It started with last night, though. My driver’s side car door window has been acting up for some time, and getting more and more difficult to roll up and down. (No power windows, you see – crank them by hand.) So yesterday, after some very forceful struggling, the thing just decided to stop moving at all.
After I’d rolled it all the way down.
Now, in a perfect world, this wouldn’t be a problem. I could happily drive my car around with the window down. Only, this is the real world, where it rains. So, it had to be fixed. I poked at it myself for a while, but got nowhere. So I ended up driving it to the local shop that’s worked on my car in the past.
The day started off beautiful. Perfect blue sky, not a cloud to be seen, low 70s, just a gorgeous day.
I drive from Ypsilanti to the shop in Belleville a little after 9 am, talk to the owner, and explain my (latest) problem. He goes to check out the car, and comes back a few minutes later with a diagnosis. It’s a regulator that’s frozen up, and it might as well be replaced, because it would be just as expensive to open up the car door and just make the window stay up. He checks his inventory… and he doesn’t have the part, especially since my car is “an antique”, in his own words. (I’m not gonna argue; it’s a ’91, after all.) He checks his list of suppliers, and the nearest one with a matching part is in… Monroe.
They weren’t going to deliver the part, and nobody from the shop was free to get it… so it was up to me. So I fired up the GPS on the phone and hit the road.
It was farther than I expected, but it was a nice drive… if a bit loud at times on the highway, passing semis with the window down.
Eventually, I found myself off the highway, and following the GPS directions onto a winding country road, over a two-lane bridge that had seen better days and a river that was flowing well with the recent rains…
and past vast expanses of green farmland and tall leafy trees. After crossing several train tracks, I turned down a long straight road lightly dusted with bits of rubber and metal from what I assumed were old cars, and eventually found myself at my destination, Hull Road Auto Parts:
As I approached this location, I started thinking that this was less of an “auto parts” store, and more of a junkyard. At the very least, it was a well-worn country shop.
The driveway led over yet another set of tracks, and as I crossed them, I saw two gravel paths in front of me, and one that led to the left, littered with potholes. I figured the biggest path was most likely the right path, and I was correct.
At the end of the path sat a squat, dingy red brick building with a door hanging open, “OFFICE” painted on it in friendly red letters. I parked my car in a dry, level location and walked to the entrance.
I really wish I’d been able to take pictures of the place. It was, in all honesty, what you’d expect from a Hollywood junkyard. License plates and belts and hoses dangling; yellowing, tattered papers stuck to the walls; a shelf of stereo equipment, in plain site but just out of reach; bits and pieces and huge chunks of metal everywhere, all washed in that greasy brown patina of car parts.
And the proprietor of the shop – grey t-shirt over a middle aged pot belly, grubby jeans, baseball cap stuck upon an unruly mop of curly greying hair, a few days worth of stubble on his jowls, permanently grease-stained hands… he was even wiping down the counter as I walked in. There was even the missuz sitting in the back room, a dour look on her aging face, their dog sitting in her lap, with one of their fathers peering out from behind the cash window.
I explained what I was looking for, and he told me that it would be $40, and he’d have “one of the boys” pull the part for me, and they’d have it ready in about an hour. They didn’t accept checks, just cash, and payment was to be made up front. This was a problem, as I didn’t have $40 on me.
You see, when I left the house this morning, I was planning on just driving down to the shop, sitting there for an hour while they hammered on my door, writing a check for labor, and heading home. I had no idea in my mind that I’d be driving 30 minutes to hunt down my own parts, so I came a bit under prepared. I was lucky to have my pocket knife with me, let alone the rest of my pocket money.
I asked where I might be able to find the nearest ATM, and he named a few of the local banks in the area, but stated that he couldn’t be sure if they had them, as he’d never used an ATM before. I almost died at the quaintness, then silently snarled at myself for that attitude, thinking I was starting to feel too “big city” for my own good.
