Tony Sawaya can fix anything that runs on wheels. He has been taking care of my 1996 Mercedes C-220 since 2007, when the dealership refused to maintain it any longer and tried to persuade me to buy a new car. Owning a Mercedes-Benz is normally way out of my reach, but this car (a bare-bones model) came into my life 13 years ago through a series of fortunate events. I would have to win the lottery to buy another one. The factory stopped making parts for it long ago, and Tony has kept me going with great care and concern for the last six years.
I’m not the only one who has benefited from Tony’s wonderful service – by far. The bulletin board in his office is plastered with dozens of thank-you cards from his fans, and if you look on yelp.com, you will see 156 reviews averaging 4½ stars, with comments like:
“Tony is the man. If you are looking for someone who does good work for a fair price… just go here and talk to Tony.”
“Wow!!! What can I say?! We just found Tony and boy are we glad we did.”
“Tony Sawaya is the best mechanic you will ever meet and the only one you’ll ever go to again.”
One of Tony’s customers organized a surprise party on his birthday a couple of years ago, and everyone had an amazing story about how he had helped them in a bind.
At the party, Tony told us about his childhood in Lebanon. He has always been fascinated by cars. At the age of 5, he asked his parents for a set of tools for his birthday. When he opened the package and saw that the “tools” were only toys, he wailed:
“I can’t work with these!”
As he grew up, his father taught him that diamonds are created under pressure: the harder the challenge, the stronger a person’becomes. When he was old enough, he traveled to the United Arab Emirates, where he worked as a mechanic for the rich and famous. After a series of adventures too complicated to go into here, he eventually landed in San Diego.
Fast forward to the end of last month. Tony had warned me that my car was at the point where repairs were going to be increasingly expensive and challenging. He had started to help me find a replacement. He knew I was worried about my car situation, and I had also told him I was anxious about passing the tests for my driver’s license, due to expire on my upcoming birthday (which is today, and luckily I passed). On top of everything else, my car, nearly as old as I am in car-years, was up for a “star” smog inspection, which means that they check for “functionality” as well as emissions. It flunked.
Tony and his mechanic fixed the problem, but when I took it back, the inspectors found yet another do-hicky that wasn’t working. A tiny hose was loose, and I needed a small connecting part that’s no longer being made (and if it had been available, it would have cost $195). Tony figured out a way to take care of it. He also changed the oil and topped the fluids. One of his boys took the car back for re-inspection, and finally it passed. I reimbursed Tony for the smog inspection, but when I went to pay the rest of his bill, he said:
“Can’t you read English?”
At the bottom of the invoice he had written: “HAPPY BIRTHDAY DISCOUNT.” He had canceled out all his other charges. I was so touched that I had to turn my head so he wouldn’t see the tears in my eyes.
So I’m set for a while at least, and Tony has promised to keep my car running even if he has to make the parts. I am immensely grateful that Tony Sawaya is in my life.