July 13, 2005

Not just Tuesday…


Whatever do I mean? You might not want to know. But it involves a trip to the junkyard, so it’s bound to be interesting. Or not. (This will be long, so if the screen cuts off before you get to the end, remember to press the F11 key twice to make it display properly. More or less.)

ANYway, quitting time finally arrived yesterday and I had some big moron stuff to do, the main one being that Reba had put some steaks in the refrigerator to marinate overnight so I could cook them on the grille, but I told her I wanted to clean it up and get a new grate and some new rocks before I did any cooking, so this was going to entail a trip to--where else?!--Wal-Mart on the way home to get the requisite items.

BUT! Knowing that this sidetrip on the way home would add some extra time, and knowing that I was already going to be a bit later than usual, I figured that this would provide the PERFECT opportunity for increased moronicity in the form of a trip by the Pull-A-Part. Why?

WELL FRIENDS, you see, the lovely Volvo in my driveway is mostly complete, with the exception of a few niggledy bits of minor consequence. One of these bits happens to be a tiny black rubber cushion/bumper/snubber/spacer deal. Hold up your thumb--no, really--hold up your thumb. Okay, now imagine that from the joint to the tip is constructed of somewhat soft black rubber. That right there is about the size and shape of this elusive part. It also has a narrow but deep spiral groove molded into it, as if it can be screwed into a hole. Which is EXACTLY what it does!

See, under the lip of the trunk lid, there’s supposed to be TWO of these little teats that fit into two small holes, and they serve the purpose of keeping the trunk lid at the proper gap, and I suppose they help soften the closing of the trunk to keep it from being all slammy. There was one on the right side, but not one in the corresponding hole on the left side.

And this bothered me.


Because, I Am A Moron.

After I noticed it was missing, it just stood out like a sore black rubber thumb. Or didn’t, since it wasn’t there.

So, I’ve been keeping an eye on Ebay for these silly things, which are apparently more scarce than discussions of Hegel at Britney Spears’ house. I found a Volvo parts place on the Internet and had some correspondence back and forth with them, but the woman seemed very put out that she kept having to use that dagnabbed computer-thang to talk to me, and it took forever to get an answer from her, and in the end, it just wasn’t worth the hassle. I figured I would eventually find one.

Which made me think I ought to at least call a few junkyards around town, since we have more, and bigger, junkyards than anyone in the world. The first place I thought of was Pull-A-Part, whom I wrote of in the distant past for their stupid (and quickly pulled off the air) television commercial with the comely girl suggestively touting her nice tailpipe and headlights. (It’s the post that prompted one of the Jon Stewart Show producers to e-mail me about doing an interview, which I didn’t do.)

Whatever--the reason I decided to check them out is that they have a handy website where you can check inventory yourself to see what kinds of cars they have on their lot, and when I checked I found they had tons (literally and figuratively and relatively) of wrecked Swede bricks for picking over. Surely to goodness, there must be one little rubber squishy bump in there!


I did a bit of checking, and found out the concept behind this place is that they charge a nominal admission fee of $1 to go in the yard, and they charge one price for each part, regardless of make or model, and they rotate stock regularly. Once a car’s been on the lot for a certain amount of time, it gets sent to the shredder.

Now, the various news blurbs about the place emphasized that the management was intent on making it neat and clean, and with the cars being easily accessible, but having spent countless hours of my youth poring through our regular junkyards looking for AMC parts, I couldn’t see how it would be that much different from any other junkyard.

Little did I know!

I left work and went through the normal bad parts of town and arrived to a nice clean parking lot surrounded by a tall white metal fence, with a tidy building at the back. Hmm. Parked and walked in, and it looked more or less like a car dealer’s service area--bright and clean, with a waiting area and vending machines, and a counter with several computers, one of which was staffed by a desperately haggard-looking woman with her head on her hands. I walked up--wearing my nice shoes and slacks and white oxford cloth shirt and tie--and she continued to eyeball me with a look of unbelief, chin still firmly collapsed onto her hand.

