Saturday, December 02, 2006

The IT Solution

I hate the powerless feeling when stuff breaks.

Take Thursday, for example. It was a Thursday like any other... I was leaving work to go get the Monkey. I went down into the parking garage, got my stuff settled in the car, put the key in the ignition...and nothing happened.

Now, when I say "nothing happened," I don't mean the car was dead or anything like that...I mean the key won't turn. At all. I tried to push it in further...but that didn't help. I jiggled the steering wheel, but it was locked, so it was no longer having any impact. I tested the lights, for no particular reason. I tried to make sure it wasn't in gear...and I tried to see if I could move it out of park, also for no particular reason. I tried again to turn the key...harder...softer...forward...backward... It won't go. I break out the owner's manual and start reading...but there's not much there.

I head up to the lobby to call MonkeyDad to tell him he might have to get the Monkey if I'm not successful at getting the [expletive deleted] car to go. He tells me to turn the steering wheel. I agree that I'll try, but I explain that it's locked. He says sure, just turn it harder.

Um...ok. I'll try anything at this point. And I head back down to the bowels of the parking garage. I turn the wheel with all my might and try the key. Nothing. I stand on the brake and turn the wheel some more. Nothing. I turn the wheel the other direction as far as it will go. Nothing. I briefly attempt to manually turn the tire on the car...the effort of which makes me reel backwards and slightly greasy. Try the key again. Nothing.

I have bruises on my finger now from trying to turn the key.

I decide what I need is to apply the "IT solution." You know the IT solution, right? Where the computer won't do what you want it to try everything you know and give up, finally placing a helpdesk call. The IT guy comes and stands behind do exactly what you did before...only this time, it works perfectly (presumably because the IT guy, who's now surreptitiously rolling his eyes, is standing there). Now you have a functional computer and you feel like a raging idiot.

I head back upstairs in search of a man...because in order for the IT solution to work properly, you really need the other person to be someone that will make you feel embarrassed when the problem fixes itself. I'm not having much luck at finding a man, though ( comments from the peanut gallery, thankyouverymuch)... The Deputy Comptroller is in a meeting...most of the other guys in my department have gone... I happen upon my second level supervisor...who isn't a man, but her position of relative power and considerable expertise make her a perfect candidate. She's heading out anyway. Excellent!

(side note: while we're waiting for the elevator, I notice the perfect man-candidate stroll by...doh! I should have thought to see if the coffee guys were still there!)

We arrive in the parking garage and she tries the jiggle-the-steering-wheel trick...and it doesn't work. She tries standing on the break...and it doesn't work. She jiggles the gear-stick...and it doesn't work. We trade places and she pores over the owner's manual while I demonstrate the definition of insanity a half dozen more times. I feel validated, but it's time to give up... She gives me a ride home.

Turns out that this is a common problem with the 2000 Ford Focus. The ignition chamber thingy in the steering wheel is/was made of something akin to spit and tin foil, so it breaks periodically. Why Ford hasn't issued a recall, I have no idea...but I'm a little cranky with the company over it.

After enduring the makings of a migraine the next morning (poor MonkeyDad was trying to help me out --before I'd had either coffee or breakfast-- by telling me all the things I needed to think about: Could I actually get it towed? It's front-wheel-drive and parked face in, so how are they going to get it out? Probably they'll have to disengage the steering column to get it to work.... Is there sufficient clearance to get a towtruck down there? Had I thought about calling a locksmith?), I managed to get in touch with a locksmith company. Oh yes, she said, they do this all the time...they could do it on site and they'd be there that day.

Six hours and $262.00 later, my car was working again...

...and couldn't help wondering if the IT solution would have worked if only I'd been able to find the right guy...


Anonymous said...

Ohhh, man, that sucks. Silly car. Also, who offers helpful suggestions before coffee? Silly, silly MonkeyDad!

J.Bro said...

A broken car is the worst feeling - I hate the information asymmety of taking it to the mechanic. "Ayup - looks like your throttle oil's runnin' a little hot, which popped the tranny distribution cap. Yer lookin' at about eight million dollars in parts, plus labor."

This is why I learned to do all my own bike maintenance. Unfortunately, a car has, like, a thousand times as many parts to break, and I haven't taken the plunge into learning to fix that myself yet. To my dad's chagrin.