It is no secret that the rise of the Internet has completely changed our world. It has brought people, ideas, cultures and merchandise together from around the globe. One of the more mundane benefits from this exchange of information has been to free people from the restrictions of obtaining goods only in their local surroundings. Twenty or thirty years ago, if you needed something, such as spark plugs, you went down to the local parts shop and bought them. If they didn’t have them, you could either travel to another store, or request a “special order”, which might take weeks to arrive, if at all. The only other option was to browse a parts catalog and either place an order yourself, or have the parts shop order it for you.
Today, nearly any conceivable part for your automobile can be ordered online and shipped to you within a few days. You’re no longer tied to the existing inventory of a single shop or catalog company. Amazon.com for example, not only has their own formidable array of parts, they also represent hundreds of smaller merchants, who may offer anything from the ordinary to the truly bizarre junkyards near me. And since many parts do not need to be inspected by the customer beforehand (all things being equal, a piston ring is a piston ring), it’s also much faster to order from the web, to say nothing of cheaper since you cut out the middleman.
Another consequence of shopping the Internet is that you don’t have to try and lug something large and/or heavy back to where you need it. You can actually order an entire engine block, and let the shipper deal with getting it to your front door. Or at least the front of your garage. If you’re involved in a restoration job, how much easier to preorder all the parts you know you’ll need, from a crankshaft to valve lifters to headlight covers.
Speaking of restoration or customization work, where can you find a manual for Mustangs from 1967 to 1970? What about converting a 1995 Jeep for offroad driving? A world of manuals, owners guides and project ideas is at your fingertips, or at least a few mouse clicks away. Many sites that offer this often hard to find paperwork will also have reviews of the material, to guide you towards books that will be truly informative and worthwhile reading. A useful feature you won’t get with the small selection spinning around on a tiny rack at many brick and mortar parts stores.
In the parking lot, the rain was relentless. My dad read the package, he then struggled to open them, and in the process he bent the refill blades. He sliced his finger trying to remove the old blades, pinching this, squeezing that, torqueing it this way and that, until he was finally left with mangled wipers. Men came out of the store and walked by us, glanced furtively and climbed up into their big pick up trucks, inside their sanctuary they grinned and shook their heads, amused at my dad’s incompetence. I knew this was a sad statement of our manhood.
Dad threw the blades down in the parking lot and got in the car. Now we didn’t even have worn out wipers, we had wipers that touched the window in only a few spots because they were frustrated my Dad beyond the control he had over his emotions. We went across the street to a super center store and shopped again for wipers. This time my dad bought the replacements that snap on the arm. There were no know it alls here, it was a friendlier place filled with incompetents, these folks could have been my neighbors, no strange dialects, and no huge pick-ups. Perhaps at the auto parts store men didn’t have to worry about alimony or child support. They could spend all their money on those huge trucks and had time to learn how to replace wipers in the seclusion of their garage. I thought maybe they were the missing fathers of all the smoking girls who gave sex several times a day to Del Latham. Perhaps that was the parallel world these people lived. That would explain how foreign it felt inside that other store, this store I was among friends, even my kleptomania of record albums was accepted.
I watched as my dad tried to pry off the old wipers, bending again this way and that, twisting, and flicking, and then screaming ‘How the hell do these go on?’ Finally we returned to the dryness of the car and continued with visibility limited to a very unsafe distance. This time at least the new wipers were tucked away safely in the backseat. I found this as a step towards improving our manhood scorecard.
I do not know how those wipers ever got replaced. But I think about it every time I replace my own. I remember once replacing them while a co-worker friend looked on and it went quickly, and he said I could work at a service station, in a tone that revealed admiration. This was a guy who would have fit it at that auto parts store, he could speak that dialect, saved only for men who can work on cars. I felt my Dad would have been proud at that moment, restoring our collective manhood.