On the spectrum of ways I’d like to be woken up, “icy rain on my face” is somewhere between “gentle puppy kisses” and “SWAT team battering ram.” Well, that’s what I’ve had to deal with for the last month, as the window of our van, Nissan Serena Williams was stuck a few inches from the closed position. Or so we thought. Did I mention it rains a lot in New Zealand?
About a month ago, in the middle of the night, we were wakened by a mighty gale. Branches from the trees above whipped the side of the van and we were shoved back and forth on her well-aged suspension. Giant drops of rain came horizontal through our open windows, threatening our warm and dry cocoon of sleeping bags, pillows, and most importantly, electronic gadgets. We scrambled to close the windows, only to discover that the front passenger window wouldn’t shut completely. With heavy eyes we made a half-hearted attempt to solve the problem then plugged the hole and returned to our nest.
The next morning we decided we’d wait and deal with the window problem when it was more convenient to get it fixed. We had plans. No time to sit around an auto mechanic shop. We got used to it.
We spent the next few weeks driving around with the window nearly closed. I say “nearly closed,” but nearly closed is very far from actually closed, when precipitation is involved. Of course if it were stuck completely down, we would have done something about it sooner. We thought we could deal with it. We drove through snow, sleet, rain, wind, and what seemed like alternating freezing and miserably buggy nights hunkered down in Ms. Williams’ backseat, cursing the window that wouldn’t quite close.
Eventually, we caved. We took it to a mechanic to have it looked at. He puttered around for a few minutes, pressing the button that we’d tried hundreds of times before. He took the switch apart and hooked up some kind of electrical testing system. He fiddled with fuses and muttered something about a motor. Soon he gave up and sent us on our way the same way we’d drove in, but with our wallet a little lighter. He suggested we take it to an auto electrical specialist, as it was out of a normal mechanic’s depth. This sounded like it would be an expensive solution to an inconvenience that didn’t really impact the performance of the car. So we waited another few weeks to follow up.
In the interim, Nissan Serena Williams developed a different, slightly more serious issue that needed prompt attention, so we took her in to a different mechanic. We’ll call him Rob. I mentioned the window, but almost in passing, and asked him to take a look, if he had time, as a lower priority item. He wasn’t an electrical specialist so I had little hope he’d be able to solve it.
The next day, Rob called. “Nissan Serena Williams is ready,” he said. Ok, he didn’t address her by her full name. “Your car is ready.” He didn’t mention the window. I didn’t ask because I was sure he hadn’t fixed it, and I was resigned to the fact that it would continue to be a problem.
I arrived at his shop to pick it up, and to my surprise the window was up! It was fixed. The broken window saga was over! Rejoice! But of course, the story doesn’t end there.
He walked me through the work he’d done: replace the clutch master cylinder, fluids, some parts and a gave me a reasonable total. There was no mention of the window or any switches or motors on the bill.
“And the window? I saw it was fixed on the way in.”
“Oh, that,” he said, with a grin. “You know that button that’s above the window controls, on the driver’s side?”
“That’s a lock for the windows.”
“It locks the window controls in the rest of the van.”
“Are you serious? That was it? Can you show me?” And he took me outside and pointed out the button. It was there, exactly as he said.
I couldn’t believe it. I’m familiar with power windows and their child locks. This wasn’t a great revelation. I’d just been too focused on other things to actually think about the problem.
We walked back in and settled the bill. “No charge for the window repair,” he said, grinning ear to ear.
“Thanks. Just keep it between you and me.”
“And me, ” said another mechanic said from behind a stack of tires.
“And me,” a teenage assistant with grease all over his face and hands added.
And for the final insult: “And me!” said a customer leaning into the shop from the waiting room.
This is the shame I must live with. Just remind me not to take the car back to the first mechanic. If I ever see him again I’m going to insist (not so politely) that he find another profession.