Spring Lock Coupling Disconnect Tool

There used to be a time when working on a car was simple. At least a little simpler than rocket science or brain surgery. I can remember when I could open the hood of a car, look inside, and immediately identify everything I saw. It wasn’t that hard, because there wasn’t that much there to be identified. It was mostly empty space surround a nice, simple, easy to reach without scraping your hands, engine. That’s not true anymore, I open a hood now and see all kinds of things I don’t recognize. It looks a lot like what I would imagine should be under the hood of Luke Skywalker’s X-wing fighter. I know there is an engine in there somewhere underneath all those hoses and wires and strange little black boxes and stuff. It’s like my own butt; I know its there, I just cant see it. What really worries me is that I don’t know what all that extra stuff does, no matter how long I stare at it. Every time I work on my car I swear to myself that I will never buy another car that was built after 1974.

It’s not just that the cars were simpler then; the tools yon needed were simpler too. Give me a ’69 Chevy, a couple of wrenches, and a pair of vice-grips and I could do anything. Now, like anything else, the trend is specialization. Every time I open a hood to do more than check the oil, I inevitably spend the better part of an afternoon searching the parts stores in quest of yet another specialized tool. Try finding a spring lock coupling disconnect tool some Sunday afternoon, that or maybe something easier, like the Holy Grail, and you will start to see the picture. I don’t normally believe in conspiracies, but I’m pretty sure there is a conspiracy between the auto makers and the toolmakers. It goes something like this: The toolmakers, having nothing better to do, invent a new tool. They ask the car makers to make at least one part on their cars with a service life of less than 30,000 miles that can only be removed by the new tool. The toolmakers make a fortune selling the new tool to all us poor shmucks who spend a couple of hours trying to pull the damn thing off with our bare hands. Then they split the money with the car makers. When they have sold all of the new tool that they can; they do it all over again. Same tool, but a different size. They do this two or three times until we are so frustrated we are ready to buy the whole set of the tools in assorted sizes. I think this all started with the metric system. When they slowly started converting over to metric size bolts they realized they had a gold mine. That’s why today we have things like spring lock coupling disconnect tools.

This all comes to mind because yesterday, a friend of mine, well call him Steve (because that’s his name), had a similar run-in with automotive technology. His truck broke down, and I got to help him fix it. As you know, in the south, a man’s truck breaking down is a serious thing. Not quite as bad as your dog dying, but a little worse than your wife leaving you. (If my wife is reading this she should remember that I do not own a truck.) His truck broke down in a very interesting way, it began pouring gasoline out of the tailpipe. This is not a normal thing for gasoline to do, so Steve was duly concerned. He called a buddy of his who is a mechanic, to ask if he knew why gasoline would want to behave this way. Without skipping a beat, the mechanic instantly told him what the problem was. “Sure, you got a bad fuel pressure regulator” he said. Of course, the old fuel pressure regulator, I should have thought of that. I probably would have thought of that too, if I knew what a fuel pressure regulator was. Steve, of course, spent the rest of the afternoon trying to locate a new fuel pressure regulator. As expected, only one store had it, and they were clear on the other side of the town. I agreed to give him a ride there right after work, since I knew exactly where it was. I’ve played the “try to find the part” game before, and I have ended up at that same store more than once. Since the gasoline had decided to exit the vehicle via the tailpipe, it was a safe bet it was doing other mischievous things, like swimming around in the crankcase where the motor oil is supposed to be. We would need some motor oil to do an oil change. We would also need some beer. Every real amateur mechanic knows you don’t open the hood until you’ve cracked open a cold one; besides, Steve was starting to look a little intense.

Synthetic motor oil is very expensive. I imagine synthetic dinosaurs are hard to come by. We accidentally picked up five quarts of the synthetic stuff by mistake. After Steve recovered from what appeared to be a mild stroke when the cashier rang up the total, he told them in no uncertain terms he did not want the synthetic oil if it cost six dollars a quart. Of course now the cashier had to void out the sale and ring it up again. This process takes about two hours, requires the approval of two managers and a senior vice-president, and generally puts everyone in a bad mood. Steve was able to use this time to look up in a manual how to remove and replace his defective fuel pressure regulator. It’s a good thing he did too, for he discovered that to remove it you need a special tool, namely a spring lock coupling disconnect tool. Without it we would be up till midnight trying to pull it out with our bare hands. Steve was starting to look intense again. I began wondering if maybe we should have stopped for the beer first Then they told us that, although they knew what this tool was, they did not have any in stock. They were kind enough to suggest a store which they were pretty sure had some in stock. When I looked back at Steve, he seemed to be having a relapse of that mild stroke.

