Car repair for girls

Woman-Broken-Car-1969081There’s nothing more frustrating than being a girl and trying to fix your car.

This past month, my 2007 Jeep Commander had a bumper that needed to be fixed… and by fixed I mean, reattached to the rest of the car with anything that does not resemble Duct Tape.

In complete girl logic, I just assumed that if I put off fixing it, it would stay the same until I got around to it.

Wrong! What happens to you, when you’re a girl trying to keep things together with fingernail polish and bobby pins, is that men look at you and laugh.

If you don’t take the time to put in that rear wheel well (which actually fell off last year during a traumatic tire explosion on the way home from the beach with a car full of teenagers), what happens is that bumper/fender assembly pulls away from the rest of the car and decides to flap dangerously in the wind, like a really stiff champagne-colored shirt in a 40-mile an hour gale ready to come undone and blow onto someone else’s car at any second.

And when that happens, many men would rather do it for you instead of watching you do it on your own.

This, of course, is what happened to me when I was driving back from Greenville and was traveling in excess of 60 miles per hour. That bumper looked like it was going to break off like a piece of the Apollo 13 space craft.

Houston, we have a problem.

duct tape carWhen I looked into my rearview mirror and saw what was going on, I stopped at an auto parts store for help.

That’s where I met Mr. Johnson, whose initial solution was to take some Gorilla tape and attach the bumper to the rest of the car.

(Okay, not to be too picky, but let’s review here – champagne SUV, black gorilla tape, wildly swinging back bumper… can you say redneck?).

After several minutes of back and forth between a plastic parts aisle and my car, Mr. Johnson determined they didn’t have the part I needed and that I should go to Low Ray’s, an auto parts store down the street, to ask for the right rivets.

I asked him what part I should ask for. He just looked at me and said, “Don’t worry, honey, if you tell them where it needs to go, they’ll know what it is.”

So I went to Low Ray’s two days later and found, much to my surprise, that the auto parts of was filled with enough toy pedal cars and hobby horse airplanes to start a toy museum, which, you know, seemed odd to me as it was an auto parts place.

But that’s where Mr. Johnson said to go, right? As I walked in, I saw a fence behind all the toys and asked if they had the part I was looking for. I told them Mr. Johnson sent me.

car parts storeThe guy I was talking to abruptly disappeared into this auto parts cave for a few minutes. He never really looked at the car, never asked what I actually needed outside of my vague “I need the things that hold my rear bumper on to my car.”

Believe it or not, they didn’t have my part. He recommended the Internet.

So, I went home and got online. For more than an hour I searched for the parts I needed. I even chatted for help.

HC-chat-rep-620x344Auto parts website chatbot: Hello, my name is Brett. What can I help you with?

Me: (not answering because being on chat hold for 18 minutes tends to make me diddle around on Facebook)

Auto parts website chatbot: Hello? Is there anyone there? I haven’t heard from you in a while.

Me: Yes, I’m here. I was on hold for so long I went to another website.

Auto parts website chatbot: Great! We’re glad you’re back. My name is Brett. What can I help you with.

Me: Hi, Brett. I’m looking for a part for my 2007 Jeep Commander. I need the things that hold the bumper into the frame and the wheel well into the body of the car. Do you have a those?

Brett: Great. Let me check on that for you. Do you have the part number?

Me: No. I looked on your website, but I couldn’t find anything that looked anything like the little plastic doohickies I need.

Brett: That’s okay, I can look them up for you. While we’re waiting, Liz, would you like for me to sign you up for our email list?

Me: Well, honestly, Brett, since I was on chatbot death hold for 18 minutes, I’d really just like to get the part I was looking for.

Brett: I understand. To speed up the process, why don’t I just use the email address you entered when we started this chat, Liz?

Me: Brett, why don’t you just look up the part for me so I can order it and \ will no longer be driving around with duct tape holding my car together?

Brett: I can do that. Do you know what the part is called?

Me: If I knew what it was called, I probably wouldn’t have watched “All of our representatives are currently helping other customers. Someone will be with you shortly” repeat on my screen for nearly 20 minutes.

Brett: Okay, let’s see. We have the rear passenger-side bumper assembly package here for just $137.11. Can I place that order for you, Liz?

Me: Brett, I have the bumper. I just don’t have what I need to attach the bumper to the car. Don’t you just have those little thingamabobs that you stick up into the car to hold it on to the metal part?

Brett: That’s what the rear bumper assembly will do.

Mfrustrated on computere: That’s crazy. Why do I need to buy the whole kit, when all I need is those little spindly thingies? Whatever. Will it fit my 2007 Jeep Commander?

