A 1991, white, Chevy S10, 4.3 liter, V6 engine with 162,000 miles whopped my arse today. What was supposed to be a simple job consisting of changing a few spark plugs and a single air filter turned into a 4 hour, triple overtime job that was somewhat pleasantly interrupted by mormon missionaries and a long ago former high school classmate.
There goes my ‘handy man’ tag that I thought I rightfully earned.
Warned by my mother to postpone working on her truck until tomorrow, I ignored her wisdom and continued steadfast towards the garage door in the laundry room. It was 6 o’clock in the evening and the sky was already beginning to lose it’s blue hue. Changing the 6 spark plugs in her Chevy had been on my list for quite some time. Three weeks to be exact. I knew from the day I bought the plugs from the Auto-Zone located about two blocks down the street that this job was not going to be easy. Roughly 4 years ago I took on this same task of squeezing my normal sized hands down an engine filled with wires, hoses and tubes. Reminiscing on that day, I don’t remember it taking me this long to complete a job that should not have exceed 30 minutes. Scraped and cut up from sharp edges, not to mention frustrated due to so much time invested, I felt like an experienced angler battling a large Amazon river monster for way too long.
Timestamp- 5:15 PM MST
The skies released a much needed rain today and my mother went to the library to do a little studying. There is an unusual correlation between the weather and her spirit.
Around 5:15 in the evening I received a phone call from my mother saying that she had a great day and that she was on her way home. ” Hey sugar”! I am on my way home and wanted to know if you needed anything,”she said? I’m okay, just come straight home. Since it rained earlier, its cool outside and I think it’s a good day to give your truck a tune up,” I said to her. “Okay sounds great, I will see you shortly then,” she replied.
Timestamp- 5:40 PM MST
Around 5:40 in the evening I hear the garage door making its strenuous upward motion back into its starting point. Parked back in the garage, the VolksWagen Passat was still running with my mother pleasantly chatting away on the phone. If I had to guess, I would say that she was probably talking to my sister. Her face lights up when she gets calls from her daughters.
The Chevy S10 is ten years older than my Passat. My moms calls it her prayer truck because it is truly an instrument blessed by God. It has withstood the test of time and other than an issue with it’s air conditioning, the truck rides like a dream. On hot days or when my mother wants to ride in style she will use my car. Today was one of those days. She enjoys all the added attention that she receives when in the drivers seat.
Timestamp- 5:55 PM MST
Now with the phone conversation finally over my mother exits the car and tells me that there are two heavy bags in the back seat that she needs me to take inside the house. The bags weighed a ton and for the life of me I still have no idea how she managed to get them in the car.
“Sweety, how about you wait until tomorrow to work on the truck,” she says while looking at the sky. “It is getting dark and you don’t have much daylight left,” she explains. Her suggestion is great. Lord knows, I don’t want to change the spark plus in her truck. They were hard to change 4 years ago and I know it’s going to be hard today as well. However, in my mind I knew that if I put this off for tomorrow it would never get finished. ” Mom, I need to get this out of the way. Tomorrow I just want to relax and dedicate the entire day to writing and applying for jobs,” I say with a hopeful voice.
Timestamp- 6:00 PM MST
The door leading inside the house slams and I am now alone outside in the garage.
I backed the truck out of the garage first and nearly hit my car in the process. My Passat is a manual. Manuals require the operator to push on the clutch in order to switch gears. Jumping back and forth between a stick shift and an automatic can be difficult on the brain. So as I was backing my mothers truck outside of the garage I forgot what vehicle I was in and mistook the clutch for the gas. Warning number UNO. I nearly crashed into my car and the garage door for that matter. First lesson of this fine Saturday evening: Gut feelings should never be ignored.
