Watchin' God Book One - Listed Alphabetically


Monday, July 7, 2014

Elusive Parts

Watchin’ God – Lord, I’m Lost – Again!

Elusive Parts


Once long ago I owned a 1987 Plymouth Colt E.  At one point it needed the engine bearings redone.  No problem, it just required money.  So we thought. 

A few days after the Colt was in the shop the mechanic called.  It would be a few more days, and by the way, would I be willing to drive the 2.5 hour RT to pick up the parts.  Seems the bearings didn't fit. 

Turned out that the external parts of the car were for a 1987 model, but the interior engine parts were for the 1986 model.  The date of manufacture was August 1986 – just one month short of the model year change in September.  What you see is not always what you get, evidently.

Loved the car.  Wish I had another one. 

Fast forward 15 years.

Chapter 1

A chance discovery of old photographs prompted the search for a friend of long ago.  That’s a whole other story! 

The gentleman in question (PR) happened to mention that he was looking for an elusive part to his car.  He was in Boston, I in South Georgia.  He and his mechanic had both tried to find the part, with no success.  Since it was necessary to fix the car in order for it to pass inspection and be roadworthy, I attempted to locate the part, calling all over the country.  I did locate one in Jacksonville, FL, but for some reason we didn’t acquire it.  In retrospect, $100 for the whole assembly when only a small part was necessary would have seemed a good deal.  But alas, it didn’t happen.  Not to worry – there was a few months grace before it had to be fixed.

When PR and I were married, I moved up from South Georgia to the suburbs of Boston.  The traffic was horrendous, as far as I was concerned.  Not to mention that the streets where we lived are narrow and congested.  Our street was a narrow two-lane, with parking on one side.  The duplex parking only allowed us one off-street space, so I’d have to parallel park – not my forte`.  My car was donated to my youngest son, as I had no intention of driving (or trying to park!) at my new home. 

It was literally 6 months before I would drive south of I-95.  When I had a doctor’s appointment 3 miles from work through a nice quiet suburban area I went to work with PR and then drove around north of I-95 all day.  Sometimes I’d go shopping or perhaps hang out at a library until it was time to go home.  Sometimes a visit to PR’s parents was on the agenda, rarely planned in advance.  And sometimes I’d just drive around and get lost.

One day I started to make an impromptu and unannounced visit with my in-laws after dropping PR off at work.  For some reason I took exit 37 off 495, and turned out to be. . . lost. 

It's always fun to get lost.  There's usually a reason or someone whom God wants me to give a tract.  So I kept an eye out that day for what could be the reason.  When I saw a “carpet remnant sale” sign it seemed like a good place to stop, since we were in the market for a piece of carpet.  I figured God was working down my shopping list.

Don't ask me how I missed the carpet place.  The back warehouse bay door was open, with carpet rolls all over the racks lining the walls.  But I didn't notice it...  Instead I talked to the group of guys outside the bay at a machine shop next door to the carpet place.  There were also 4 old solid-wood kitchen chairs stacked outside a dumpster.  It would be good to ask the guys if they were free for the taking.  For a confirmed junker, that’s an invitation to stop even if I hadn’t been lost!

Never being the shy one at an impromptu meeting, I parked the car and walked over to the group of guys. 

“Hi!  Can you help me?  I’m lost.  Well, actually I'm saved, but I don't know where the carpet store is.”  

They got a kick out of me not being able to find the warehouse door immediately to the left of their shop.  In the course of conversation, I mentioned stopping because we needed a small piece of carpet.  Pointing out the chairs, I said I'd love to have them, too, but didn't really need them.  One of the guys said they were fair game, since they had been sitting beside that dumpster for 3 weeks.

I tried to get all four chairs in the car.  It could have been done, except we had a rider that day who took up a spot in the back seat.  I did take 2 of them, though, and said I'd be back the next week or so to pick up the rest if they were still there, then went next door to look at carpet. 

The carpet guy, Matthew, was nice and showed me what he had, albeit not much in the line of what I wanted.  In the end he gave me a small remnant left over from a stairway project.  I thanked him kindly and gave him a Chick tract.  After all, what’s the point in being lost if you can’t spread a little gospel seed?

I think the tract was “Somebody Angry?”, which chronicles the relationship between a country’s negative relationship with modern-day Israel and political or physical problems - plagues, destruction, political demise, etc.  In the case of America, every time we go against Israel it seems we have suffered at the hands of either our enemies (the bombing of the USS Cole, the Embassy, 9-11), or at the hand of God (Hurricane Katrina, severe and damaging weather in unexpected places, etc).

Never did make it to visit my in-laws that day.  And they were none the wiser.

The next weekend PR and I stopped to pick up the chairs.  No one was at either shop.

Chapter 2

Fast forward to several weeks later.

There was a bible class in Haverhill on Wednesday afternoons that I attended.  Exit 37 on 495 is on the usual route.  Every Wednesday as I approached that exit, God would tell me to stop and see Matthew about another piece of carpet for the bedroom.  I always chicken out, because the carpet is only an excuse for talking about the tract.  It's easy to do that on the spur of the moment, but to go intentionally . . . that's a different story.

