Sitting at the dock by the bay.

Actually, I’m sitting in the waiting room of a Firestone garage where I’m waiting for the mechanic to finish servicing my car.

While standing at the counter checking in, it suddenly occurred to me that my wallet was still on my dresser. In a panic, thoughts started jumping into my head about how to solve this problem.

I’ll call Marcia and just have her and Zachary drive it over. No that will not work because I have Marcia’s car and she doesn’t have a seat for the baby to put in my car.

I’ll call Jason, and have him drive me home to get the wallet, then drive me back. I called Jason. During the conversation with Jason, I made the suggestion about driving me home or bringing me some money. As we discussed how much money, suddenly I thought, “You dumb ass! Just have the store put the bill on your store credit card.”

I told Jason of my new plan and thanked him for his willingness to come and pick me up.

Funny isn’t it, how panic can fuzz up your thinking. Twenty years ago, every scenario possible would have gone through my mind and the correct solution selected before panic ever had a chance to start circulating through the neuron flashes in my brain.

Today it takes longer for the neuron’s to build enough charge to send a signal through the synapses that an automatic response such as panic has time to process first, ahead of logical thinking. When that happens, some solutions never process all the way to the decision point to translate into a course of action.

Coming here today was supposed to be a quick visit. After all, I called ahead making an appointment for a simple replacement of two tires that wore out prematurely. How long could that take? Maybe an hour if the person in the garage only had one hand, and took a thirty-minute break between each tire.

After being counseled on the importance of maintaining the front-end alignment by the service writer, I explained that the vehicle was covered by their lifetime alignment service, and that by checking their records they could see the vehicle had been aligned by them at all the recommended intervals.

Conceding his mistake the service writer gave me an estimate of the cost for two new tires, explaining the proration rate based on the amount of miles on my old tires. After signing the authorization to do the work, I took a seat in the waiting area.

Two hours later I begin to wonder if the person changing out the two tires has any arms at all. Surely a person with a complete pair of hands and arms would not take two hours to change two tires. I inquire at the desk as to how much longer it could possibly take and was told about another hour.

Returning to the incredibly uncomfortable chair in the waiting area I decided that I have miserably under estimated the amount of work required to change two tires. Ken, and old friend and owner of the Discount Tire Barn on Patton Avenue, has no idea that he has been doing this wrong for so many years. The last time I got tires at his place his service man changed all four tires in just over thirty minutes.

It must be because of the waiting area. At Firestone they provide chairs, uncomfortable as the may be, circled around a coffee table with many ancient copies of the tire industry trade magazine. Surprisingly the copies are all worn and ragged from use. The store even provides a television to watch, in case you’ve read all the magazines about tires and tire dealers. They even have coffee.

The Discount Tire Barn, on the other hand has no waiting area. They do have a well-worn sofa that you can use if you just want to hang out. They also have the typical tire industry trade magazines, though they don’t appear to be as worn as the copies at Firestone. Ken does provide coffee if you happen to be there long enough for him to brew a pot. Ken doesn’t have a television either. I suppose he doesn’t want his customers hanging around, drinking his coffee, and watching television all morning, so he gets you in, changes your tires, and sends you on your way. Hard to imagine how he has been in business for thirty years in the same location by offering such good service. Ken is obviously using a different business model than Firestone.