Yours truly drives an Impala. This car is no longer imported into Mexico and so the models around are mostly 2000-2003, with a few 2004 versions kicking around. Why this is I can't say, since Chevrolet is still offering the giant Suburban gas guzzlers and has just put the re-tooled Camaro on the Mexican market, complete with 8 cylinder options and the Impala is a nice roomy car perfect for families.
The car in question is great, until the other night when the wheels started shimmying and evidently there was some sort of suspension/steering problem. This is not good. Took it to my trusty suspension people, Radial Llantas, across from Costco on 60 Norte, who were fortunately open on a Sunday. They had a look and pronounced the problem as being the drive axle. OK, says I, go ahead and fix it. Well, it's Sunday and there are no parts places open today. Crap.
Monday rolls around and guess what? All the parts places they try do not have this part in stock. There IS a supplier in Monterrey who has the part; it's 3500 pesos and they will send it in two weeks. TWO WEEKS. Meanwhile the car is to just sit there, limping on 3 wheels? After personally scouring the city myself, including a visit to the Chevrolet/GM dealership, where the same part costs $9500 pesos (!) I decide to put down a down payment and have Radial Llantas order the part from Monterrey. Graciela calls Monterrey, where they inform her that the part, which was in the inventory just the day before, is no longer there. It will take two weeks to a month to get it because they have to import it, it's inventory time, end of year holidays etc etc. Unbelievable.
Cursing the unknown fellow in Monterrey and his family under my breath, I remember to call a friend who is in the car business. He makes a call and tells me he has located the part at Torres in Santiago. Drive there, with the broken part in the trunk to show them, and park. Walk in, and ask about the part in question; no, we don't have it is the amused reply. You have got to be kidding says I. A friend just called... Call back my friend, who tells me the name of the person he spoke to and lo and behold he owns up to having talked to this friend on the phone; but as it turns out it is not the part he thought. The one I need is non-existent. He in turn makes a phone call, but this elusive part is not showing up anywhere.
I decide - ni modo - to head back to the Chevrolet dealership, resigned to paying almost $1000 USD for this part which will be here in 10 days at best. To my daughter, who accompanies me faithfully through this odyssey and rubs my shoulders when I get too tense, I say 'wait and see, when we get there, he will have gone for lunch'.
Arriving at the Chevrolet dealership, we see the parts man is still working. I whip out my credit card.
'Chispas' he remarks.
'Chispas' is a bad thing. When you hear that you are going to get some bad news. Sure enough, it turns out that the cashier HAS GONE FOR LUNCH and won't be back for a couple of hours.
I dejectedly accept a lunch invitation from my dear wife, who puts up with my neuroses. I can hardly taste the shrimp, I'm so pissed.
Later that afternoon, as I glumly peruse online catalogs in the USA looking for a part whose name I only know in Spanish and can find nothing that looks like it anywhere, I get an idea. I call a friend in Pennsylvania who knows all about cars and had a lucrative business importing minivans and pickups back when Hacienda (Mexicos' version of the IRS) let vehicles over the age of 10 years into the country with a minimum of hassle. He tells me the name of the part in English and also gives me what is assuredly the TIP OF THE YEAR which will be of great interest to those who own a foreign or imported from the USA car.
'Have you tried El Pipis?' he asks.
'El Pipis?' I retort, laughing in that quiet hysterical way Inspector Clouseau's superior officer does before going completely bonkers. 'What the hell is El Pipis?!?!'
Turns out that El Pipis is a small parts shop, located directly behind the bleachers of the baseball park in the colonia Jesus Carranza, run by Carlos Mendoza and his Dad. They specialize in partes dificiles (it's painted on their entrance) for gringo cars. In a first for this all-day adventure, Carlos takes one look at the part and says, yes, he can get it. It might take some time however. I grit my teeth and say, no hay problema. Yeah, he continues, usually we can get it the next day, but with year end and all, it might take 3 days. THREE DAYS??? I almost hug him, but since we've just met, I restrain myself.
He tells me to call him in the morning at 10 AM, when he has had a chance to make some phone calls. I leave full of hope and happy to have found El Pipis.
At 10 AM, I give him a call. He says they have not only found the part (used) but if I drop by and leave a deposit he will have it at 1:30 PM. In a stupor, I rush over and hand him 800 pesos. At 2 PM, I receive a text message that the part is in his store and I can come by and pick it up. I pay him another 700 pesos and I have the part in my hot little hands. Two hours later, back at Radial Llantas, I drive the Impala out of the garage and onto the street for a test drive.
Smooth as silk.
Words cannot describe the feeling of relief that washes over me as I thank destiny for leading me to El Pipis.
Calle 31 No 456-C
Frente al Parque Jesus Carranza
999-926-6392 (regular phone)