Monday, May 01, 2006

What it feels like to be real.

For regular readers of this blog, you might remember that with Gina's help, I realized my headlight was out on my car. The light went out in the beginning of March. Replacing the light has been on my to-do list for nearly eight weeks now, but there was always something else going on, some dog to watch, some tequila to drink.

After a party where Gina and I got home at 4:30 in the morning Sunday, we woke up and went to the Farmer's Market. After the market, I asked Gina if she'd help me go to the auto parts store to get my car taken care of. I should note that by this point, not only was my right headlight out, but my left front turn signal was not working, nor were my daytime running lights.

As a lesbian and sort of a stubborn person in general, I like to think I don't need anyone's help for anything. Except killing bugs. But changing a simple lamp in an American made car, I was certain it would be easy. I've changed my rear turn signals on several occasions and without any incident. Little did I know, this was different.

Vastly different.

The gentleman in Pep Boys insisted it would be easy, that I would just have to pop the headlight out and replace the bulb. No big deal. I popped the hood, and Gina and I took a little look-see. The directions told us to use a flat head screwdriver to pop out the plastic shield running the width of the front of the car. We didn't have a flat head screwdriver, of course. So Gina forced it off, breaking all but two little plastic fasteners, despite the warning in the manual: Be careful not to break the plastic fasteners. This took us about 15 minutes to get the shield off.

We looked at the next step: using a 13 mm socket wrench, unscrew the bolts...

A socket wrench? To change a headlight? Sure enough, there were two very tightly screwed in bolts keeping us from getting to the meat of the headlight. Foolishly, we tested the strength of the bolts (and ourselves) by trying to unscrew them by hand. This less than 12 hours after Gina tried to open a NOT twist off beer bottle with her bare hands... it wasn't healthy for either one of us. But our hands were getting dirty, so we thought we were getting somewhere. We also collectively thought that if we just stared at the guts of my car, something would hit us, some divine moment of inspiration, a way to unscrew these bolts without any proper tools.

After about 15 minutes of unproductive staring, a young guy probably in his mid-20s came over to us. I knew what he was thinking. "Here are two girls, one of which is taller than me and maybe even stronger, obviously not knowing how to do what they need to do. If I assume they want my help, they might kick my ass. But it looks like the actually do need help, so how should I approach this?"

He came over to us and hesitantly said, "What are you trying to do?"

I said, "Replace a headlight..."

And Gina said, "...but we don't have the tools we need."

He asked us what we needed and when we told him, he nodded and went back to his truck. He was back within a few minutes with some tools, and then asked softly, "Um... do you want some help with this? I might be able to help out."

He then told us, "One time, a buddy of mine, a male friend, he came with me here to replace my windshield wipers. Well, we tried and tried but couldn't figure out how to do it. We tried everything we could think of. Finally, a woman came over and said, 'Uh, do you guys need some help?' And she came over and snapped on the wiper, and told us how it's done."

We let him loose under the hood of my car. This boy, who probably has tinkered with his car every weekend for the past 15 years, shoved his hands in every nook and cranny he could, trying to pop out the headlight. After about seven minutes with no luck, I couldn't help but notice he had cut his hand on my car, trying to force out the fucking light. After another five minutes or so, he finally got the thing out, replaced the bulb, and moved to the other side of the car to replace the turn signal. Another 15 minutes of molesting the headlight and it finally pops out, and the new bulb is plugged firmly into place. We thanked him and he left, and I drove away in a car with two working headlights, two working turn signals, and convenient and safe daytime running lights.

It's amazing how something as simple as replacing your headlight can make you feel like a real person, and also remind you of the importance of karma.

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