There’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.
When 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.
The 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.
Auto 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.
Me: 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.
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.”
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.
And 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