29 März 2007

Equal Opportunity Comeback on the ATM Instructions

My dorkdom notwithstanding, I have, on more than one occasion, successfully changed the oil in my car all by myself. Back when I was in the U.S. Navy Reserve, I availed myself of the opportunity to use the on-base shop facility at North Island. Sailors, most of whom are confirmed gear-sluts, generally own lots of tools and related supplies. Anyone who wants to work on his (yes, his) car simply brings them along, and for a small, almost token fee one can rent the disposal equipment, any additional tools needed, and a lift. Each time I saved about fifteen bucks--provided that you don't count the cost in additional time it took (including travel about three hours--about $20 even at minimum wage), and the extra gasoline I burned up to make the extra 40-mile round-trip to the base (about $3 then, probably $5 today). My oil-changing experiences were uneventful and decidedly un-Zenlike; certainly I didn't trigger anything like the disaster described in the following. Nonetheless, the point is well taken: guys, unless you really are a mechanic, give it up.

1. Go to Pep Boys or Kragen Auto Parts and spend about $75 to cover several quarts of oil, tools to replace the ones you've inevitably lost, a new filter, oil-filter wrench, oil lift (a.k.a. "kitty litter"), a quart or so of orange-scented pumice-laden hand cleaner, fresh shop rags and scented dangling pine-tree shaped air freshener. ("Find one in every car. You'll see.")
2. Discover that the used oil container is full. Instead of taking back to Pep Boys, etc., to recycle, illegally dump into hastily dug hole in backyard, preferably near a water table somewhere.
3. Open a Budweiser and drink it in one chug.
4. Jack car up. Spend 30 minutes looking for jack stands.
5. Find jack stands under your kid's pedal car.
6. In frustration, open a Meisterbrau and drink it.
7. Place drain pan under engine.
8. Root around for 9/16 box-end wrench.
9. Give up and use ill-fitting crescent wrench.
10. Unscrew drain plug.
11. Drop drain plug into pan of hot oil; in the process, splash hot oil all over yourself.
12. Clean up.
13. Have another Meisterbrau while oil is draining.
14. Look around for oil filter wrench.
15. Give up; poke oil filter with Phillips-head screwdriver and twist it off.
16. Colt 45.
17. Buddy shows up; finish six-packs with him. Decide to finish oil change tomorrow.
18. Next day, drag pan full of old oil out from underneath car; dump in yard.
19. Throw oil lift (a.k.a. "kitty litter") onto oil that you spilled during step 18.
20. Coors? No, drank it all yesterday.
21. Walk to 7-11; buy Bud Ice.
22. Install new oil filter, making sure to apply thin coat of clean oil to gasket first.
23. Dump first quart of fresh oil into engine.
24. Remember drain plug from step 11.
25. Hurry to find drain plug in drain pan.
26. Hurry to replace drain plug before the whole quart of fresh oil drains onto floor.
27. Slip with wrench and bang knuckles on frame.
28. Bang head on floor board in reaction.
29. Begin cussing fit.
30. Throw wrench.
31. Cuss for additional 10 minutes because wrench hit poster of Miss December 1992.
32. Clean up; apply bandage (or tourniquet) to knuckle.
33. Meisterbrau.
34. Utica Club.
35. Dump in additional 4 quarts of oil.
36. Budweiser.
37. Lower car from jack stands.
38. Accidentally crush one of the jack stands.
39. Move car back to apply more oil lift (a.k.a. "kitty litter") to fresh oil spilled during step 23.
40. Drive car. Total time expended: approximately 6 hours (over two days).


1. Pull up to Jiffy Lube when the mileage reaches 3000 since the last oil change.
2. Drink a cup of coffee, check makeup and flip through Elle.
3. Fifteen minutes later, pay about $40 and leave with a cleaned, vacuumed and properly maintained vehicle.