Tyler squinted. He leaned to his right and squinted again.
“I can do this,” he said. “Most of this will buff out. This part here”-he pointed to where white showed on the wheel well- “I can put some paint on the white part. I can mix that to match perfectly in my shed.”
The “this” that Tyler was referring to was the result of my having backed into my boyfriend’s brand new car.
Brand new car. Them’s is fighting words.
The shed was a two-piece contraption. To the south, one part housed a white Honda that was being gussied up for sale. On the other, a small trailer housing Tyler’s paint materials. Tyler’s in his late twenties or so. Still a young man. Bearded, his longish hair pulled back into a pony tail. Two brightly-decorated sleeve tattoos on both shoulders.
He grabbed a sander with a sponge on it and got to work. Moments later, the scratch was barely visible, with just a touch of white indicating where I had kissed the wheel well.
The BF and I watched, fascinated. I had pulled my mostly-new but also-dinged Honda over for the same treatment.
Tyler disappeared into the shed and moments later reappeared with what looked like a yogurt cup full of black paint. Black paint that perfectly matched the BF’s Infinity.
He leaned in and dabbed it delicately with a toothpick. The white disappeared.
“That will be dry in about five minutes,” he said. “Then I’ll buff it so that you can’t even tell anything happened.”
Meanwhile Tyler took a look at the various dings and scratches that my Honda had collected in parking lots and too-close-encounters with others in tight spaces.
In less than twenty minutes, Tyler had matched my paint, fixed a bad scratch to the point that it was nearly indistinguishable from the rest of the paint job, and filled in several door dings.
My car looked brand new. So did the BF’s. I poked the boyfriend in the shoulder and said that I deserved Brownie points for finding Tyler. Not for hitting the car, mind you, but for finding Tyler. Reluctantly, he agreed.
As Tyler was finishing up, the BF asked him how he got into this line of work.
He smiled, and looked down for a moment.
“I was an addict for years,” he said quietly. “Opiates. Other stuff. An alcoholic before that. Years of it. I finally got tired of waking up wasted and having nothing to look forward to.”
Tyler joined several twelve-step programs, and made his way slowly back to sobriety. When he got sober for good, past what he acknowledged was a terrifically difficult transition period, a friend asked him what he was going to do for work. When Tyler wasn’t sure, the friend offered to teach him how to repair car paint and damage.
Today, he has steady work in his sheds behind the dealership where I got my used car.
Sober. Working. And deeply grateful.
The BF asked what he wanted for the repair job.
“Nothing,” he said, smiling his chipped tooth smile. The Colorado sun shone on his tattooed shoulders.
“What about my car?” I pressed him. Both of us wanted to give him money.
“Nothing.” The BF and I looked at each other. “You can tip me if you want. I’m just happy to be doing something that makes other people happy.”
I opened my wallet and pulled out a bunch of twenties. He had saved us both untold dollars, insurance woes and increased premiums. Our cars both looked gorgeous.
“We’d like your number,” the BF said. “I have three brothers, and they all need your help. One is an Uber driver and he has a luxury ride.”
As Tyler reeled off the numbers I made a mental note. I had three people that I could tell, too.
We both shook Tyler’s hand in thanks. He turned back to his work on the white Honda.
I made the first call as I was heading out of the lot. My buddy Melissa absolutely needed his help. This would be the first of many calls.
This October will make six years since my big brother, also an alcoholic and an addict, took his life. He had tried programs, but his pugnacious nature prevented him from receiving help. As well as receiving love. Not everyone makes it.
But some do. Like Tyler.
My brother never knew what it was to be grateful. To be sober. To be in the business of having people leave his company with smiles on their faces. Perhaps one reason I am so motivated to make sure Tyler has plenty of work is because I am so happy to encounter a success story. It moved me a great deal to hear Tyler’s story. It’s my deep pleasure to send more people his way.
They will also leave with smiles on their faces, and other friends to call.
What I hope most dearly is that along the way, someone who is troubled will leave with more than just a nearly-new car. They may leave inspired by Tyler’s honesty. His love of his work. And his commitment to sobriety, which allows him to do a lot more than just fix door dings. He can change someone else’s life.
Not everyone makes it. But some do. And sometimes, that’s precisely what it takes for someone to make it past that terrible transition time, enough so that life looks like it’s worth living again.