Brett: Uhm, no. We don’t really carry a lot of parts for the Commander.

Me: Seriously? Couldn’t you have just told me that to begin with?

Brett suggested I go to a dealer.

Which, of course, I did.

I dressed up in my best “Yes, I’m a girl but I can use a screwdriver” look and hoped they would take pity on me and help me find the right parts for my car for less than $50.

They didn’t.

In fact, they nearly smirked when I drove the car to the dealership and they showed me the drawing of what it was supposed to look like and how difficult it would be to install.

But I would not be daunted. I ordered the parts, picked them up a day later and took them to a friend’s garage to work on the car. My friend said “You know, I can do this for you, so you don’t have to lay down on the ground and get dirty.”

Sigh.

I’m not that kind of a girl.

When we figured out the parts guys hadn’t given me the right rivets, it wasn’t until I went back and dropped my friend’s name that the parts guys took me seriously. When they came back with the wrong part three times in as many days, it wasn’t until I started to cry in frustration that they found the right part. When I asked them how much it would cost to fix a shorting fuse in the lift gate, it wasn’t until I told them I had already done my research that they came down from their $600 estimate to a $200 part.

mechanic girl_car repairAnd it wasn’t until the female parts assistant came in to help me that I got treated like an actual person without being talked down to. She was the one who told me I needed a rivet gun and she was the one who helped me get the right pieces to use.

And after that, I did it. I fixed the bumper. I reattached the wheel well. I put the flair back on. I learned how to use a rivet gun. I laid down in the dirt and didn’t even get upset when mud and oil from under the car fell into my face and hair.

I didn’t cry when I broke a nail.

Sure, I didn’t do it ALL by myself – I had help from my husband and my friend, who showed me what to do and how things went together. But I did the work.

And for that, you gotta give a girl credit. Even if I don’t know all the parts’ names, or how to use all the tools, I can still do it.

I am not helpless.

I’m just a girl who likes fixing her own car.

That, gentlemen, is nothing to laugh at.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015

A mother’s curse

When I was 12 years old, my mother cursed me.

And I don’t mean she yelled profanities at me, I mean, she put a curse on me through my future progeny.

I remember the day clearly. I was home watching ZOOM! in the living room.

Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34

Write ZOOM!, Z double O M, Box 350, Boston, Mass 0-2-1-34

Remember ZOOM on PBS? It was an after-school show where kids did all sorts of fun stuff sent in by other kids. It was one of my favorite shows and identified me early on a dork of enormous proportions.

On this particular episode, they were capturing spider webs. In this scenario, clearly not intended for children without adult supervision, you took a piece of construction paper and placed it behind a spider web. From there you softly sprayed spray paint onto the web. What wasn’t web would show up on the construction paper as paint, leaving behind the design of the web in negative. Easy enough, right?

My sister was at work.

My mom was at work.

I was home alone, hoping to find something interesting to do.

“Well,” my little pre-teen brain said. “This looks like fun.”

pedal carSo, I went into the garage and got the only can of spray paint I could find. It was bright red. Fire engine red, in fact. I know it was fire engine red, because it was the same spray paint I used to paint the antique powder puff blue convertible pedal car my Dad had gotten me… I don’t recall mom or dad being too happy about my actions that time either.

Anyway, spray paint in hand, I went looking for construction paper.

One would think that the house of a kindergarten teacher, my mom, would be filled with construction paper in many different colors, but I couldn’t find any.

Granted, I was 12, so without it being in the open, on top of a stack of anything other than laundry and with a six-foot-tall neon sign saying “THIS IS THE CONSTRUCTION PAPER YOU’RE LOOKING FOR!” pointing to it, I wasn’t likely to find it even if I tripped over it.

After more than six whole minutes of dedicated searching my pre-adolescent brain decided I didn’t need it. In fact, it came to the conclusion that in this activity, construction paper was like coconut in a cake, completely optional and most likely not at all necessary.

Armed with a spray paint can and an eagle eye for anything arachnid, I ran outside and searched the yard for spider webs to create art.

I didn’t see any webs on the grass and I didn’t find too many in the bushes and I didn’t notice any at all in the trees.

I did however find a number of them in the garage windows.

spraypaint11Let’s take a moment here to recap the ingredients in this particular activity – several spider webs, one can of red spray paint, one willful 12-year-old tom boy, several garage windows framed with white paint.

No matter how you mix it, it was a recipe for disaster.

When my mom came home, every window on her garage facing the street had little circles of red covering the corners of the window frame and onto the glass itself.

