It was late in the evening but not yet dark when I decided to change the oil in our car Saturday. I try to do that at least once a year whether it needs it or not. You know, support the oil companies, create the illusion of a diligent owner, deceive the neighbors into thinking I occasionally do something useful, that sort of thing.
So, I got my stuff together and slithered under the car. Pretty soon, I realized the car was too low for me to change the oil in the driveway. So I pulled the car forward to where the front hung over the edge where the driveway slopes off a few inches down into the garage. It was still a snug fit underneath but it would have to do.
The drain plug was in pretty tight and I had to push pretty hard on the wrench handle to loosen it. Then I pushed a little harder. After that I pushed a lot harder and that was enough. The plug loosened and my hand slammed into the metal framing both bruising the knuckle of my ring finger and scraping off enough skin to graft a small burn. Not yet having any small burns that needed grafting, I left the skin where it was.
I soon discovered that there still wasn’t enough room between the drain plug and the drain pan for me to keep the pan in position while I removed the plug. I had flattened an appliance-sized cardboard box so I slid that underneath the car. Figured it would catch and soak up a small spill. It did indeed soak up a small spill. Unfortunately, in the time intervening between removing the plug and sliding the pan in place, I had more than a small spill.
Now in the reference frame of the Exxon Valdez and the Gulf Coast spills, it was minute. On the scale of my cardboard box, it was rather substantial. After a while I noticed that the oil slick had oozed down the length of the cardboard and was dripping onto the floor. I propped up that end with a small block. I finished draining the oil and removed the pan and re-installed the plug without losing any additional skin.
When I tried to remove the filter, it was too tight for me to loosen with grip strength alone. I used a filter wrench attachment for my ratchet wrench and it came off without too much trouble. The attachment was stuck so tight to the filter I had to hammer it loose. After filling the engine with fresh oil, I started the car up and backed it back out into the driveway.
Then I went back into the garage to pour the used oil into the now empty oil jug. I managed to spill oil all over the top of the jug. Then I noticed that oil was now draining off the cardboard at the opposite end. I wiped the jug down and set it over on the floor. Then I folded up the cardboard so no more oil could drip off the edge. After that, I got out the mineral spirits and began cleaning up the spills.
Somehow, I managed to turn a fifteen-minute job into a full hour. But at least the car had fresh oil and a new filter. And I saved at least five bucks by doing it myself, not counting the cost of antibiotic ointment and Band-Aids.
It’s not that unusual in this world that small things turn into bigger things. Sometimes because of our own ineptness and sometimes owing to that of others. Sometimes it’s a lack of forethought and sometimes it’s the lack of any thought.
Always it’s the reaction we choose that determines whether or not we use those things as part of making a good day or part of ruining one.