Squirrels, Squirrels, Squirrels

My son Mitchell just turned 16, and I promised
him I’d get him a small economical car to drive if
his grades were good.  Good??? I never did that
great in school compared to this kid.  Straight A’s
for him.  I’m really proud of the little guy. 
He’s on the debating team, the Academic team,
and several others.  He even played tournament
chess for a couple of summers and did really well. 
In fact he made it to 3rd in the state for his division until… well, as he put it… he retired.  Now he’s into some sort of tournament card game that I have no idea what it’s all about.

One thing he’s never taken an interest in is cars or anything mechanical.  I’ve been tinkering on engines and anything that rolled, slid, or moved for as long as I can remember.  But, not this kid.  He’s more into computer programming and science stuff.  I’d like him to learn a little bit about what his father does for a living, however, when the subject comes up he more than likely will avoid anything to do with something mechanical.  But, I might find a way that he can’t avoid it.  I always figured I would just have to wait until it’s absolutely necessary for him to take a look under a hood.

His little car is a 2007 Ford Focus, with a 5 speed manual transmission, and no power locks or windows.  A perfect first time car, and an added bonus… he’ll have to learn how to drive a stick shift.  The first step in learning to drive was, of course how to work the clutch.  I found a long flat stretch of a road perfect for teaching the basic fundamentals of operating a stick shift car.  He picked up on it in no time.  Even his mom is impressed with his driving. (Makes a dad proud when mom is impressed.)

A few months went by, and with all the other activities going on the car was left to sit in the driveway for about a month.  As the time grew closer to taking his actual driving test, he was eager to get back to practicing his driving skills.  I got a text from mom that the car wouldn’t start.  She assumed it was just a dead battery from leaving it sit so long. I came home from the shop in time to see them sitting patiently waiting on the front steps for me to show up.  I hopped into the driver’s seat of the boys car and turned the key.  Oh yea, it was dead alright… dead to the point that I couldn’t even get the slightest response from the electrical system.  When I popped the hood I was in for a big surprise.  Sitting on top of the engine was a huge mound of insulation, various nuts from the trees around the house, and pieces of the wiring harness.  It’s a (*@!$$) squirrel… this long tailed rat had made a nest out of the engine compartment. 

I just got home from a long day of diagnosing cars, wiring up damaged vehicles, and changing parts only to come home and stare at the very same thing I do every day.  You can imagine my response.  It wasn’t shock, it wasn’t surprise… it was more of the ticked off dad who knew exactly the person working late… ME! 

As I started to gather the necessary tools and drag out an airline to the car, both the wife and the boy had already grabbed their cell phones and were busy snapping pictures.  The two of them had big smiles on their faces, as if the whole thing was some comical natural sculpture under the hood.  Comical???  I’m a little jacked up over the whole thing.  The first repeatable sentence I said that didn’t have some sort of derogatory remark about a squirrel or the occasional triple X word in it was, “Son, you’re going to be helping on this, so put down that cell phone, and go get those tools I laid out on the work bench.”

After removing all the debris from the engine bay (Boy’s job), I could see I had quite a few wires to repair.  Some were chewed clean down to the connectors, or completely missing.  This was  one of those perfect times to show the boy just what his dad does for a living.  I’ll have to admit he did seem somewhat interested, but I don’t think it was the actual methods of separating the terminals from the connector, or how to properly splice the wires back together.  It was more of that typical teenager mentality of whether or not his car was repairable.  He asked me several times, “Dad, are you going to be able to fix this, or will we have to find a repair shop to do it?”  Honestly, for such a smart kid he still doesn’t understand what his dad does every day.  Time for a little show and tell.

I had to remember how it was when I got my first car and how anxious I was to get out on the road by myself.  So I kept my thoughts to finishing the job, because I knew the most important thing to him wasn’t the father/son bonding… but, how quickly can I have him back on the road.

A few hours later and a little help from my internet subscription for wiring diagrams, I had the whole thing finished. 

With the thumbs up sign I told him, “Mitch, hop in there and start it up."

The car came to life and ran like new.  We both checked the dash for any service lights or warning lights; we didn’t see any, so we let it sit to warm up.  After the engine got up to temperature it was time to take  it around the block a few times.  He had a big smile on his face, and more than eager to go take the driving test now.  

I think he learned a few things about cars during the conversations we had while repairing all the damged wires.  Maybe not enough to think about going into the business with good old Dad, but enough to know there's more to the job than turning a couple of bolts.  That puts a smile on my face for sure.

He’s still driving the same car, and still holding those straight A’s in school.  I guess I have to change my opinion about that squirrel though.  He may have caused me a bunch of extra work, but he also gave me a great opportunity to spend some quality time with my son. 
"Hey, squirrel… thank you… but that doesn’t mean you’re welcomed under the hood of the car again. But thanks for the father/son bonding ... that was well worth the time. Time... it's that one thing you can't get back."    

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