Monday, 13 April 2009

Red Letter Day

Friday was a red letter day for me: I changed the oil in my own car for the very first time.

First off, I have to say I was incredibly fortunate to have the generous guidance of a genuine Butch Big Sister aka Dawn on MDI. (Not my real sister, of course. I don't even have a sister. I'm being Metaphorical here.) Anyway, Dawn provided extensive consultation on the question of tools and preparation, and told me to call her once I had the car jacked up and ready to go.

It's going to be difficult to convey here how off the charts excited I was. When I bought the tools & equipment, it was like freakin' Christmas. Only better. I sat on the floor and sorted out the sockets and the various wrenches and everything. The night before the big day, I literally couldn't sleep, I kept waking up and thinking: I'm going to change my own oil tomorrow. With my own tools.

On the morning itself, FG and I drove out to her sister's house (we don't have a driveway, and FG's sister kindly offered the use of hers). While the engine cooled off I washed her sister's car. Then I got out the jack and the owner's manual and I worked out how to jack one side of the car up. When I got my pair of brand-new jack stands out, though, I hit an obstacle: the directions said to place the stand in an appropriate spot. What the heck did that mean? I couldn't put it in the jacking location, because the jack was there. I looked around under the car but nothing seemed quite right. I wasted a lot of time on this mystery, and eventually Dawn wondered what had happened to me and she called me. She agreed that "an appropriate location" is like "bake until done": if you haven't done it, you just have no clue. With her help I positioned the stand under the axle, did the other side, and then I was ready to go.

Now, FG's eyes kept glazing over when I described the blow-by-blow of the oil change, and she was a captive audience. You, dear readers, are less captive, so I'll spare you the details: searching for the oil filter, using my socket wrench for the first time ever, learning the relationship between a gasket and a washer. One moment stands out in my mind: when I'd finally found the filter, and I loosened it with my hand. BBS had warned me, "This is the part where you get dirty," and she was right: when it came loose, there was dirty oil all over my hand and running down my arm. I was lying under the car at this point, my back on the damp sandy gravel of the driveway, the cool spring breeze contrasting with the warmth of the oil, and I have to tell you, I was just about transcendentally happy at that moment.

I have to give major props to Dawn. After a lifetime of being made to feel like I'm about to break something or get in the way or generally cause a disaster, her guidance made me feel reassured and competent. She threw in useful little remarks like, don't worry if you drop the drain plug into the oil pan, it's not the end of the world and it happens to lots of people. (Luckily, I didn't.) And even when it took me forever to find the oil filter, she didn't get impatient. (Or, she didn't let on if she was impatient, anyway.) I'm so used to acting tough and figuring stuff out on my own--acquiring knowledge and competence painfully and in secret and only showing the world when I'm 110% sure of myself--and this wasn't like that at all, and it made an awfully nice change. Not to mention, I'm dying to go for some long drives so I can do it again.


Jess said...

Awesomeness! Glad for you :) I know the feeling, it's a good one.

sinclair said...

sounds like a fun day! now you have an excuse to come visit New York City (or Storm King!), so you can do this again sooner! said...

Oh god - reminds me of the bliss Jess had with doing the tune-up.

:::eyes glazing over:::


Just kiddin'... yay you! :)

p.s. I adore your first commenter.

:::running away::::

Anonymous said...

That is so awesome! I do not get excited about working on my truck, so anytime you feel like changing oil, I'd be more than willing to offer my truck for your enjoyment.

CAB said...

Congratulations. I have no desire to change the oil in my car, but I was thrilled when I got my electric drill one Christmas ;)

appple said...

that is some serious coolness, leo. i wish you many, many more successful oil changes in your future. if you want to try out your hand out at other models, i have a waaaaaay overdue jeep here for you.

Sublimefemme said...

Congrats! Very impressive. I wish I knew how to do that stuff, but not enough to get dirty, transcendent happiness or not. How do you ever get all that dirty oil off after it's run all over you? Although in your case I'm sure it looked good ;-)


Anonymous said...


I was forced by my overly-prepared father to learn to change my own oil before I was allowed to get my driver license. I still do it, because I'm a skinflint.

And yeah, it's a rewarding feeling to get it done. Just think, if you ever change vehicles, you get to learn all the quirks all over again!

Good job!

Holden said...

Well done, glad you had so much fun.

e said...

Way to go! That's great that it gave you so much pleasure. Like thissideofchanged, I had to learn all sorts of grubby car stuff before being allowed to drive. Thanks Dad! Now, however, my beautiful butch gf takes care of all of that... love you, babe!

I'll tell you what really gave me a thrill though, my own cordless drill/driver. Ahh.... yeah, I'm a big girl now!

Keep having all kinds of fun!

saintchick said...

Oh happy day for you !!!!

Anonymous said...

Knowing you have the tools and know-how to do it yourself is priceless.

Just realized that could be taken wrong. I'm talking about the oil change.

LL Cool Joe said...

Nothing like achieving a job that is seen as a "masculine" one is it?

After doing anyt job like this there is that feeling "Yes and that's what I'm all about." Now where's my beer and curry?? ;)

twoladiesinwaiting said...

Brilliant. Now don't make me do it.

Sabertooth Screaming Lemur said...

That is adorable and I am happy for you! It makes me glad I have a butch who also enjoys these things (I enjoy being competent but not the sweaty-and-dirty part).