How to Close the Hood of a Car

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In the spring of 1996 the left headlight of our 1993 Toyota Tercel died. As I do most of the driving, and most of my driving with the headlights on, I thought this was a perfectly reasonable thing for it to do. As a matter of fact, now that I think about it, we should've left the Terrapin's headlights on while it was on the trailer, whose lights did not work. What's a battery? But that's another story.

Anyway, being ignorant relative newcomers to Denver, I took what appeared to be easy way out and brought the car to the dealership. Several telephone calls round and about had given me several different answers to the simple (I thought) question of how to replace the light. As it happens, because we have the lowest-grade, if it were meat it would be cat food, kind of Toyota, the replacement was the very most expensive kind. If we'd had a five-speed (or an automatic), not only would we have the luxury of four doors but also would have only to replace the bulb of the headlight instead of the whole unit. But our stripped-down little turtle would require an entirely new headlight unit. Blast.

Instead of finding that out at the dealership and then buying one somewhere else wholesale, I bought it at the dealership ("Sucker!" the crowd hisses). But the salesman in parts was bored or maybe thought I had nice legs; for some reason he offered to replace the headlight for me. It was a matter of maybe four screws, and I thought I could handle it, or that RDC and I could handle it although we'd pro'ly snarl at each other before it was over, but I hate working with cars and so gratefully accepted the man's offer, whatever his motivation.

As I went back outside, he had to take a call, so eventually who showed up at the Terrapin with headlight in hand was his other brother Darryl. Oh no, thought I. This man was so fat that to squat in front of my car turning a screwdriver winded him. He didn't welcome my offer of help, even to have me hold the screws. I thought he might drop them, as a meaty sweaty hand seems one of the less dependable receptacles for little screws, but that'd be his fault. Whatever. I continued to watch the sunset, to chat with the car salesman who had wandered over during his lot patrol, and then peripherally to glimpse the fat man's attempt to close the Terrapin's hood.

Let's review. To open a hood, you pop the latch from the cabin of the car, manipulate the catch over the grille, lift the hood, and prop it open with oh, say, the prop. (The technical term is "thingie.") Contrariwise, to close the hood, you unhook the prop from the underside of the hood, set it in its track, and then let the hood down.

Unless, of course, you're the other brother Darryl.

What I caught from the corner of my eye was Darryl putting both his hamfists on the lid of the car and pushing. I didn't register this until I realized that the usual thing wasn't happening: the hood wasn't closing. My natural next step as a fairly sensible person who has at least driven cars a bit and can check and add her own oil though choosing not to change it herself, was to notice if the prop was still in place. It was. This action was something that Darryl, who apparently worked closely with cars in his regular employment, did not think of. Instead, he continued to press down on the hood.

I cannot estimate whatever strength the man might possess; I can guess that his body weight alone was quite substantial. I also can state with confidence that the Terrapin is made of toothpaste tube-grade aluminum. In the half second it took me to exclaim, "You haven't taken the prop out!" and not to continue, "you fucking jackass," he had put a significant crease in the hood.

The Terrapin got a new hood. Not without a struggle, mind you. The body shop they referred me to spotted an earlier dent, and so the salespeople I contended with offered that as the reason I was taking advantage of the situation.

That earlier dent was caused by a piece of rusty rubber cable flying off a truck at 70 mph (112kph) at us on I-91 in Connecticut. RDC's broken right clavicle had had about two weeks to heal and I was driving. Both of us ducked instinctively as this missile rocketed toward us, and I nearly swerved the car in the same motion and RDC nearly rebroke his clavicle and screamed in pain. The cable thwonged into the hood, leaving a vertical dent front to back and luckily losing some of its force before it rebounded into our windshield. I think it might have shattered the windshield if it had hit at full force; as it was it left a rubber stain in the plasticked glass. We were fortunate to be as many car lengths behind as we were (several) and that the cable did hit the hood first; I have never been grateful for diesel fumes before.

I didn't bother to explain the earlier dent; it wasn't pertinent to the situation and didn't undo the immediate damage Darryl had caused. Squirming swine.

We had a rental car for three days while a new hood was painted Terrapin teal and then installed. Having an actual stereo system(instead of a box in the front seat) in a car was a delight , but I had to reremember to put the car in the park in order to remove the keys and my left foot felt extremely neglected.

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Last modified 23 November 1997

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