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Quality of life 

I recently bought a used car. At 43,000 miles and five years old, I was ecstatic about my purchase. But after about 500 miles, I started to have to hang back behind other cars because I had to press my foot all the way down on the pedal to engage the brakes.

I know a mechanic in Mebane named Sully who handles repairs for a small trucking company. A co-worker told me that he'd fixed her car in no time and even "forgot" to charge her.

Foolishly, I don't go to Sully right away. Instead, at a local brake shop, the greasy-haired owner, gets me to sign away my legal rights for any mishaps that might befall my car there. He presents me with an estimate of $378 for replacing brake rotors he insists are unsafe to the point of being deadly. When I tell him I'm going to shop around, he lowers the price to $350. He looks frustrated when I still say, "No."

I call my dad in New Jersey. He says replacing the rotors would be unusual given the mileage on my car, but that I should have the brake pads looked at. Time to drive the 40 minutes to visit Sully. Still, that's not too far to go when traveling the distance between heaven and hell.

I pull up to the garage and walk in like it's home. When Sully drives up in his maroon Mercedes, I feel happy to see him--his straight stance, white hair, big glasses, and weathered, working man's hands. Sully is old school, southern charm, and to me, almost family.

I knit my sweater while I wait for him to finish examining my car. The garage owner comes out and asks what I'm working on. "Yeah, Sully stays home and knits on Saturday nights," he says.

Sully looks up briefly from behind the wheels of the car. "No, it's crochet."

"Really? WOW!" I say, and they both burst out laughing.

Sully finishes up and tells me to take a test drive. The brakes feel great. All they needed was a little adjusting. When I tell Sully and the garage owner the estimate I got from the brake shop, they warn me that since I'm a woman, mechanics will always try to take advantage. I ask Sully how much I owe him and he tells me not to worry about it, just to bring the car back when it really needs brake pads and he'll replace them.

I tell my housemates I'm not going to leave this area as long as my therapist and Sully are still alive. With them around, my quality of life can't get much better.

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