Thursday, March 30, 2017

Letting Go

This last weekend was an important weekend for me, and not for the reasons that I expected it to be.  What was supposed to be the culmination of weeks of methodical preparation ending in the attendance of the CRX's first legitimate car show, turned out to be something quite different.   The last month went from being an exciting opportunity to a lesson in letting things go and learning how to properly appreciate hard work.

Four weeks ago, I was informed that the annual spring Import Alliance show was featuring cars 1987 and older in their Spotlight area.  The show had been on my radar for the past few years, but it usually got trumped by other events due to the fact that I don't blend well with the usual crowd of people that attend.  I'm not a fan of camber, stance, or offset unless it's used to improve the functionality of your car, in the pursuit of speed.  However this year, I couldn't pass up the opportunity to represent old school Honda's in the Spotlight portion of the show.  I filled out the application to be in the Spotlight, and was surprised to get an acceptance email just hours later.

With a fresh injection of confidence, and what I thought was plenty of time before the show, I decided to take the opportunity to fix everything that was left on my to-do list for the car.  This was a big mistake, especially in my case... being an intense perfectionist.  My list was long, but after I had sorted everything in order of completion, I felt success was attainable.  The list I created was made up of all the little tasks that pile during use, that you regularly tell yourself, 'I'm going to fix that eventually...when I get some free time'.  It included things like body panel repair, dent removal, a serious cleaning, a good waxing, replacing worn bits, changing gaskets and oil, and painting... lots of painting.

The one task that had me worried was the one I didn't have control over.  The body work.  The rocker panels had been deeply gouged by the door skins when they expanded in the heat of summer.  Since the SI rocker panels have their own 'door sill' that regularly collects dirt and dust, by the time I realized what was happening, the damage had been done.  I didn't have the time to do the body work myself, so I knew I had to take it to a shop.  The uneasy feeling that came from that idea originated from my checkered history with body shops.  I've never had a good experience, and the last trip to the body shop was the worst experience ever.  What was supposed to take 2-3 weeks ended up taking 3 months.

With that in mind, I found a seemingly reputable body shop in the area and dropped the rocker panels off to be repaired and painted.  He told me it would be done in three days, and I laughed.  Probably not the nicest reaction, but in my mind, nothing could happen that quickly at even the best body shop.  He was adamant that it would be done in that time frame, so while not holding my breath, I thanked him and went on my way.  Sure enough, three days later, I get a call, 'Your parts are ready for you to pick up!'  It was very difficult to disguise my elation when I thanked him and told him I'd be there as quick as I could.  'Could this be true?!  They must have done a terrible job.'  They didn't.  They were perfect.  I tossed them in the back of the Land Rover and went home with a huge grin on my face.  However, when I got home and carried them into the garage, my grin melted like an ice cream cone under a desert sun.  It only took a glance to realize that they weren't the right gray.  It wasn't even close!  I couldn't have been more dejected.  What was really depressing about this was not the fact that the body shop had painted the rockers in the wrong color, because they hadn't.  I had given them the factory paint codes, just like I had done when I had the entire car painted.  I knew right away that the body shop that painted the whole car originally (the one I had such an awful experience with) had used the wrong color gray.  To think that they were still causing my grief, years later, had me in a rage.

So with only two weeks before the show, I returned the parts to the body shop.  'Here we go again', I thought.  I explained the reasons why the paint didn't match and provided him with one of the door skins for him to match.  He balked a little and said that it would be easier to just paint all of the gray parts on the car instead of trying to match a couple panels.  There was no time for repainting half the car, so I just asked him to get it as close as possible.

As the days went on, I continued to spend my evenings and weekends in the garage.  My list was being whittled down, but not fast enough.  It seemed that even the simplest of tasks were taking forever and causing me issues.  Not only were things taking much longer to complete, but the guy at the body shop never told me when he'd have the parts completed.  He just said, 'They'll be done before your show for sure!'  This didn't sit well with me and after three days had passed without a word from them, I started calling.  'Just give me a couple more days.  They're having trouble getting the color to match' was what I was told after the first call.  After the third call, which was days later, he was still asking for more time.  I was starting to get a bad feeling about all of it.

With only three days before the show, I was reaching the panic stage.  My list was still way too long, and the car was still in pieces.  I had to start purging my list of things to do.  Even after scratching off a number of tasks, the list still felt long, but I couldn't comprise on anything else (so I thought).  It was now time to call the body shop again and get another status update.  'They're almost ready to paint' he said, 'They have it really close.  It'll be done on Friday for sure.'  Friday?!  Friday is the day before the show.  How am I going to put the car back together, and then wash, wax, and paint the trim pieces (among many other things) in less than 24 hours?!  I insisted that I needed them done by Thursday at the latest.  His response of 'We'll see what we can do' was hardly convincing.  To make an already long story a little bit shorter...  I was finally asked to come down to the shop to approve the color that they had decided was close enough.  This was Friday morning mind you.  By that time I had convinced myself that this wasn't going to happen.  My only hope was that I could at least make it to the show on Sunday.  The color was fine and I told them to move forward.  By 1pm the parts were completed and in my possession.  They did end up getting the color very close, but ended up having to blend the paint on the door skins to avoid any obvious differences.  I was about 24 hours late based on the schedule in my head, but I was pretty sure I could be done by Saturday night.

Amazingly, as the clock struck 12:30am Sunday morning, I stepped back from the car and realized I had done it.  Well, sort of.  My list had received yet another purging, so in the end I had only completed two thirds of the original task list, but at that point I was just happy to have the car back together and looking half-way decent.  Sadly though, the drama didn't end there.  Before I went to bed I decided to go over the car and make sure I hadn't forgot anything.  As I was wrenching down on one of the front wheel's lug nuts, I heard a weird popping sound come from the engine bay.  When I looked up there was smoke coming out from under the hood.  I stood there for a moment just staring at the smoke as it rose from the car and disappeared into the night sky.  'SERIOUSLY!?'  I lifted the hood to find my suspicions of a blown fuse to be correct.  Of course it was the main 55amp fuse, the one I didn't have spares to.  Finally I knew that this show wasn't going to happen.  It was time to let it go.  I calmly shut the hood, rolled the car back into the garage and went to bed.

The next morning, as I sat glumly on the couch starring out the window at a beautiful spring day, it dawned on me that I still had the nice camera gear that I had rented for the show.  I knew nothing positive would come out of me moping around the house, and I wasn't about to let that camera equipment go to waste.  The only thing standing in my way was a dead car.  So I put my big boy pants back on and went to work.  6 fuses, getting stranded in the left turn lane of a busy intersection, and several trips to the parts store later, and she was back in action.  To add insult to injury, the cause of the problem was of my own doing.  I had loosened the alternator harness connector while washing the engine bay, just enough to cause it to short.  Lovely.

Once the car was running again, I packed my gear into the car and headed into the mountains.  It didn't take long to find an impressive scenic byway just north of Helen, GA.  It led me to two fantastic lookouts that offered impressive views of Yonah Mountain and the Chattahoochee National Forest beyond.  After spending a few hours driving on beautiful mountain roads, taking pictures, and just soaking up nature, I realized that this was so much better than being crammed in a parking lot with thousands of other cars and people, getting sun burnt and covered in tire smoke.  This is what I should've been planning to do the whole time.  To truly enjoy your car is not to have other folks look at it while it sits in a parking lot, it's to care for it, drive it, and take the time to step back and appreciate what you can accomplish with a lot of hard work.  That is what is so special about motoring.

Photos by Stephen Dettman


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