Door jam

For the past half-century I’ve owned cars, all of them used, some of them very used. As a result, I’ve learned two things.

One is patience. Used cars are not new cars. As a result, things will go wrong with them, if not off the bat then a lot sooner than with a new car (unless the new car’s a lemon, in which case all bets are off). So when something goes wrong, that’s just the way it is, and all I can do is get it fixed.

The other thing I’ve learned is when to call it quits. When it looks like the car’ll need some huge repair and will still be on death’s door, or my vehicular future will consist of throwing good money after bad, I’ll bid my formerly trusty steed sayonara and send it off to Valhalla (if you’ll pardon the mixed metaphor).

So the real skill is knowing when to keep repairing a car or when to junk it.

A prime example: Back in the late ’70s a guy sold me a relatively new VW Beetle for a song because it needed brakes, tires and a battery. Then he bought a new VW Beetle. A few years later he had to replace its brakes, tires and battery — making car payments all the time.

See, his old car (my new car) was sound. After those repairs were made, it had many more years of life left, but he didn’t think that way. However, I do.

So last Wednesday when I took my car into Evergreen Auto and was told I needed to replace two sets of bearings, two sets of brakes and all the tires, it wasn’t but a thang. It has to be done, and after it is, the car will last a long time. It’s a big repair, and a costly one, but I’m fine with it.

But the next day, when the driver’s door locked while open, and wouldn’t unlock, my blood pressure about blew the top off my skull.

Panel discussions

I had no idea what to do.

I tried to unlock it with the key. No luck.

Then I tried to unlock it with the inside handle. Still no luck.

I tried to move that thing in the door that holds it to that thing on the door post, and my luck held — my BAD luck, that is.

So now what to do?

I did what everyone in 2018 does — I looked on the internet. When it comes to folks knowing how to unlock an unyielding door on a 2010 Honda Accord, there are more gurus than in the Omega Institute, believe it or not.

There were Honda forums, Accord aficionados, car geeks, door freaks, latch klatches, hatch detachers and Lord knows what else. There were also a bunch of YouTube videos showing exactly how to unlock the unlockable. Though different sites and videos gave different causes and cures of the problem, they all had the same first step — take off the door panel.

It was, I’m sure, sage advice for someone who’s mechanically adept. For me, they might as well have said the first step was to regrind the crankshaft.

I figured there had to be an easier solution and my pal Long Lenny might know it, so I called him.

“Oh, that’s an easy fix,” he said.

“Really?” I said. “Great. What is it?”

“Well, first ya take off the door panel …”

His voice didn’t trail off — I did.

Mightier than the sword

When he finished, I thanked him profusely, hung up and then looked for a long bungee cord. It was early evening, I had to go to the store, and the bungee cord was the best solution I had for how to keep the door shut. I did my shopping and came back, and while I won’t say the door stayed shut, per se, it did stay shut … enough.

But that night another problem arose: It started to rain. While a “shut enough” door is adequate for a drive into town and back, it’s wholly in-adequate to keep out rain. Luckily, I have a tarp, which I hauled out from under the porch and threw over the car. I figured that would work, while also lending a certain Jeeterville panache to the vehicle. I was right on both counts. When I took off the tarp in the morning, there was nary a drop on the interior. The exterior, however, was a whole ‘nother story.

The tarp had not just been under the porch — it’d been under it for years. And over that time it’d acquired a thick layer of detritus on both sides. So when I took it off, the car was covered with twigs, leaves, dirt, pebbles, rodent droppings and the exoskeletons of insects thought to be extinct for centuries. I figured all that could be dealt with later. I needed help, and I needed it now.

I called Evergreen Auto, got Dave Smith and told him my latest. He told me to bring it in at 1 o’clock and he’d see what he could do. Considering they’re booked up weeks ahead, a same-day appointment seemed like manna from Route 86.

At a quarter to 1, I fired up the Jeeterville Express and drove to Evergreen — leaving a vapor trail of pestilence in my wake.

When I got there, Dave came out.

“OK,” he said, “you have a pen on you?”

“A pen?” I wondered. What the hell did he want to do– fix my door or give me his autograph?

I handed him the pen.

He lifted the outside latch and, while it was up, pushed the pen on the inside latch, and — voila! — the door magically unlocked!

I stood there slack-jawed and gobsmacked.

Dave stood there with a smile on his mug that was less than enigmatic but more than boyish. Kinda like the cat who swallowed the canary … and crapped in your slippers, too.

“That’s amazing,” I said, and I meant it.

He shrugged in a fine show of false modesty.

“Everything I looked up about how to unlock the door said you hadda take the panel off first,” I said. “But you did it so fast, it looked like something a car thief would do.”

“Well,” he said, his smile now going from ear to ear, “who do you think I learned it from?”