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17 July 2006
MANCHESTER, United Kingdom -- You see David Strayhearn from a distance, standing with a clipboard beside the propped-up hood of a 1985 Nissan Sentra. It's a gray morning, and very little light penetrates the 39-year-old mechanic's garage, but Strayhearn can see fine: His customer has a lantern hanging overhead.
"Yeah, well, I'm sorry to tell you this, but it's your transmission," Strayhearn tells the tall bearded man, staring steadily, almost menacingly at him. The lantern does not shake.
"It's sucking in metal from the rest of the engine, and that's what's causing your problem," Strayhearn continues, not looking at his customer. "It's, uh, probably going to cost you £1000."
The customer does not move at first. Then the lantern falls, the hood is closed, and the car goes out again.
"My car does not 'need' a new transmission anymore than a lady 'needs' a necklace of pearls or a diamond ring," says Diogenes of Sinope as his car lurches down the highway. "At best, it needs a transmission flush."
The self-described philosopher, a Greek of Turkish descent, has been taking his 22-year-old vehicle to automotive shops throughout the world, trying to find an honest mechanic who will diagnose the real problem with his car.
"Mechanics content themselves with poking and prodding," Diogenes says as his vehicle stalls out, "but no one shows any emulation in the pursuit of virtue."
Diogenes has taken his vehicle to mechanics in Greece, Sicily, Pennsylvania and New York City, none of whom, the philosopher says, have been "straightforward" with him about his car's troubles.
"Bearded, smelly guy, right?" says Mike Lanely of Lanely's Garage in Maspeth, N.Y. "Sure, I remember him. He had a busted tail light. I told him his whole electrical system had to be rebuilt. That got him mad for some reason."
"He told me something was wrong with his radiator," said Andy Balboni of E.C. Sizemore's in Bucks County, Penn. "I could see it he just needed a new cap, but you know how it goes -- I suggested that we had to rebuild his whole system. And he yelled, 'The stream of sacred coolant now runs backwards to its source!' and drove off."
Diogenes' quest has been described as cynical by some, but Diogenes himself remains upbeat, dismissing criticism that he has an old car that has run out its life.
"Why so?" he says as he beats furiously on his steering wheel and curses out an elderly driver in front of him. "It has run a long distance; ought it to stop when it was near the end, and not press on?"
Though many sympathize with his quest, some mechanics argue that Diogenes has made his troubles worse with his unorthodox views of car maintenance. Bill Jablonski of Ed's Garage in Manayunk, Penn. said that he saw Diogenes' problem as soon as he brought his car in.
"No oil in the car, whatsoever," he said. "So I told Diogenes to get some single weight. And he started -- well, touching himself in front of me. And I yelled, 'What the hell are you doing?' And he said, 'If only I could fill my oil pan by rubbing it.'"
Strayhearn, while standing by his transmission diagnosis, said he found several onions stuffed in the gas tank. "I suppose that's not necessarily dangerous, but boy, it's weird," he said.
Diogenes believes his quest is nearing an end. As he yells at a deer to get out of his headlights, he pulls the car into the first automotive shop he sees. There are several rusted out cars on the outside; Diogenes pulls his next to them and goes inside. A minute later he emerges with the night manager.
"So," says the mechanic, "where's your car?"
"I am looking for my car among these vehicles but can not tell it from the car of a slave," Diogenes replies.
- Diogenes of Sinope "Diogenes' Auto Log, from Cynicism and the Art of Compact Car Maintenance". Greek philosophy, April 23, 343 B.C.
|This article features first-hand journalism by an UnNews correspondent.|