For several months my truck had been making a clunking noise when I slowed or accelerated slightly. It was getting worse, so I made an appointment with the dealer to have it looked at. I assumed that it might be a U-joint going bad and told the service manager that on the phone. "No problem," said the service manager. " It's still under warranty, so it won't cost you a thing. Bring it in on Wednesday morning around 7:30 and we will check it out for you."

I don't know why I always have to be there so early. I've never gotten an appointment for later in the day. They work on cars all day, but it seems like everyone has to be there at 7:30. Dentists and Doctors don't operate like that, so why do car dealers? For me, getting up at 6 AM is a reminder of my military basic training where getting up at 5 AM had no purpose other than harassment - reminding me of who was boss and making me as miserable as possible. Ever since then I've hated getting up early, and I view sleeping late as an act of defiance.

At 7:30 in the morning, I don't want to see friends, and I especially don't want to see strangers. But there I was, sitting in the waiting room of the car dealer and watching my truck sitting in the parking lot. At 8 AM I spoke with the service manager and told him to also do the 30,000-mile service while they had the truck. "No problem," he replied.

Around 8:30 I got tired of watching my truck in the parking lot and walked down the street in search of a place to eat breakfast. I had the foresight to bring a book with me, so my morning was not a total waste. I found a nice, casual eatery about 15 minutes from the dealership, and breakfast stretched into an early lunch, thanks to the book and a good looking blonde waitress with a sun tattooed just above her butt. Each time she bent over the sun peeked up over the top of her black silk panties. It was one of the few times in my life I have looked forward to seeing the sunrise.

"Mr. Hofmann, the mechanic just finished looking at your truck and could find no problem." It was 11:30 and I was back at the dealership wondering why it took them four hours to find nothing. But then this was the third time he had used the phrase "No problem", so I was beginning to see a pattern. "Would you like to talk to the mechanic?" he asked. I did have a few things on my mind for the mechanic, but none of them involved talking. The mechanic was much bigger than I was, so I spoke with him and convinced him to take a test drive, which he did. "Yep, there is definitely a clunking noise," said the mechanic on his return. By then it was lunchtime for the mechanic, so I headed back up the street to see the sun rise again.

At 3:30 I was back at the dealership and being told that the steering column inner shaft was worn and needed replacement. "How worn could a steering shaft become in only 12 months," I asked. "Is it made out of wood?" He admitted that it was probably bad when it was installed. They had none in stock and would have to order one. It would probably be a day or two before they got it, and they would call me when it arrived. However, the 30,000-mile service was still being done on my truck and it would be a little while longer. It was slowly becoming the 30,000-minute service.

They finished my 30,000-mile service at 6:15 PM and were very apologetic about the excessive amount of time I had to wait. Then they presented me with a bill for $794. "Holy Christ, that's more than I paid for my first car," I protested. A three page, itemized list of what they did for the 30,000-mile service did little to diminish the impact of the cost. It seems they did just about everything but repaint my truck. They did a front and rear wheel alignment, changed the oil in the transmission, the engine, the transfer case, and a few other fluids I didn't even know existed. A new fuel filter cost me $115 "because of it's location," and the transmission now had synthetic oil at $20 a quart. Most of the list I didn't even comprehend.

"We'll call you when your shaft comes in," the service manager said as I was walking out.

"You've already given me the shaft," I replied, and kept walking. I was already dreading another 6 AM wake up and another long wait at the dealership -- but then there was that sunrise to consider.