At 7:21pm I was still at the bicycle shop after closing. Our best customer is named Fidel. He drinks at least a case of Budweiser daily. He cracks open the cans right in the shop, and conceals them poorly - usually enlisting a menu or a crumpled napkin. His English skills are poor. Fortunately, we have a mechanic who spent a little time in Mexico.
Fidel was cracking beers in the bicycle shop and getting some fair prices on brake repair. We were super busy, and he waited patiently until 7pm. I was happy that my new bicycle touring friend, Brett, could witness our shop at it's best.
"Strong bicycle!" exclaims Fidel. This is his catchphrase. This is usually the only phrase I can understand. It is repeated several times per visit. We close the doors, and Fidel offers us beer after beer. We refuse most of them. We politely refuse many times.
He delivers food. Fidel delivers for a restaurant down on Spring Garden, and he has a large plastic box affixed to a rack on his bicycle. Originally, I designed this setup for him. Soon after the store's grand opening, I took it upon myself to attach this setup to a bicycle that didn't want it. I clocked out and stayed late for about an hour working on it. I put Fidel's cheap full suspension Mongoose in the work stand and got to work. I drilled holes in the thick over-sized aluminum dropouts, and then I ran a 6mm tap through the holes to thread them. I used stainless steel nuts and bolts to affix the case which I think he took from behind an Eckerd Drug or a CVS. When I was done, you could lift the cheap heavy bicycle by the delivery box. Strong bicycle. It was a good setup done with the same care I would use on my own touring bicycle. We charged a fair price and gained a customer for life.
"Strong bike!" Today is Fidel's birthday. "Iss'okay!" he told us. He motioned for us to lock the doors so we could stand around and drink cans of Budweiser together. It appears that he didn't have work today. We looked in his delivery box, and there was at least a case of Bud. This time he put it on ice. Beers on ice filled his delivery box. A river of melted ice was working its way out the holes on the bottom and across the floor. We mopped it up several times. It was much more a source of amusement than a problem.
"Iss'okay!" he said. This is what he says when he wants you to drink beer with him. And he's always offering. If he comes in at noon, you will be offered a beer and be half expected to pop it open and drink on the sidewalk while you work on his bicycle. He tells you this is okay.
I felt bad. Fidel told us we were his friends. He patted his hand softly but adamantly on the counter as he looked at each of us. With sincerity, he said it to each of us: my friend. My friend. My friend. He reached in his pocket and brought out our business card. He loves our bicycle shop.
The other mechanic is firm and friendly with Fidel. We all need to be going somewhere right now. Each of us wishes Fidel a feliz cumpleaños, and each of us drinks one more beer with out best customer.