Sunday, January 20, 2013

Getting Hitched

I like to shop locally and support local businesses and I don't mind paying more for the privilege. I used to find books online and go to Voltaire Books on Simonton Street to have them order the book for me. When they closed they told the newspaper most people did the opposite and they used to browse the store then order from Amazon so it's not surprising we have but one bookshop left. What amazes me is that it's Island Books staffed by the grumpiest bookseller in Christendom. I don't go there anymore so now I have to order online.
I recently had cause to call for a plumber who came on time, started the job, failed to finish and left a leak that I had to sort out by myself. That I wasn't charged was part of the business's inability to get anything done. I offered to pay for the minimal work he did but he never came back. I have seen this pattern over and over again in the Florida Keys. I went to a car lot to buy a car and the owner tried to sell me his mechanic's services for my ailing car that I wanted to replace. I went to Carmax and went back a second time and will go again next time as Carmax meets my needs exactly. We tried to buy a oat locally a few years ago. We nailed a price and when we returned to close the deal he had sold the boat and offered us a replacement at a higher price. We went north to get our boat.

It will become apparent after a few years living here that people don't come here to work, to build careers or to provide services. When you find someone who takes pride in their work you praise them extravagantly, keep them close and thank the gods for your good fortune. On top of that you learn to pray to whichever gods are available that your capable business owner doesn't plan to leave these islands soon. We rely on Oily's Car Service on Stock Island. Originally from Santa Barbara he runs an honest shop and does what he promises. Jiri is my rock when I need something done to my motorcycle and scooters. Originally from Czechoslovakia he used to have a partner who exhibited signs of Keys Disease through drinking and now he runs his shop himself.
My experience getting a trailer hitch put on my car has been more of the same. Hitch King on Big Coppitt did okay a decade ago but three years ago they hired a guy who had no idea what he was doing and I spent hours wondering what the hell he was doing in the trunk of the car. I took the "installation" elsewhere to be cleaned up and repaired! So for this car I dived online and found a shop in the southern suburbs of Miami that claimed to only install hitches. Forty one years of experience. I crossed my fingers and made a date.
I left home at 5:45 Monday morning and arrived at 8:25 five minutes before the shop opened but the owners were ready for me and fifty five minutes later, five minutes sooner than estimated, the job was done. I hitched my utility trailer later and everything worked perfectly.
The job cost $328.41 complete and unabridged. I drove three minutes off Exit 13 off the Florida Turnpike, which makes it about 115 miles from my house. That's just life when you live in an isolated community, often to get stuff done you just have to drive. Or you stay on The Rock, ride a bicycle or a moped and try not to think about what the wide world outside has to offer. I like Indian food - not available in Key West. Vietnamese? Nope. Mountains? World class museums? The Keys do what they can but these are small slivers of rock and the world is large. Luckily we are connected by a road so why not use it? Enjoy it even? Highway One is a world class tourist route and I like driving it, though I do prefer riding it actually.
Give them credit as they have been doing this for a while, he takes pride in this being his 41st year of installing hitches! I've been working at my current job eight years and that seems an age so my hat's off to them. I don't like driving pick ups so I always need a hitch to do my hauling in my little utility trailer. I'll be back next time I need a hitch installed.
Apparently a lot of car owners buy their vehicles and ask the dealer to install a hitch and I'm told they pay the price, not surprisingly. I was surprised to hear it as this place was easy to find online. I wasn't surprised that Miami area car dealers come here to get their hitches installed.
It's not a pretty spot this part of Perrine, but the two streets Cheyenne and I walked were absolutely packed with every kind of service you can imagine. Body shops, canvas shops, plumbers, welders outboard mechanics and I can't remember what. It was a gold mine of eager little businesses. I was jealous of the people who call these businesses local.
But I had the best drive home!