Whenever my family and I would go on long-ish trips, my dad would always stress my mom out by going outside to check the car’s oil and tires approximately eight minutes before we had to leave.
He’d always ask me if I wanted to help, and I always said yes, except I interpreted “help” to mean “watch.” I’d watch him open up the hood, pull the dipstick out a couple times, then pull out his gauge and test all four tires. Mom would always be most stressed when they needed more air, because that meant Dad would have to go down the street to 7-Eleven and fill them up. We really lived on the edge, my family.
As I got older and then later started to drive, Dad attempted to teach me how to take care of a car. I put a stop to that.
Dad: Let me show you how to check your transmission fluid.
Me: Haha, right.
Dad: Look, you just pull this thing out and––
Me: I’m going inside.
My poor father.
But now that I’m all grown up and stuff, I’ve realized that taking care of your car is important – not because I think it’s good to have pride in your belongings, but because it costs a lot of money if you let that maintenance stuff get away from you. Also I don’t want to die in a freak accident because I didn’t know how to correctly jump a battery.
So I started casually asking my dad about car stuff, slipping it into our normal, everyday conversation. (And, lest folks think I’m sexist for not also asking my mom, here’s what she said when I brought up a car question: “You need to ask your dad.”) I tried:
Me: Hey Dad – you hungry?
Me: How do you change a tire?
Dad: Hey, you want to go to the library with me?
Me: Depends – what’s it mean when that little orange light with the exclamation mark shows up in my dashboard?
Me: Oh, one more thing – what’s the right way to use jumper cables?
Dad: Can it wait ’til I’m done showering?
(He answered all those questions but I neglected to write them down.)