We all have them every now and then. Today was one of them for me.
I am writing about my crappy day not only as self-serving catharsis, but also as entertainment for those of you who are into Schadenfreude.
It started pretty early. Morning came and I awoke. Jenny was sleeping, but I automatically wake up at 6 am on garbage collection days to take the garbage can to the street for pick-up. Why not the night before? Because we have suburbanite bears roaming the streets at night, and they can smell a good garbage can from half a mile away. (If you’ve ever seen a job done by a raccoon on a garbage can, it ain’t pretty. But a hungry bear will scatter garbage all up and down the block, and will all but eat the can.) The county’s solid waste people tell us that we have to have our detritus ready by 6:30 or risk having to wait for the next collection day. I had already skipped last Friday’s, so no way I could let the compressed, odoriferous, 80 pound block of garbage in the compactor fester for another three days.
I wrestled the hefty bag (no pun intended) out of the compactor. It seemed stuck, so I yanked the heavy gauge plastic bag really hard. As I unintentionally tore the bag, the ensuing explosive decompression of garbage undid a week’s worth of compaction and I was faced with the task of putting 80 pounds of crap into a 40-pound bag. Helluva way to start the day!
Actually, I used two bags, because there was no way I could compact the decompacted stuff by hand. Took a while, but I got it all cleaned up and into the large can for transport to the street. I had a bowl of cereal with some blueberries, then climbed back into bed to await Jenny’s arousal — read that any way you want — because my next task of the day would be driving her up to Deltona.
“Are we taking the M3?” Jenny asked as we entered the garage. She saw that I had opened the garage door on the M3’s side of the garage when I brought the emptied garbage can in.
“Yes, we are,” I responded.
“Well, hang on, because I left the rice in the Jeep because I thought we would be taking it.” She had bought a couple of ten pound bags of Basmati rice at the Indian emporium yesterday, hauling them home in the Grand Cherokee because of its capacity to carry huge quantities of rice as well as the fact that Jenny had never learned how to use a stick shift, ruling out the M3.
“Wait!” I said. “Before you move the rice, I better make sure the M3 starts.” I had noticed that the five year-old battery was showing signs of behaving like a five year-old battery. Having recently replaced a five year-old battery in the Jeep, I knew all about that behavior.
I depressed the clutch and turned the key to start the M3.
Click! Click! Click! was all I got.
“Never mind. Leave the rice in the Jeep. We’ll take it.”
Now I knew what my next task of the day would be.
I called the dealership and got a price for replacing the official BMW battery with an official BMW battery. Once I scraped myself off the floor, I asked if I heard that price correctly. They wanted over $300! If wallets were human, this would be classified as statutory rape. So, I did some on-line research about replacements, found what I needed, and bought the battery on-line from AutoZone for in-store pickup. The cost was around $150.
Within an hour, AutoZone confirmed my order via email. In the meanwhile I needed to remove the old battery from the M3. It is under a plastic cover beneath the floor in the trunk. I removed the interior trim first and then remembered that I needed to do something to provide power to avoid losing the radio settings and Bluetooth pairings. Glad I remembered. I hooked up a charger to the jump start terminals under the hood, and then removed the battery from its compartment in the trunk, loading it in the back of the Jeep to take to AutoZone so I didn’t have to make a second trip to get my “core credit” of $12.
The AutoZone transaction was slick. I had my new battery and they had their old one in a couple of minutes. Someone even carried both of them for me to save what was left of my back.
I got home and installed the new battery. I screwed the terminals tight, screwed the hold-down bracket tight, disconnected the charger, and started the M3 right up. That’s what I’m talkin’ about! As I returned to the trunk to replace the plastic cover and the interior trim pieces, I noticed that the right angle vent tube connector was lying on the floor of the trunk. I didn’t connect the damn vent tube! Perhaps it was one too many items for my aging brain to accommodate.
Back to work! Remembering to re-connect the charger, I reversed the procedure I had just completed to uninstall the battery so I could insert the vent tube connector and hook it up to the outside vent tube. Then I once again screwed the terminals tight, screwed the hold-down bracket tight, disconnected the charger, and it started right up. Almost done. I just had to replace that interior trim.
At that point I was dripping sweat all over the place, as it was over 90 degrees. I was wearing my third shirt of the day and it was wringing wet.
I reinstalled the plastic cover. Then, when I grabbed the integral spare tire cover and floor carpeting unit to replace it, the heavy fiber-board tire cover slipped out of my sweaty had and hit me squarely an inch behind my left big toe, leaving a nice gash in my bare foot. No steel-toed work boots for this idiot! Yeah, right. The barefoot auto technician. Smart play! Fortunately, that was the final incident of this installation.
I went upstairs to do some work in my office, then I did a little reading. Next I was going to tackle the repair of the PowerMac G5 I gave to Jenny, as it had been acting flaky and then finally wouldn’t boot. At around 6 pm, my neighbor called me.
“Sorry to be the bearer of bad news, but you’ve got a leak,” he said. “It’s right outside your garage, on the side facing my house. If you come out, I’ll show it to you.”
Water was gushing from a point somewhere under some viburnum bushes. Terrific! Just what I needed. My neighbor was speculating that it could be in the main line on the utility side of the meter, so I could call the utility company. I didn’t want to do that right away because if it was on my side, they’d charge me a fortune to come out after hours. I have an irrigation system that is fed from the same metered water line that feeds the house’s plumbing. I looked at the meter, which was spinning like a Kristi Yamaguchi death spiral and would surely result in a huge bill next month. I had to shut the water off.
Now, somewhere in that buried box that holds the meter, there’s supposed to be a shut-off valve that can be closed with a T-handle. I didn’t have a T-handle, and neither did my neighbor. Nevertheless, I thought that if we found the valve, I could run to Home Depot and buy a T-handle. On my knees I scooped the dirt out from under the meter with my hands but I couldn’t find the damn hole for the T-handle. I was on the verge of calling the utility company to come out and shut it off, if they even would come out after hours. Yes, it would hit my wallet hard, but if this thing ran all night, it would not only cost me a bundle in water charges, but also erode the hell out of my lawn and flower bed.
Just then I remembered that I had another underground box with a shut-off valve in it, but to my knowledge, that valve controlled just the house water, not the irrigation water. I shut off the house water, but the leak continued. That meant that the leak was either in the irrigation feed pipe or in the main feed between the meter and the shut-off valve. The only way to diagnose which would entail shutting off the irrigation water, but how? My memory kicked in. I remember seeing a PVC valve handle inside that box where the shut-off for the house water was. However, by this time the box was filled with water and opaque mud, making it impossible to see what was in there. I rummaged around in the muck, eventually finding what felt like a plastic valve handle. I gave it a few clockwise turns and the gusher stopped. Whew!
The leak was in the main line feeding the irrigation system, which was the best place for it to be. I turned the house water back on. Watering the lawn is optional and is subject to two day per week watering restrictions, anyway. Flushing toilets is not optional. This unfortunate happening had a fortunate side. It could have been worse. Much worse.
I’m not going to get around to looking at Jenny’s computer tonight. I’ll work on it tomorrow, while I wait for another visit from Big Aaron, the irrigation guy, who I last saw this past week when he fixed another irrigation pipe caused by a truck running over one of my sprinkler heads. When he left, I told him I’d see him, but not too soon, I hoped. I must have had a premonition.