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

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Taking care of business from a million miles away

A week ago, I was sitting down to dinner in the midst of more than 300 of the most amazing and funny women I had ever met.

But my head wasn’t really with them. It was at home.

For four days in April, every other year, more than 350 women and a few men gather together at the University of Dayton for the Erma Bombeck Writers’ Workshop. And for more than six years, it was a dream to attend. This time around, I decided to go.

It was a huge sacrifice for everyone involved. I wouldn’t be there for my son’s last concert. The boys would have to get up and take the bus instead of having me drive them to school. Someone would have to cook dinner. There would be no one to remind people to take out the dishes, clean the bathroom, close the refrigerator door and empty out the cat litter box.

I imagined that they probably wouldn’t even notice that I wasn’t there until it was time for dinner to magically appear on the table.

I couldn’t have been more worried or more overjoyed.

Four days with complete control of the television remote, no dishes or laundry, a bed all to myself and no bickering over who got to listen to the iPod. I could go to the bathroom without some form of human or animal coming into the room. I could sit down to dinner without having to pop back up every time my butt hit the chair to get something for someone.

And as I live in South Carolina, it is only a 1,784,329 mile drive which takes roughly nine hours with the occasional pit stops… eight and a half if you wear those astronaut diapers. So, the plan was to leave on Wednesday afternoon and cover half the trip, then drive the rest of the way the next day. After four days of enlightenment, I would leisurely drive home, reveling in the experience and letting the knowledge and tutelage I had received absorb into my brain.

It didn’t take long after I left for my head to return home.

On Wednesday, things were fine. My son had had the courtesy of waiting until the night before to tell me that he had given his good suit pants away to Goodwill and had nothing to wear to his concert, so my husband was spared the last minute trip to KMart – one which I dutifully made at 8 p.m. instead of packing. On Wednesday night though I drove through the darkness and talked to them and my mother on the phone periodically, so I didn’t feel quite so alone.

The boys had refused to let me load all of my favorite songs on to a CD (“Mom, that is SO old school”) and had instead loaded them onto the iPod, which served the dual purpose of entertaining me, and preventing my husband from killing them for arguing over it for one more time. I cranked the tunes, sang at the top of my lungs through Tennessee and Kentucky and arrived Thursday afternoon, safe if not exhausted.

I got to the hotel just in time for the phone report on how the dinner preparations were going. I called later to find that the concert had been good, even if the drive in Dad’s Jeep had been a little cold. I imagined them getting pneumonia from riding with the top down, but I was assured all was well.

It wasn’t until Friday that I began to worry. While I was saying “Yes, I think I will have another glass of wine” to the waitress, the first call came in.

“Honey, where’s the duct tape?”

This is never a good thing.

No amount of distance can overcome the fear of what could possibly need to be fixed with duct tape.

According to my husband, everyone was in their rooms, innocently watching television, when they all heard the sound of glass breaking.

“I went into our bedroom, and there was a hole the size of a softball in the window.”

The duct tape was to hold the glass together until he had a chance to replace it. And he will. But still. The window was broken. I was in Dayton. He couldn’t find the duct tape.

They needed me.

We decided that it was probably a bird that overshot the roses that grow outside of our bedroom windows. With no evidence of a rock or baseball or brick, it was the most logical conclusion. The duct tape was found, the hole was covered and all was well with the world again.

The next day, my son called during lunch to ask me if I knew where any of his high school teachers lived.

This in and of itself is not the oddest question he may have ever asked me, but rightfully so, probably one of the more worrisome. It was all innocent, he protested. According to him, a restricted drivers license needs the signature of a person who works at his school.

“Honey, you don’t have a restricted license.”

No, but his friend was getting one, and they figured if they could get one of their teachers to sign the paperwork, they’d be able to take a quick trip to the DMV, get the license and go for a ride.

Clearly, they had never actually been to the DMV if they felt accomplish something through a “quick trip” there.

“As this is the weekend and the first day of Spring Break, I am pretty sure that showing up on the porch of one of your teachers would not endear them to you or resolve your issue,” I said.

Begrudgingly, he relented, although I’m pretty sure they resorted to the next best thing to Mom – Google. If only Google knew where their new shoes were.

Later that night, another call let me know that things weren’t going well. It was 7 o’clock and Dad was just starting the burgers on the grill. A warning to the boys that they needed to close their windows since they didn’t have screens in had been ignored and two other birds, apparently looking for revenge for their fallen brethren, flew into the house through my older son’s window while their Dad was at work. My son, his brother and his friend chased the two birds around the house in an attempt to catch them and get rid of them, and finally caught one of them with an old T-shirt.

As a mom, several things went through my head at this news:

A) did no one open the doors?

B) where were our four cats during this? and

C) what happened to the other bird?

All of this was relayed by phone. Naturally, I thought about running home and taking care of everything.

My husband said to stay.

“I’ve got this. We can survive without you. I’ve got everything under control.”

So, maybe they didn’t need me.

I went back to talking to my new friends, trading stories of motherhood and drinking more wine. While my head was there and I was enjoying my time, my heart was with my family.

The next day, I drove home quickly. I stopped, as I had planned, at an art museum to be free and artsy once again, but there was no one there to share it with, no one there to talk about it with, no one there to say “Mom, can we go now?”

I should have been happy to have had the time to myself, but all I could think about was getting home.

I drove straight through to get home before everyone went to bed. My arm and shoulder hurt from leaning on them in the car and my legs were cramping from the driving. But I made it home – to hugs and stories and kisses and a plate of dinner.

Instead of a mess of a house, I found a mopped kitchen, laundry thumping away in the dryer and a sink conspicuously clear of dishes.

They wanted me to be happy when I came home. And I was.

They may not have needed me, but they missed me, even through tribulations and an apparent bird invasion. And even though I wasn’t there to handle it for them, they managed… not because I had trained them, or they had learned from me, but because they were smart, capable men who could do for themselves.

I’ll remember that next time I don’t want to do dishes.

© Liz Carey 2014