Scout's Honor

Yesterday I did my own oil change for the first time ever!
Under the hood. (old picture, shh)

Under the hood. (old picture, shh)

The Giant Metal Baby is pretty high off the ground, so it's pretty easy to get under. I've actually spent a fair amount of time just lying under there and trying to figure out what all the bits are - I have no background with vehicle mechanics, but nevertheless can now confidently point out the engine, gas tank, exhaust, axles, and now oil filter and ... oil... pan? tank? thing. No problem! 

I want my scout badge - "first oil change!" :D I've had a LOT of firsts with this truck, and am seriously considering a badge system. Just in the past few months: 

  • First time covering my whole arm and some of my face in used oil - and I learned used engine oil is carcinogenic on skin contact.
  • First time getting tires filled at a tire shop (not a gas station) - and I learned that it's "free" but to have $$ on hand for a tip.
  • First time using a gas can - and I learned you have to press REALLY hard on the spout (or maybe that mine is kind of broken? still learning)
  • First time [EVERYTHING WIRING AND SOLAR AND ELECTRIC] - and I  learned that absolutely nothing from science class stuck in my head and I have a lot of reading to do. 
  • First time using a LOT of tools - portable bandsaw, oil filter wrench, hydraulic crimper, heat gun, belt sander... and that's just recently - and I learned that these tools even exist, who knew?
The Stereo, ugh.

The Stereo, ugh.

I could go on and on and on, but the point is that I'm butting up against entire areas of knowledge that I know NOTHING about. I'm doing my best to chip away at them, sometimes with expert guidance, sometimes with internet help, and sometimes just going in blind and ripping the stereo out because it's not working and I don't know why and I don't want to figure it out and it feels GOOD just to get it out of the way. 

Some of the hardest parts are actually talking to the experts - going into a parts store or garage, or emailing someone who offered advice, or asking for help building something - and trying to convince them (AND keep myself convinced!) that I do know at least a LITTLE BIT about what I'm asking.

I definitely bump up against a lot of bias and condescension - as a recent fun example: literally being laughed at for repeating something I've been told to ask by someone who knows their stuff, then taken seriously when I explain it's someone else's question. But mostly I'm just grappling with trying to explain a unique project involving a weird vehicle to very helpful patient people who know a lot more than I do about what I'm asking.

There's a sort of exhausting pattern to it: 

  1. encounter a problem or new task
  2. research it on my own, try to get an idea of what I want the result to be and whether what I want is reasonable.
  3. approach someone for help or advice
  4. explain the whole project (there's not a lot of effective short-hand here - it's not a tiny house, it's not a food truck, it's not a regular building, it's not a's a [insert full 5 minute description here]
  5. re-hash all of step 2 with them, usually takes longer because we have to go through some options they suggest that I already know I don't want, BUT I want to make sure I'm not dismissing something valuable that I didn't consider, AND I don't want to be rude when I'm asking for help. 
  6. learn that I need to do more research / decision-making / prep-work before they can help me effectively
  7. repeat steps 2 and 5, sometimes 6 and 7 also.
    Bonus: sometimes both of us think we have a good plan and are ready to work, and then the truck throws in a fun curveball by being just a terribly maintained old hunk of junk. return to step 1! 
  8. do some work! get a thing done! yay!


For example, changing the battery should be pretty straightforward, but it just wasn't. I won't go into it, but in this case Phillip Perrine was very generous with his time, parlaying with the parts store for me to get all the right bits, then showing me how to change it out. It took multiple trips and several days (again, not your typical battery change), but! it is done, and it is good.  

P.S. Thanks to one of my first building teachers who trusted me with his expensive equipment, to his detriment <3 Wink Nelson lead one of many teams of teenagers on the Appalachian Service Project, and taught us how to dig a french drain, re-shingle a roof, install drywall, and probably a lot of other things. He just sent me these pictures of baby Emily, doing her best: