Oil & Change
It’s already dark by the time I slide beneath my truck with a socket wrench in hand. I shift the drip pan into position, making sure to align it with the drain plug. With the flashlight casting a white glow, I turn the plug some. Then some more. It’s not long before oil starts to flow like water from a spigot. I watch it, strong at first, eventually subsiding into an occasional drip. While it drips, I lie flat on my back and focus on the street.
The arrows on the construction sign blink in sequence, like the turn signals on a ’68 Ford. Cars shoot by, rushing. Tires chirp. Brakes squeal. A horn honks—the call. Another honks back—the response. (The conversation continues onto the next block). Electric busses whir. People everywhere look at their phones, fixated on something somewhere else. One of the usual self-driving cars makes its usual turn in its usual way. I wonder where it’s going.
Even though it’s fall, it’s not too cold beneath the truck. I’m in my overalls, and I can feel that the exhaust is still warm from my evening commute. I unscrew the old filter, fill the new one and screw it into place. The drain plug goes back where it came from, and I finish pouring in the oil up top.
Changing oil wasn’t the first thing I wanted to do tonight, nor was it the second or even third. I somewhat dreaded the trip to the parts store but, as we all know, there are some deeds that just need to be done. This was one of them. Yet as I worked, I felt relaxed. Throughout the process, I remembered that these routine steps were the same ones carried out by my father, his father and his father’s father. By definition, there’s tradition there. Same tools—same basic stuff.
And as the world rolled by on the bustling boulevard, I found myself thinking about something in addition to tradition. You know that phrase “You never see a hot rod outside of a psychiatrist’s office?” I take mental health pretty seriously (and I’ve heard “hot rod” replaced with every mid-life crisis staple from Harley to Jet-Ski) but on most days, I’d say the meaning still stands.
Yes, I know some of you had your best week in the garage ever, while others are currently prepping to roll your project off a cliff and begrudgingly take up fantasy football. Even on its worst days, turning wrenches can be oh-so-therapeutic. Win or lose, you have to admit you feel like you’ve accomplished something when you come into the kitchen with dirt beneath your nails, a couple skinned knuckles and a cold dinner waiting on the table.
That’s what happens when you spread a little grease on your Internet sandwich.
Earlier this week, I heard someone grumbling about having to change the oil on his front engine dragster every three passes. It certainly wasn’t these guys complaining, but to keep things somewhat on topic, here’s the full Hot Rod feature on the Quincy Automotive slingshot from October 1959. That’s all for now—time to go out there and wrench.