We bought an island car which looks like it is right out of a cartoon. It is a two door Suzuki Jeep with plastic rear windows and a rag top. When driven by a large man, it looks like a Fred Flintstone car. The definition of an island car is essentially just, “something that runs on four wheels with many special quirks“. Our special island car’s signature quirk? It must have the engine turned off in order to shift into reverse. I am actually getting pretty proficient in the quick engine on/off into reverse maneuver.

Our latest issues were: 1) Having five lug nuts installed in various tires; 2) Diagnosing the power steering fluid leak; and 3) A brake fluid leak. The entire experience has been the epitome of island life, to say the least…

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To get started, I called the mechanic through his wife, as he does not have a cell phone himself. He said I could bring the car by Thursday morning between 7:30 – 8am. Though I am no stranger to island time, I took him at his word as he had already told me he worked from 7am – 3pm most days. So there I was, at the gate of the house at 8am on Thursday. No one was in the yard, no dog was barking. I yelled,”Good Morning!” Nothing. It felt like a very empty house. I waited a few minutes, then yelled my greeting once more to no response.

After a short wait, the mechanic finally drove up, parked in front of me, walked into the yard carrying a six pack of Coors, already drinking a cold one. While starting your day with a cold one is not your standard breakfast stateside, here in paradise, beer is a breakfast beverage as common as orange juice is back on the East Coast. Once he put the beer away, he asked me what was wrong with the car. I had already told him twice in person and once over the phone, so I replied that I thought we had an appointment today for him to work on the car as per our discussion. Apparently, this was my mistake. His wife joined us and they both had a laugh saying,”Nobody shows up on time for their appointment!”

He then took a look under the car, sliding his lanky body on the ground. After inspecting it for the second time, he offered his new diagnosis: “Possibly we have a rear wheel cylinder leak. Bring the car back tomorrow morning.”

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I negotiated the time of my appointment again and we decided between 8- 8:30 should work for both of us. I delivered the car the next day and had him drive me to meet a friend at Pickles, the local deli.

When I returned later that afternoon to pick up the car, his wife was home and read a note to me that was written on the tablecloth: “The rear wheel cylinders need to be replaced, the lug nuts are in, and there is a noise in the rear tire.”

Sigh. Ok. I decided to drive the car to Pickles and leave it there, close by, because the noise in the tire was significant – a concerning noise that was never there before.

When the mechanic finally got back home, he informed me just as he said in the note: “There is a noise in the rear tire.”

“Yes,” I replied, “a noise that was not there before.” I reminded him that he drove me to Pickles and he would have heard the noise while he was driving the car. If I had known how upset this would make him, I would have perhaps chosen another route though. Soon, he was yelling at me, telling me with exasperation that I could bring it back to him some other time, but today he was finished.

Left to my own devices, I ask another friend to check out the car and I tell him the story.

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“Oh, it’s probably just a loose lug nut. Did the mechanic tighten everything?”

He tightened the lug nut on the noisy tire for me. When I drove it again, the noise was less, but still there.

On Monday, I called back the mechanic. He instructed me to go buy the rear wheel cylinders he needs, then bring the car back to him, claiming that it would save us both a lot of time if I just go buy the parts myself. Though I usually back down, I was exasperated and we squabbled back and forth, neither of us happy to be stuck in this web together. I finally got him to agree to allow me to come down first and have him take another look before we got to buying more parts.

The Captain, my husband-like partner, the guy who fixes everything, wanted me to get the noise fixed, get the extra lug nuts from the mechanic, and get out of there. He decided that this clown will never touch our car again. And so he sent a young lad named Garrett along with me, instructing us both to watch the mechanic’s every move while he worked on our car.

We arrived at the house. A guy with a t-shirt tied around his head walked in the yard ahead of us with three beers in his hand. Realizing I had nothing to add to the yard except a noisy wheel, I figured this would at least be interesting. The yard was full of cars, one being washed under the white tarp serving as the garage while two more filled the grass beyond the fence.

We were greeted then by the wife. I knew the mechanic had to be nearby, but I didn’t see him. The wife instructed us to sit down at the table with another island woman, while she chatted us all up and made coleslaw for her upcoming Memorial Day party.

We sat for at least an hour; she shared a smoke, delivered a beer to one of the men, and generally, we all just hung out socially in good island fashion. We had a lively discussion about the futility of me taking the bus to town to buy the rear wheel cylinders, as it was Memorial Day and no buses run on holidays.

Time continued to pass, so I decided that I should get my phone from the car and get in touch with The Captain with an update. As I walked to the car, I passed the mechanic. He looked up at me nonchalantly, painting over scratches on the car under the tarp, and said, “You are all set to go.”

“Oh!” I said, surprised that I he had even been working on my car at all yet.

Not wanting to feel duped once again, I decided to turn the car around for a quick exit and test the work. Amazingly, the noise was gone. I yelled for Garrett, “Hey! He fixed the noise!” I was in awe.

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I quietly asked the mechanic for my two extra lug nuts, promising to get out of his way. Garrett and I couldn’t believe that he had not only been working on the car the whole time, but that he had actually fixed it too.

On the way home, we both remembered to stop at the store for juice and ice for The Captain and returned to the work site feeling pretty pleased with our successful adventure.

The Captain, though, was in disbelief that neither of us had watched the guy do the repairs as we had been explicitly instructed to do. According to him, we both failed our mission.

Ah, well. You can’t win ’em on, especially on a rock. As I’ve come to accept, all is well that ends with no new strange noises in the tires and all four tires going round and round on this hilly, beautiful, nine mile long island.

Written By:

Sandra Miller

Current Rock of Residence:

St. John, USVI

Island Girl Since:

2015

Originally Hails From:

New Jersey

Sandra, or “Sandra Louise” as her boat is called, is a Shaman, a tennis teaching pro, a mom, and a sailor. She raised her daughter in suburban New Jersey and had a very fun business teaching tennis.

Sandra has bee cruising the east coast with her Captain partner for the past several years. They started cruising the east coast in a J24 then upgraded to a Pearson 39′, which was then lost in Hurricane Sandy in the safe harbor of Perth Amboy, NJ. After Hurricane Sandy, which has left its mark on the NJ coast, Sandra and the Captain bought a Catalina 42′ and have been cruising ever since.

After going back and forth from Florida to Cape Cod, Massachusetts, one fine day they continued sailing south, past the Bahamas, through Turks and Caicos, past Haiti and the Dominican Republic, along the coast of Puerto Rico, past the Spanish Virgin Islands and St. Thomas, finally stopping at St. John, VI. To their utter amazement, they have been moored, anchored, and sailing around St. John for the past 15 months with no plans to leave anytime soon.

Sandra can be found leading kayaking and snorkel tours or working at a local shop in Coral Bay and playing lots of tennis on every court on St. John. She also leads Shaman gatherings with crystals and guided meditations.

Want to read more posts by this writer? Click here.

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