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I had to take my car in for service today.  One of the reasons I bought a Toyota is that the service is minimal and the reliability legendary.  Other than that, a Corolla doesn’t have a lot going for it. It’s bland, sedate, uninteresting, and more common than fat people below the 49th parallel.

Because of those things, I sometimes feel that I am driving the automotive equivalent of myself.

Ancaster Toyota: home of the complimentary car wash and fancy cookie.

But never let it be said that I am complaining about my ubiquitous Nickmobile.  It and its predecessor (the same model but four years older and in black) run beautifully (if unimpressively) and I’ve never needed to take either one in to the dealership for anything other than scheduled maintenance.  And that’s a good thing, since I really don’t know much about cars.  It’s one of those dark areas on my mental map, something that bothers me since I know enough about most other things that I can at least fake an intelligent discussion with an actual expert.

I don’t know why cars baffle me so much.  Maybe it’s because the kind of guys that took automotive classes in high school were the same guys that shoved me into my locker or kept me hiding in the science lab at lunch.  I associate changing one’s own oil or diagnosing timing issues by sound with the kind of meatheads that probably still give people wedgies.

This is a ridiculous thing to think, I know.  I have friends that are well versed in all things automotive and only beat me up occasionally.

I think that’s why I like my Toyota so much.  It rarely demands that I know what my drive belt is or what it does or when it has gone bad on me.  It isn’t like when I was driving my dad’s Dodge Caravan, where every trip to the shop inevitably involved a mechanic coming out to the grimy, cinder block waiting area and telling me that my flux capacitor was corroding and I would need to replace it and the forward nacelles or my timing groove box would run the risk of debasement.

Nope, at Ancaster Toyota, they give you a cookie.

The waiting room, unlike the ones at many a Dodge dealership I frequented, looks like something out of architectural digest.  The magazines are up to date.  They have office-nooks for you to use your laptop with their WiFi system.  There is one of those single-shot artisan coffee machines that use nifty little individual espresso packets.  And if you don’t get a coffee for yourself before you sit down, no less than seven of the employees will offer to make you one while you wait 20 minutes for your oil change (which I find a little condescending, since the steps to make your own consists of 1. Choose packet, 2. Stick packet in packet-shaped hole in machine, and 3. Hit start).

When they’ve finished servicing your car, they wash it.  (They washed it today, and it is the slushiest, nastiest day that we have had all year.  Clearly, I would not have noticed if they had just looked outside and said to themselves, “Jeez, not much point in washing anything this morning, is there?”)

And then they give you a cookie, a fancy one from a local bakery, individually wrapped with a ribbon and festively decorated for Christmas.

Now I understand what they are doing with the cookie.  At the most, they might be paying 50 cents per cookie, but it could easily sway a new costumer to come back, since their last impression of the dealership is a sparkling clean car and shortbread.  It makes all kinds of sense from a marketing perspective, but it feels like a very real human gesture in a world full of meatheads.