Vehicles…can’t live with ’em…can’t live without ’em. I took my car in for some routine work today and found myself in another world. Cars were jacked off the ground; suspended as if they were weightless. They looked kind of exposed just sitting there. It was like a doctor’s office. The doctor has you take your clothes off then just leaves you there wearing nothing but a flimsy gown as your eyes bounce around looking for something to focus on…anything but the sterile florescent glow and the jar full of tongue depressors. The mechanic’s is no different. The cars rest elevated with their parts exposed, useless, waiting for a diagnosis.
Another similarity soon became apparent. Car manufacturers, like medical professionals, operate in a completely different world when it comes to cost. Go to Wal-Mart and a bottle of Tylenol will run you about 8 dollars. Go to any hospital, and two Tylenol pills cost like 80 bucks! Similarly, in the real world, rubber is a substance you use to cork cheap wine, or make cheap, non-lethal ammunition, or cheap sports equipment, or keep a poster rolled up. Melt some of that rubber down and mold it a little and voila! you’ve got a gasket: an essential piece of equipment that keeps your car’s oil from seeping out. The gasket itself costs a couple hundred dollars and the labor to put it in is a few more hundred (the labor costs make you think they have to disable a couple land mines). It would seem that car manufacturers insist on using materials that wear out quickly and putting the parts that wear out fastest underneath the parts built of more durable materials *I’ve got it…we’ll put a dry cotton ball at the core of the engine and surround it with titanium. Then we’ll insure the entire engine seizes if the cotton ball gets wet.* It sounds like sometimes you have to lift the engine to find and change the rubber band that’s keeping your oil from spilling out. Welcome to the world of motor vehicles!
Half the time I wonder if the parts the mechanic is describing actually exist. To create a car part it seems all one has to do is pick a verb, add -er or -or to the end and then attach it to a metal container noun. *Yes, Mr. Jones, the problem is most definitely differential wear in the two sweeper rods. And when we replace those, you’ll probably want to have the breaker tanks recalibrated*. Whether you understand or not, it’s clear those sweeper rods need immediate attention, if for no other reason than ignoring a mechanic’s suggestion makes the consequences he’s predicting more likely to occur.
We complain about the high cost, but we keep going back, letting them perform the repairs they suggest, paying them for the peace of mind that you’re not going to be the poor sap who has to abandon his car on the shoulder of the freeway as he searches for the mechanic he wishes he’d spoken to sooner. Or, we go to a friend who knows a thing or two about replacing rubber bands and lives in the real world. Thanks Stephanie.