On Fixing Stuff
All right, I admit it. That little black car pulled over by the state policeman down on Route 7 near the softball field last night? That was me, coming home from the Nokomis boys’ basketball games (JV won, by the way). Why? Because I had a headlight out. When the trooper asked me if I knew it, I admitted it. It’s been out for a while now. I’ve been meaning to fix it, but…it’s been cold. It’s been snowing. I hate fixing stuff outside in the winter.
I’ve never done a headlight on this car. I’ve had cars where it was a simple procedure: pop the bulb out of the bracket on the back of the light, put a new one in, and voila! I’ve had cars where you had to replace the entire unit–what a drag. I had no idea what this one would be like, so while the policeman was back in his cruiser running all my ID to make sure I was not some hardened criminal on the lam, I held my owner’s manual up in the beams of his (working) headlights and read about how to do it. In years past, I would ask my grandfather to show me how to fix stuff, and he invariably knew; but he’s been dead for quite some time now, so I’ve learned to look up directions in books, or online. This did not seem too difficult.
Except, I found this afternoon, when I popped the hood and began work on it in the parking lot at the auto parts store in Newport, that there were two steps missing from the directions in the manual. Fortunately, this is a car where you can simply replace bulbs (halogen! Don’t touch the glass!); but between the bulb and the power source, there’s a bracket, a rubber cowling, and a secondary plug unit. The book said nothing about the last two. Nor did it say anything about the contortions one has to go through to get a hand in around the windshield washer filling tube and well and up to the back of the headlight assembly. Fortunately, I am a stubborn person who, after the initial frustration because this is just not right, tries something which seems a practical solution. If that doesn’t work, I stop and think for a bit, and then try something else. This was me this afternoon, and eventually, I got the plug out. I had to have the counter guy at the parts store show me how to get the secondary plug off the old bulb without breaking the thing. I got the cowling off. I got the bracket moved. I put the new bulb on the secondary, hung upside down over the front end of the car in the snow so I could manipulate the bracket around the new light. Cowling back on, plug back in. Ta-da! Light. Not so difficult at all, despite the poor directions, despite the snow, despite the cut on my hand from trying to fit it into a less-than-comfortable space. Even though it was still daylight, I drove home with the headlights on, hoping I’d run into my trooper friend again, so he could see how well I’d done. No go there, though.
But we all know the saying about pride going before a fall…I got home to a cold house, because sometime while I was away, either working on the car, or previous to that, making triangle toast at the breakfast at the snowmobile club, the furnace quit. Yes, that furnace, the one in the cellar of doom, with its dirt floor, low beams, and eons worth of dead spiders. So that’s how I spent the rest of my afternoon: checking the reset, bleeding the fuel line to make sure there were no air bubbles. I have my own little took kit for the furnace, and it stays down there next to the furnace itself–in this house, you learn lessons like that. I only suffered a tiny bit of frustration there–this furnace can be temperamental, with a 30-second reset, and a bleeder valve in a really awkward place; it likes to have its line bled and then to be left alone for a few minutes to consider before it will allow me to reset. However, after all these years, it and I have come to an understanding. I pamper it to the best of my ability, with regular fuel deliveries–one this week, as a matter of fact, from my neighbors the McKees who own 1st Choice Oil (they pamper it, too, and I reward them with regular payments). End of story: furnace up and running, house warming up.
Now it’s time to vacuum. Of course, my vacuum cleaner is a 23-year-old Electrolux that was much abused by my ex-husband (another story for another time), so more often than not, I have to fix that, too. Good thing I’m stubborn.
Every time I fix something, I miss my grandfather.