Timestamp- 6:05 PM MST
With the truck out of the garage resting comfortably on the driveway I pulled the lever under the steering wheel unlocking the hood. The truck had been parked inside the garage all-day so the engine was nice and cool. In front of me was the air filter in one box and the 6 spark plugs in another. Literally for 25 seconds I stood over those two boxes and contemplated which one to pick up first. The evil demon on my left shoulder was telling me to pick up the air filter box. “C’mon, change the air filter first. Get the easy part out of the way,” he whispered in my ear. My pure reasonable friend resting on my other shoulder told me to tackle the spark plug job first. “I advise you to get the hardest part taken care of first,” calmly whispered my enlightened half. Thinking back on that day 4 years ago and the pain and agony that 6 sparks plugs gave a 26 year old kid, I slowly bent over and picked up the air filter box.
Timestamp- 6:20 PM MST
Changing the air filter was a piece of cake, just like I had imagined. As I was throwing away the empty box that used to house the filter, I saw two Mormon missionaries on their 15 speed mountain bikes. The two ‘elders’ had one hand tightly gripped around the bikes handle bars and the other hand holding the ‘Book of Mormon’. The way they were holding onto that book, you would have thunk it was a bag of money. “I hope they don’t come over here and try to talk to me,” I said to myself. Don’t get me wrong, I have nothing against Mormons, but I know they are good talkers. I had just wasted a good 5 minutes trying to decide what part to tackle first and I didn’t have much daylight left.
Timestamp- 8:17PM MST
‘Although I walk in the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil’. God why is this happening to me?” I sorrowfully ask myself. For nearly two hours I used every tool in my toolbox in hopes of prying these corroded spark plugs loose. Adjustable wrenches, pliers, flat headed screw drivers and even a hammer at one point. Beyond enraged, I considered pouring gasoline all over the engine and throwing a match on it. “Oh my God, mom I don’t know what happened. One minute I was trying to remove a spark plug and the next minute your truck was up in flames,” I imagined telling her. It’s crazy how vivid our minds are able to conjure situations. Instead I chose the higher road and went inside to tell her how these plugs were kicking my butt. “How are you making out, out there?” she asked. “Horribly,” I say. “When was the last time you had these plugs changed,” I ask my mom. “Ummm, about a year ago,” she replies. “Haha, no way mom. For the past two hours I haven’t been able to remove a single plug,” I say with a dejected voice. My mom looks at me the way she always does when she knows I’m losing my patience. “I’ll keep trying, but these plugs are killing me,” I say to her as I walk back outside.
Timestamp- 8:30 PM MST
Eureka! The first spark plug budges and pops out. At this point I am so elated that I fall down to my knees, look up into the sky and cry, “thank you Lord”. I said those last lines pretty loud. I’m surprised none of my neighbors came running outside to see what was going on.
The next four spark plugs came out with ease. And after I properly gapped and greased the new spark plugs, this mountain of a job was looking more like a hill.
Timestamp- 8:45 PM MST
“Sweetie. How are you doing out here?” my mom asks as she cracks the laundry room door open. “Much better!” I tell her. “So far I go 5 spark plugs out and only have one left,” I enthusiastically say. “Praise Jesus,” says my mom. “Yeah, no kidding,” I reply. My mother goes back inside the house and I hurriedly return back to my job.
The last spark plug was located under the air filter. At first I tried to work around it, but that proved impossible. I had to remove the air filter casing in order to have a better chance at removing this last spark plug. As I was removing the casing for the air filter I saw a man walking up the street towards my house. It was pretty dark outside and every once in a while it’s important to look up and check your surroundings. “Isn’t that Justin from high school?” I ask myself. Not sure whether it was him or not I decided to take my chances and ask. “Hey don’t you have a brother?” I ask. Justin is legally blind in one eye. The other eye is even worse. “Yeah, do we know each other?” he asks me. “Yes, we went to high school together,” I reply. Justin and his brother John are twins and both of them are suffering from the same condition. “Did you go to Highland high school?” he ask me. “Yup, I believe that you and I graduated in the same year. Come to think of it I believe that we had a few classes together,” I tell him. It takes a while for Justin to connect his memories to the blurred object that stood in front of him.
Timestamp- 9:30 PM MST
Justin told me all about his life. The eye issues he is suffering with and the abuse he received at his last job. He mentioned to me how his mom is suffering from a different ailment and that coming home at night is a burden. I listened intently as Justin poured out all kinds of emotions. Listening to Justin was difficult because he had so much that he needed to vent. Sometimes I feel that when a person doesn’t want to listen to someone else’s story that he or she is being selfish. I wanted to listen, but that DAMN spark plug was calling my name.
