Posted by: Andrew G | January 6, 2010

Depending on your Perspective

I learned something about cars today.

Since November or so there has been a problem with my car’s heater fan. Well, at least I knew it didn’t go when I turned the little knobby control thing to make it go. I didn’t know what was wrong with it. The limit of my knowledge became obvious to me when it wouldn’t do what I wanted it to do.

This is the case with most things involving cars. I just don’t know. But, I want to be sure it will go when I want it to go.

I took the car to the mechanic and he got me two fan-settings back — slow and better-than-slow.  He also gave me a warning. To paraphrase:

It won’t last. You will likely have to replace it, and probably within a few months. But the good news is you can likely do that yourself, since you have the old car still.

Dang. Ominous voice of the authority. But he did give me an out, at least Be warned, you have work ahead of you.

So, I heeded his words and thought carefully about my future and how I would treat my old car. And life went on.

And then my fan stopped working completely.

And I remembered my mechanics words. And I procrastinated a little more, because often enough that seems to do fine. It sometimes causes suffering, but that variable is in the equation already anyway.

But something kept nagging at me. It could have been the chill in the car that I just couldn’t get rid of. It could have been the extra scraping I had to do, since it was winter and the frost and ice on the car wouldn’t melt away. It could have been that the windshield probably was foggier than it should be if I am going to drive the car safely.

Problem– I had forgotten my mechanic’s instructions on how to do the job. I went back to the font of knowledge, got what information I needed, and an assurance that I could do it.

Problem– I did not have the proper tools. I went to a friend and asked for a favour. He was willing to even help me, but I assured him all I needed was a ratchet set.

Then I got down to work. If you ever need to do anything under the glove compartment of your car besides maybe put your feet there, you have my acquired empathy. It is a b!tch of a place to work. I started on my knees outside the car and my hands grasping and my voice grunting. I was praying to the car, beseeching it to please just work so that I would not have to work and suffer so. I also tried laying across the two front seats. If anyone saw my feet dangling out the side they might have thought I was having a very slow epileptic fit. The armrest between the seats dug into my side and my back. At one point my body was laying backwards on the reclined seat, feet shooting into the backseat so that I could get a good view of the panel.

With a struggle, and some trust in the mechanic’s words and my friend’s tools, the job got done. A few things are left unanswered mind you. Here’s an example:

My parts car and my working car are the same make and model. They have the same engine. One is four-door, the other is two-door. The screws used to fix the fan mechanism in place are 1/4 in one but 7/32 in the other.

While changing from one size to the other I couldn’t help but wonder what possible use it would be to change the screw size. It got me thinking of the some of the unintelligent things involved in design and industry.

After suffering through the work it dawned on my why my mechanic might have been so sure it would be a good little job that I could just as easily do on my own. All respect to the guy, I trust him completely, but I’m going to call him on it the next time I see him. You see, he was probably doing himself a favour as much as helping me out. The job was a little thing, but the effort to get the job done probably wasn’t worth his time, right? He’s got better things to do than lie upside down inside my car.

He got me.

But, it was worth my time. I’m a little less ignorant about my car. And I appreciate my mechanic and my friend a little more.

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