1)So here's a funny story.
2)You know the oil light, and how it's all important and stuff?
3)I mistakenly thought that if the car needed oil, the oil light would come on.
4)Cause it's like, a warning light, you know?
5)It turns out that this is not entirely accurate.
6)Apparently the oil light is only a warning light in the sense that, if the engine seizes due to a complete lack of oil and you're sitting on the side of the road wondering why your car died and what you're going to do about it, the oil light comes on to warn you.
7)It's worth noting that I did not learn this from personal experience, at least not to the extent that my car's engine is unsalvageable.
8)I've told this story a lot today, so you'll forgive me if I just start from the beginning and go right through.
9)The real beginning, of course, is three years ago when my roommate was driving down the coast to have dinner with her boyfriend's parents and her car started making this loud noise.
10)This was not unusual for her car, given that the muffler had fallen off a few months before and was at that time riding around in her trunk.
11)The noise itself, however, was like "the sound a card makes when a kid sticks it in the tire and it slaps every time the wheel goes around, except about a thousand times louder.
12)"It was loud enough to be heard over the radio, which was loud enough to be heard over my car doing seventy-five on the freeway with no muffler."
13)So she pulled off the highway, the engine seized on the off-ramp, and she coasted to a stop at the bottom of the exit.
14)She had to wait until someone pulled over and offered to drive her to a pay phone to call a garage and have them tow her Volvo.
15)They took one look at the engine and told her, "There's no oil in this car."
16)She was like, "That's impossible. I just put oil in last month."
17)Unfortunately, there's no arguing with a dry engine.
18)Needless to say, the car never started again.
19)I tell this story because A)she told it in a very funny way, and B)you'd think I would have learned something from it, right?
20)My last car was twenty years old. It broke down every other month, so guess how often it was in the shop?
21)Yeah, every other month. I didn't have to maintain it. I just handed John a few hundred bucks every couple months and he made sure the car didn't leave me on the side of the highway.
22)Which it never did, by the way. They knew how to make cars twenty years ago.
23)So this whole "checking the oil"? Totally new for me.
24)In my defense, I would like to note that John did replace the oil, the oil filter, and every seal and plug associated with the engine oiling system at the end of April.
25)The problem being that I haven't so much as thought about it since.
26)I'm actually only two thousand miles past the suggested oil change date, but apparently for a twelve-year-old car that's a lot.
27)I can't believe my car hasn't been in the shop for three whole months. That's like a new record for me.
28)Anyway, yeah, here's the second beginning of my story.
29)Last night I was on my way back from this state's one major city.
30)A red light flashed on my dashboard, literally flashed, in the sense that it was gone by the time I looked at it and I had no idea which one had come on.
31)So I did the logical thing and ignored it.
32)This morning on the way to work, the light flashed again. This time I saw which one it was, and I was like, "Yay! I recognize you! You're the oil light!"
33)This was followed immediately by the thought, "Ooh... bummer. You're the OIL LIGHT."
34)So, because the light immediately went off, I again did the logical thing and ignored it.
35)I couldn't help thinking of "Home Improvement," though.
36)"Jill, how long has the oil light been on in your car?"
37)"Oh, I don't know. A few days."
38)"A few days! You've been driving with the oil light on for a few DAYS?!"
29)"Well, I figured if it was really important it would make a noise, or start flashing or something."
30)"A noise? What, like a siren? The light came on! What else do you want!"
31)Anyway, I went into the kennel and asked the community at large, "How bad is it if the oil light is flashing? Is it like, stop driving immediately, or is like you can drive home, or like you can drive for a few days?"
32)Kristin wanted to know what I meant by flashing, so I explained that the light was not actually on, but it was coming on intermittently and then going out again.
33)She then asked a very intelligent question which had not actually occurred to me until that point: "Did you check the oil?"
34)Oh... right. CHECKING the oil. Good idea.
35)I went out and checked the oil.
36)There was none.
37)I'm not talking "it was down at the too-low mark" or even "it was down below the too-low mark". I'm talking, there was no freakin' oil on that dipstick.
38)I went back in and told Kristin there was no oil in the car, and she was like, "That's really bad."
39)How bad, I wanted to know?
40)"Don't start the car again until you've put oil in it," she told me.
41)That was good advice. My next problem was not actually getting oil, but determining what the heck kind of oil to get.
42)There are kinds of oil, you know. I was afraid of that, so I took my owner's manual with me when I walked to the gas station.
43)Unfortunately, the owner's manual, like the car, is twelve years old.
44)They don't make that kind of oil anymore, so of course I was like, "Hmm. This one comes in a pretty yellow container."
