Defeat or Defiance?

Oil stained my clothes, shirt, pants, socks, and probably my underwear. My hands were so greasy gripping any tool was like grappling a bar of soap in a prison shower; scary and any wrong move could have dire circumstances. The brakes were back together, but the brake line connection just wouldn’t seat without cross threading. There was simply nothing left to do. My hands were cramped. My back was aching, and my wits had left the building. In that instant, I turned into Rambo. I grunted, groaned, screamed, and pounded my open fist on the rear bumper, chucking a wrench with my other had and knocking over a can of penetrating oil. I had a full blown adult tantrum, lying on my back under the rear end of my old pickup truck.

I thought to myself, there had to be one hundred better ideas for today. Flying, that would have been one. The plane was not broke, and it was a lovely summer day with light wind and little clouds. They were serving hot dogs at the airfield. Yes, that would have been a better course for the day. Another idea, my wife and I could have taken the dogs on an adventure. We could have loaded them into the car, taken them to the park, and walked in the nice sunshine, listening to the birds, and laughing at the joggers sweating and out of breath as we casually strolled along. No, instead, I vowed to fix something.

Today, was not about the “project.” No, today was about making the Old Girl a little safer. Tilly needs some new brakes, which I had already thoughtfully ordered, having delivered just the day prior. Though she made it out last evening and was part of a well orchestrated photography shoot, on the drive home something went ‘CLANK’, loudly, and the brake pedal got a lot softer. This sealed the deal, it was time to fix it while learning a new skill. I had high hopes of feeling achievement, accomplished, and pride at the end of the job.

I was awake early, always am, but instead of casually drinking coffee and reading social media, I showered, dressed in my worst, and crawled under the truck. The problem was, I had a plan, had done some research, but I had not the experience nor foresight to see issues that would arise. Had I crawled under and investigated more, I would have realized that my plan, as it were, was not complete. A simple change of shoes, wheel cylinder, and drum were not in the cards. Instead, I should have seen that I was going to have to take out badly done brake lines, have more parts on hand, and need a lot more time than one afternoon. My shortsighted plan was the reason for my tantrum. The only smart thing about the plan was that I did all of this work inside the garage. Hence, just as things went pear shaped, I did not have the truck stuck outside missing a wheel.

Not too long after doing my Rambo impersonation, my wife came to the garage and very tenderly started to help me clean up. She let me sulk. She let me be. She just helped. I had reached a point where I had to make a decision, do I admit defeat, call a tow truck, and hand over the truck to an expert? Not just a brake expert, really, but someone that knows old vintage trucks and would go ahead and complete the project: new rear end, transmission, re-do mufflers, add front disc brakes, wiring harness, and even a new radio. This option is high cost, high dollar. If I was sitting on a pile of cash, this option might be a lot more tempting.

The other option is that I formulate a new plan, knowing that this is my project, my work, and my learning experience. I won’t really learn if someone else does all the work for me. Besides, I already know how to hand over piles of cash to contract labor. I do that for a living. This new plan needs to have many levels, ingenious, and will probably still involves piles of cash. The only issue is that when you become this frustrated with yourself, you cannot make decisions right away. You can’t even see clearly. And as you hear all the advice from experts, “just walk away”, “give it time”, “take a breath”, you want to smack their sincere encouragement right off their smug faces. After all, I was still channeling the shirtless, knuckle dragging oaf.

Thankfully, I did give it time. Now I have a new plan. I will wait for the new parts to deliver, and then back to battle I shall go, wrench in hand.

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