Tuesday, August 18, 2009

Changing the Headlight Bulbs . . .

There are those (men and women) who believe that the "mark" of a man is his ability to use his hands to build, demolish or refine things.

I'm not talking about some old, antiquated or cliche mentality . . . I'm talking about real people - in the year 2009 (LATE 2009 at that). I had a friend in my DC days that would not date a man with "prettier" hands than hers. I also have a DC friend that evaluates the cuticle beds of men as an indication of how good of care they take of themselves so clearly it goes both ways.

I'm not, for the record (and this will stun no one) a "manly man." To the contrary - I am wayyyy more comfortable looking at paint chips with wifey than looking at power tools with "the guys." (Disclaimer - I don't actually believe men ever make special trips to look at power tools together . . . that would just be odd.) I can honestly tell you I've probably never done a true, honest day of "work" in my entire life. I'm no proud of that fact but I'm not embarrassed either. It is, like so many things in my life, what it is.

I blame my parents (FINALLY something I can pin fully on them and walk away (smile)) for my disinterest in being more "manly." My father always jokes that "My name is Joseph but I'm no carpenter." (You see Joseph was the earthly father/guardian of Jesus and he was a carpenter by trade.) He didn't exactly set the standard for sweating for progress. I'm not kidding - my parents once hired someone to come and change the flood light bulbs on our garage . . . and we owned a ladder and had the bulbs. I guess maybe my father was not taught to be overly handy/crafty by his father (who likely resented having to earn his living as a laborer) so he didn't have the skills to pass on to us. It is odd though - Patrick is very, very handy (he's rebuilding a Jeep as we type and he's doing lots of work around the house and works in a very mechanical field) but I have NO skills in that regard.

I've tried. GOD KNOWS I've tried. I remember almost cutting my own leg off with a power saw when I first started dating Joy (it was clear that she was a strong and capable woman who was raised to be comfortable doing projects and getting dirty and I, the new boyfriend who was madly in love with a woman WAY out of his reach was not about to confess that I had never chopped down a tree before when she asked me to help her around the house). There was the other time that I cut my own hair with power clippers while trimming the shrubs. Who can forget the time Jess and I tried to paint my bathroom and just basically destroyed the walls in the process? Have I never shared my stories of hanging pictures - finally, after six or seven failed attempts and gaping holes in the wall? Have you heard the story about my crushed finger tips from trying to open a storm window?

I'm getting better tough - I am. THANKS to my father-in-law (and I really do NOT blame my father for my shortcomings, by the way . . . everything is my MOTHER'S fault (smile)) I am learning. I've had lots of great projects and successes under his tutelage. We've swapped out sinks and hung dry wall. We've replaced car batteries and wired electrical outlets. He makes me feel very capable and confident (and he lets me use the power tools when Joy is out of sight/earshot too).

If he's not around though - forget it - he's my Manly Work Safety Blanket, I suppose.

Enter the reason for this post . . . my headlight blew out on Sunday. This has happened before - it was actually the fourth time I've had to swap out a headlamp on my car (and the second time since my surgery) and I've replaced Joy's headlamps too, once each. Despite having figured out how to do it - and proving myself to be capable - I just don't really want to do it. I don't enjoy it. I don't feel "good" at it (it takes me like 10 minutes to do what should take 30 seconds).

I put off my dead headlight for 24 hours (I prayed for it to work before I went to bed Sunday night - thanks for nothing on that one, God) and figured I would just go take care of it. So - off to National Auto Supply Store #1 I went.

Yeah. Actual FEAR comes over me. You pull in and guys are swapping out their oil in the parking spot to the left and the guy on my right is doing something spark plug oriented . . . in the parking lot. I walk in and the employees have oil all over them (seriously) and the line of guys in front of me all seem to know exactly what they are there for and what they are doing. I squeak out that I need a headlamp for a 2003 Toyota Matrix and about stroke out when the guy asks if it is my standard or high bulb that needs fixin' (he said fixin', I swear). I decide it must be my regular one and I buy a bulb and head out. I can't get the old one out - try as I might. Five minutes. Ten minutes. NOTHING.

I finally get it out and go to put the new bulb in the holder and it won't fit. Just won't. I have the wrong bulb, I decide. I can't go back in there tough, I decide. No. I need to drive to National Auto Supply Store #2 instead. Start over. Just pretend this place never happened. As I'm getting ready to leave I see the employee that sold me the bulb coming out - can I help you, he offers. No, no. I'm good - I tell him. I feel four inches tall. I jump in my car and off I go - down the road.

At store #2 I try a different approach. I walk in the store holding my right hand perfectly still (I kid you not on this) and walk to the counter and ask, nodding towards my immobile hand, if someone can sell me a headlight bulb and replace it for me as my right had has suffered nerve damage and I "just can't do it all for myself anymore." I know, I know, I'm mortified with me too but it was now dark and I needed a lightbulb or I'd risk a ticket.

Sure, sir, says the greasy guy behind the corner (I swear he had oil/grease on his hands and face too). The 60 year old guy rambles out from behind the counter, he goes to the bulbs, pulls the right bulb (he never even asked me what I drove or looked it up in the computer "I saw ya' pull in - I know what yer drivin'," he tells me (again, he REALLY said "drivin'") and he goes out to my car - pops my hood - swaps out the bulb (45 seconds tops) and goes back inside - me following him to pay him.

I offer him $10 for his help (this is the sort of help I am in these situations - I throw money at my problems) and he politely declines. Kansas charm, I assume but he points out that "we men help each other out, I'm sure you'd do it for me if the tables were turned."

I didn't have the heart to tell him that my hand was fine or that I could not change his headlight bulb if I had to. I simply shook his left hand and smiled to show my appreciation and drove home - headlights burning brightly.

1 comment:

Enoch Ross said...

Changing your car’s light bulbs may be a bit out of hand if it’s your first time. I was lucky enough to observe my father do repairs on our cars and learn a thing or two. You were fortunate that the old man was there to help you because driving at night with a busted headlight might lead to accidents. I would suggest reading online tutorials, so that you are prepared should this happen again.

Enoch Ross