I worked at Courtesy Chevrolet from the end of 1995 until October of 1997. About midway through my tenure there, I joined the alarm team and worked with a guy named Lee who was head installer. He and I had become friendly over my first several months there and he started showing me some basic alarm techniques so I could help out here and there.
There was another guy, John, who worked in alarms, too. He was a trip. Little, hairy dude from Hawaii who seemed like he kind of always had one foot out the door and was looking for a party. In those days, I was not looking for a party at all, so I found it pretty amusing.
Lee was a good guy, though, and I was stoked when he asked me to apply for the opening he had. I met with Larry (not Jehovah Larry, different Larry), who was the manager in charge of alarms, detailing, and the used car mechanics and I got the job. Larry was one of those guys that it was best to have to deal with him as little as possible. Luckily, he only really wanted to deal with Lee, so I didn’t have to interact with him much. He seemed to be a joyless human.
Working in the alarm bay was pretty great. I learned how to install alarms and got to know the alarm system we used pretty well. We installed alarms in all of the cars brough onto the lot so we had plenty of days where we were busy all day long.
Chevrolet’s were pretty easy to install the simple starter kill alarms we used in those days. The wiring was pretty easy to find, and we would just hook the unit into them. Only about half of the cars had power door locks, it seemed like, so I would just get under the panel on the driver’s side beneath the steering wheel and wire in the unit. For something like an S-10 pickup, I could install the alarm in a couple of minutes.
Over time, Lee began to trust me with some of the harder jobs and I learned how to trouble shoot. Usually, I would just have to swap out a bad alarm with a new one and that was super easy because the wiring was already there. Every so often, someone would want to add power door locks, so we would have to take the doors apart and put the actuators in there. I never got very comfortable with that. Some car doors are not very easy to take apart.
There were also occasions where I would get sent out to someone’s house to fix their alarm because it had killed the starter and the bypass we installed wasn’t working. People were not happy when I would just flip a little switch and show them how to work the bypass properly.
In those days, I had a pretty decent tool set up for doing my job, too, so every once in a while, I would do an alarm for a friend on the side. When we got used cars in that had alarm systems, we could pull them out and keep them. Vipers were a pain in the ass to install, but I made a few hundred bucks here and there re-selling and installing them. There were also certain sales guys who would ask us to do stuff off the books for clients and offer us pizza or $20 to not “pull” the alarm.
I’ve had a knack over my life for finding jobs where people would leave me alone and let me do what I was supposed to do. The alarm bay at Courtesy was one of those. At some point, I learned that the best way to get people to leave you alone and let you do your job was by just doing the job. Even dedicated micromanagers can get bored if you just do what you’re supposed to do.
Luckily, though, micro-management was not part of the lexicon at Courtesy while I was there. It was easy to keep the sales guys and gals happy by just getting their client’s new cars done quickly. When the client would buy the alarm system, which was offered at a highly inflated price, I would set it up and then drive the new car up to the front so they could take their pictures and such and I could show them how to work it. If I did this quickly, the sales folks would buy me food or kick me some cash on a regular basis.
No one wanted to wait at the dealership.
At night, it was often pretty slow, so I could listen to Suns games if they were on or music. I could even sit there and read as long as the bay was clean and there were no cars to put alarms in. I got to the point where I would hope for a shipment, though, because it was better to be busy than just sitting there. Like being a lot attendant, I could get overtime working alarms, too, but since I made a bit more, it had to be justified. I remember Lee getting peeved at me a few times when I had 20 or so hours of OT on my check and Larry wanted to know why. Not Jehovah Larry, he couldn’t care less. Joyless Larry, though, had to protect his bottom line.
During the summer of 1997, I started working on the side for Casa. I was still working nights for Courtesy and Lee was very supportive of me doing both things. He was a dad so he thought Casa’s mission was important. It’s weird to think of Lee being a middle aged older dude like me now with at least one adult child. After I left Courtesy to join Casa full-time, I lost track of him after a couple of years.
I can still remember my last day at Courtesy. It was the day before my birthday, so almost exactly 25 years ago. I was stepping into my first job where I had a salary and wouldn’t have to work a ton of overtime to make ends meet. I was going to be full-time in the classroom and no more alarms.
But also, no more homerun derby or driving corvettes. Moving on up, I suppose.
See you tomorrow.
It was always good to have these handy for doing an alarm.