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Miss Betsy's auto mechanic analogy


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Ran out of cigarettes ... hit the door, found it to be not so bad outside, so grabbed the garage doo rkeys and fired up the motorcycle .. pulled into my cheapest-price-in-town gas/food place and parked. Sitting avross the lot was a guy working under the hood of his car, what I saw was a lighter in use up around where the battery would be .... so, as usual, I started over to see if there was anything I could do to help out.

Not wearing my leathers, but ... apparently just riding the bike in, hair blown around a bit, was enough to set the stage ... woman in the car locked the doors, held up her cell phone, I'm assuming to let me know that she was ready .... the guy started moving from in front of the car around to the far side .... tought about saying to hell with it, but .. I was almost there ...

Storyline went that the car died, wouldn't start ... the guy at an auto parts store gladly sold him an $80 U.S. battery, which the guy installed himself. Lo and behold, the car started, he drove away, made it all of about a half-to-3/4 of a mile, came up to a red light, started to slow down to stop, and the car died again .... wouldn't start .. he and the wife pushed it off the road, he walked back to the auto parts store, the guy gladly sold him a set of $30 U.S. battery cables, made just for that car.

Guy walked back to the car, started trying to replace the battery cables .. then realized that the only tools he had were a hammer and a standard screwdriver. Nothing usable to remove the big nuts that held the other ends of the cables. So he gave up on that ... however, it was while removing one of the cables from the battery that he noticed that a bunch of wires were fried/broken (fusible links, a cheaper 'fuse' for the manufacturer, more complicated and expensive for the consumer) .... now why he didn't notice these same wires when he swapped batteries, neither he nor I could quite guess at, but .... that's what he was trying to fix when I pulled in.

After hearing his past experience with the way the car would usually start OK, but other times, turn the key and nothing happened ... I looked down and saw the "Chrysler 3.0 liter" verbiage molded into the aluminum valve cover ... stopped him right there and told him that his problem was in fact the starter itself. Explained that there were four other family members that drove cars with the exact same engine, stating that in fact, Dad was on his fifth starter ....went on to point out that where he'd bought the battey and cables was the cheapest place in town for a replacement starter, but that they only stocked two, so were usually out of them .. another place on the other side of town was $10 more expensive, but they stocked 10 of them, so they almost always had one available. Both were 'lifetime guaranteed' so you only had to buy the first one .. but of course, none of this meant much as at the time, both places would be closed.

So, brought up that in the old days, one would be thinking of a stuck solenoid or worn-out brushes .. and the usual last-ditch effort to try to make it home was to whack the starter with a hammer. in hopes of jarring the solenoid or josteling the brushes a bit to make contact just one more time. But, I had to admit that I wasn't sure if that old trick would work on this 'new' stuff. Recall, he had a hammer ... so he went on a search to find the starter (absolutely cannot see it from above the engine) .. he found it, whacked it twice, crawled out from under the car, went around to the driver's door, reached in the window and turned the key. It fired right up. He and his wife both happy beyond belief .. I was amazed that the old 60's hammer-whack trick still worked on 2000+ style Chryslers <g>

Anyway, to run with Miss Betsy's analogy .... these folks went from the bit-of-panic mode when I started walking in their direction to asking if I had a business card or something ... he/they were knocked out that I actually troubleshot their car just by listening to their story, noting the engine involved, and offering up a trick that was good enough to get them home .....

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The only difference is that somebody else didn't come over to help! In these days of Interstates and being wary of strangers, maybe many people haven't had that experience.

Whenever I use that analogy, I think of the time my husband and I were driving home from Kansas. We went about 50 miles and our truck started making funny noises so we stopped at the dealership in Dodge City. There were two mechanics. In this case, it was the younger one who was sharper instead of the old, gruff one. The older, gruff one insisted that the truck was only good for parking in the yard and planting flowers. The younger one said, "well, that's probably so, but since you have several hundred miles to go, if you don't go over 45, you might make it." So, we went 45 mph and did make it. And, actually drove the truck for another 10 years (without fixing it) before I insisted that I needed another vehicle because the driver's door would fly open on curves.

And I learned to start cars by banging on the battery from someone who came to help me. And I know about solenoids. For three vehicles, it seemed to me that every time I drove my husband's, the solenoid died!

When there is a really clueless person in the forum, I think of the story when my husband was in a car pool. The car pool driver's car had a flat tire, but he obviously didn't know what to do. So my husband, who is like Wazoo and always offers help, found the jack and changed the tire. As my husband was tightening the lug nuts on the spare, the driver took the other tire and threw it into the bushes - he had no idea that a tire could be repaired!

My father insisted that everyone should know how to change a tire. So I know how to do that also. Being small and female, I never have had to actually do it because someone always offers to help, but I know how.

Even with Interstates, if people make it to the rest area, there is a chance of being able to help. We've done so twice in the past year. My husband always carries his Gerber tool!

And, Wazoo's experience reminds me of the time we went to the Maryland suburbs of DC at Christmas time. We had a trunk full of Christmas presents because we were going to visit several people. We were staying in an apartment complex with a friend who had been telling us the night before that they had had a rash of robberies and muggings ever since the Metro station had been opened. My husband had his head in the trunk rearranging the packages when a young black came across the parking lot. He had that 'walk' It was early in the morning and no one else was around. I considered warning my husband, but decided that I was just being too wary since thugs aren't usually up that early and nothing happened except an exchange of greetings. Later that day, there was someone who had a car problem in the parking lot and who was the person who was being helpful? The young man I had seen that morning! Our friend whom we were visiting identified him as living there and being a really good neighbor.

So I do like my automobile analogy about how people who aren't mechanics should know, in concept, how cars work and how people who come to help when things don't go right have different personalities - and sometimes, one's initial impression is completely wrong. People were always surprised to see me driving a pick up truck - "you don't look like a truck person" Even if people don't know how to run a server, they should know the concepts of how email works and common problems that go wrong. And, in the forum (or the ngs), there are all kinds of people who offer advice - some young, some old, some gruff and blunt, some opinionated (actually lots opinionated!), but all with the intent to be helpful. And, if they aren't or you don't like their advice or their appearance, unlike offline where you can't ignore a tire iron or a fist, you can just ignore them.

Thanks for the real life example, Wazoo!

Miss Betsy

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