Saturday, April 30, 2016

Check out my spare tire while you’re at it

Enjoying those long wait times in doctors’ waiting rooms? It’s looking like we’ll be some 90,000 doctors short by the time the last baby boomers skid toward retirement. But no worries: Soon we won’t need any doctors. Thanks to an uptick in laparoscopic surgery guided by people looking at computer screens, yet actually performed using robots, soon you won’t need a physician to operate or even do routine checkups. Nevertheless, you can’t have just anybody. So my vote goes to people with similar qualifications. Like Joe.

Joe is our mechanic, the guy who has kept two Toyotas running through the rough equivalent of 16 times around the earth. With such cred, he’s clearly meant for better things, which start with keeping two separate rag bins. What’s a physical but an inspection? Like any capable doctor, he’ll check that you start and idle properly, that you accelerate and cruise smoothly and work well in the clutch. By the time Joe is done, you’ll even run without jerkiness; he’s apparently a management consultant, too.

Take those creaky bones and sore muscles. To an orthopedist, they mean pain meds, cortisone shots, weeks of physical therapy and maybe surgery. Instead, we can call Joe the afternoon before and tell him the problem, which to him are a few hours and maybe new struts and shocks—suspension without the suspense. Spinal issues? It’s just another drive axle. “Come in by eight,” he says.

Digestive issues are no problem, either. Colon surgery, once a lengthy procedure requiring weeks of recovery, takes an afternoon—as long as he has the parts. The colon, of course, is mainly there to process the body’s waste products. “That’s a catalytic converter,” Joe tells me with a shrug. You’ll be happy to know he puts his rubber mallet to some good use before he fires up the welding torch. Hopefully, when you wake up you won’t roll over; you’ll be face-up on the lift.

And when the situation gets truly critical, such as heart surgery, Joe breaks out the lanolin hand cleaner. What’s a heart, after all, but a more elaborate internal-combustion engine? He’s done lots of valve jobs, and he’ll have your blood oxygen’s intake and exhaust as rhythmic as a Mazda Miata’s.

Unlike a doctor, Joe will charge nothing if we take in one of the cars for a perceived problem that turns out to need no attention. But when it comes to fixing people, it won’t long before insurance policies catch up—along with all those medical examiners. Repairs of all kinds, human or automotive, will require high-premium policies, thousand-dollar deductibles, and exclusions. And we’ll need weeks before an appointment, enough to blow your mind.

Not to worry, though. Joe replaces head gaskets, too.