Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Tell Them to Bring Their Tools

Communicating with people is challenging at times.  Communicating with people about an inanimate object can be more so.  

It was a warm summer day and I stopped at the school to do some work.  A number of my colleagues were doing the same.  I worked for a while and decided to head home.  The maroon Malibu would not turn over.  I checked the battery plenty of juice.  

Several male friends came and checked it over.  Still couldn't get it started.  I mentioned to each of them I thought it was some kind of sensor.  I was reassured that "those sensors wouldn't be the problem".  Finally I called a tow truck and had it carted to a new mechanic.  

The tow truck dropped the Malibu off at the repair shop.  They called me later and said it started just fine.  They would keep it for a couple of days and see if it would stop again.  It didn't.

 A few more weeks passed.  I was leaving the house and it wouldn't start.  I called the mechanic.

"Hi, I have a dead car that won't start would you send someone over to look at it.  This is the Malibu that was in the shop a few weeks ago."

"It's probably just your battery."

"No.  I checked that."

"Call a tow truck and we'll take a look at it."

"No.  I want someone to come look at it here.  The last time the tow truck picked it up and literally dropped it at the shop something reset and it started just fine.  I need someone to come look at it here.  Please bring your tools."

About 20 minutes later a mechanic arrives.  He pops the hood and the first thing he does is check the battery.  

"Well, your battery has juice."

"Yah, you asked me about that on the phone."

"You're not out of gas."


He tinkered a little under the hood.  But I did not see him bring out any tools.

"Um, you're going to need to call a tow truck and we'll look at it at the shop.  I'm not sure what is wrong."

"Why can't you check it here?"

"I didn't bring my tools because I thought it would turn out to be the battery."

"I specifically asked you to bring tools.  What ever it is gets re-set when the tow truck drops the car on the ground.  It will start and you won't be able to determine what's wrong.  I think its a sensor."

"Ma'am that's not how these things work. If it doesn't start now it won't start when it gets to the shop."

"Well, you'd be wrong.  I'll call the tow truck but when it drops it will start."

The tow truck arrives slides the car onto a flat bed and takes it a few blocks to the repair shop.  I follow.  As soon as it is dropped in the yard I get the mechanic and walk over to the car.

"Watch this, it's going to start."  The machine snickered as it purred like a contented cat.

Eye brows up, "Ma'am this doesn't make sense."

"It's a sensor.  Good luck finding it.  This is what happened the last time I brought it in."

They kept it for several days.  The mechanic called me and said he'd found the problem. Dan was home so he went with me.

Ironically when we got there he turned to Dan and started explaining, completely ignoring me.  To give him his credit he had dug into files and discovered that the Malibu cars had problems with the starter system.  After a specific number of starts some of the cars would freeze and shut down because it thought it was being stolen.  This little shop did not have the computer tools to fix the problem.  He did give Dan the print outs and the code.  He had spent hours researching the problem.

We decided to trade the Malibu in before it froze again.  I took the manual out of the jockey box and in the front wrote.  "If the car stops this is the code to the problem, its a sensor.  Tell them to bring there tools."


  1. Oh that is so frustrating on so many levels.

  2. Sorry I'm missing some stories, Ruth.  They are so great.  My daughter-in-law's father was a trucker & she knows oh so much about cars & mechanical things.  My son, her husband knows little & is not very interested.  They have quite a few stories like this when the cars need fixing!  Fun, fun about the malibu.

  3. Ruth, you have the best car stories. Do you enjoy listening to the Tappert (spelling?) Brothers on NPR? I think you could join them as a guest occasionally and boost their ratings even more. I always ask my husband to take the car to the garage. He does not understand how frustrating it is for me to talk to those guys. He has not had the rolled eyes, snickering, and bemused looking faces looking at hime while trying to describe a sound the broken car is making.

  4. Laugh!!

    I hate when people treat me like an idiot. Glad you were able to make a funny story out of it, though. 

  5. Ruth Ferris/StorykeeperMarch 29, 2012 at 6:38 AM

    One time I was talking to a mechanic and he wouldn't listen.  I told him "Well all I can tell you is that HE said to have you do this"  The guy looked at me and said " oh ok we will then."

    At that moment I realized if I inserted the male pronoun magic happened.  I have used this technique successfully since then.  

  6. Ruth Ferris/StorykeeperMarch 29, 2012 at 8:16 AM

    I do like listening to them, they are very funny and they give sound advice.  Thank you for the complement.

  7. "I didn't bring my tools because I thought it would turn out to be the battery."  FOR REAL?  That's so ridiculous!

  8. This story took me back in time to my father teaching me not only how to drive, but how to make make basic repairs to the 1970 VW Beetle he allowed me to drive.  Today, I can't imagine opening the hood of my car! The increased use of electronics and computerization has resulted in us having a lot less control or understanding of our vehicles.  But, wow, gender bias about cars is still running rampant!  

  9. It was kind of you to leave the note for the new owner. 

  10. Aren't mechanical problems the pits?  I have had similar experiences and get frustrated with being asked, do you have gas, is the battery good, etc. etc.  Hopefully your new car will run perfectly.

  11. Why won't they listen? It's like a club, and you have to have the secret password. At least he finally did his homework.

  12. Males in overalls and some grease just don't see women as equals.  
    RISE UP!

  13. Gaskell ElizabethMarch 29, 2012 at 6:49 PM

    My grandparents had the same problem with their Malibu. Grrr! As for mechanics, I've had the same problem. I'm still looking for one that will actually speak to me as an intelligent human. Ugh!


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