For the past two weeks I have been driving a Jeep Wrangler dressed down for summer. No need to use the AC since the back of the passenger area is totally open, canvas straps flapping in the breeze.
Each morning I dress for work in nice shoes and a skirt and leave the house with a hairdo. Five minutes later I arrive at work with no hairdo and slide off the driver's seat to hit the distant ground. It's so far down that I probably need the kind of emergency chute they use when evacuating passengers from an aircraft.
Why am I doing this? My son is putting together a mud truck, and I am helping.
Four years ago my son bought a perfectly respectable Jeep Wrangler with 4 wheel drive: a versatile ride. Street-easy but light-mud-friendly for those casual forays into fly fishing territory or just scoping out timber land. In the meantime he has inherited from his friends a set of large tires plus sturdier wheels. Time for a lift kit. And since he lives three hours away from the support group of local mechanics we know and trust, I got the job of Chief Lift Kit Coordinator.
The first week was the Acquisition of Lift Kit Parts phase. Every day the brown UPS truck pulled up to my door to deliver yet another heavy box. These boxes accumulated in my entrance foyer until it looked more like the staging area for a small company's outgoing shipments.
In the meantime--and for the last two weeks-- I have been climbing up into and sliding out of a dressed down Jeep Wrangler at two grocery stores, Target, and once at a gas station. This is no small trick for a woman who cheats when she claims to be 5'1". The technique for this was taught to me by my husband who water starts from his windsurfing board (another feat that requires a human body to climb aboard an object shoulder high with no steps for assistance). Lean into it. Hug the seat with the top half of your body, then push off, pull up, and hope for the best.
The rest of the time I have taken up residence at garages. We were already on friendly terms. Now I am practically family.
One thing you need to realize about most garages in Southern small towns in August and September: no air-conditioning. To sit around these garages, you need to find a vacant cast-off office chair and a spot of shade. Dress lightly. In my opinion, the best time to go plead your case (won't shift into Reverse, Death Wobble starts at 37 mph, etc.) is early morning before all the business starts pouring in and it gets hectic. Right after they've raised the bay doors and have poured their first cup of coffee, they're still focused. Anytime after that....well it's hard to stay focused when three people are standing in line waiting to tell you their car woes and your hands are covered in grease. See the mechanics early, and hand them a concise list. That's what they want, not long drawn-out tales in which the tellers try to imitate the animal sounds their brakes made coming down Hawk Pride Mountain.
The second thing you need to realize is how much fun the 'reveal' is. The reveal is the term used, I am told, at the end of pretend realism TV shows about home improvements. It's when the owner gets to see the finished product while those who did the hard work stand around and appreciate their efforts. This is my second most favorite time to visit a garage.
Yesterday my husband arrived home from work early--a quarter 'til six--and we headed down to the shop to take a peek at the finished product. Earlier in the day I had already taken the Jeep from the garage over to the tire shop for mounting, balancing, and front end alignment and delivered it back to the shop again for some minor adjustments. There is a celebratory mood at a garage at the end of the day. Regardless of how the day has gone, it is now over and no one died. The owner and workers, smudged with grease, are quick to smile. Other men happy to be finished with the work day drop by to ask small questions over a handshake. People like to linger a bit. Kind of like a cocktail party, but more upbeat.
There it sat. The finished product. The mud Jeep. The mechanic/owner pulled out his cell phone and took a picture of my husband with the now transformed Jeep and sent it to my son. The tires are big but not too big. The new wheels look great. The ride is smoother, although the wobble manifests itself now and then, which will call for a future trip to the garage for a new heavier-duty stabilizer shock. The only thing missing from this picture: a new coat of mud.
If the skies cooperate this weekend, the Jeep may get that final touch. My son is coming home, and he and his daddy are already plotting how to take care of that.