Sunday, June 3, 2012

Why Fixing Cars is Not Fun

As objectively reported here on a number of occasions, I am a mild mannered enterprise architect who often finds himself sucked into a cesspool of insanity and illogic. I don’t go looking for arguments, confrontation, and ambiguity, but somehow they find me and like dental tools, pick and jab at the softened nerves of my tolerance.

I currently own a 2008 Saturn Vue. It is the 11th consecutive Saturn vehicle I have owned since 1993. When I bought my first one, a used 1991 Saturn SL1 stick shift I found a car, a dealer, and a relationship that I could understand. My wife and I then returned to the dealer every few years to update one of our cars - always to a current-year Saturn.

Well, that’s not going to happen again, since the restructuring of GM resulted in the entire Saturn program being shuttered. As it turns out, that is not the insanity that caused this post. No, this special little gem of cranial shock came from having to change a headlight.

With the demise of the dealership, I have found myself returning to a world where I attempt minor car repairs on my own. Did I mention that I am a mild mannered enterprise architect? Well, not when I’m working on cars. Since the age of 12, I have yet to pop the hood and not utter elongated strands of inappropriate epithets directed at the designers of automobiles.

My brother claims to repair cars as a hobby; for fun. How can this be fun? By what definition is locating and removing three screws that cannot be seen, felt, or reached by any tool that conforms to the rules of algebra be fun? I know fun. Fun has an element of “I would do this again.” This is not fun!

Switching a headlamp on a well-designed, well-maintained, highly-rated, consumer-friendly mature SUV should not require an advanced degree, super special tools, or a secret handshake.

Apparently, however, all three are assumed.

Look, headlights wear out. They will have to be replaced. This is not a dispute, it is inevitable. Therefore, a sane person would design the housing of the headlights so that the lamps could be easily replaced. Additionally, any necessary documentation for said lamp change would be readily discoverable at the time of need.

A week ago, I literally replaced the tail light on my son’s Ford Focus in 15 minutes with no tools. Some human-ish being thought through the inevitable replacement process and designed a reasonable structure (one might call that an architecture). In other words, my request that common events should have well-planned responses is actually possible.

As architects (we are all architects), our solutions have to include in the requirements, “what is likely and / or inevitable” and build our solutions around actions that embrace reality. My reality is that I have to look for a new car, ‘cause fixing things designed by cruel psychopaths challenges my mild mannered demeanor.

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