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.