To say my mother was a more than just a little mad, would be like saying that Ghandi was on a low calorie diet for a while.

“Mary, what have you done?” she screamed.

As hard as it may be to believe, this wasn’t the first time I had heard those words.

“My windows, Lord Almighty, my garage windows!” she screamed. “What on earth possessed you to spray paint the garage windows??? What were you thinking?”

I looked at her incredulously.

momdaughter yell“They were they only ones with spider webs on them,” I replied matter of factly.

I’m pretty sure the fact that I didn’t say “duh!” is the reason I am still alive today.

Mom closed her eyes, grabbed her head in her hands and gathered together her wits. You could almost hear her counting to 10 in her head.

And then, it came.

“Mary Elizabeth Carey, I swear, one day I hope you have a child just like you,” she said.

There it was.

The curse.

The longest running curse in the history of womankind, bestowed at one time or another on every misbehaving kid on the planet by their mothers.

And it worked.

I have a child who is just like me.

When I was a kid, for a while I wanted to be an Olympic bicyclist, until the day I wiped out on gravel and ended up in the hospital with 22 stitches in my leg.

Boy jumping

Boy jumping

My youngest son, Max, was determined to be a super hero when he was five, and jumped off a slide to prove he could fly. When he landed successfully the first time, he decided to do it again to show his friend, and promptly fractured his foot on landing.

When I was a kid, I couldn’t find a brush one day, so I used one of those little pot holder loom thingies to comb my hair. The resulting rat’s nest of a tangle required an emergency visit to the stylist.

Max decided one day he didn’t like his bangs or his side burns, so he cut them himself, using a razor, leaving one inch stubble over his right ear and bangs slashed diagonally across his forehead. This also required an emergency trip to stylist and an entire summer growing out a crew cut.

When I was a kid, I wore my favorite red patent leather go-go boots until they were so tight that my second toe on both feet grew crooked because I wouldn’t let them go.

Max had one pair of pants that he would wear all the time. All. The. Time. until they could no longer be called “floods” or “highwaters,” as much as really long shorts which I had to steal from his room in order to throw them away.

When I was a kid, I would stay up late at night, reading Nancy Drew and Trixie Belden mysteries until my Dad came to tuck me in or I passed out asleep.

Max will sneak his way to reading Creepy Pasta and other things online on his Chromebook until the wee hours of the morning, or until I walk into his room at 1 in the morning and tell him it’s time to go to sleep.

I have a nasty habit of just walking off, away from the people I’m with, if I see something that interests me. When Max was little and we visited the zoo, as we often did, my husband, older son and I routinely took turns at “Max duty,” to make sure he didn’t walk away and end up figuring out a way to get into the giraffes cage or end up petting the Bengal tigers.

Now I understand what my Mom went through raising me.

I understand the sheer terror of wondering what your child is up to because the house suddenly goes quiet.

I understand the fear of not knowing whether or not you child will survive into adulthood even without the threat of you beating them to death.

I understand what kind of conflicted emotions she must have felt the day I accidentally sucked the gerbil into the vacuum cleaner trying to help out with the chores, or when I spilled India ink on her new carpet while drawing her a picture.

I’ve stood in her shoes.

It’s not exactly a true curse, and it’s not exactly a true blessing, but I think it’s a little of both.

581719_3662309190010_2038050352_nMothering any child had its heart-stopping moments. But having a child like me, helps me to see the world through my mom’s eyes for a while, and helps me to understand the world Max sees as well.

I hope that as Max grows into a man, that I can be like my mother was with me – patient (most of the time), willing to let me be me and understanding of her willful adventurous little girl.

Mom taught me a lot about letting your child be independent and responsible and capable of facing up to the consequences of their actions – especially if it involves stealing the family car for a joy ride at 14 and knocking over a basketball pole, something I pray Max never does.

And I hope I can be as firm as she was in her resolve to teach me how to be a better, calmer, more focused person. It’s a daily task, I’ve learned, that isn’t easy and forces you to look into your child’s hurt and confused eyes while you dole out punishment. She taught me how to do that, even if she never told me how hard it was.

How she did it alone, and without killing me, is beyond me.

Thanks to her, I think I turned out pretty good. And because of the things I learned from her, I think Max will turnout pretty good too. After all, he’s well into his teen years and he’s still alive, so… there’s hope.

It goes without my saying anything that one day Max will have a kid just like him.

And my mother and I will have given Max all the tools he needs by then to deal with the curse.

Hopefully, he will see it, as I do, as a blessing instead.

Copyright (c) Liz Carey 2015