A woman's perspective of living with and loving a Mercedes-Benz Maniac
Authored by our own Bonnie Fancy.
Reprinted with permission from The Star Magazine. November / December 2009 Issue.
What does one get for the Mercedes Maniac who has over two dozen shirts and no longer wears ties? Club gear, car parts, and tools are the best bet. If you are like me, and you don't know a ratchet from a wrench, this gets tricky. However, I have gotten this whole thing down to a science.
You could ask for a list of what he wants, but since you may not know what most of the stuff is, a list is almost useless unless you can find an interpreter.
Instead, listen for things like; “Darn, I broke a 10mm drill bit today”. Casually appear in his workshop and look for tools on the workbench and the floor if you know what the item is. A drill bit is a drill bit, but apparently size matters. Pick up any drill bit and say, “I thought you said you broke it.”
After he explains patiently, through clenched teeth that the broken one is on the floor, or on the vice, you may be able to salvage a piece of it to take to the store. The people at the tool counters will help you get the right one. They can also tell you if that store sells gift cards. Note, however that broken Sears Goodwrench tools may be brought back to the store for a replacement free of charge. If your maniac had planned on doing that, having the pieces disappear may not be a good thing.
Another thing I recommend is eavesdropping. I know, people will say you shouldn't, however standing next to him at a club dinner and looking fascinated while he discusses tools and other products is permissible. Unfortunately you can't take notes, so you have to remember the item he expressed the most interest in. However, you can always contact the person he was talking to and get the important information such as what and how much.
Check his catalogs. Ernie gets all kinds of catalogs that specialize in tools and other kinds of things that are desperately needed in restoring and caring for his Benz. Look for pages that are dog-eared, although sometimes the catalog will open to a page of particular interest. Items might be circled. If nothing is circled, check the names of the items on the page. Chances are one or two will stand out as being something he has mentioned. Some of the catalog companies do have gift cards which is another option.
Attend tech sessions. While everyone else is watching the demonstration, watch him. He will show you what he wants by examining the desired item closely. He may also ask questions about certain tools and techniques that may be helpful. It also gives you an opportunity to ask questions about parts. Other club members may know where to get some of the small bits and pieces such as signal light lenses, or some of the smaller chrome bits.
The first place to turn when you finally find out what he wants is the Star. The Trading Post in the back has all kinds of stuff from cars to seat covers. There is also a list of advertisers who might have what you want. The Club Store is also in there with a whole lot of club gear including shirts, caps, books and a myriad of other Mercedes Benz Club items. The Club website, www.MBCA.org is also a good place to check. Club members are very supportive. Your local Mercedes dealer may also be able to get small parts for you. Then there are places automotive specialty shops like NAPA and ADAP.
The worst place to go for the tools and doodads is the automotive flea market. Oh, you will find everything his little heart desires and then some. It's the venue. Think of all the TV pitchmen you can, Billy Mays comes to mind, and then there's Vince “call within the next twenty minutes ‘cause we can't do this all day”. Put these guys in one place selling any and all things automotive and you have the flea market. Still, the flea market is a great place to get things, or at least ideas. Collect the business cards at the booths where he stops and lingers and list the items he shows the most interest in. Then you know what he wants and where to get it.
This is where an accomplice comes in handy. The accomplice can usually locate the item at a better price and/or quality and get it for you. All you have to do is supply the money. In my case the accomplice is usually my son Mark, although James has also done the job. Sure, you could go on line and try to find what you're looking for, but the accomplice actually knows what the item is and what it's supposed to do. He also knows which web sites to go to and which to avoid.
If you are still stuck for ideas, here are a few I've come up with over the years. Funnels, especially metal ones, can be bought most anywhere. Dollar stores are a good place to buy toothbrushes or paint brushes for cleaning small spaces like between the spokes of wire wheels. Get the soft ones which are least likely to damage chrome or scratch paint. A soft one inch paint brush is good for dusting dash boards or trunk lids and at a dollar, how can you go wrong? At the grocery store, you can get Swiffer pads which are also good for dusting dashboards. Some places even sell rags by the bag. These are always handy and can be washed and re-used, something that can't be said of Swiffer pads. Windshield washer fluid is another safe bet. It may not be exciting to you, but to him it's much better than another shirt that never gets worn.
After a few years, though, some of his shirts will have been stained and singed enough that they need replacement. Then you breathe a sigh of relief and hit the club store.