How not to change a headlight


Melissa Stagnaro

This was apparently the week for “p’diddles,” as we called them when we were kids. In the last five days, my co-worker Jessica and I have both had headlights out.

Thankfully, I noticed mine before leaving the driveway. Jessica, on the other hand, had it pointed out by a State Trooper.

Our approach to rectifying the situation also differed. Jessica, in my opinion, took the easy way out. She had her light fixed by a licensed professional. I chose the cheaper and infinitely more entertaining way, and asked my father to do it for me. In retrospect, this might not have been a wise decision.

I would gladly choose a book store over an auto parts store any day. It must be all that latent testosterone in the air because, like hardware stores, they typically give me hives.

Since I don’t know the difference between well, anything they stock, I always end up feeling like a brainless twit. Monday afternoon, when I walked into Advanced Auto Parts, was no exception. I went in fully prepared to feel like an idiot.

To my surprise and relief, the process of getting a replacement bulb for my headlight was, in fact, entirely painless. Thanks to the assistance from a knowledgeable staff member, I had my bulb and was on my way within minutes. With only about $10 less in my pocket than when I went in.

I should have known that such good fortune was a bad sign of what was yet to come.

I should explain that when I was growing up, my father was always the guy who read every manual and every bit of instructions before starting a project. But as he’s gotten older, he’s changed. He now disdains such things as being only for mere mortals. Which is why I was the one holding my car’s owner manual pointing frantically at the tiny diagram as my father wreaked havoc under the hood of my ancient Explorer.

Oh, sure. It sounded simple. Remove the old bulb; install the new one. But is it ever really that easy? Maybe it would be if the space you had to work in was designed for adult-sized hands rather than those of a three year old considered small for their age. Or if the bulb had ever been previously changed. (To my knowledge, this hadn’t happened in the life of the car, which rolled off the assembly line the same year I graduated college.)

But it wasn’t, and it hadn’t. Add the fact that my father considered himself above such things as reading the directions, and it’s a recipe for disaster.

I won’t go into the gory details. Not only would it bore you to tears, but my therapist has advised me against it. Suffice it to say, it had all the ingredients of a bad cable miniseries. There was bad language, ranting, pleading, tears, a scuffle, too much drama and was dragged out entirely too long.

In the end, my father was cranky and I was frazzled, but my headlight was, indeed, functioning once more.

Now I just have to pray the other bulb has plenty of useful life left, because I don’t think I could face a repeat performance any time soon.