After stopping for beer, we began our quest for the spring lock coupling disconnect tool. Actually it went fairly well. The guy behind the desk at the next store didn’t know what it was. They had the same manual as the last place so we got it out and showed him a picture. Then he knew what it was. Fortunately, they had one left in stock. I had no idea a spring lock coupling disconnect tool were so popular. Unfortunately, it was the wrong size. And no, they did not have any in the other sizes. As we were about to leave, one of them remembered they had a packaged set of spring lock coupling tools (in assorted sizes). He said “If your gonna own a Ford, ya might as well git the whole set.” Unable to argue with logic like that, Steve purchased his first set of spring lock coupling disconnect tools, five little pieces of plastic that cost about ten dollars. I’m guessing it costs about one dollar to manufacture and distribute, so the tool company and Ford each got about $4.50 on that deal.

The little piece of plastic worked like a charm. It disconnected the spring lock coupling in a matter of seconds. That done, Steve was able to remove his fuel pressure regulator, which he promptly hurled about fifty feet across the parking lot If your wondering if we also needed a spring lock coupling connecting tool to install the new fuel pressure regulator, we didn’t. It seems connecting a spring lock coupling is done by simply pushing it together with your bare hands. That way Ford doesn’t have to buy a whole bunch of spring lock coupling connecting tools for all those guys they have building trucks on the assembly line. Are you starting to buy into the conspiracy theory yet. If not just wait. You see, that set of spring lock coupling disconnect tools that Steve bought were all sized in inches. I would bet good money that the next spring lock coupling I encounter will require a metric sized spring lock coupling disconnect tool.

Those Wacky Bobbetts

I swore to myself that I wasn’t going to do this. I swore I would not write anything about John and Lorena Bobbett and their tendency to cut off body parts. But John Bobbett appeared today as a guest on a Tampa radio station, and get this, he was selling T-shirts commemorating his ordeal. So I just couldn’t leave it alone. The best I can hope for now is to make it through the rest of this without using the word “penis.” (Whoops, I just used it, didn’t I. Oh well, so much for that.) Yes, he was really selling T-shirts. You have to admire his entrepreneurial spirit, but I can’t help thinking there must be an easier way, or at least a less painful way, to make a buck.

In case you are one of the three people in America who have been living in a cave and haven’t heard about those wacky Bobbetts and their zany antics, here’s the story so far. Lorena, who may have been a battered wife, decided she just couldn’t take it anymore. So one night she grabbed the closest available butcher knife, sneaked into their bedroom where John was sleeping, and proceeded to whack off his, uh, manhood. Ouch. Excuse me while I wince for a moment. Then to add insult to injury, she stuffed his dismembered, uh, member, into her purse, jumped into her car and went for a leisurely drive. And I thought my wife kept some strange things in her purse. At some point she realized she still had little Johnny in her purse, and, deciding maybe that wasn’t the kind of thing a lady usually keeps in her purse, she tossed the unfortunate body part out the window and into a field. Now, I have seen some strange things tossed out of cars and lying on the side of the road, but I have never seen a … Well you get the idea. Because John watched TV, he knew that in an emergency he should call 911 and William Shatner would summon the paramedics to his rescue, and soon the paramedics were out searching the field looking for the little guy. As if being a paramedic wasn’t a thankless job to begin with. Well they found it, and thanks to the miracle of modern medicine, the doctors were able to reattach the runaway puppy to his very grateful master. They say he should regain most of his functions within a year. I’m not sure exactly what they mean by most of his functions; I can only think of two functions, and they both seem pretty darn important to me, but that’s what they said. I have to think that this brings the whole concept of stitches being painful to an entirely new level. Excuse me while I wince again.

