Monday, November 15, 2010

Service With a Smile

As I drove into Port Hedland on my way north, I spotted a Dunlop Tyre Service and thought about the four blown-out tyres I was carrying. Perhaps it would be smart to stop for some tyre service. The place was quiet, the workers all wearing nice clean white overalls, and I was pleased to see that I could expect swift service and a chance to be on my way with little delay.

My illusions were shattered when I finally got one of the men to acknowledge me. "Sure, mate, toss them there. Come back on Thursday." I don't really remember which day he said, but it was about three days in the future and I could spare an hour or two at most. So I pleaded with him. No dice. I grovelled. Eventually, he told me they'd sell me tyres and tubes but I'd have to fit them myself if I was in such a hurry. With my tools, not theirs.

This didn't suit me at all. I hate tyre irons and car wheels. And it was hot, seriously hot. So I sat on the ground, lit a smoke, and fantasised about nasty things that could happen to the fine folk at the Dunlop place. Before I gave in and submitted to my fate, a shiny new ute arrived with a flat truck tyre in the back. The driver was wearing a suit, which was something I didn't ever expect to see in that part of the world.

He went through the same routine with the helpful men in white. But his grovelling was more intense than mine because he had a team of men waiting out in the sticks for him to get back with the wheel. He had no more luck than me and was on the point of tears.

Seeing a possible win-win situation, I approached him and asked him if he knew how to fix a car tyre. He said yes. So I offered to fix the truck tyre if he'd do mine. This wasn't completely altruistic, as the only hard part with truck wheels is knowing what to do. But it's much easier than a car tyre. He was ecstatic and offered to pay my bill as well as do the work on my tyre. I said OK, because I expected to be paying a couple of dollars for a new tube.

I put a new tyre and tube on his wheel. He put a new tube inside my old tyre and mounted it. Then he went to pay. Luckily he had a business cheque book, because my tube cost over $100 (in 1970). I don't recall how much they gouged him for his truck tyre and tube, but I do remember being shocked.

I'd actually got to be 23 years old and driven almost all the way around Australia before I saw my first real proof that the rumours I'd gown up on telling of the kindness and generosity of the people in the bush were not to be relied upon. Although I was soon to learn that not everybody was like that Dunlop place.

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