Monday, March 27, 2006

Oil Embargo

Friday after work I swung by our local Valvoline to have my oil changed. Not mine, my car’s. Going for any auto maintenance or repair always stresses me out, so I usually put it off until I can actually hear the grinding and knocking over the Pantera blasting from my speakers. It only took 13 postcards from GM for me to finally take care of the recall issue on my old car, and even then only the specter of being chastised for my laziness when I traded in the car made me bring it in for service. Not the threat of my steering column blowing up and setting my face on fire, which was what caused the recall in the first place.

Do I even need to tell you I was overdue for this oil change?

First, both bays were busy servicing cars, so I rolled up my mental sleeves and got to work worrying about which lane I should enter. If I got into the wrong lane, somebody else could pull up and be serviced faster in the other lane. This could make me miss the next Mother Angelica on the Eternal Word Television Network! If I sat in the middle, hogging both lanes, someone could pull up behind me and honk or curse at me, both of which are the kind of interactions I try to avoid as much as crazy people who shout at me, “Hey lady! Do you have a thousand children? Hey lady! Do you live in a shoe?” Which really happened on the street recently. But I digress.

Luckily, one of the attendants soon waved me in. Next the part of my brain that obsesses over finances kicked in. What if they used the wrong oil and voided my warranty? I shouldn’t have been so cheap. I should have gone to the Honda dealership. Now my transmission would explode during my next commute to work; a technician would examine the damage, shake his head, and drawl, “Too bad you used 5w30 oil and voided your warranty. This’ll be pricey. But don’t worry. Selling yourself into human bondage at a Turkish brothel should cover it.”

Then I had to steel myself to deal with the various products, upgrades, and services they try to pitch. (I ended up with a new wiper blade and air filter, but I held the line at the synthetic oil upgrade and “Just Married” commemorative cans.) And THEN, while you’re sitting there in your car as they build Lego forts in your engine, you have to worry about how to keep busy yet available to answer questions. Where do you aim your eyes? You can’t just STARE at them while they work. That seems weird and intrusive. And if you stare straight ahead into space you look like you’re having a flashback to the day you watched your beloved grandmother be torn apart limb-from-limb while trying to buy the last "Hump Me Elmo" at Wal-Mart the day after Thanksgiving.

I failed to bring a book or magazine, so I pretended to balance my checkbook. I also rummaged around my purse cataloguing items I was surprised to be carrying: hairspray, face blotter papers, a gingerbread house, a jumbo can of sauerkraut. I organized my coupons, making a tiny pile on the passenger seat of those that had expired. Sure $25 off hip replacement surgery is an attractive deal, but I found the idea of having my hips replaced by a doctor who prints coupons a bit unsettling. So into the bad pile it went.

And finally you get to the part where they show you your new oil level on the dipstick. This is funny to me because let's face it. It could just be a long stick of incense…it could be as dry as a Steven Wright routine … they could have simply dipped the stick into a vat of Soul Glow or dredged it through the toilet oilslick from an ingested bag of WOW! Chips and I’d nod, smile, and say, “Yep. Looks good, thanks.”

I’m sure the Valvoline guys find this part hilarious. Anyway, I’m good for another three months. Unless the “Maint. Req'd” light doesn’t stop flashing on my dashboard.


  1. Anonymous10:46 AM

    How prescient. I was just at the oil-change place on Saturday and I always have the exact same problem you do: how to keep busy and not waste the time (i.e., how to not fall asleep and drool with mouth open in public) while remaining available to answer questions and flip necessary switches.

    I take a book and a sketchpad. I used to take work stuff to read until they quizzed me too long.

    I always decline the air filter because they're $16.99 at the oil change place and about $2.99 at the car parts place. Plus, when they showed me my "filthy" air filter on Saturday a.m., I thought to myself, "well, that's way cleaner than it usually looks."

  2. I always go to Witzke's on 20th. One, it's within walking distance of work so I drop it off in the morning and wait until Gary calls to say it's ready. Two, everyone else charges me $40+ for the Durango and Gary is $18. Three, he totally takes care of everything. Burned out light bulb? A buck for the bulb, no charge for the labor. Really need an air filter next time? Pick up one at the auto store and he'll install it.

    Super prices and good service. He takes both walk ins and appointments.

  3. I hate getting my car worked on because I feel like they're going to try to pull one over on me because I'm a young woman. (I can't say "young lady" because with all the fake farting noises and curses that come out of this mouth, that would be false advertising at its best.)

    I put on my "tough girl face" and yes, although I'm sitting here drinking my cinnamon dolce latte, listening to my iPod, putting on my lip gloss and doing a sudoku puzzle, DO NOT *F* WITH ME, MECHANIC GUY! I know having four tires is recommended but damnit, you're not going to sucker me this time!

  4. Anonymous1:17 PM

    HAHA I love the looking at the dipstick - but actually, I really do examine it - one time they overfilled me and nearly f'd up my engine.

    BUT, if they dipped it maple syrup, I would never know.

  5. This is a lovely story of such a painful process. I tend to change the oil at home to avoid this sort of thing. An iPod really comes in handy during these visits. I love the bit about the Just Married cans. Good stuff Jess.

  6. Thank you for saying that part about the dipstick. That's EXACTLY what I think every time I get my oil change. I want to say: "Please don't show me that because it means NOTHING." But then I know they'd try to explain it to me and my 10-minute oil change would turn into a one-hour auto clinic.

    Jess, you rock!

  7. At the place I go they put a smear of my oil on a card next to a smear of raspberry lip gloss, and I'm supposed to ooh and aah over the chocolate-y color of my oil, as if raspberry oil is much better than chocolate oil. Mostly I just look at the young guy's fingernails and say, "Oooh, yeah - that looks bad. Dirty!" At least I'm not lying.

