Keep Austin Weird

Around here, “Keep Austin Weird” is a rallying cry to support local businesses, although some of the locals try their hardest to apply the suggestion on an individual basis. Today I have two stories about local businesses that have treated us right.
My car’s inspection sticker expired last summer, but I neglected it until December, when I found a coupon and took it to Midas. It passed the emissions portion of the test, but failed the safety section. They gave me a long list of necessary repairs, starting with an expensive new special-order taillight assembly, going through a number of smaller problems, and ending with a leaky exhaust for which they couldn’t even give me an estimate. I went to the junkyard and bought a cheap taillight, replaced it myself in about ten minutes, and began to doubt the rest of their estimate. Because of this and other bad experiences we’ve had, both Jenny and I now hold a very low opinion of Midas.
After that December flurry of activity, we went on vacation and I chose to ignore the remaining problems. Recently, after repeated reminders, Jenny finally prevailed on me to get it re-inspected. This time I took it to a local place, Alan’s Inspections. Alan’s place consists of a dirt driveway, two shack-style garages, and a picnic table under a big tree that serves as a waiting area.
They weren’t busy when I dropped in, so the inspector (I don’t know if it was Alan himself, but it might have been) greeted me personally and I didn’t have to sign in on the clipboard by the entrance. He did the inspection, then called me over to ask why I had failed in December. I reported the taillight and the exhaust leak, and he confirmed that I did have an exhaust leak, but said that everything else was fine. He recommended a couple of trustworthy shops, told me how much the repair should cost, and sent me on my way.
Yesterday, I went to a shop he had recommended–Muffin Muffler. I called them ahead of time and asked if I needed an appointment, and Mr. Muffin told me I could just come on by. When I did, he put my car right up on the rack and looked it over. He called me over and showed me exactly the part that needed replacement, estimated the cost, and told me he could fix it in the next forty-five minutes. This time, the waiting area was a porch, not a picnic table under a tree, but the atmosphere was the same. Almost exactly forty-five minutes later, they pulled my car down off the lift and checked me out at exactly the quoted price. I drove back down to Alan’s Inspections, and they approved the inspection. Now, thanks to local businesses, I’m street legal again. I know that reading about car inspections is almost as exciting as watching grass grow in Austin during the summer, but for their good work and honest approach to business, these guys deserve all the word-of-mouth publicity they can get. Maybe this post will turn up on someone’s google search and drive some more business their way.
I hope to make up for that snooze-fest story with the main event: a business that went above and beyond for Elena. Like many babies, Elena sometimes experiences gas pains. Add to that a mother’s natural tendency to worry, and we’ve been looking for things that will help her out. We gave her Mylicon drops for a while, but they only brought very brief relief. Jenny learned about Gripe Water and wanted to give it a try on Tuesday evening, when Elena was being extra fussy. She thought I could just run out to Wal-Mart or HEB and get some, but I asked her to call around first. As it turns out, neither of those stores stock the product, so she called some pharmacies. She found a local one, Peoples Rx, that had some gripe water. However, it was 9:55 and the pharmacy was supposed to close at 10:00. The person on the other end of the phone just asked how soon she could get there, took her name and phone number, and promised that he would keep the store open until she came by.
After the conversation, Jenny headed out the door (I was holding Elena, so I was released from errand duties) and made her way to the pharmacy, where her contact had the gripe water ready, along with a sample of some probiotic powder that he also recommends for gas pains. She apologized for keeping him out late, to which he replied: “Here at this pharmacy, we like babies as much as you do and want to keep them happy.” He gave her his business card and also wrote his personal cell phone number on it. In researching this post, I realized that she had been talking to the owner of the whole Peoples Rx franchise. Now that’s customer service! We typically go wherever is convenient and cheap to have prescriptions filled, but after this, we’ll probably make more of an effort to patronize Peoples. Also, although there’s not much scientific evidence for its effectiveness, the gripe water seems to have calmed Elena down.

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