Friday, July 30, 2004

My Exciting Day

Having finished up my most pressing chores for the day (like the good girl I am), I suddenly realized at about 1:00 that I was starving. So I got in the ol' car, figuring I'd make a stop at the ATM for some cash, pick up something fast-foodish, bring it home, supplement it with that nice healthy salad I made earlier, and relax in front of a Northern Exposure DVD for a while before work. After all, I'd earned it. Right?

Yeah, needless to say, it didn't work out that way. I got as far as the bank, and then the damned car wouldn't start again. There wasn't even enough juice for the radio this time. Hell, there wasn't enough juice to light up the numbers on the clock. Eventually, some kind soul gave me a jump, which, somewhat to my surprise, actually worked, and I headed back to my mechanic, who, foolishly enough, had said "If you have any more problems with it, just bring it back in!" On the way over there, the battery light came on. Yeah. Not good.

The mechanics seemed pretty surprised. "But we checked everything out! We swear! It was good!" Hey, I believed 'em. I mean, if a mechanic's going to lie to you, he's much more likely to be telling you something's broken when it's not than vice versa, right? They said, well, maybe it was some kind of intermittent problem that just wasn't showing up before. They also said they were pretty busy, but that if they waited until they weren't, it'd probably be Monday, and they didn't want to leave me without a car that long, so if I hung around for a while, they'd take a look at it when they got a chance.

So I hung around for, oh, twenty or thirty minutes in a little room with some really crappy magazines for company. (You know, I used to never go anywhere, not even on a ten-minute run out to the bank, without a book on my person. Why the hell did I stop doing that?!) Anyway, the guy took a look at it and said, yup, sure enough, whatever the reason was, the battery was pretty much hosed. Bad news, though: they didn't have the right kind of replacement battery in stock. But he replaced the terminals and got the car started again for me so I could go somewhere and buy a battery. (By the way, they made no attempt to charge me for any of this, which is the other reason why I trust these guys. I like my mechanics.)

So, I drove the car home, went into the house without shutting it off, grabbed my toolbox -- which is pretty well-stocked and should have everything even an automotive ignoramus like me needs to change a battery, right? -- and took myself to the auto-parts store to buy a battery. The guy told me there'd be a four dollar "core charge" which I could have refunded if I brought in the old battery. "Hey, no problem!" I said. "I'm just gonna go and swap 'em out in the parking lot, and I should have the old one for you in a few minutes." He didn't bother charging me the four bucks.

So, out into the parking lot I went. Terminals came off the battery, no problem, and... the damned thing wouldn't come out. It was immediately obvious why: there was a bracket holding it in place. Perfectly sensible, of course, and easily dealt with. Right? Well, yeah, except for two important facts. Fact one: there isn't enough room under the hood of your average car to swing a field mouse. Fact two: I had three different sets of wrenches and sockets, and not one of 'em was designed to work in that small of a space. Worse still, they were all metric. I have an American car.

I spent the better part of half an hour trying to loosen that one damned bolt. In 97-degree heat. Not having eaten anything all day. By the end of which time, sweat was dripping into my eyes and onto the lenses of my glasses, I'd torn a good hunk of skin off my pinky finger, the damned bolt was no looser than when I'd started, and it was beginning to look like that battery was going to sit right there under my hood until the end of time.

Fortunately, at about the point where I felt ready to collapse from heat exhaustion, a kind stranger in possession of an (American!) socket set with a very long shaft happened by and dealt with the problem in about two minutes. At which point I discovered another interesting fact. The guy at the auto parts store had given me the wrong battery. I told him the battery number the mechanic had given me. I gave him the make, model and year of my car. I asked him twice if he was sure this was the correct battery for my car. And he gave me the wrong battery! The terminals were on the wrong sides. Now, I know reversing the polarity always works on Doctor Who, but, really, I don't think my car would have appreciated it.

Fortunately, he didn't give me a hassle about exchanging it, and the correct one cost exactly the same as the incorrect one. Mr. Kind Stranger helped me get it hooked up and, halle-frellin'-lujah, the car actually started!

Of course, I realized after we'd gotten it in there that we'd forgotten to put the plastic cover that went over the top of the battery back on, but I figured, screw it. That can't possibly be an essential part, and if it's important I can re-install it later. After all, it doesn't involve loosening that damned bracket.

Then I drove home, washed the sweat off, ate some food, drank a bunch of liquid, and actually managed to make it to work more or less on time.

And that was my exciting day. How was yours?

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