    Don't they give you a free newspaper?? It's the only time I ever read USA Today, The Newspaper Read in Preschools Across America.

  8. They show me the dipstick and I'm like, "Yeah, what? I change diapers, not oil."

  9. whoa, whoa, whoa - you change your oil every 3 months? damn! well, maybe you drive a lot. I only have to do it like twice a year. Plus I get it done at Walmart, so who knows what they fill it with. It could be jellybeans for all I know. :D

  10. I would like to give atip that I learned at the alter of "Hard Knocks"

    Never, ever, ever decide that in order to stop your husbands damn bitching about the oil level in your car, decide to fill it the fuck up. I mean FILL IT.

    Cause super bad things happen to a car engine when you over fill the oil. Like smoking, kill your engine things. Like 4000 dollar engine replacement things.

    That you never admit to...for the sake of your marriage.

    But this Never happened to me. Ever.

    P.S. It also buys you a never have to take your car for an oil change again card - since your spouse is no so neurotic about the freak Oil issue.

  11. Anonymous6:24 PM

    Mr. Jiffy Lube showing you the dipstick reminds me of our obstetrician showing me the placenta after my first child was born.


  12. Anonymous6:40 PM

    lol! This is why I leave it to my husband to take care of the car...

  13. Don't worry about missing Mother Angulica.If mother Angelica ever says anything new, that would TRULY be a miracle.

  14. I love you so much I peed my pants. YOU get funnier and funnier and I'm so glad I found your website. ~sigh~ I REALLY needed a laugh and I thank you for it.

    I feel the EXACT same way when I get my oil changed. Oh and any doctor sending me coupons will NOT get my business, I mean it's medicine not KMart!

    Sauerkraut is gross but I'd devour a gingerbread house.

    Thanks again...

  15. Anonymous7:20 AM

    i own a ford. so, i know what you mean about crossing your fingers, hoping and praying your car doesn't blow up due to the fact you haven't taken it in to be serviced. all the while ignoring the 20 recall messages in your mailbox.

  16. I gotta say, I HATE that Maint. Req'd light. It is the bane of my existence.

    Really, what it ought to say is, "Honda needs your next $300 payment, pronto".

    It doesn't matter if the thing is running great. Even an oil change winds up costing me $300, minimum. Vultures.

  17. I came over here to be entertained, Jess, not be reminded that I am long overdue for an oil change myself.....sheesh! ;-)

  18. After the whole "no one told me cars need oil" incident and subsequent demise of the teal mobile, I've put my husband in charge of car-related issues.

    Kudos to you for following the every three month rule.

  19. "...but I found the idea of having my hips replaced by a doctor who prints coupons a bit unsettling. So into the bad pile it went."

    Every time I come here, I spit some kind of liquid from laughing too hard so I've enacted a new rule. No drinking while reading Jess Riley. Ever.

  20. I. Dread. The. Oil. Change. Actually, I think I'd rather have a colonoscopy. I'm not kidding. I hate the way they look at me, like what an idiot I am for not having had this done 4,000 miles ago when I was supposed to.

  21. Anonymous11:53 AM

    I detest car care. I take mine to the dealership as they already know what a numpty I am so I don't have to explain it all over again to someone new. I just give them my keys and my wallet and no one gets hurt.

  22. HOWLING-funny!

    I bought my husband an old "farm" truck for a birthday present one year...a very USED AND ABUSED Chevy. (I sooo can't believe he liked it!)

    Well, mechanical genius that he is...he let it run completely out of oil and ruined the lovely thing! Consequently, I have a "get out of jail free" card in terms of oil changing. And I also have a "don't piss me off or I'll tell all your boyfriends how you ruined the truck" pass! (And don't think I haven't used it!!)

  23. Huh, you're supposed to change the oil?

    Good stuff Jess - as usual.

  24. Anonymous1:46 PM

    I did not know about these "oil changes" until I met the Nearly. I was having a car problem and he asked when I had last had my (car's) oil changed and I gave him a vacant look. Sure, I would pour a little oil in there occasionally, when it was low, but "change" it? Like take it all out and put new in? "Can they DO that?" I asked. Ah well.

  25. Anonymous1:58 PM

    There's a Jiffy Lube near our house that is adjacent to a Taco Bell.



  26. Oh how I hate to have my car serviced. I send my boyfriend instead...does the trick!

  27. I don't get anything done unless the car breaks down or DH takes it in. LOL!

  28. Anonymous11:10 PM

    The best thing about being married? Never having to deal with any kind of mechanic, ever.

    Don't tell my husband I said that. He thinks I married him for the hot monkey love.

  29. Anonymous11:19 PM

    Yup, sounds just about like every oil change experience I've ever had. Except I usually also get chastised by the concerned guys for being over 3000 miles between visits. I HATE oil changes.

  30. Heh heh. You said dipstick. Heh heh.

  31. "Looks good thanks" - YES! Exactly what I do, unless I just pick the smile/nod route.

    Next trip to the auto guy, I swear I'm getting one of those spongebob air fresheners.

  32. Hi Jess! Just stopping by to say hello. I still love this story. I always feel self-conscious sitting in my car while they change the oil. It seems so...personal. But that's just me.

    Hi from down under your neck of the woods. *waves*

  33. Anonymous4:49 PM

    I'm just getting caught up on many o' blog, so I only have one word for you: hilarious!

  34. Anonymous4:50 PM

    P.S. Another comment: you don't carry a book with you everywhere? I find I must.