There are really only two reactions people have when hearing this story, and the reaction you have depends entirely on what sex you are. Women tend to find the whole thing amusing, if not downright hysterical, while men tend to crouch over and wince quietly. Women seem to feel a certain sisterhood with Lorena, and often say thins like “good for her,” or “serves him right,” or “you go, girl.” Men, while knowing intellectually that John must have really messed up big time to provoke that kind of reaction, can’t help but feel a deep seated empathy for his situation. Men also tend to hope and/or pray that this doesn’t give our wives and/or girlfriends any thoughts on how to use those new Ginsu knives we got them for Christmas last year. Men seriously consider hiding all the knives and forks and accept the idea of eating everything from this point on with a spoon. For the rest of our lives. It’s a small price to pay, considering. We also begin to regret buying all those nifty power tools, and think this may be a good time for a garage sale. Some men even think that maybe its time to consider an alternative lifestyle. Women seem to enjoy seeing this kind of nervous behavior in men.

On the other hand, there are actually some things about this story that I find reassuring. First, of course, is the affirmation that battered wives do not have to be helpless. They can take things into their own hands, so to speak. Although, chopping off your husband’s little buddy isn’t exactly the course of action I would recommend. Secondly, it is nice to know that if I am ever separated from, uh, Mr. Happy, there are people out there who are willing to help me go out and look for him. But I think the most reassuring thing is that if I ever find myself sitting in an emergency room with my favorite body part sitting unattached in the Igloo cooler next to me; there are doctors with the expertise and technology to reunite us. I’m beginning to get a Six Million Dollar Man flashback: “We can rebuild him, we can make him better than he was, stronger, faster…” Well, okay, maybe not faster. But I found a newfound appreciation for modern medical science. I think it’s just nifty what they can do these days.

However, miracles of modern science do not come cheap. John has evidently racked up some major medical bills from this little escapade. It seems that reattaching your manhood can cost an arm and a leg. (I have no idea how much reattaching and arm or a leg would cost.) I wonder if the Clinton health plan would cover this sort of thing. Somebody should ask. In any case, Mr. Bobbett has embarked on a media tour to raise money to help dig himself out of debt, hoping to make the most of his newfound fame before his fifteen minutes runs out. And he is selling T-shirts. I forgot what they said on the front of them, but it had the word “severed” in it. Actually, I didn’t forget. I got as far as the word “severed” when I winced again and missed the rest of it. On the back of the shirt is that famous rock-n-roll quotation “Love Hurts.” Yep. I’m not sure I would consider it “love,” but I sure can’t argue with the “hurts” part of it. I also don’t think that’s exactly what they had in mind when they wrote the song.

What happens to John and Lorena now? Who cares. Nothing that happens from this point on can be anything but anti-climactic. Oh sure, there will be some trials. John has been charged with abusing his wife, and Lorena has been charged with assault with intent to castrate, or something like that. Or maybe it was kidnapping, I don’t remember. Of course, I imagine there are a few people around suing somebody over something related to this. But however the story ends, it can’t possibly grab our attention (or John’s) like the way it began. Lorena will get the satisfaction of knowing she stood up to the man who abused her. She will probably never remarry; women with a history of slicing things off of the men in their lives tend to scare away potential suitors. John, on the other hand, will get a very unusual scar, and an interesting piece of conversation for the next few office parties. I still wonder though, why is John piddling around with radio shows and T-shirts, when everyone knows the real money is in selling the movie rights.

When Dreams Come True

I have had a dream come true. First time that’s happened to me, at least that I am aware of. It wasn’t a very good dream, nothing to do with world peace, fortune and glory, or leggy super-models. No, it was just a silly little dream that I honestly never expected would come true. There are no great ramifications of this dream coming to pass. At least not for me, although it may have destroyed the career of a promising and moderately popular Irish folk singer, but it didn’t change my life one bit.

Okay, I will attempt to explain this dream. It involves Gordon Lightfoot, Gilligan’s Island, and several pints of imported ale. If you don’t see the connection between Mr. Lightfoot and the tropic island castaways, well that’s where the beer comes in. If you’ve never heard the song The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald by Gordon Lightfoot you probably will not understand. You really need to hear the song to get the full impact of what happened. (Call up some of you old hippie friends, one of them probably has an old 45 or 8-track you can listen to. If you don’t know what a 45 or an 8-track is, you’re too young to be reading this.)