Now, keep in mind that while I was born in “the city” (Bay City
, actually), I was raised out in “the country”. My home for almost 20 years sat on an acre of land surrounded by my grandfather’s farm fields, and his home and farm were right next door, no more than a minute away by bike. There were 40 acres of forest not more than a five minute walk from my back porch. The nearest town was six or seven miles away, and it had one McDonalds, one laundromat, one grocery store, one library, one high school, a 7-11, a vet’s office, and two stoplights. I live in the suburbs now, and still miss that lifestyle sometimes. So I stood there starting to feel a little too polished, a little too far removed from the life I used to live.
So I told him I would have to go and get the rest of the money, as I didn’t have the full amount on me. He said that he’d be good with a partial payment of at least half, so I handed him over the $20, and he filled out the paperwork for the part. I thanked him, and turned for the door. As I did, I heard his wife over my shoulder start to give him grief about how much I gave him, and he started explaining about how I needed to get to the ATM… at the same time, Grandpa had somehow beat me to the door, and struck up a quick conversation with me about the weather as I was walking to my car. Classic.
As I drove away, I hoped that banks would be easy to find, as I din’t know the area. I followed the owner’s directions, and found myself at an intersection with an abandoned restaurant on the corner. I quickly pulled into the parking lot to get a few pictures:
Past that intersection was the bank, just as I had been told. A flat, simple brick box, cream and white, simple columns on the corners, with the name in big chrome sans serif letters on the side of the building. Clean, classic style. I pulled in and around the bank to find the ATM. After feeding it a card and selecting a withdrawl, I was shocked to see that it was configured like no ATM I’d seen in ten years – it distributed $5 bills!
I had some time to kill while waiting for the part to be pulled, so I drove up the main street for a while. I went past tattoo shops and car dealers, gas stations and fast food places, hair salons and strip malls… everything you’d expect from a small town, only the street went on a lot longer than I expected. Apparently it was a bigger place than I thought.
I eventually made it to what I figured was the center of town – a church on the main street – and turned around. I stopped at a gas station to call the wife and let her know where I was and how my day was going, and the yard called to let me know the part was ready. I found my way back, walked in, finished my business with who I assume was the wife of the old gentleman I had talked to about the weather, and was on my way.
I got back to my car shop around 11:30, took the part in to the owner… and he told me it was the wrong part! They had given me a part for an electric window, and mine was a manual! So I called the junkyard, and they said the paperwork did call for an electric part. Apparently I misspoke when I said what I needed. So I had to go back and exchange what I had for the right part. Only this time, I wasn’t going alone.
I stopped off at home and asked my wife if she’d be interested in going with me… and if I could borrow her car, since it gets better gas milage, and has working air conditioning. She happily agreed, so I had company for my second trip to Monroe. I pointed out a few things to her that I had noticed along the way – like the heron standing in the river as we went over the bridge. This time, I made sure I had the right part, apologies were made on both sides for the mistake, and we were on our way home in short order.
I dropped her back off at home and drove my car to the shop *again*. It had gotten to after 3 pm by this point; what started off as a few hours off of work had quickly blossomed into an all-day affair. Of course, by this time, I was told they were swamped, and that they’d try to get to my car today. I said it had to get done at some point, so I wasn’t going anywhere. I had another conversion about the weather with a customer, and was surprised to see my car pulled in shortly thereafter. They had the part installed shortly after 4, a payment was made for the labor, and I had my keys.
As I was starting to pull away, I thought I’d check the window one last time. I’d watched the mechanic that did the replacement roll the window up and down three times, but I wanted to be sure it was all okay. As I sat in their driveway, I rolled the window down once, the handle jumped… and then the window stayed where it was. It seems that all the hard cranking I’d done on the internal handle previously had loosened the grip of the handle, and it just sat there, spinning freely on the crankshaft. I put the car into reverse and backed into a parking spot by the front door. The owner called a mechanic out to swap the windows handles between the passenger and driver sides, and all was finally in working order.
So, all I managed to do today was get my car window fixed. You’d think I could manage to do more with my time…