“I can’t BELIEVE you came to a JUNKYARD dressed like THAT!”

“Well, I only need one little part, and I don’t think I’ll get dirty getting it!”

She sighed and sat up--“What kinda car?”

“86 Volvo 240.”

“Got one on row 20--straight out the door and to the right. You have a good afternoon.”

She slid me a receipt that had the car and row printed on it, along with several other years--the same list I’d printed off from their website earlier. “Yes, ma’am!”

I walked up to the next counter, where a guy stamped my hand and I paid my dollar. Well now, let’s see what this junkyard looks like!

Again--quite fascinating. Being used, as I have been, to piles of rust and jumbles of tangled metal, this was quite a departure. The cars were indeed in nice long straight rows, some up on blocks, some on stacked rims, but each one by itself, with sufficient elbow room all around, like a parking lot. No stray parts out in the driveways, no ponds full of mosquitoes, no rats or snakes scampering or slithering about, no cars piled ten high. And the driveways were nice and hard--no sucking pools of oily mud. Niiiiiiice!

Found the Volvo graveyard and started looking--at ALL of them. They had quite a selection of newer and older ones, although I was most shocked to see a rusting hulk of an P1800 in the mix. Walked up and down several rows--some models didn’t have the rubber spuffet I was looking for, but I didn’t know which, so I had to eyeball them all, as well as look and see if I could find some other stuff I might want. Saaaaay--nice rims! OOoooh--a fuse box cover! Hmmmmm--maybe a lighter with the painted cigarette still intact…

FINALLY, found some variant of some year of 240 that had a happy little black dingus sticking down out of the trunk lip--unscrewed it and stuck it in my pocket. From what I can tell from my research on other folks who shop at these places--tiny stuff like this isn’t free, but everyone, including the management, figures that the buck you pay to get in should pretty much cover one or two such small bits.

I kept looking a bit, even though it was getting past time to go, mainly because there’s all sorts of cool stuff in there I might want to go back and look at when I don’t have on dress clothes. Still, despite the fun of exploring, there really are few things sadder than a junkyard. You figure every one of those hunks of metal were at one time someone’s proud possession, and now, they just sit there and molder. Full of their own leavings, and then other junk from other cars that gets thrown in as well--I saw a speedometer in the trunk of one car, even though it still had one in the dash. Someone’d had just decided not to get it, and tossed it in the first available Volvo. They’re just things, but you still wonder about their stories.

Well, no time for philosophy---time to head to the store. Walked back out and stopped to ask how much hubcaps cost--there were a couple of nice ones of the older style in there that were pretty nice--“Three-oh-three, or three-oh-six or so, something like that.” Odd that they wouldn’t round down to even dollars, but I guess they make their money on the pennies.

OFF TO WALLYWORLD! Or, as I like to call it, Moron Project, Part Two.

Got there and went to the grille section and was MIGHTILY disappointed. I guess they’ve started clearing stuff out, but they didn’t have the type of grate I wanted. Got one that has flat bars, which is supposed to leave those tasty wide marks on the meat. The wider the tastier, apparently. Also got one of the little tent-shaped sheetmetal deals that fits over the burner--a Flavorizer or some-such, and a couple of bags of lava rocks. And the grate I didn’t really want.

Paid, and then decided I owed it to myself to check K-Mart, just in case they had something more in tune with what I was looking for. Nope. In fact, they barely had anything at all--a few brushes, some covers, and that was it. I tell you, the place looks doomed. Maybe I could open an indoor Volvo junkyard in it when they finally go out of business.

On toward home, under an increasingly cloudy and--yep--starting to drip--sky. ::sigh::

Maybe I’ll be able to beat the rain.

Parked, opened up the trunk lid of the Volvo, screwed in my little rubber thumbtip, opened and closed trunk and patted myself on the back. Came inside, greeted happy wife and children, changed clothes into something more appropriate for both junkyard and grille-rebuilding duties, came back downstairs and…

RrrrmblermblerbleBOOM! Rain. Buckets of rain.