Justin went on to say that next week he has a very important eye appointment. Next Wednesday, Justin is scheduled to receive surgery on his 20/2400 vision right eye. Later on in the week he is scheduled to have to other eye that is significantly worse operated on as well.
Justin wasn’t all negative, even though my writing may make him out to be. He was unusually positive and funny at times. Especially when Elder John and Elder Dan came over to my house asking if I needed help fixing my mothers truck.
Timestamp- 9:35 PM MST
“Hey man, do you need any help with your truck,” one of the elders ask me. “I hate to see someone working late on a Saturday night,” he goes on to say. Ha, like someone really wanted to get their hands dirty and work on an old Chevy S-10. “No, I’m good, thank you though,” I reply to the two missionaries.
With Mormons or anyone trying to share something they adamantly believe in, you have to be persistent. I think all Mormons go to the school of persistency and learn the tricks of the trade.
The two missionaries make their way up my drive way and extend their hands. “Hello, my name is Elder John,” one missionary says to me. “Hi, nice to meet you,” I reply. The other elder does the same and we are now all formally introduced. All except for Justin.
After Elder Dan releases my hand he turns to Justin. Elder Dan extends his hand towards Justin hoping to receive Justins hand. Instead Justin just stares at the two Elders…and keeps staring. For a second I forgot Justin was legally blind and that maybe he didn’t see the extended hand. Right as I was about to chime in and explain to the two missionaries that my friend has trouble with his eyes, Justins shares his thoughts. “You guys come to my house about 3 times a week,” he balked. “I don’t need to shake your hand. I already know who you are,” he said. In my mind I was like, “OH SH^%, go get ’em Justin. The two elder missionaries looked at each other and smirked.
Justin then turned to me and continued his story.
Timestamp- 9:55 PM MST
At this point Justin and I were brothers. He shared so much about his life with me that I sure felt that we were. I looked at my phone on the hood of the truck and couldn’t believe that it was nearly 10. I didn’t want to break Justin’s dialogue and interrupt his thought process. Usually body language can alert another person that something different needs to happen. In this situation, that something different was me changing this last spark plug and wrapping up this job. But Justin was legally blind and probably hasn’t had an opportunity to release this kind of information to someone. Time was passing abnormally quick. As it gets later, time seems to pass with an eery quickness. I told Justin that I needed to get this last spark plug out of the truck and get my ‘black arse’ in the bed. “Yeah, I will let you go,” he chuckled and said. “Justin, it was good seeing you again old friend. I will pray for you and please come back around after your surgery. I would love to hear the GOOD news that I know you will receive,” I tell him. Just as I thought I was closing the conversation, I indirectly opened it right back up again. Damnit! Justin explained in rather stunning detail about what outcome he hopes to achieve. Again I was placed in that situation where you have to tell a person that enough is enough. Just as gently as the first I tell Justin again that I really need to finish this job. “Okay okay, I better get home as well,” he firmly says. Justin raised his hand and waved goodbye to me. I did the same.
Timestamp- 10:15 PM MST
The last spark plug kept me outside for another 25 minutes. However, in the end it came out. My mother came out simultaneously as I was inserting the final new spark plug in the engine. I smiled at her, took and deep sigh and shook my head left to right. She smiled back and helped me tidy up the loose ends. She knew exactly how happy I was.
I started up the truck and it growled and cycled through very smoothly. THANK THE LORD. I don’t know how I would have reacted if something malfunctioned. Perhaps I would have seriously considered my gasoline idea from earlier.
Today was an unusual Saturday night, but it was one that we all need. It seems that so much of my time since I have been back in the states is realizing what I have. My ability to see clearly. To use my mind and consider other options. Yeah the truck whipped my arse, the missionaries interrupted my night and Justin unleashed a lot of his life on me but maybe there is a lesson out there somewhere for me. I’m not sure what it is, but I will someday.
Timestamp- 10:45 PM MST