I put on disposable gloves before I started working on the truck.
Oh, I tried to be smart.
Oh, I tried to be someone I’m not.
Oh, I tried to keep my tools organized.
But after two hopeless hours in the driveway, it went to hell and a handbasket.
The gameplan was simple and, in fact, showed a bit of foresight on my part: After the multitude of coast-to-coast trips with Daughter in my trusty Nissan Frontier, I figured some new spark plugs were in order. This particular engine only requires plugs every 100,000 miles, but after the abuse it’s been through, I decided to put some in with “only” 70,000 miles showing on the clock.
That was my big project for the day.
Speaking of abuse, I hinted to Daughter earlier this week that both the nice and appropriate thing to do after borrowing one’s vehicle is to return it with a full tank of gas and gently washed. After her latest trip in my truck to the northern parts of our fair state, Daughter saw fit to bring it back filthy and with only a quarter tank of petrol.
When I queried her on the subject, she sullenly responded it had a quarter tank when she picked it up (thus, why would she put any more gas in, after all), and she didn’t comment on the external layer of road filth, courtesy of her, as well.
Oh, wait a minute. She did wash a vehicle this week. The only problem was it was hers.
Don’t get me wrong. I’ve been hounding her for many, many moons to clean up the Cabrio.
“It’s the most expensive thing you own. If you don’t take care of it, it won’t last. Keep it clean,” I earnestly advised.
Silence. Of course.
Eventually she saw fit to hose it down, but she didn’t see fit to put all the towels and cleaning materials away afterward.
Kids. Don’t you love ‘em?
But back to my disaster at hand.
For those of you who don’t know, changing spark plugs is usually a rather straightforward affair. There may be one or two that are difficult to get into position to remove but, for the most part, it’s not a big deal. However, I had done some research on my particular truck and engine, and I had discovered that in order to gain access to two of the plugs, essentially the entire top of the engine needed to be removed.
Well, not really the top of the engine, but all of the intake manifold crap (that’s a technical term), along with the associated hoses, vacuum lines, and electrical connectors.
So I decided to just take the whole thing one step at a time. I laid my tools out, and I methodically worked my way around that V-6 engine. Before I knew it, I was two-thirds of the way through. I just had those two inaccessible plugs left to go.
This was going well!
To make a ridiculously long story short, I spent the next two and a half hours trying to change those damn plugs. What had begun as a pleasant afternoon’s task, was turning into a really horrific adventure.
I literally started calculating how much sunlight I had left and whether I could complete the job in time.
When all seemed lost, I figured it out. I finally got the intake manifold off and the plugs replaced. Ha!
Ha! Wouldn’t you know it? When I was putting everything back together, I dropped a socket and extension somewhere in the nether regions of the back of the engine.
And the damn things simply disappeared.
After spending the next hour exploring every nook and cranny looking for the stupid things (Stupid! Stupid! Stupid!), I gave up and buttoned everything back together, since it was approaching dinnertime.
What an idiot I am, of course, but when I turned the key to start the truck and check my handiwork, Lordy, it fired right up!
Perhaps not quite a Festivus miracle, but damn close.
So, I took the truck for a quick spin around the block to ensure everything was working properly, and it was, but where the hell had that socket and extension gone to?
I was resigned to the fact that it was jammed forever in the bowels of the engine compartment, never to be seen again. I just hoped it wouldn’t lodge against something important and short out the truck, or cause a fire, or cause an explosion.
“I don’t know, Fred. It looks like the fire started somewhere in the back of the engine compartment,” said the future fireman as he hosed down what was left of the Nissan.
In a final act of desperation before closing up shop for the night, I crawled under the truck one last time to see where the dumb socket was hiding. I guess it really wasn’t that dumb, since I couldn’t find it. I also guess that makes me dumber than the socket.
As I scrambled around on my back, I verified there was not a socket anywhere my blue latex-covered hands could reach.
I gave up.
I happened to turn my head a bit when I went to scoot out from under, something shiny way behind the engine on the exhaust system caught my eye.
Yep. It was the socket.
Like the magical Kennedy assassination bullet, it had mysteriously worked its way through several trajectories and landed three feet behind anywhere it should have reasonably been resting.
Success, but conditional.
In the final analysis, it took me about two and a half hours to change the plugs, and about four hours to find the missing socket.
What an idiot I am.
But because the first decision I made today to wear disposable gloves was the best decision, I have clean hands tonight.
Yes, my left forearm is gouged and bleeding, but my hands are clean.
I am happy with that little victory but, after all, I am a very sad, sad man.