Some people are neurotic about having a pristine house. Others are terrified of germs to the point they flip out if someone dares touch their beloved Swedish Fish. Many a mom stress over their child’s party being the talk of all the preschool. Who hasn’t tossed and turned at night not being able to sleep thinking they may have forgotten to turn off the kitchen lights? Checking twice to make sure all the doors are locked, being nervous you smell bad after working out, or not being able to wash your ‘lucky’ boxers because every time you wear them your team always wins.
We all have our tics that make us unique. Everyone is neurotic in his or her own way. For me, it is the fact that I have been unable to enjoy driving in my own car for the past 7 years. The reason for my hatred of being behind the wheel: the slightest bit of noise coming from the car sends me over the edge. My mind starts racing over how each clink, clack and ping means my ride is on its’ last leg and is doomed to explode at any moment.
This all stems back from the glory that was the “Holy Roller” – the name for my car in college, a Toyota Tercel. On a cold February night, the engine blew as I was coming home from bowling with friends. The dilemma facing me was what to do with the car? Should I send the Roller to the Parking Lot in the Sky or resurrect it with a rebuilt engine. Knowing of my tendency to be neurotic about pretty much everything, Jenn encouraged me to read the car its’ last rights. But, since I am also a sentimental sap, I bought a new ‘used’ engine and paid some of my dad’s friend in beer to do the labor.
Alas, Jenn was right. The Holy Roller was never the same even with the new ‘old’ engine. It burned oil constantly, shock uncontrollably at random times and would always putter up hills. The noises slowly made me crazy. They would go off constantly, or at least in my head, as Jenn said I was just hearing things. As soon as we’d stop, I’d pop the hood of the car and stare inside trying to figure out the source of my frustration. It was a pointless ritual because I knew nothing about cars. Up until the Roller got sick, my vast array of car knowledge meant I could fill up my windshield wiper fluid and that was it.
If you add my cluelessness about cars to my level of neuroticism meant I was a car mechanics best friend. Whenever a car issue arose I would take it to the shop where the grease monkeys would tinker with it and make the noise stop for a day or two. Anytime friends would begin talking cars I’d have to go tinkle or the kids would begin to act up. I brought nothing to the discussion and did not want my buddies to find out my horrible secret of not being a hot rod. So, when I embarked on this task of becoming manlier, I thought one of the most fitting testosterone tests would be taking a step to becoming a gear head. Okay, maybe not a gear head, but at least a schlep that can change his own oil.
Waking up early I head over to my friend Chad’s house who will teach me the ways of the oil change. The funny thing about this is that Chad is the epitome of the metrosexual man. After rolling the car up on blocks we get to down to work. The first surprise comes when we open the hood and find some parting gifts a certain superstore’s automotive place left the last time I brought our car in to get serviced: a screwdriver and old windshield wiper blades. Note to self: never again sell your soul to the devil just to save a few extra bucks on auto repairs. Here are a few nuggets of insight I gleamed from this experience:
1. No wonder the Big3 are in trouble. It boggles my mind that car manufactures don’t realize the oil filter should be easily assessable in every economy (okay cheap) car like my ‘in town’ car, the Ford Focus. People rolling in Hummers and Beamers have the cash flow to pay a mechanic. I, on the other hand, shake out my couch cushions hoping loose change will fly out so I can order a cheeseburger off the Dollar Menu at McD’s.
2. A different breed of folk frequent Auto Zone. Walking around and glancing at the accessories, I noticed their affinity for Betty Bop, airbrushed art and Hello Kitty.
3. When it comes to my muscles I am more Olive Oil than Popeye. Reinforcements were called in when my chicken arms couldn’t muster the strength to get the nut off the oil drain plug. Ditto on the oil filter as well.
4. Looks like I passed this test as the Focus made it back to the house all in one piece. Wait a second…what was that noise?