Like most things of little or no value, this dream was born of sheer boredom. My wife and I were at our friend’s house, sitting around very bored, and drinking beer. Yes that is the textbook formula for trouble. But since we are all older now, trouble doesn’t usually involve getting arrested. At some point we began singing old songs that you don’t hear on the radio. This was inspired by the discovery of an old K-tel record, a veritable time capsule of old songs so bad that even the oldies stations wont play them. At some point later we began singing the theme songs to old TV shows.  This was most likely inspired by the beer.  Did I mention we were bored.  Tremendously, stupifyingly, where no bored man has gone before, bored. We were then blessed by a divine inspiration. At least it seemed so at the time. We found that you could sing the words to the Gilligan’s Island theme to the tune of The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Try it sometime, it works, just make sure no one’s listening first. Much to our surprise we found that the words to many other songs fit this tune. An amazingly adaptable piece of music, this Wreck of the Edmund FitzMinnow. The Beverly Hillbillies, The Brady Bunch, they all fit. We couldn’t find one sitcom from the 60’s that didn’t work. The Partridge Family was kind of tough though, mainly because we couldn’t remember the words. Since that moment I have had this silly little dream of standing up on stage in a bar or pub somewhere and singing out the Wreck of the Gilligan FitzIsland. Don’t ask me why, it just one of those things.

A few weeks later I had completely forgotten my dream. We were sitting in the Fox and Hound, one of our favorite pubs in the Tampa area, with some more of our friends, not at all bored, and then it happened.  The dream suddenly and miraculously did not come true. What did happen is the Irish folk singer that night began his set with guess what; yep, it was the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald. Correct words and all. While he played we sat at our table and happily sang the theme to Gilligan’s Island.  Once again it fit perfectly, and we were all quite pleased with ourselves. That was truly the high point of the night. It turns out the singer was not one of those bright, cheery, come-on-everybody-and-sing-along type of folk singers.  Rather he was one of those dark, depressing, always wearing black clothes type.  He started with a song that is, after all, about death, and then moved on to more depressing songs that were even more about death. Rousing songs like Bloody Well Dead, We’ll all be dead in the Morning, and Happy Birthday. His version went something like: “Happy Birthday, soon you’ll be dead.” We have since heard that he will not be returning to the Fox and Hound, so it remains one of our favorite pubs. On our way to find somewhere more cheerful, like maybe a cemetery, we saw that one of our favorite folk singers, one of the bright and cheery kind, was coming to town in two weeks. We made a point to come back and see him.

Noel Cooney is a real, honest-to-God Irish folk singer straight from Dublin, Ireland. (Well, by way of Orlando, but he’s definitely Irish, in the long-standing tradition of bright and cheery Irish folk singers.) Unlike most Saturday nights, this night our little pub was surprisingly empty, just our table, one other paying table, and a table that featured the manager and her friend, who was already a little drunk and had to leave soon. So Noel, trying not to let this get him down, spent a lot of time talking with his audience.  Both tables.  So after a few pints of the imported ale I mentioned earlier, we asked Noel if he knew a certain song. Yes in fact he did know the Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald, but unfortunately he did not know the words to Gilligan’s Island. (You have to remember, he’s not from this country.) That’s when it happened. Noel, being one of those come-on-and-sing-along type folk singers invited us up to sing our special little version of Gilligan’s Island, while Noel’s guitar played the mournful melody of the Edmund Fitzgerald. I have never been more proud.

Then a strange thing happened. (As if this wasn’t strange enough already.) Noel discovered, as we had, that this tune works with the words of many other songs.  With no prompting from us he launched into the Edmund Fitzgerald Hillbillies, a stirring story of a man named Jed. He then found that all those traditional sing-along Irish folk songs also fit with the tune.  In fact, he found that every song could be sung to the tune of the Edmund Fitzgerald. He called out for requests from the audience to prove it And he did. If there was any doubt, it was completely and utterly erased when he did it to the song Tequila, very difficult when you consider the song only has one word. The man is truly a master of musical juxtaposition. (Go look it up.) He had practice though. It seems that for some time he had been performing songs to the tune of Ghost Riders in the Sky. You cannot imagine what Amazing Grace sounds like when performed like that. It is, well, amazing. For several hours that night, every song was played three times. First to Edmund Fitzgerald, then to Ghost Riders, then, if the audience protested loudly enough, to it’s own tune. I think the manager threatened to physically injure Noel if he didn’t play something else. Like I said, we may have seriously damaged his career. What if he’s unable to stop playing that song. What if he can no longer find work and becomes homeless and destitute.  What if he is reduced to playing The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald on street corners for pocket change from sympathetic passers-by. We hope not, we hope to see him the next time we are at the Fox and Hound.  We hope he will not be too angry with us. Just let this be a lesson to all you bored people out there. Dreams (silly ones anyway) can be a dangerous thing.