Reba went ahead and put the steaks in the oven--in a dish, on bake--NO BROILING PAN!--and I stood there and looked out the window like a sad little moron.

WAIT! What’s THIS!? It’s stopping! Hooray!

Ran out after it had quit, and started cleaning out all the old ceramic bricks and scale and char and then grabbed the scraper brush and went to work on the sides of the bottom part. Got the hose out to rinse it out, and….

More rain. ::sigh::

Went back in, waited. HEY! IT’S STOPPING! AND, there was a DOUBLE RAINBOW! Which was nice.

Finished scraping the case out and rinsing it, put in the new Sharp-edged Hunk of Metal, the pumice, and sat the new grate on the--oh, crap. Dingdernit all. The new grate is about three inches shorter than the one it replaced. Well--I have the OLD old set of wires, I COULD put that on there, and…

Nah, the heck with that--I had too much effort into this thing to be defeated. Placed them on there, called for my Giant Lighter of Flaming Death, turned on the gas, struck the spark and POOF! FIRE! By which time, Reba had decided we needed to go ahead and actually finish the meat by using the broiling pan.

I told her I would cook the other two steaks, since I had finally gotten the grille cleaned and hot. She said okay. I was really only doing that to keep her from smoking up the house. Which, of course, she did. I was standing there tending my meat when I heard the telltale EEPEEPEEPEEPEEPEEP of the smoke alarm going off inside the house. Rebecca came to the door to get me. “Mama wants you, Daddy!” Stuck my head in--“The smoke alarm went off!”

Yes, I know!

“Well, it’s okay--the others are about done now.” Which was true only in the most relative of terms, but it kept me from saying anything about her continued insistence on using the broiler pan and then acting surprised when the smoke alarm goes off.

Eventually, supper really was done, so we ate it and got finished at the highly reasonable time of NINE PEE EM. Which might be fine for all you urbane city dwellers up there in New York or Chicago, but to a rube like me is WAY too late to be eating supper.

But, at least my two Super Moron Projects DID get done, so I suppose that’s something.

Now then--back to work for me. My first meeting lasted nearly 2 1/2 hours, but thankfully I was able to sweet-talk my way out of the second so I could actually do some actual work. Actually. And I still have some to do, and then I have to leave early because today is DENTIST APPOINTMENT DAY! With CATHERINE and me.

It promises to be quite entertaining.

Posted by Terry Oglesby at July 13, 2005 01:13 PM

Lack of posts like this is why last week was so boring.

That and that I have no life, but at least i got a Double Shot of Moron Project.

Posted by: skinnydan at July 13, 2005 02:07 PM

I aim to please! Sorta.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 13, 2005 02:18 PM

You shoplifted! and then you documented for the world to see...

I'm not sure which is worse... ;)


Posted by: Byron Todd at July 14, 2005 01:05 AM

I laughed, I cried. It was an emotional tour-de-force!!

Posted by: UziQ at July 14, 2005 07:06 AM

Byron, I figure the free publicity (and the 100 cent admission fee) should make up for any loss of revenue they might have experienced. I found a humorous thread on some bulletin board when I was researching them about one guy who went in and saw the owner of one such facility trying to get a guy to empty his pocket. The writer of the post said it looked like the junkyard picker had stuck something the size and shape of a alternator down his pants and was trying to get out with it. Final outcome was to call the cops, because the man with big pockets steadfastly refused to dump whatever he'd stuffed in them. Poor guy--obviously not been to the Sandy Berger School of Pilferage.

And UziQ--thank you very much, but I still think the posts lacks some oomph compared to, say, my experience with the frozen biscuit dough. There was, after all, no self-inflicted bodily harm.

Posted by: Terry Oglesby at July 14, 2005 07:53 AM

Ah yes the good old days with tales of blood and biscuits.

Posted by: jim at July 14, 2005 09:56 AM