickly that the Pacer was not intended to be a road vehicle, strictly an alien craft.

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  11. OT – Just wanted to alert all baboons to this fun and exciting, FREE event:
    5TH ANNUAL WEST 7TH IRON POUR
    Saturday, September 22, 2012, 6:00pm – 9:00pm at Schmidt’s Artist Lofts

    The iron pour is really something to behold. If you’ve never been to one, check it out.

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      1. That’s right, Barb. Here’s how they describe the even in the invitation:
        The West 7th Iron Pour is your chance to see how molten, 2700°F iron becomes individual works of cast-metal art. Bring friends, family and a lawn chair, enjoy live music, and get your fill with fresh local food from Glockenspiel and Twin Cities food trucks.

        Food trucks, live music and more 6-9 p.m. Iron pour 7-9 p.m.

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  12. franz has always been this way. he is meticulous and driven and it works for him as far as that goes. he lives alone and likes it that way. he wakes every morning at 5:05 gets into his running gear does 100 push ups, 100 sit ups and heads out the door, rain or shine summer or winter to run the 5 kilometer route for the day. there are 5 for variation and they offer a good and fitting punctuation to the proclaimed start of the day. he arrives back at his front door 5:42 , puts his oatmeal in the microwave, takes a shower, dresses eats his oatmeal places his bowl in the sink and is out the door at 6:03 on route to his job as manager at the window making plant where he oversees his crew of 74 employees who produce the days orders of the finest quality windows on the planet. he takes great pride in the craftsmanship the produce and the fact that there has not been a order shipped late for more than 3 years. that is how long he has been the manager here after moving from canton ohio where he was in charge of a wire harness manufacturing facility that produced harness for the auto industry. he arrives at 6:30 to 6:35 depending on the weather and day of the week and has time to review, prioritize and assign the appropriate jobs to get the day rolling, review the maintenance and refurbishing schedule for the plant to stay ahead of any problems that may come up. these things can be avoided if considered and factored into the plan ahead of the time that they become urgent. he checks his email to see what new areas of concern he needs to consider. and is ready to dig into another day of increasing market presence.

    billy is a biker, he rides a harley and has a job history that reads a lillte like the vo tech career catalog, he has been a line cook , a car mechanic, a carpenter, a odd job maintance man at an old folks home, a night shift shelf stocker at walmart, a builder of log cabins in the mountains of montana and now a worker at a window factory in an out of the way window maker in southern minnesota. he shows up with enough time to punch his time card in the employee clock and head over to the team meeting that happens at 7:05 before the 7:15 buzzer sounds and the shift begins. back in may his bike broke. he has a classic old flathead and the thing will run forever but it does require a search for parts from time to time. they quit making them in 1938 and as time goes on parts do get more and more scarce and more expensive but those old flatheads do become a part of your identity after a decade or two and while the weather allows he rides it rain or shine, hot or cold so long as snow and ice are not part of the equation the bike is first mode of choice. how many years had it been? he bought the bike when he was 17 as a bad running classic project from a friend of his uncle reds. it ran but not well and every thing he learned along the way was filed away in the harley maintenance program in that 61 year old brain of his. he wouldnt be replacing his flathead with any modern day crotch rocket or cruiser. nope. hed be grinding those valves one more time’ replacing the gaskets to stop those compression leaks and loving his ride as he went through his life keeping himself and his machine in as good a condition as could be achieved without having to do a total reworking of the unit. he was a good worker and was a steady and reliable worker who always did quality work and always did a little bit more than was required and a little bit better job than the other worker on the line. everyone knew billy was there in their line and they didn’t need to worry about any of the problems they would encounter in todays production to be coming form him. he was one you wanted on your team who was good at doing his job and good at figuring out how to compensate for someone elses oddball approach to doing a simple repetitive task, how many ways are there to make a window? there are 984 ways to do it wrong and hed seen everyone of them at least a couple of times, once he saw them he recognized them and had a way figured out to stop that problem quickly and get it corrected before it became a discovered discrepancy at about noon and forced the mornings production to be reworked in order to avoid the problems that would come if they were allowed to go out into the real world.
    back in may the bike started acting up and the compression dropped to a point that let him know the darn thing needed attention, too bad he hadn’t noticed it in november when he brought it in the garage for the winter, he could have been working on it all winter but he missed it. he pulled it out in late february because it was such a mild winter but he thought the bad compression was because he was driving it in 40 degree weather. as april warmed up and the compression didnt right itself he began to be concerned and in may he took it apart and found that the camshaft had to be reground and the cylinder walls bored out to fix the issue. it looked promising but the guy who had bored out the cylinder screwed it up and and billy had to order a whole new set up and that cost money and most of the season to get done. billy wore a blue workshirt and levi 501 jeans every day and had as long as anyone could remember. couldnt tell if he did the wash every day or had multiple sets of his uniform in his dresser drawers at home. his tool box was always in order and his brain worked correctly at the 7:15 start of every day.

