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There are all sorts of tasks that need to be done in our daily lives that can be pretty miserable. Tasks of this kind are bad enough in good weather. In winter they are nearly unbearable torment. Working on a car is one of them. If you are lucky enough to have a heated garage and all the tools you need it must not be quite as bad. If you do not it is torture.
My son and I had to work on our car recently and it was not fun. We managed to find a day to do it when it was not frigidly cold and nothing wet and nasty was falling on our heads, but the wind was bad enough to make it pretty cold and uncomfortable. The problem was weird. My car is pretty old but has been remarkably reliable over the years except for one repeating problem that is both baffling and annoying. The pump that brings the windshield wiper fluid up to the actual windshield has died 3 times and has had to be replaced. We have no idea why this is and no one has ever even attempted to provide us with an explanation for the problem, but there you are. It dies. Replacing it was simple enough the first 2 times but this time we had problems we don't usually encounter. For one thing, it's winter and winter is not kind to people working on cars no matter how simple or complex the job. For another, we had been forced to strip the wires two times previously and as a consequence they became shorter and shorter each time, making it impossible to hook to the pump on the third go round. It also made them much more difficult to get to so while we never had to do it before, this time we had to remove both the wheel and the plastic well to get to them. We were not happy.
My son, bless his lovely little heart, got the wheel off without any trouble, but getting the well off required some interesting contortions while lying on his back. He was not amused. When he finally got it out he removed the pump and we stared at it with extreme distaste.
“I hate this stupid little thing,” he said.
“Ditto,” I agreed. “It's like a bad tooth that you remove that keeps growing back and going bad again.”
We lay under the car on our backs and stared at the wires. When he reached up to get a hold of them to strip them yet another time, tiny flakes of some unidentifiable but nasty material fell in our faces. Yuck.
“Great”, said my son. “Nuclear fallout. Just what we need.”
“Could be rust, could be dried salt from the roads, could be accumulated tar,” I said. “Fortunately, I don't think it's radioactive. On the other hand, that doesn't make it any less horrible.”
He silently stripped the wires and sighed. “Hand me the first slave wire,” he said.
I did so, like a good little automotive surgical nurse and he proceeded to attach it to the first wire. Unfortunately, when he asked me to hand him the plastic connector, I dropped it.
“Very smooth, Mom,” he said. “Did you see where it went?”
I said yes, but I was lying, of course. I had no idea where it went. My hands were just so cold that I didn't have a good grip on it. I crawled out from under the car on my back, turned on my stomach, and crawled back in since I was pretty sure that Newtonian Physics made it impossible to hope that the stupid thing had dropped up rather than down. I shined the flashlight around until I found it lying innocently all the way on the other side of the car. How did that happen? I firmly believed that in the warmth of summer with no icy wind or frozen black top it would have had the decency to just drop straight down and stay put, not bounce around like a rubber ball and fling itself out of my reach. It is a universal law that when conditions are miserable every thing on earth will join forces with the weather and work against you. I crawled out from under the car again to fetch it, shimmied under again on my back and handed it to my son. He looked at me with one raised eyebrow, an ability he inherited from me that I have since come to understand must have thoroughly annoyed everyone I used it on over the years. What goes around comes around, I guess.
By this time the rest of me was as cold as my hands but I managed to hand him what he needed and twist little pokey wires without another major mishap. Once the slave wires were attached my good boy hooked up the pump, and contorted himself like a circus acrobat to get the well back in. We then crawled out from under the car and went about putting the wheel back on. By this time we were so cold all we could think about was getting in a warm place with hot cups of tea in our hands.
In the end we filled the well and low and behold, the pump worked. Hallelujah.
“Just in time for another snow storm,” I said.
“Did you have to go there?” asked my son. “I could have done without the weather report. This is what comes of living in a place too close to the arctic circle.”
“No,” I said. “This is what comes of not having the money to hand the stupid thing over to some expensive mechanic to fix for us.”
“At least we aren't totally helpless and can do a lot of things ourselves,” said my son.
“True,” I agreed. “I can even boil water and make tea. Let's go inside and have some.”
And we did just that.
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