It’s not because I don’t understand cars, and it’s not because “I’m a girl.” I just never grew up working on the things, and when it comes to vehicle maintenance, I’m starting at square one. It’s like teaching a child to cook for the very first time, or showing a self-proclaimed klutz how to juggle. They are going to be awful in the beginning.
Charged with caring for my boyfriend’s 1985 Nissan while he was away on deployment, it fell to me to change the oil. I understand the way to change oil. It’s easy. Isn’t it? You unbolt the little plug at the bottom of the oil pan, drain the oil (after the car has run so the oil is warm and less viscous), replace the plug, and set to changing the oil filter. Right? Except for one small thing… I have never jacked up a car before.
With the car’s parking brake engaged, I prepped the driveway for the impending maintenance, then put the jack in place. Cranking it up was easy. Then it didn’t seem to go any further. Then bits of rust started to fleck the ground. To my horror, the jack had embedded itself in the old sheet metal underneath the vehicle, and I could not free it.
I did what any self-respecting first-timer would do: I panicked. I cursed at myself, called myself an idiot. Finally, I made the phone call to my boyfriend. Miraculously, he picked up.
Through my tears, I explained, sniffling, “…and I can’t get the jack free, and I feel so stupid.”
“Love, you’re not stupid,” he said.
“No. You can’t expect to know something you’ve never been taught how to do. It’s okay. You can still get the jack free. Next time, you jack it up under the frame rail.”
“What’s that look like?” I asked, entirely the novice.
“I’ll show you when I’m back. Until then, just take it to the shop. You know what kind of oil goes in it.”
“Okay,” I sniffed.
“Love?” he asked.
“You know I love you, right?”
“Even though I messed up something so simple on your car?” I asked through tears.
“Yes,” he said firmly.
“I love you, too,” I said.
“You’re not an idiot,” he added.
“Thank you,” I whispered. As we hung up, I realized I learned something more valuable than how not to change the oil.