Daddy, please don’t!

November 8, 2007
My dad may seem like your typical three piece suit kind of guy in the morning, sitting on the train, going to work. But he’s really not. Now, his job may not be an adrenaline rush to hear about. Honestly, sometimes, he can put me to sleep. Even though I find it incredibly boring, he doesn’t and he’s really good at what he does. My dad works on this project trying to find a way to store all the government’s leftover mercury. You could ask him anything there is to know about mercury and he could answer it, even in his sleep! He almost knows this much about cars too. The only difference is I would trust my dad with a large amount of toxic mercury; but not within one hundred feet of my car, especially holding a wrench.
I’m not trying to say my dad is mechanically challenged; he can tell you a ton of stuff about cars. He talks to my uncle who is a mechanic for hours about cars. He also watches Horsepower TV on Spike all Sunday, changes the oil and all that other maintenance stuff on the lawn mower, and even has a car of his very own. However, for some reason, my dad thinks that because of his knowledge, he can fix just about every problem I have with my car, but, that’s easier said than done.
I came home one afternoon and told him that there was a funny noise in the front end of the car that I thought he should know about it. I figured that he would get on the phone with my mechanic and schedule a time when I could bring it in and have him fix the annoying rattle. So while Dad went out to get the mechanic’s number, I got ready for work. When I came out to leave, my car looked awfully lopsided. Great, I thought, I’m running late for work and now I have a flat. So I walked over to the passenger’s side of my car and realized WAIT! That’s not a flat, that’s my dad, with the car up on a jack.
I asked him, “Daddy, why are you under my car?” He told me that since my car was old, the bearings in the front steering column were wearing and all sorts of other “man talk.”
I told him, “Daddy, I need to get to work,” and he informed me that I would not be driving the car until he figured out what was wrong with it and fixed it.
Well now I was really frustrated.
I sarcastically mumbled, “Daddy I know what’s wrong with this car.”
“Oh really?” he asked.
I replied “YES, I’m late for work and you have it up on a jack in the middle of the driveway!” He told me to calm down and let him finish.
So I did what any teenage girl would do. I ran in the house and said “Mom, Dad’s being dumb again! He’s got my car jacked up and he won’t put it down and now I’m going to be late for work and, OHMYGOODNESS, my boss is going to fire me!” and with that I burst into uncontrollable sobs.
Mom assured me that she would go and tell him why he needed to take my car down. I stayed upstairs and stomped around and waited for mom to give me the go ahead. A few minutes later my dad slammed the front door and sat back down to watch Spike TV. I went on my merry way to work (15 minutes late by the way) thinking it was the last time my dad would mess with my car again. Boy was I wrong.

My car isn’t exactly the newest model out there. Ok I admit, my car is about as old as I am, and it looks even older. However, I love my old piece of beat-up metal. Except for those not-so-rare occasions when something in it goes wrong. My latest problem with it was my squeaky power-steering belt. Every time I started my car and drove off that belt would squeal loud and obnoxious enough to wake up my neighbors as I drove off to work at 4:30A.M. (Needless to say they didn’t appreciate it). Unfortunately for me, my squeaky belt also woke my father up every morning. Which means that he knew something was wrong with my car. (I would type exactly what I thought when he confronted me about the belt but, my computer would probably burst into flames.)
I figured that a worn or loose belt would probably be the kind of problem that my dad would know he had to take into the shop. But wait. This is Mr.-Fix-it we’re talking about here. First, my dad opened my car manual ,which he keeps with him for a bit of light reading, to read about every belt that I have in my car, where it is, what it does, what its made of and a small biography about the man who invented the part. Then he called my Uncle Charlie to ask him what he thinks the squeak could be and how HE should fix it. While my dad sat there talking to Uncle Charlie I sat and prayed, please have Uncle Charlie tell him to take it in, please! But did my prayer come true? Of course not, this is my luck we’re talking about.
Uncle Charlie told him “Oh it’s simply a bolt that needs to be tighter to raise the tensions in the belt.” And then he explained to my dad exactly how to fix it. Daddy sat, took notes, thanked Uncle Charlie, and then hung up the phone and went to watch more car shows on TV. Did I get away with it? Is he not going to go fix it? YES! I was excited.

A few hours later, midnight I believe, dad called me down and hands me a flashlight. “What’s this for?” I ask. “We’re going to fix the belt in your car,” my dad replies. My jaw put a crater in the floor. He is taking me outside, in the pitch black, to fix something in my car. We were outside for about a half an hour while he sized the wrench, tightened the belt, loosened it again, tightened it again and then had me run the car to see if it made any noise. Amazingly, it didn’t. The problem was fixed. Wait, the problem was fixed? You must be crazy. This is my dad we’re talking about. The next day, as I was driving down RT. 17 the belt started squeaking little by little and then all of a sudden my entire steering column started to shake, and I don’t mean little shakes I mean split-California-from-the-rest-of-the-continental-United-States shaking. Gosh darn it! Dear old dad just made it worse. When I came home that afternoon I told him that the problem was back and this time, it was worse.
“Ok sweetie, we’ll get it fixed,” was his response. Thank goodness! I thought we were finally taking the car to the mechanic. And I went upstairs to get my sister ready for ballet class. When I came downstairs, I found my parents outside with the hood of my car opened and my dad was telling my mom exactly which parts he wanted her to take a picture of.
“I’m sending these pictures to Uncle Charlie to have him tell me what I did wrong,” my father informed me.
“So you can take it to the shop?” I asked.
“No, so I know what I need to fix.”

Ten minutes later, Daddy and Uncle Charlie were on the phone again. This time, Uncle Charlie was telling him what to fix, while he was fixing it. He went to the bolt that he was originally playing around with and started tightening it. He pulled it tight, tighter, tighter and tighter still. I went back inside to help my sister light the stove for her macaroni and cheese.
As I walked in my mom yelled to me, “Don’t forget to wash those dishes I told you to take care of HOURS ago!” I rolled my eyes and did as I was told.
When I came back outside my dad said, “Well, you won’t be driving this for a while”.
I asked “Is it because I didn’t do those stupid dishes?”
“No,” he says, “I broke the bolt”, (HE DID WHAT?!?) “I broke the bolt that holds the belt onto the power steering unit. I don’t know if you have any steering at all right now. But hopefully, I can jerry-rig it so I can drive it over to the mechanic.”
My mom looked at him and said “Don’t you think that maybe, just maybe we should call a tow truck?” All he did was look at her funny and walk into the shed looking for some makeshift way to put my car back together.

What’s the moral of the story? NEVER let your desk-job dad near your car with tools. Don’t think to yourself, “Well my dads special, he can do anything!” Trust me, I did, and sometimes it’s just best to leave it to the mechanic. However, if your car needs its tires pumped, I have to admit, my dad is pretty good at that.
In case you were wondering whatever happened to my car, my dad got over his “why pay the mechanic $60 an hour to fix something I can do” phase and we took it into the shop and got it fixed after dads last attempt. It didn’t cost as much as he expected it to but at the bottom of the receipt the mechanic had added a note. “Why is there a bolt from Home Depot holding this unit together?”

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