Public service announcement No. 1: Make sure all the car's doors are shut before you back out of the garage.
Public service announcement No. 2: If your wife is driving, say, "My fault!" and leave it at that. If it's not true now, it will be later. Get ahead of the game, I always say.
Anyway: The door was open while the car was being backed out. Screech, cronk, dismay. Now it wouldn't shut. French brother-in-law and I jumped into action because we are men and we were going to fix this problem.
Alas: Neither of us wanted to be the first to say, "It's hopeless." So I got some tools — pliers, a hammer — and these were waved at the situation like Harry Potter wands. I got out one of those Allen wrenches, the six-sided screwdriver things you use to put together Ikea stuff, and gave it to the Frenchman: Here, this is all metric socialism, it's in your blood.
At one point he was on the roof of the car, pushing down on the door, and I was hanging off the door pulling it down, and if you'd sped it up we would be monkeys in "2001: A Space Odyssey" hooting at the black monolith.
Eventually we agreed that this would require a trip to the body shop, where they have special tools and machines for this sort of thing. I wept to myself, because I could see bushels of money set on fire just to restore the status quo. Of course this was going to cost a lot. I could already hear the garage guy:
"Well, we found the problem. It was the solenoid on your glove compartment light. It shorted out the controller circuit for the onboard management system, and that's what caused your rearview mirror controller to melt. The bulb on that glove compartment light is special-order, but we can get it from Germany in three weeks."
What do you say to that? "Uh, well, I have no basis for challenging your expertise, and since you have the frank, casually authoritative manner I associate with garage managers, I'll go with your recommendation. Three weeks? Can I get a loaner car?"
"I can give you a bus schedule."
My wife tasked me with fixing the car ASAP. In calling around, I realized that other people have broken cars, too, and everyone who fixes them is swamped. At best, I could get in for an estimate in a couple of days, and I knew how that would go. In my head, this is the script of every body shop conversation I've had:
"Hello, I'm wearing a tie and I'm unhappy. Add 10 percent to the bill just for that."
"Can do! I'm a guy who has expertise in a subject you obviously lack, so I'm going to squint at your car, then quote a figure, and you'll have no basis for evaluating it."
"I understand. I spend all day looking at the internet and typing things, so I depend on guys like you who can fix things. At least I know that any feelings of powerlessness and resentment are entirely my fault."
"That's OK. It's not like your dad ran a gas station and taught you things."
My dad actually did run a gas station, but it's not like I'm going to tell him that, even if it's an imaginary conversation.
I found a place that would give me an estimate that very afternoon. The owner eyeballed the situation, and called out one of his mechanics, whom we'll call Mike. He was a Door Whisperer. He felt the way the door fought the lock; he understood how it was traumatized. He fetched a big, long iron bar that he used to pry on the door, and when he was done, it fit.
I wanted to say, "Well, yeah, of course, if I'd had a 5-foot iron bar, I could've fixed it." But I have to be honest: I will never have a 5-foot iron bar just sitting around waiting to persuade car parts to re-conform. For that you need Mike.
There are two lessons here: A) Everything in your life will eventually need a Mike. B) You are a Mike for something; be proud of your Mike skill and be generous in sharing it.
The shop didn't charge me a dime for the job — as if I'd done them a favor by presenting a simple little problem. I have to throw these guys some business. From now on, when I back out of a parking space, I'm not looking where I'm going. And if I hit a pole — well, it's the least I can do.