Several Wednesday’s into the class I knew I was going to get the same message.   It was one of those 8-hour days, and the class didn’t start for another 2 hours.  It was only a 20 minute trip from the exit in question.  This time I finally said (out loud) “Yeah, OK Lord...  But you'll have to tell me what to say!!”  (Always a good idea anyway!)

When I pulled into the warehouse area, the carpet store was closed for the day! 

"Now Lord, what on earth was that about???"  I asked.  Then it hit me!  There is a MACHINE shop next door!  Maybe they will have some idea about the car part.  So I asked, and was sent to Jack's Used Auto Parts just down the road.

Now, I usually am pretty familiar with engine specs on my vehicle, so I was surprised when the guy behind the counter at Jack's asked if the Taurus has flex fuel.

Blank stare.  I’d never heard of such a thing.

A kindly gentleman behind the first guy explained to me “flex fuel” indicated the car used either gas or ethanol.  When I asked how to determine that, he said there would be a tag on the side of the car indicating such. 

No such thing to my knowledge.  I said “no”.  So the guy at the computer typed in the appropriate info and printed out a list of 6 vehicles that matched the model year and engine. 

The list indicated OHV and I understood our car to be OHC.  After a bit, I got to wondering if they were the same thing.  Every now and then it becomes obvious that my knowledge is lacking.  I called the local Ford dealership.  After asking about the OHV/OHC and explaining about the part we were looking for, the nice guy at the parts counter wanted to order the part for me.  Sure, I'd let him look.  Never know when something will show up.  So I gave him the parts number, from the blow-up diagram I got from a previous unfruitful trip to that same shop. 

Then he said a strange thing - 'Oh, it's for a flex fuel engine.'

Say WHAT??  How could I determine that from my vehicle?  He said there would be a label on the side of the car, or failing that on a white tag by the radiator.  I looked on the side of the car.  Nothing.   With the phone in hand, I popped the hood and asked the parts guy “where's the radiator?!”  He must have been either laughing or rolling his eyes at that!  I couldn’t see him, which is probably just as well.  (In my defense, there is no obvious radiator!  But I figured where there's a fan, there must be a radiator.) 

No label on the car, no white tag by anything that would pass for a radiator.  Still, as the parts guy and Jake the mechanic said - it's a California emissions engine . . .  Interesting.

And of course, the parts guy found out the part is no longer manufactured, and no dearlership in the country has it in stock.  I thanked him when he suggested my only recourse was junk yards.  Been there, done that.  No luck yet.

Then it hit me.

Remember the Colt?  The parts weren't what the engine specs said they should be.  I wonder . . .  could the same thing be true of this part?

Chapter 3

Saturday PR and I went up to Jack's to see.  I had the list in hand, so we didn't even have to stop at the long line at the front desk to get a list.

We were only able to locate 4 of the 6 vehicles on the list.  The first 3 didn’t have the easily identifiable but elusive part.  PR found the fourth car while I was up the aisle looking in another location.  The car was in such a position as to be difficult to get to the hood latch.  PR had to tug on the passenger door pretty hard to get it open.  Then there was glass in the seat.  He did finally manage to climb through the car to reach the hood latch.  And didn't even get glass in his seat.

Since I was standing by the front of the car, I got to be the one to open the hood.  And there it was!  Sitting pretty as you please - the part we have been looking for for 6 months! 

Thank you LORD!

We had a few tools with us, but the bolts were pretty rusted and we forgot the WD-40.  Besides, it was going to be a difficult task getting to the bolt with the car on the ground.  We stopped at the office on the way out and PR sent me in to ask about having someone help me take the part off the car when we came back later.  It was only 5 minutes to closing, so I would have to come back on one of those 8-hour days while I was killing time.

In an exuberant mood, I called a friend of mine in AK and asked if she'd send one of her mechanics over to take the part off for us.  She laughed and said “Yeah, sure.  Give me a minute to arrange for a flight!”   Hey, it would have been cheaper to pay for the plane ticket and expenses than to have to buy a new car over that missing piece! 

The following Wednesday I stopped at the junk yard to spray the part down with WD-40, hoping to come back with PR on Friday to attempt to remove it.  But Lo! A nice gentleman offered on Wednesday to have it off the car and waiting for us on Friday!  Of course I took him up on it!

The part cost us a grand total of $5.

The car lasted for a few more months, when it failed the yearly inspection.  Seems the struts were no longer being supported by the rusted-out car frame.  The mechanic who did the inspection suggested I take it to our mechanic for an estimate on the repair.  Jake called me a few hours after I dropped the car off at the shop.  “So, what kind of truck are you buying for PR?”  Seems that not only was the frame rusted out, but the floor pan also had a hole in the back seat.  That would explain why it felt soft under the carpet.  And also why there was exhaust smell in the car. 

We had just 2 weeks prior to this bad news bought a used car, and were in the process of moving to within a mile of work, so the loss of the Taurus wasn’t dramatic.

Jake kept the car and parted out the good pieces to people he knew who needed it.  There was a gentleman who needed tires but couldn’t afford them, and we had just put a whole new set on the car.   I’m not sure what became of that precious and difficult to locate part, but Jake was careful to remove it before the car went to the crusher!

Don’t you just love a good “Lord, I’m lost – again” Watchin’ God story?!