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The day President Clinton’s limo shows up with an armed mechanic and an a/c problem

Most shops were closed on Saturdays during the 1990s.

But I liked to go into my shop on the weekend, occasionally, to clean up from the prior week’s work, do paper work, and hopefully get new jobs for the coming week. I also liked to work on and polish my four old vehicles.

Paul Grech

Being in San Francisco, right in the middle of the city, I sometimes would get tourists who developed car problems while on vacation. I enjoyed those drop-in jobs, because I was able to help them, keep them on the road, and they were always fun to talk to and very grateful.

One Saturday, I got a call from the United States Secret Service. I had them as a customer and worked on all the San Francisco agents’ cars. Anyhow, so they tell me that President Clinton was in town and his limousine had developed an air-conditioning problem — no cold air. They wanted to know if I could go to where the president was speaking and repair it.

I thought about it for a minute and said, “I don’t think that’s possible because the limo is about 11 blocks from my shop and my extension cord isn’t going to reach. I only have extension cords that will reach 10 blocks.”

They said they would bring it down to my shop.

The next thing I know is my whole block is surrounded by police cars and city streets are taped off, and this big black Lincoln limo comes in driven by a guy dressed in a business suit. He steps out says he’s the mechanic and always travels with the car wherever it goes. His jacket was unbuttoned, and I noticed he’s armed.

I take the delivery and feel how heavy the doors are as I place my shop floor mat over the beautiful Presidential logo carpeting, and how thick the bulletproof windows are.

I open the hood and see the compressor clutch cycle on and off rapidly. I hook up my gauges and see real quick that the pressures were too low.

I added a little gas to the system and the pressure readings came up. I get out my leak detector and locate the leak, which was at the crimp on the hose on the compressor. He asks me if I could get a new hose today and I say, “No, it’s Saturday and the supply houses closed at noon.”

But I tell him he doesn’t need a new hose and I can repair it with a special crimping tool I bought a long time ago. I place it on the hose and made the crimp tighter and he remarks how a little garage like mine could have a specialty tool like that.

“I can charge enough to afford to buy these special tools, and the government allows me to deduct it as cost of doing business,” I tell him.

I charged the system and checked it out and it was nice and cold. I wrote up a repair tag for the service and presented it to him for his signature. He took out his wallet and realized that he didn’t have the credit card that he uses to pay for the car. He said he would get a check out for me first thing Monday morning.

I told him OK, but if I didn’t get the check by Friday I would put a lien on the White House.


Next column: In 1975, I bought a new Sun Tune Up machine. A customer comes in and says, “What’s this, a new way to rip people off?”

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