Friday, September 08, 2006

Car repairs - Georgian style

It always seems to happen that whenever David is out of town, something that he is usually "in charge" of needs to be taken care of. This last trip was no exception. The battery in our truck died. It had been showing signs of illness - there had been 2 prior instances of battery suckage. Both times we were able to have the truck jump started and it worked for a week or so after, lulling us into the fantasy that we must have done something to make the battery die - leaving lights on, doors open...something. Alas, it was not so. The battery was just old and tired and needed to be replaced. Of course it decided to demand replacement while David was out of town. And, even though my father is a mechanic and insisted that I know the basics of car maintenance, his tutelage extended to only checking fluids and changing tires. I mean, really, who needs to know how to change a battery when the nice people at AutoZone or Discount Auto Parts will do it for you if you look sufficiently helpless?

On Tuesday Blaine and I hop into the truck for the drive to school and it won't start. I call the local guard force to bring out the handy dandy jump start machine and they are at the house within 5 minutes. We open the hood of the truck and they take one look at my sad, corroded battery and the first words they utter? "Ma'am, do you have any Borjomi?" Jeebus. Borjomi mineral water is the miracle cure for EVERYTHING in Georgia. When I was pregnant and having excessive morning sickness? Drink Borjomi. When you have heartburn? Borjomi. Have a mosquito bite? Dab some Borjomi on that sucker. When your car battery is covered in green gunk? Clean it with Borjomi.

I had no Borjomi. Which seems to be a cardinal sin in Georgia, or so I imagined from the looks on the faces of the two guys sent to jumpstart my car. I mixed some baking soda in water and, even though it was, in their opinion, clearly inferior to the exalted Borjomi, it did the job. They jumpstarted the car and I let it run for 20 minutes or so while trying to get in touch with David. I sent him a bunch of text messages along the lines of "The car battery is dead. I'm a girl. Help!"

David called me and told me to call his buddy who owns the motorcycle shop, Khaka, and ask Khaka if his mechanic, a man named Gocha, can help me buy and replace the battery. I call Khaka, he tells me no problem but it will have to wait until Wednesday at 11 because Gocha had been in his village over the weekend at a friend's wedding and is still recovering (which is a common thing in Georgia, so I was not shocked at all).

Wednesday morning the car started with minimal protest and I drove to the motorcycle shop. Gocha showed up exactly at 11 as promised, which did surprise me because time is a really abstract concept here, and I tried to explain to Gocha (who speaks no English) why I was there. Eventually I was able to bust out the necessary Russian phrase that my housekeeper taught me before I left "Ya hachoo novee accumulator na machina". Which means "I want a new battery for my car." Gocha seemed a bit perplexed why I was asking him, a motorcycle mechanic, for a battery. Gocha knows who I am, so he wasn't perplexed in the "who the hell is this chick" manner, but more in the "why is she asking me to do this when I know she has a husband" manner. I explain that he should call Khaka. He does, Khaka explains the situation and Gocha immediately morphs into my rescuer. He tells all the men milling about the front of the motorcycle shop waiting for him to work on their bikes that he will be back in a while and he locks up the shop without another word and hops into the car with me. We leave the crowd of men standing there looking a bit disgruntled.

We go to the battery shop and Gocha negotiates the purchase of the battery for me and then he and the man who runs the shop begin the installation process. You know you are in Georgia when the installation of a car battery involves the use of a hacksaw. I know little to nothing about installing car batteries, but I know that hacksaws are not usually employed in the process. Nevertheless, the battery is replaced, I'm given a 1 year guarantee (which, when I told David, made him chuckle heartily) and we are sent on our way. I take Gocha back to the motorcycle shop and ask him how much I owe him for his time and effort. And like a true Georgian, he refuses to accept any money from me at all because I am his friend's wife and it was his pleasure to help me.

Dave came back into town the next day and we headed over to the shop with a bottle of good vodka as a thank you. That was not refused.


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