Sunday, May 04, 2008

Why I love Parman's

If you've ever driven down Monroe Street in Madison, you've passed Parman's. Keith, Clayt (a.k.a. Junior), and Gary, Junior's son, run the finest ex-gas station I've ever patronized. I say ex- because the DNR made them pull their tanks and pumps some years back. But in their gasoline era, it was full-service only, 25 cents a gallon more than anywhere else, and there was a line to get it when they were open. That's because full-service meant just that.

When they had pumps, I had an account with them -- I'd just pull in, they'd give my dog a treat, ask about the kids, wash my windshield inside and out, clean the mirrors, check the tire pressure, and ask if I wanted to sign the bill. After a while they just stopped asking, and we'd get a bill monthly, and I'd drop off a check. Even at today's gas prices, I'd still be going there if I could. Keith and Junior are good people.

A week ago or so I picked up a drywall screw in the tire and had a slow leak. A little air every day got me around, but I knew I'd need it fixed, and I had a day off, so I drove over to Parman's. I hadn't been there in a few years, and when I pulled in, Keith greeted me warmly and asked how I was, asked about the kids (by name), wondered about Winnie (R.I.P.) and seemed to remember everything about my personal life. I wanted to give him gas money on the spot.

There is no sign at Parman's that says "Due to insurance restrictions, customers must stay in a crowded, smelly waiting room with an ancient color TV blaring 'The Price Is Right' and smelling vaguely of brake fluid." Nope, you can wander through the garage, and I did, chatting with Gary who was replacing a wheel bearing on an SUV while Keith repaired my tire.

Actually, Keith didn't so much repair my tire as he performed a screwectomy. "We like to pull the tire and patch it from both sides. It works better." I sat down in the shop chair while Keith pulled the tire, extracted the screw, and set Gary to the patch job. After plugging the hole, Gary trimmed the plug, wire-brushed the inside of the tire, put a patch on it, and then Keith remounted the tire, making sure it was lined up as it was before to keep the wheel balanced, and cleaned the rim before reinstalling it.

Anyway...while sitting the shop chair, I noticed the standard equipment shop girlie calendar hanging on the door to the back room. Yep, the topless girl was there, but over it was another calendar that covered it up. I mentioned to Gary the self-censorship, and he smiled and shrugged. "Dad doesn't think the women who come here should have to look at that."

Well. Two mechanics in their seventies have the traditional girlie calendar, but are too classy to actually show anything beyond a hint of skin to their customers. These are classy people. As I took a picture, Gary laughed and said "You can take down the little calendar if you want to get the full effect." I explained that he misunderstood...this was the full effect.

Since my car needed a battery, I asked Keith to price one out. There are many places to purchase a car battery on the spot, which would be cheaper and more convenient for me, but I voted with my dollars to support the Parman Brothers, and if you live in Madison or thereabouts, I suggest you do the same.

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