Not quite ten years ago I shoehorned my helmeted self into the driver's seat of a big-motor factory hot-rod utility and stared down Willow Springs' pit lane at the balcony turn in the distance. I'd seen plenty go off there, had a 2nd-generation Lightning go 'round right in front of me there, and didn't want to add my name to the list. The car company commander knocked on my helmet and asked if I'd driven here before. I replied in the affirmative and he pointed down pit lane, "Go have fun."
Less than a minute later I'm in that balcony turn, the exhaust note's gone dull, the throttle dead, the dash lit up like a barbecue covered in bursting brats and there's another car not 10 seconds back coming full-tilt. With my artificially scrunched fetus-like seating position, a brisk left-right transition had knocked my knee against the key and turned it back a notch. A quick reach around to wind it forward again, and I finished my laps. On return, the commander walked up smiling, and referencing my sloppy balcony turn, said, "Thought you said you knew this track." In my best smart-ass voice I confirmed I did, but I lost my rhythm when his car switched off.
Turns out a similarly lanky journalist friend of mine had a very similar bump-the-key experience the day before, and two in just as many days was enough to have the commander and an engineer on their BlackBerrys to find a fix. I've never had a problem with a key in that model since.
That was not a GM vehicle. And it happened after the GM key issue began but before the redesign. This winter's fiasco brought the issue back to mind, wondering how much advantage this smaller (not small) company had, and how many of the dumb things I stumble on happen to other people.
And if they build houses. The laundry area in my house has all the usual connections but which genius—builder, architect, electrician, plumber—thought the best place for the power point was right below the washer hose faucets? And how much faith in the city code and inspectors does that give you? There's something to be said for moving in your own appliances.
My litany of amusing friends and fumbles stems well back into the 20th century. A high schoolmate cultivated marijuana right outside his dorm room, but having a famous father couldn't keep him enrolled post-discovery. My college roommate made chlorine gas in his dorm room and after the fact, being a chemistry major, figured out what it was and that he should leave for a while.
I've done speaker and map light installations in the truck door with the window down (no breaks yet). I've had the plastic oil bottle-top retainer ring—the part that usually stays stuck to the bottle that I couldn't grasp and pull off even if I wanted to—fall off after upending the bottle in the valve cover. Fortunately, it was too big to slide through a drain gallery and took only a few minutes fishing with a spring-loaded claw to get it out, but really, who does this happen to?
Last week, I moved a stack of wheels and tires out of the garage into the yard to avoid damaging them while I was tinkering. The tires are aged out but the wheels are good. A few hours later, it smelled just like my old Four Wheeler cubicle when tire-test rubber had arrived and all the staff's cigarette smokers complained about the smell. I attributed it to the tires being in the sun for the first time in years.
It happened a couple more times in subsequent days, but it wasn't until later I actually saw the smoke. When I rolled the quintet out, I didn't pay much attention to how they landed apart from shiny side up, and that was my downfall. Match a bright sunny day with a polished aluminum wheel and at some point there's a reflection. In this case the reflection moved to the tire next to it, burning the rubber—blue smoke and all. Elementary astronomy suggested mine singed from mid-morning to noon, not coincidentally when the stink was greatest.
Chastising myself for failing to predict it, I had to wonder if crap like this happens to everyone else, if I'm just a magnet, or if it happens to them but on good tires, not old ones. However, there were two lessons learned: One, I've added yet another line on my Murphy's Law list, and second, I've got a good idea how my truck cover got a burn mark in it years ago that I couldn't explain by any other means.
At the risk of calling Truck Trend readers dumb, we'd love to hear your favorite discoveries or screw-ups.