There is something so satisfying and empowering to me about standing under the raised hood of a car and gazing at the engine. It gives passers-by the idea that I might actually comprehend and have some problem solving knowledge of what lies below, sort of like George Bush standing in a pilots costume making his speech from the deck of an aircraft carrier. “It’s all under control folks.”
Hadn’t I added fluids all by myself only six months ago? I did it standing in the parking lot at Safeway gazing knowingly under the hood for all to see. I imagined them thinking, “Wow, she knows what’s going on with the engine, how impressive.” I smiled that smugly superior presidential smile and slammed the hood. “No problem folks, all under control.”
I was in a hurry this morning, my mind full of errands, my hands wrapped in red leather gloves. I balanced a basket on my arm filled to the brim like a purse as I grabbed coolant and headed to the car. I popped the hood, feeling kind of proud because last year I couldn’t figure out which lever that was. I’d asked my buddy Gib where to add it and he told me. “The radiator, Karen, coolant goes in the radiator. Just make sure the engine is cold first. You should see a plastic container to pour it in.”
Yep, there it was, the plastic container, just like he said. I flipped open the top. The liquid inside was orange and mine was green, but I allowed for that, thinking that coolant might come in a variety of shades, sort of like nail polish. I filled it to the top, snapped it closed and noticed for the first time, the bright blue windshield wiper symbol. My heart sank, but I still had coolant left so I tried the radiator cap. It wouldn’t budge, it was immovable. I spotted a lever on the side, pressed down hard and it broke in my hand. This was not going well. I closed the hood feeling sick, hoping I wouldn’t accidentally engage the wipers in my new found panic as I drove to town.
I stopped at the tire store. “Do you think someone here could get a big wrench and unscrew the windshield wiper fluid container under my hood, empty it out, and clean it up for me?” The woman looked in disbelief. “Ahhh, that’s not what we do here. Try Jiffy Lube.”
It was a slow day at Jiffy Lube, so all the guys were standing around looking for something to do. I repeated my story about needing a wrench and a good scrub, but the manager shook his head, “Nope. “ Every man in the place came over, starred at the windshield wiper container and asked the same question. “You did what?” From their disbelieving looks you’d think I had the Virgin Mary stashed under the hood. When a new guy wandered over and asked, “You did what?” I was ready to break. “I refuse to have this conversation one more time! Can you fix it?” The manager got out a big hose and sucked all the fluid out, then filled it with something blue, which was not the orange it started out to be or the green I added. I asked if blue was okay and he assured me it was.
Meanwhile the last guy decided to comfort me by explaining the virtues of Joy detergent, telling me how well it cut grease and how he never traveled without it in the cab of his truck. And I had no idea what he was talking about or why he felt the need to inform me about detergent at that moment, but I smiled because the green was almost gone and the blue had replaced it and I could be on my way again. The manager even washed my windshield by hand, telling me to have a nice day. “No charge.”