It was a dark morning. A fellow I often see at the exercise pavilion in the early hours was kind enough to approach and say, “Your light is out in the back of your car, the one over the license plate.” My friend then warned that “theyʼll pull you over for something like that.”
Ours is not a fancy car. It is a popular make, the sort that all of us average folks ride around in. This one has miles on it, approaching 130,000. So it is not surprising that one of the tiny lights is out.
Thatʼs where the story begins. Hereʼs how it plays out:
When I checked around the back of the car, it seemed two lights were not working. By now, it was daylight, and who needs a light on the license plate? Just like the old song, why fix the leak in the roof if the sun is shining and it is not raining? But I would soon be driving again in the dark, so I called a place where they sell new cars just like this one.
The very nice man on the other end of the line (after one gets past the recording and the receptionist) was helpful. I asked if it could be a simple fuse failure. He said, not likely, because a fuse gone bad would mean still other lights, in addition to these two, would be out as well.
Now we got to the bottom line. It would cost $4 for each bulb. And $24 in labor to replace the bulbs. (Some of that would have been tax. About $2, I think.) The total would be $32! This for two bulbs no larger than Christmas lights, the really small ones.
When I wondered aloud at the cost, the man in the repair department said, “thatʼs because he (the mechanic) has to take off the panel” to gain access to the bulbs.
Thirty-two dollars to replace bulbs no bigger than a bug? I mean, each of these is not as large as a honey bee. What to do? Answer: Shop local. Call the guy down the street, or down the highway, who works on cars. What does he say? “Yeah, Iʼve got ʻem.” Meaning, of course, the bulbs that fit. This answer in itself is very impressive. His next words: “Come on over. Anytime.”
I did. And in less time than it takes to tell a reasonably long joke, in far less time than it would take you to read this column out loud, our “shop local” guy took off the “panels” — there are two of them, and each is no bigger than the palm of your hand — removed the old bulbs, put in new ones, put the panels back, turned to me and said, “Five dollars.”
I happily paid that and shook his hand.