This past week, my wife had to take a trip down south to help out a friend. The night before her departure she approached me and said, "I have a favor to ask." I raised an eyebrow. She continued, "Can I take your car? I just discovered that my headlights aren't working."
I, of course, replied (while cringing inside), "Sure." And, being a manly-man, said, "Don't worry Honey Bunny, I'll fix it while you're gone."
Now her car is a semi-luxury car, a tricked-out Nissan Altima with every upgrade available at the time. A really fine, well made car that's held up remarkably well under her abuse.
Lest you think I'm being cruel, let me put it in perspective. First, she averages about 30,000 miles a year and has done so every year for the five years she's owned the car. Once, when my buddy Punch was visiting, we happened to follow her out of the neighborhood up to the crossroads where, in the distance, we could see her make a right turn. We pulled up to the light, which was red, and waited. Just as the light turned green, my wife comes flying through the intersection going in the opposite direction. Punch calmly observed, "That might account for how she puts so many miles on the car." And I thought, not to mention the repair bills.
The car has been in the body shop at least four times that I can remember, once for a caved-in door, once for a caved-in front bumper, once for something I can't remember, and the last time, because she tore one of the outside mirrors off against the house while backing out of the carport. She claimed she was trying to avoid one of the dogs. She once hit something so hard it broke all three motor mounts and cracked a wheel bearing. That little caper cost $2,500! See what I mean?
Anyway, I'm driving her car and I'm stopped at a light when I notice, located on the driver's side arm rest between the mirror adjustment knob and the power window switch, there is a patch of what feels like braille.
OK, I know you've been here before. Kinda like braille at drive-up ATMs right? But you can almost understand the drive-up ATMs. The same machine goes everywhere, walk-up or drive-up, so in order to save money... bla, bla. But braille inside of a fricking car?!!! In the driver's seat! How damned anal-retentive can you get?
I can't help but wonder what it says. You are on the wrong side dumb-ass, get the fuck out! Or maybe, You're in for the ride of your life. Lower the windows so you won't miss anything.
But you haven't heard the worst yet. The anal-retentive worst, that is.
I am taking the car to the body shop to change the headlights because, after a couple of hours of trying to figure it out, I have concluded that there is no way to get to the damned bulbs short of removing the entire headlight assembly and I can't see anyway to do that short of disassembling the entire front end of the car. So, I am taking the car to our favorite body shop as I figure they know more about these things than the local grease monkeys who do our regular mechanical repairs, and it turned out I was right.
After carefully looking it over and checking all of the fuses and relays, Ron, the body shop guy says, "The only way to get those out is to drop the front end. What a pain in the ass."
After consulting his book, Ron concludes it will be about $200 in labor alone. After calling the local parts store it turns out that the high-tech, deluxe, Xenon bulbs will cost one-hundred-five dollars each! That's right. $105 EACH! Ron advises to replace all of the bulbs in the assembly while we've got it apart, which makes sense, and by the time it's all said and done, the cost to replace six frigging light bulbs is $475! And that's about a $150 savings over taking it to the dealership where the labor alone would have been $300.
Ron is just about as pissed as I am. He says that almost all of the new car manufacturers deliberately build in expensive complications like this so that you have to take the car back to the dealership for repair. He also said that with each new model special tools are required for key, critical repairs. I know this to be true both from my own experience and from a friend who is a Snap-On tools distributor. He says that Snap-On pays the manufacturers to get specialty tool designs and even then, they don't get them all.
It's like the phamaceutical industry and their patents. Vital drugs cost us 4 times what it cost to get the same identical drug from Canada.
I am more and more beginning to feel like I'm in a huge school of fish desperately darting here and there trying to avoid the sharks who swarm around us devouring mouthfulls of flesh with each pass.