If the phrase “spray paint for my Lexus” makes you queasy, bear with me. Yes, I’ve been spraying bits of the bumper for two years with matching car paint. Yes, I need to get it done professionally, which I will someday. Luckily, when I ran out of paint recently, I went into English Auto Paint to see about a replacement supply since it was expensive on Amazon. (You should follow the link for an idea of the kinds of cars that are often parked in front. But that’s another issue.) My topic today is the sort of experience that comes when we wander into one of those microcosms of product and service that are far removed from our usual ken. For example, I’ve rarely seen a man getting a pedicure, and then only towed in by a woman. I don’t remember ever seeing a man in a quilt store. And I wonder how many women work in auto body shops.
I shop. A lot. So I’m confident in my ability to get what I need and walk out. I put the empty spray can on the counter and explained the problem. The guy said he didn’t recognize the brand but went to the computer, searched briefly, printed something out, and went to a stand that must have been a small scale. There was no “Do you want me to make you some paint?” He just started mixing. Without exaggeration, I expect he put 10 colors into a 4-ounce paper cup, a few drops at a time after the initial glop of metallic blue. The paints were in cans that worked on the same principle as the syrup containers at IHOP. It was fascinating. Finally, the guy finished the mix, broke a regular paint stirrer in half length-wise, mixed the batch, and asked me if it looked right. I said yes, basing my answer on hope in his skill. He went to the rear of the store and proceeded to make a can of spray paint—I have no idea how–which he presented to me with some pride. He charged me $19.82, checking my ID for the credit card.
Since I’ve done this for two years, I asked his advice on sanding the chipped spots. He asked another guy: “600 grit or just a PGA cloth?” We went with the cloth. Prepped with some rubbing alcohol to get any oil off. He didn’t want to make another ticket for 99 cents. And he wouldn’t take cash.
He then gave me more advice about spray painting—“Hold the can 8-10 inches away”— but I assured him I’d been spray painting for decades. He smiled and said, “Are you sure you’re not a Mexican?” I bent over laughing and said no, I was just boring. He could ask the question, of course, because he was Hispanic, as were all the customers and one of the other employees. These were all guys with paint on their hands, who-knows-what in their lungs, speaking a lingo of car paint and sprayers and “the new system” that I couldn’t understand. One customer used the old cliché “kid in a candy shop” about some expo he’d been to. It wasn’t my world, but I was welcomed and respected, provided with a superior product and helped on my way. It was a marvel. And yes, the results are great. If spray painting a bumper doesn’t upset you too much.