45)Parenthetically, it's worth noting that when I was telling Gerry about all this, he was impressed that I knew how to check the oil at all.
46)I was like, "Believe me, that makes me sound way more competent than I will later prove to be in this story."
47)So I bought a container of this oil-that-came-in-a-yellow-container and walked back to the kennel.
48)This was after work, by the way. The story spans many hours.
49)Anyway, my next problem was what to actually do with the oil.
50)I mean, come on, there are a lot of screwy-cap things under the hood!
51)The owner's manual wasn't much help. In fact, the more I read, the more convinced I became that I had no idea what I was doing, because there were like five different kinds of oil, from engine oil to manual transmission oil to power steering fluid which I was pretty sure wouldn't set off the oil light but how do I know?
52)So finally I closed the book and went back inside, where I did the most obvious thing, which was to ask Karen where to put the oil.
53)She was like, "Usually there's a cap labeled 'oil' near the dipstick."
54)I told her there were a lot of caps and none of them were labeled "oil", to which she replied, "Well, it should be in the middle of the car, on a big rectangular thing with six sort of bumpy things coming off of it."
55)We speak the same language, me and Karen.
56)I finally convinced her that actually watching the desk and answering the phone were not as important as helping me figured out where to put oil in my car, so she came out to the parking lot with me.
57)She took one look at the mysterious under-the-hood zone of the car, rubbed some grime off a cap near the dipstick, and read "O-I-L".
58)"Hey," I said. "I bet it goes in that cap labeled 'oil'! Thanks Karen!"
59)"No problem," she told me.
60)So she goes back inside to answer the phone, and I pour some oil into the appropriate receptacle.
61)Then I check the dipstick, and as far as I can tell there's no change. I mean, there was no oil on it before, and there's no oil on it now.
62)How much oil are you supposed to put in, I wonder?
63)After more pouring and checking (I only later found out that you have to actually RUN the engine to get the oil to circulate) I finally went back in to the kennel and asked Karen, "How much oil are you supposed to put in?"
64)She was like, "How much did you get?"
65)"I don't know," I admitted. "One of those little container things."
66)"Yeah," she said. "At the garage, they usually put in five or six of those container things."
67)At this point, Kristin and Rene had come back from their important managerial meeting, at which I'm sure there was much ice cream and maybe pizza, and they were a little worried that the hood of my car was still up.
68)Did I mention it was raining? Yes, also it was raining, which only made this experience funnier.
69)So I told my story of the oil again, and Kristin explained that each "one of those little container things" is a QUART, and when you change your oil or say run it BONE DRY you put in about SIX QUARTS.
70)I was like, "Well, if I put in one quart now, can I at least drive it to the gas station to get more?"
71)This seemed reasonable to everyone now gathered in the front office discussing my car, and although it may be worth noting that we were all women, there was some small amount of accumulated car knowledge among us.
72)When I say "small amount," of course I mean "more than none" which is not really enough but Karen did have some good stories about cars she did and did not take care of and how long it took to kill them.
73)"Always look for things your car might be leaking," she told me. "Oil is black, antifreeze is green, and transmission stuff tends to be reddish."
74)So anyway, at this point Kristin interjected, "Oh! That reminds me, I have to get your shirt!"
75)She ran out the door and Karen was like, "What?"
76)Rene added, "She came in yesterday and she was like, 'Darn, *Andrea's not working today--she left her shirt at my house!' and we were all like 'REALly...'"
77)No, apparently I took my blue shirt off when I went to give the horses hay just before I left and I forgot to pick it up again.
78)So I got my shirt back, and poured the rest of the oil in the car, and then I had to go back in to ask if I could just throw the oil container away.
79)Because, you know, it seems environmentally damaging and I wasn't sure.
80)So it seems that you can in fact throw the container away, so I did, and I drove to a different gas station to get more oil but they didn't have the kind I'd bought the first time in the pretty yellow container and what if mixing oil is bad?
81)So I left my car in their lot and walked over to the other gas station, where I'd gone before, and bought more oil from them.
82)I put it in the car. I drove home. I read the owner's manual more carefully, and noted that the oil light "is not an indicator of oil level, but rather of a severe fluctuation in oil pressure".
83)According to the manual, the light will flash when the oil pressure fluctuates, and you're supposed to check the oil "as soon as possible".
84)If, on the other hand, the oil light comes on and stays on, you should stop the car and check the oil immediately.
85)"Driving the car while the oil light is on may result in immediate and severe damage to the engine."
86)So as far as I can tell, by the time the oil light comes on it's already too late.
87)It's not so much a warning light, I think, as it is a mocking light.
88)"When you're stranded on the side of the road and your car won't start," my sister says, "the oil light comes on to tell you why."