When I Work Outside Of My Strengths

I shared this story a couple of weeks ago in a message that I spoke at GCC.  People liked it.  I hope you do as well…

oil.change.500

My wife and I had recently been married and we were living in Manchester.  I have always considered myself a bit of a handyman around the house – I could install a ceiling fan, fix a broken window, build a shelving unit – so I thought I would kick it up a notch and move on to auto mechanics.  Again, we were recently married and our finances were tight.  I thought that if I could change my own oil that I would be saving us a few bucks.  I know that I have mentioned this before but I think it bears repeating.  My father is an accountant, not a mechanic, not a tool guy, the only weapon he wields with pinpoint accuracy says Texas Instruments on the top of it.  So to jump right into the idea of changing my own oil was a bit scary for me.  I had never done it before, I had never had anyone show me how to do it, I was clueless – just being transparent here, guys, don’t kick me out of the man club or anything.

So I found myself at Auto Palace or Auto World or some sort of a store like that and I was faced with some choices that I felt ill prepared to make.  10W-30, 5W-30.  I didn’t know.  I found myself much like a 5 year old strolling the aisles of Mr. Wonka’s Candy Factory.  And that is when I saw it.  It was to me, like the Golden Ticket.  On one end-cap they had a display that said “DIY”.  Along with the many resources that I found at that magical display was a book on how to change your own oil.  I soon began pouring through the pages and discovering all that I would need.  I brought the book, open to a page with all sorts of pictures on it, to the service counter and said, “I need those.”

After allowing the guy behind the counter the appropriate time to wipe the smirk off of his face I then explained that I was clueless about what supplies I would need to change my oil.  He walked me thru the process and explained what tools were essential and told me where to go to get them.  I left the Palace of Auto a new man ready to take on the world of mechanics.  Soon I was under my car in our driveway with a face full of oil and no rag (the guy failed to mention that I would need one of those)  After taking the time to clean up I ventured back out to my driveway to find the oil that didn’t make it’s way onto my face running down the side of my driveway and into our flower garden.  I got that taken care of and then went on to finish with the oil change.

It felt like a breeze.  I took the old oil filter off and then placed the new one into the place where the old one came from.  I put the screw back in the underside of the engine where I had removed it from and then began to fill the motor back up with oil.  After getting 5 quarts of oil into the engine I was filled with a great sense of accomplishment.  I threw a bunch of oily rags into the trash and set out for a drive to bask in the glory of my oil changing abilities.

It was about mile 7 when the car started making a sound that can only be compared to that of the screams heard from a delivery room during labor.  It was a high pitched whining sound that was then followed a few minutes later by the sound of grinding metal that was only accented by the bucking and thrusting of the entire car.  At this point I figured I must have gotten the wrong kind of oil for my car because I had done everything just as the pictures in the book described.  In my anger at the condition of my car I drove slowly and noisily back to World of Bad Oil Changing Information and Supplies fully prepared to give the guy a good ear chewing.  As I entered the parking lot one of the mechanics came running out of the garage trying to wave me in.  He apparently heard me coming a few miles back and cleared a bay open for the necessary check-up.  He calmed me down and never gave me the chance to find the guy I had spoken with earlier that day.

I ended up leaving my car there that day and picked it up later when Kim got home from work.  As we were driving home, me in my car and Kim behind me in her car, I started smelling what I thought was the smell of smoke.  I passed it off as a mechanic that had been smoking in the garage while my car was being worked on, but then the car started bucking again.  At just about the same time as my rodeo ride began on the highway I also noticed that cars around me were giving me a wide berth and that Kim, in the car behind me, was now flashing her lights at me.  That’s when I heard the bang and saw the flames.

I can still remember quickly pulling over to the side of the highway and just walking away from my car.  I can remember getting into Kim’s car, looking at her and saying, “Just drive.”  I didn’t even want to deal with it anymore.  I don’t know what damage I had originally done while trying to save a buck but I knew that I just wanted it all to go away.

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