Gayle

M y fluids were low. Wait, let me explain. On a day I should have been at one job or another I was, instead, at home, focused on drinking as much water and juice and broth as possible (sadly, neither coffee nor cocktails had any appeal) and trying to drum up the energy to attend to a few long-neglected chores.

I’d been fighting a losing battle with some mutant viral or bacterial army – talk about barbarians at the gate – with the bad guys ultimately triumphant. There were a few days I felt so bad I didn’t even have the oomph to get outraged over the goings-on in the White House. However, my defensive forces had finally marshaled a semblance of a counter attack and I was feeling slightly more human.

So, I opted for tackling the other fluid level problem, the one in my vehicles.

Now I’m usually kinda, sorta, fairly aware of the need to check the oil, top off the anti-freeze, pay attention to the gauges (the idiot lights are another story), that sort of thing, but, for various really excellent reasons … well, yes, I admit I’ve been a slacker about all that lately.

The day the afore-mentioned barbarians mounted their full-out assault, my oldest truck, the one I usually drive when I haul hay, which is what I happened to be doing, was making unhappy noises and offering up a kind of hot-ish smell.

Hmmm. I patted her dashboard, apologized profusely, and begged her to please, please, just get me and this load of hay home so I can collapse and then, I promise, I’ll check all your fluids and fill up what’s low.

It was several days before I could fulfill that vow, but, finally, there I was, reading the owner’s manual to see where exactly I would find the power steering fluid dipstick, a bit of metal I’m ashamed to say I hadn’t thought to locate prior to this.

So, OK, this truck is 23 years old, and it’s possible the print in the manual might have faded a little over time, but I have to say the little diagram was extremely lame. It looked like some impressionistic, monochromatic art class homework assignment: draw the engine compartment of a random vehicle and, just for fun, label some of the parts with really tiny letters and ridiculously tinier arrows. C’mon Detroit, is this your idea of a good time?

By the process of elimination, certainly not because anything under the hood was clearly or obviously marked, I found what I was looking for; there remained the challenge of getting the fluids in, rather than on and around.

Clearly there had been no ergonomic awards granted to the engineers who designed the placement of these particular orifices. Quite the opposite. I’m sure some sadist with a lab coat, a pocket protector and a gleam in his eye took an inordinate amount of pleasure in making this routine vehicle maintenance chore as unwieldy and physically challenging as possible.

My long-suffering mechanic concurred as I was commiserating with him about the accessibility/visibility issue. He suggested rather wistfully that all vehicles be equipped with standardized color-coded caps under the hoods – blue for oil, red for brake fluid, yellow for transmission fluid, whatever. How sensible!

Congress is back to work this week after a 10-day break (from what, I don’t know – maybe their fluids were low, too), so perhaps this is a project they’ll champion in a bi-partisan way?

Yeah, I’m feeling better.

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Gayle Morrow wears several different hats, depending on the day and the need, but mostly she just thinks too much. She has been sharing her opinions in this space off and on since 1988.