I think I’m like a lot of women when I say that anything to do with cars freaks me out. I don’t mean driving cars, of course, or basic car ownership. But when it comes time to, say, fix something I turn into one big lump of helplessness. This embarrasses me. I feel that my feminist foremothers expect better of me. Heavens, I expect better of me. But I know so little about the inner workings of cars, and I feel incapable of ever learning. I, who feel confident enough knitting insanely complicated lace shawls, or getting to the bottom of any number of problems, am completely intimidated by the mass of mysterious thingies located underneath the hood of my car.
Moreover, I know that my ignorance leaves me wide open to be exploited by unscrupulous persons. I know this, because I know that they have. For example, the reason why my Hero Mechanic is now neither my Hero, nor my Mechanic is because, after being so good to me for so long, at a moment when I was feeling intensely vulnerable, he charged me way more than I could afford for fairly simple repairs that I was desperate to have done, and then didn’t even do them all that well. And I knew he was doing it, and there was nothing I could do about it.
All of this has built up into a sort of complex, so that when something goes wrong with my car, instead of taking care of it right away, I spend forever fretting and worrying and procrastinating until things get so bad that I am forced by utter desperation to Do Something About It.
Which brings me to the really, really cool thing I did this weekend. For quite some time I have known that one of my brake lights, and one of my headlights were burnt out. I didn’t like it, and it made me nervous and anxious while driving, but I knew that I didn’t know how to fix it myself, and I was sure that if I took it in to the shop, first the mechanics would probably think I was another stupid woman who doesn’t know anything about cars (which why I care what they think, I don’t know, though if they thought I was a competent car owner, perhaps they wouldn’t see me as such an easy mark), and second they would charge me exorbitantly for something that is probably stupidly easy to fix. So I didn’t take care of it and I didn’t take care of it, even as I beat myself up for not taking care of it.
And then I got desperate. This was occasioned by a very nice officer who pulled me over last Thursday, and informed me that my lights were out. He didn’t write me a ticket, which was very nice of him, but it underscored the fact that I really, really, really had to take care of this. But instead of, say, doing something, I just freaked out a little more inside. And this is where the cool stuff started. I was emoting about the situation to Pippi, and she said these magic words: “Oh, that’s not that hard to fix. You can totally do that yourself. I’ll help you.” And suddenly the situation changed from Big Scarey Thing I Am Powerless To Fix, to Totally Doable, and I’ll Help You. Just like that. It was amazing.
So Sunday after Mass I toddled on over to the auto parts store, and found the light bulb aisle, and looked up my car in the handy book that they keep right there just for that purpose. I got the kind of bulbs the book said were appropriate for my car, double checked to make sure that I needed the clear bulbs, and not the amber ones, paid for them, and brought them home. In the afternoon, I looked up some directions on changing brake lights and headlights, and then went out to my car. I opened the trunk, turned a couple of toggles, popped off a cover, and easier than screwing in a new light bulb in my house, I had replaced my burnt out brake light. It was amazing.
I had an idea that the headlights would be more difficult, mostly from dim memories of when Sparkboy replaced a bulb in my old car. So after I’d fixed my brake light, I headed over to Pippi’s. At first it looked like it might be a bit complicated, involving unscrewing the front cover of the light (except we were having difficulty finding the screws), and maybe undoing some brackets. And then I leaned over, looked at the back, and realized that we were going about this all wrong. All you really had to do was unscrew one socket, and the whole lightbulb pulled out of the back of the headlight. Then you unplugged the old light, plugged the new one back in, slid the lightbulb back into the headlight, and you were done. It took literally five seconds. Ridiculously easy.
And that is how this weekend, with a little help from a friend, I fixed my own car.
Wonders will never cease.
Also, Pippi is awesome.