"Anything you can do I can do better" has never been a mantra I would use when referring to myself and the wide world of automobile maintenance and repair. Growing up I was never taken out to the garage on a Saturday morning and taught how to tinker with coolant hoses and fan belts (yes, I just had to double check those terms) but, to be fair, I never asked to be shown those things either.
Why was that?
Was it because I'm a girl? Would it have been out of place for me to request a lesson or two?
Did my parents figure that because they had two daughters it wasn't necessary to teach us even the basics? They were always firm believers in the power of calling for roadside assistance and doing whatever it was that the man (let's be honest, it's always a man) suggested was the best course of action. To this day, that thought causes me to fill with a sense of anxiety, just the sheer embarrassment of being stranded, alone, with zero knowledge and no means to properly communicate the problem makes me feel utterly useless and dumb.
As cliche as it sounds, I do believe that society is the hand that is stirring the pot containing my self doubts and absolute nonsensical understanding of cars. As a child the only car related things I can remember playing with was a small pink jeep who's soul purpose was to take Barbie and Stacy from the Dream House to the beach. Eventually it became less of a "car" because my sister and I just ended up tying a jump rope to the front and dragged our hamsters and rabbits around in it. It seems like the majority of girls are given little pink cars and boys get Hot Wheels and all the nitty gritty knowledge that goes along with it. Due to being placed in that tiny societal box, I was under the slight impression that girls wouldn't need to know how, at the very least, to diagnose a car issue because there would probably always been a guy around to do it for them...ugh, how insane is that thinking? I cringed writing it out, but hey, it's the truth.
A truth that made itself more then obvious last week when my car did the thing that I have always been the most terrified of. It flipping over heated on the freeway while I was driving alone at night. Now some of you might have flung straight into action, knowing the exact steps to take, not even breaking a sweat in the process, but for little ole' me it was the stuff of nightmares.
The one thing that I did know (either from common sense or just sheer fear) was to pull off safely and turn the engine off. I called my Fiance, even though I knew he was at work and, as pathetic as it sounds, wouldn't be able to come and save me. He did calm me down and was able to take a good guess at what was happening with the car, most likely something to do with radiator fluid and the fact that I probably didn't have any where it needed to be. (Spoiler Alert....he was right)
Luckily for me, I was only a couple miles from home when all this went down, so after letting the engine cool down for about 20 minute, I basically coasted all the way down hill to my apartment complex. Just being parked and at home made me feel 100% better but I knew that I would still have to get under the hood despite the fact that I wasn't quite sure what I was suppose to be looking for. So, after about a solid five minutes of fighting with the hood latch, I got it open, and stared at the dust covered innards. (Should I be embarrassed?!) I was told by my Fiance to find the coolant tank and see if there was anything in it. I will admit that I had to Google what the tank cap looked like for my type of car, and sure enough, once located I noticed that there was, what I would consider to be, a large drop left inside.
I suddenly felt a sense of calm, I knew what the problem was and from that knowledge came the power that I needed in order to fix it. After another quick round of Google (it's super handy ok) I had the specific brand of coolant that I need to spring my car back to life. By random luck I was able to borrow a car and get my self over to the local 24 hour Super-Mart extreme and in less then an hour I was back home and popping the hood once again and this time in only five seconds thank you very much. After unscrewing the cap from the tank, I started to pour the coolant inside, waiting for it to simmer down before eventually reaching the fill line. I felt more and more awesome about myself with every car that drove past or the couples who walked by with their dogs. I was confident in what I was doing, so much so that no one felt the need to ask if I needed any help. Even if they did I would be able to answer with certainty, "No thanks, I've got it!"
Once everything was full and back in place, I checked under the car just to make sure that nothing was leaking. I may have missed the tank a few times with the coolant so the only thing I saw were the subtle drips from that. Confidence rushing through my veins, I even dared to check the dipstick for fun, just to say that I did. I climbed into the driver's seat and started the engine, so far so good, it all sounded like it was suppose to. I reversed into the night and took it for a few spins around the block, making sure to keep an eye on the temperature gauge. It was perfect, the needle was no longer jumping into the danger zone and I was utterly ecstatic with my accomplishment.
I may have been covered in antifreeze and oil but I had mended a car related issue on my own, and you know what? It wasn't as bad as I thought it would be. All that craziness under the hood didn't scare me as much anymore and I actually thought that I might be able to understand it more fully one day. It may have been a very small fix but the confidence boost it provided me with was enough to change my whole perspective. I was so proud of myself for taking a deep breath and going for it instead of simply ignoring it until a gentleman caller came around and shielded my eyes from the "horrors" beneath. Here's my advice to all the ladies (and gents) out there living with preconceived notions of what you are and aren't able to achieve, roll your sleeves up and go surprise yourself.
So, while the phrase, "I can do anything better then you" is still very far in my future, I know that I am definitely headed in the right direction and willing to take the steps to get there. The world of automobiles can feel like it's in completely different universe, but I feel as if I was just handed a telescope and can see it a little bit clearer now.