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The Power of the Press, Part 2?

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Being a natural reactionary and owing perhaps to advanced age and a general unwillingness to spend hours following the 140-character feeds of the blabberonious multitudes while carefully crafting my own, I’d always been a little dubious about the alleged value of Twitter.

But I would be remiss if I did not mention an experience from several months back, one which gave me occasion to doubt my skepticism. It began when I took the green –Verde Ciaro, to be precise – Fiat 500 I’d just finished driving on long-term test for its one and only service appointment, a scheduled 8500-mile oil change and all-purpose look around. I wanted to spend the night in Manhattan, get the car serviced first thing, then head upstate.

The very Fiat shop in this tale.Discovering that Fiat of Manhattan’s service department opened at 7:30 am and would complete the service while I waited, I rose early to be the first in line, so that I might get going as soon as possible. After exchanging numerous pleasantries and filling in copious paperwork I was naturally horrified to be told that while the service department was here writing orders at 7:30 am, no mechanics were due in until nine. I’d have to wait ninety minutes for work to begin, at least.

Irritated as hell, I quickly ran out of things to do, and so was inspired to send forth a tweet -- something suitably wry about having been dragged out of bed by Fiat of Manhattan only to then be made to wait for hours. Three of my followers would actually see it, but at least I’d have gotten it off my chest. It reminded me of the joke about the one-hour dry cleaner that tells the irritated customer that his suit won’t be ready for days. “But what about the one-hour cleaner’s sign?” the flabbergasted patron demands. “That’s only the name of the store, chief,” the cleaner responds.

The good news is that the 500 has been an absolute revelation in New York City driving, because it is in its element. Unless you are absolutely made of money, street parking is a big part of the equation in the city, as is nimbleness and maneuverability and the 500 is excellent on all counts (though outward visibility is compromised by thick B-pillars just behind the front doors.) It’s a perfectly decent highway car, too, but it’s small for more than two passengers on a trip of any distance.

A fleet of Fiats in NYC. (Flickr/N0fX)Not to repeat myself, but where it really excels is parking – it’s around half-a-foot shorter than a Mini-Cooper, our other favorite for city space-finding chores, so it parks even easier. I swear that when compared to parking a regular sedan, my chances of finding a convenient street space have risen more than 300 percent and it’s so much fun it’s even made me soften my views on the shortest cars of all, Smarts.

Italians are masters of Fiat Parking. (Flickr/Brett Patterson)After 13,000 miles the Fiat didn’t rattle a bit, not something every inexpensive small car can say. I saw an overall average of almost 35 miles to the gallon of gasoline, and, with four Pirelli Scorpion snow tires, found the 500 perfectly agreeable in the snow. Sitting in the Fiat dealer, I reflected on the overall top quality of my Fiat experience – something few would have taken for granted – and contrasted it with how frosted my chaps were now.

But then, about five minutes after posting my reproachful tweet, I heard the phone ring at the service desk, and I saw the service manager answer. I watched him mouth the words, “Oh, shit.” He then turned his gaze at his first customer, me, thumbing a magazine huffily while lounging in a large Italian-design leather chair, in the reception area. Nodding his head, he hung up the phone, and called me over. “We’ve found someone who can do your service now. No waiting.”

What?! To what did I owe this good fortune? Coincidence? The power of the press? The power of Twitter? The power of Charlie Sheen? We may never know.

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