Sunday, July 6, 2003

Was this a good idea?

I've been driving around with a dent in the right read fender of my car since April 2002. I've been sad, annoyed, embarrassed, and stubbornly indifferent about it all. Along with those feelings I've been stopped at least a dozen times by complete strangers with offers to take care of the dent. At first I turned them away because I was unemployed and fixing a dent was certainly not worth the cost. Later I dismissed them because I was attempting to defeat the car pride that seems to be an integral part of me. Most recently I would turn them away - Geez, enough already! Go find someone else to pester!

But yesterday I said yes. Partly it was that he said the right things in the right way. But mostly it was a decision I had made to do something, even if it wasn't perfect to deal with that annoying dent hanging over my right shoulder. A co-worker and I have been joking about taking a bathroom plunger to it, since it looked like that was all it would take.

So when I pulled into the car wash stall down the street from my house I said yes. John started out asking for a much higher rate, but was willing to accept the 50 bucks I had in my wallet at the time. He did deliver more than that for me, but the act of repair was more traumatic than I would have imagined.

There are many things in life that you really don't want to see first hand. Some people can't look at needles, but accept them because they are a necessary evil. Other people keep their eyes closed on wild amusement park rides because they are frightened of the heights or speed but still love the exhilaration and excitement the ride brings them. Some people don't watch as their hair is cut, leaving their trust in their stylist to make them look better than they did when they walked into the salon.

I shouldn't have watched. It started off okay. I thought it was going along rather well and was pleased at how much of the dent was coming out with just a few simple tools. Then he got to the complexity of the indentation. Yeah, just look away. You probably don't want to see this either. I was lost in how he was working one side of the dent then the other, shifting over to a secondary section and then back to the first. I could see some parts weren't cooperating. But I wasn't prepared for him to pull out the hammer and screwdriver and bang a bunch of holes right through the metal. I remember thinking, damn the paint is chipping. Like the holes weren't a bigger deal. He didn't hesitate and I gritted my teeth and let him continue because it would look worse if he stopped here.

He kept going, pulling at the dent, adding more holes and more holes. For the Love of Mike! How many more will it take!? Before I knew it he was done. The dent was gone too. All that remained were the bullet holes and chipped paint of my right quarter panel. I thought, If this ends badly I'll just take it somewhere and get it done properly. But he mixed and blended and smoothed on a salve of Bondo and grey primer over my baby's hip. She actually looks better. Better than she did with the dent. She still needs a paint job and if I were feeling particularly masochistic I have John's number and I can call him to do the paint.

I'm going to take it to get it painted in a shop that will cover-up for overspray, sand it down and make it look pretty and shiny like the rest of the car. I don't want to watch it. My jaw is sore. I can't bite down on anything chewy on the right side of my mouth. The muscles in my jaw are still a little tense from this experience. But I'll recover and once I get the new top on the car, it'll look pretty again.

My advice? Turn away, you don't want to watch this.

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