    when franz started work at the factory he showed up the first day at 630 and had to wait for someone to let him in 30 minutes before the fist person normally arrived. he parked out in the far corner of the parking lot closet to the street furthest from the entrance to the shop, his new bmw z4 purchased as the closing ceremony to his former life in ohio and as a new door to the new life in minnesota, his marriage had gone wrong, his wife could not appreciate his rigid regimental approach to life and after 20 years of marriage had found someone who made her feel pretty and appreciated which franz had never considered and she had left him. it was too hard to continue life as if nothing had changed but his marital status so franz decided to rewrite his script and leave his life as he knew it and start anew in another launching point. it went pretty smoothly, no kids to get in the way of a sooth transition, nothing other than a christmas card list to remind him of the old days, he submersed himself in work and turned this little window maker from a me too maker of vinyl windows who competed with 12 other window makers within a 200 mile radius, into a state of the art window maker who was up to date on the current trends in the european window industry where the main focus is on quality and not price and where pride in your product has to do with knowing that your customer will be thankful they chose you rather than the similar product from the guy who advertises on the radio or at the menards store through their special order department. sales grew slowly at first but started picking up when word started getting out that franz was making european windows at a price that made it possible to consider his product instead of the cheapo normal windows most folks put in as replacements. weekend after weekend of home shows in city after city through out the area telling the companies story. exhausting endless but effective. he was the new soul of the company and the conductor of new orchestra he was creating. the owner had been so impressed he just told him to keep it up. franz knew he needed to check in to inform and get the owners blessing but he didnt know how to handle the fact that he single handedly had turned a sleepy little factory with 20 workers into a window making machine with 74 window craftsmen not only improved quality and production levels greatly, they hunted , fished, played cards, shared fantasy football leagues and famiy getotgethers all new parts of the culture at the window maker that came along with the realazation that taking pride in your work makes for good conversation and leads to friendships that go deeper than the ones where the average turnover for an employee was 8 months before franz redirected the mission statement.
    billy noticed franz didnt get involved in the after hours activities. he listened to the others talking at break and on the way in and out of the plant but he never heard franz mentioned. billy didnt get invited to the other activities partly because he was different, he didnt hunt or fish or take any interest in sprots and he didnt have a wife or much interest in things others enjoyed. besides his bike he into woodworking and carving. he has a workshop at home with an extensive music collection he pipes the tunes into the workshop, you cant put any stereo equipment in a wood shop the sawdust will kill anything with an electrical component that zaps when covered with a fine dust. stereo in the other room and run some speakers in under the door. billy built beautiful furniture each piece a one of a kid that dealt with the grain and the nature of the wood and allowed it to determine where the thickness straightness contour of the piece would come into play. he wasnt well known but it didnt matter because if he had orders for twice as much as he was producing he would be feeling behind and pressured and thats not what this is about. the oddball lifestyle and the fact that he wore a 3 foot gray ponytail and a leather motorcycle jacket to go with his blue uniform made him different enough than the rest of the workforce that they gave him a wide berth. not scary just different, unknown maybe unknowable.
    when billy started to work at the plant he drove his flathead to the parking lot and looked for a spot where he could safely park it away from the parking lot full of other employees vehicles. he saw the red bmw z4 parked by itself under a tree in the far corner of the parking lot. he shifted down to first gear and cruised into the shade next to the beemer. he pulled out the foot shaped hard plastic pad he puts down on the parking lot to keep the kickstand from sinking down into the soft asphalt on a hot summer day and he went inside to start his new career opportunity. inside he was impressed with the quality of the machinery they had to work with. everything was kept in excellent repair and his first week made him feel good about the choice he made to try a factory job in a town where his life could quietly find some roots to come at the day with. a 3:45 finish to the work day left plenty of time to get to work on his furnature. he enjoyed the freedom and how as his mind focused on the wood he was working with, a plan on what and how to do the next project always presented itself when the time was right. he found an old house with a big walkout basement that led out into beautiful wooded back yard that overlooked a wildlife preserve. the basement was unfinished when billly had found it and he was quick to turn it into his workshop. saws, an old worbench and a wall full of hand tools were his copanions while he spent hours deep into the night making chairs, tables, bookshelves and desks all of the finest of woods no two ever the same and without a plan at inception, always trusting inspiration to lead him through to the final design with one inspired decision leading to another until the final form was honed as much out of inevitablility as by billys tools. yo yo ma taj mahal frank sinatra eva cassidy roy rogers and the sons of the pioneers, miles davis and cab calaway played with rich heavy bass and a full high end through the speakers he had piped in from the adjacent library at the top of the stairs . mick jager and jerry garcia waiting on deck in the ever shifting shuffle mode his music came in continuously until he shut it off on his way to bed to rest up for another day at the window factory.
    in april when his motorcycle went down he pulled out his winter transportation, an old old copper colored dodge dart that in spite of the similar colors didnt do a very good job of hiding the rust. the rear wheel wells here a good 3 inches higher than when they left the showroom floor all those years ago and the gas tank filler had a 4 inch wide tear duct where the paint had given way to a rusty scaling from the now exposed steel beneath. billy didnt much care for cars. they were transportation and a means of getting through the winter until motorcycle season reappeared along with the green of spring. the dart was ugly but it had been ugly five years ago when he bought it for three hundred fifty dollars with the rust already present. the only required feature of the car in addition to the radio was the trailer hitch required to transport furniture from time to time. it didnt make a lot of sense to show his stuff in craft shows because he didnt have any product to sell, he had always had the good fortune of having a pieces sold before he finished it and had never found himself in a situation where he was needing to try to sell his work, his asking price and a post on his websight always led to a sold sign within a day or two. his desings were unique and while his prices were high they were never an issue for his buyers. he made a little more money from his woodworking than he did fro his day job. it had always been that way but billy had never wanted to turn his furniture making into a job , it was an expression of love and he wanted it to stay that way.

    end of chapter one

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    1. You’ve done it again, tim, amazed me! You know these two guys, don’t you? I love that billy’s job history reads a little like a vo-tech catalog. Great job! Looking forward to chapter two.

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  13. i wrote robert piersig a happy birthday on facebook the other day. i saw him listed on your writers almanac post and looked him up on facebook and ther he was. i sure enjoyed that book. his other book i was a little challanged with. i thought you ere telling me to shut my facund mouth. my friends tell me that all the time.
    fun post, thanks

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