The Outsider's Insider

A Guide to Living in Yerevan

The Car Specialists – by Tim Straight July 19, 2010

Filed under: Tim Straight,Uncategorized — outsidersinsider @ 2:35 pm

The air-conditioning in my clunky old Landcruiser stopped working the other day.  It was about 40 degrees Centigrade(oh, around 106 or so Fahrenheit) when it decided to go on strike.

This needed to be fixed.

I called Misha, my trusty car fixer guy.  Misha can’t always fix it as he is mostly a body and motor specialist, not an electrical or air conditioner specialist.  But he can tell what’s wrong.

He turned on the motor and the air conditioner.   The air was blowing, so he eliminated electrical problems as the cause.  He told me it was the freon that needed refilling.  Little did I know that there was freon in a car air conditioning system, mechanically challenged that I am.  Still, I knew refrigerators had freon, so the logical leap is not a huge one.

I asked him if he could fill freon.  Nope, he didn’t do that work, I had to go to a specialist.  I inquired where a freon specialist might be in Yerevan.  Over behind the Rossiya(meaning Russia) building, Misha assured me.

I dutifully drove to the other side of the city center and found the garage behind the Russia building.  However, the very greasy and smelly but pleasant enough gentleman there did not do freon.  No no no, he has never done freon, where did I get that silly idea.  I asked who does do freon. ‘There might be a specialist out in Bangladesh’. (Malatia is the real name of this district, but it is situated so far away from the center of Yerevan, that it has been nicknamed Bangladesh)

I climbed back into my clunker, pulled away from Russia and past the circus(where I have heard that they still have dancing bears), through India(a section of town where they used to show Bollywood films at the cinema during the Soviet days), swing right at the round-about just past what I understand is the best fabric shop in town(though they only show ladies underwear in the display window), head past the Miami club(a new shiny place in the Third District of Yerevan) and under the bridge near the American embassy.  Then you are at the entry of Bangladesh.

I found the natural gas filling station behind which is the mystical freon place.    The sweaty but ruggedly handsome freon specialist opened the hood of my clunker.

He:  Where is your air conditioner belt?

Me:  Do car air conditioners have belts?

He:  Yours obviously doesn’t

It seems my air conditioner belt that I never knew existed had broken and fallen off.

Me:  So, how much does it cost for a new air conditioner belt?

He:  I have no idea.  I don’t sell them.  I am not a belt specialist, I am a freon specialist.

Me:  Where can I buy the belt?

He:  Wouldn’t know- maybe at the belt place across the street from KIA Motors at the other end of Bangladesh.

Back in the car, I drove to the other end of Bangladesh (on towards Korea, I suppose?) and found KIA Motors.  Across the street indeed was a car part shop in a basement.  Progress.  I entered, and saw a pudgy belt specialist man behind the counter.

Me:  Do you have air conditioner belts for a Landcruiser?

He:  Yes, we do.  What is the model of your car?

Me:  I have no idea.

He:  What is the year of your car?

Me:  2000 or 2001….or maybe 1999

He(understanding that he is dealing with a man who has no clue about cars):  How many cylinders does your car have?

Me:  umm…

He:  6 or 8?

Me: yes

He:  Is your car outside?  Can I have a look at it myself?

This belt specialist man was one of the more patient souls I have met in situations like that.  God bless him.  He confirmed that I have six cylinders, and effectively punches away on his computer.  He gave me the code of the belt I need.

Me:  How much does one of those belts cost?

He:  I have no idea.  I don’t have any.

Me:  Interesting, do you have an idea where I can get one?

He:  Nope, no idea.  You have to check every car parts shop in Yerevan until you find it.

I had started to get exasperated now.  Misha sends me to a man who does not do freon, he sends me to a man who does freon, but doesn’t do belts, and he sends me to a man who indeed does belts, but not the one I need.  And all of this so far has taken me through Russia, India, Miami, Bangladesh and possibly Korea.  I have been on this case now for about three and a half hours.

I called Misha and asked him where to buy my air conditioner belt.  He suggested the place in Pushkin street in central Yerevan where they have everything, but at a premium price.  I didn’t care.  This bloody air conditioning belt, that I did not know four hours earlier existed, was now the only thing in my life that matters.  I drove from Bangladesh to Pushkin and secured my belt for a cool AMD 10.000.

However…  The Pushkin people do not install belts or anything else, they are just specialists on parts.  Of course.  I asked if I can put the belt on myself.  They confirmed that it is possible.  Then he looked at me again and said ‘but you on the other hand might want a specialist to do the job’.  Wise man.

Back into the clunker, but with belt neatly next to me on the front seat.  A happy man.  I drove out to Misha, whose workshop is in a back street off to the right halfway between India and the ladies underwear display window, and he spent all of about three minutes to put it on.

I turned on the motor and the air conditioner.    Cool air flowed.

Me:  So I guess it wasn’t a question of freon?

Misha:  Guess not.

All in all, I spent one entire working day to get the belt I didn’t know existed replaced, talking to five different specialists along the way.

Another stitch in the fabric of my Armenian life.

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4 Responses to “The Car Specialists – by Tim Straight”

  1. Tim Says:

    All in all, a kind of long story that could just as well happened in any other country of the world….!! But still amusing as I read through it again…

  2. The author critiques himself….

  3. Fred Says:

    One of my greatest fears about living in Armenia is that my car’s air conditioning will break during the summer.

  4. Adrineh Says:

    Tim, lovely story. Had a good, hearty belly laugh reading it 😉 Keep up the writing!


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