They get the van lifted. A mechanic walks around the side. It’s 9 am. We sit in the waiting room of the dealership. The words “Mercedes” and “Winnebago” don’t seem like they should belong together. Seeing the words together on paperwork is a weird juxtaposition—like ‘classical hillbilly music’, or ‘prestigious juvenile hall’. It throws you a curveball.

The waiting room of the Mercedes dealership is next level. Everything sparkles. They’ve got expensive yet free coffee. They’ve got fresh, colourful donuts. The magazines are organized and choreographed with perfect detail. Maybe, I’m just a little too excited to be inside. We’ve spent lots of time in gas stations and convenience stores, but this feels like a treat. I eat two more donuts. Salted caramel, and something with a shitload of sprinkles.

They’ve let us bring the dogs into the waiting room. Edna is her delightful self. Multiple people enter, see her, and melt. Christine tells one employee,

“Don’t look her in the eyes. That’s where it all starts.”

Edna is drenched in attention. Oso has the opposite effect. People tend to steer clear. Whenever he’s in an environment he’s unsure of, he’s either whining or barking. He’s very sensitive to noise. Being a jet-black colour doesn’t help either. One guy comes in with his voice raised a little too loudly. Oso barks at him. It’s embarrassing.

Over the summer, he faces off with a porcupine in Nose Hill Park in Calgary. He gets about 7 or 8 sharp quills right in the snout. The first thing the veterinarian says upon examining him is,

“Wow, he’s got a lot of anxiety.”

I don’t remember anyone getting diagnosed with anxiety when I was growing up. They certainly didn’t diagnose dogs. I have no doubt anxiety exists, I’m just a little skeptical of diagnosing animals with something we’ve only recently started diagnosing in humans. In my final class, before I graduated, my professor stated her theory that anxiety might somehow be related to the invention of the steam engine or rather travelling faster than what is possible for the natural pace of the human body. She didn’t go into much detail, but it seems logical to me. It seems logical that there might be a psychological and physiological disconnect between mind and body when we are consistently travelling at a faster metronome than what the natural body can allow.

“I hope they finish up quick,” I tell Christine.

“Why?” she asks.

“Because I’ve really got to use the restroom.”

“Use theirs,” she says.

“No,” I say, untangling Oso’s leash from my foot. “This is too nice of a place. I’d feel guilty. I’ll wait for the van.”

A short while later, a heavyset guy with a clipboard comes in. He confirms that we need to change out the NOx sensor. We start looking over the cost of labour as well as the new part. My eyes nearly fall out of my head. $1,523 U.S. dollars…or rather $2,208 dollars…Canadian.

There goes our budget. We hope it falls under warranty or some miraculous recall regarding NOx sensors. We feel sick about the cost. But we really have no choice. Christine signs off on it, and then I stand up and hand her Oso’s leash.

“Where are you going?” she asks.

“The restroom, “I say defiantly.”


Jim Lair Beard is a playwright, screenwriter, memoirist, and theatre critic. He has been published in Capital and Main, Truthdig, Right Hand Pointing, and The Liar Anthology. He is the current theatre critic at the Calgary Guardian. For more information go to