Monthly Archives: July 2013

Of Honor And Motor Oil

I want to tell you about the best automotive service center in Texas. It’s Kwik Kar in Irving, on the corner of Esters Road and Pioneer Drive. Every location is independently owned, so I can’t vouch for the others, but that one is the best. By the way, this is not a paid advertisement. The folks at Kwik Kar have no idea I’m writing this. It is the result of gratitude.

The first time I went to Kwik Kar for an oil change, I went reluctantly. I usually change my own oil; it’s not hard, doesn’t take much time. I am the kind of guy who likes to do things myself if I can (and ever so often, when it might have been better to hire a professional). I enjoy fixing things, enjoy the feeling of having left something better than when I found it. Some people who know me well might say I am a bit of a perfectionist, a nit-picker, even a tough customer. They would be right. I demand a lot of myself, and no less of someone providing goods or services.

That weekend was a tough one. I had planned on changing the oil in my car – after changing the A/C compressor and power steering belts. This is usually a piece of cake – very simple. I had changed plenty of belts before. Famous last words!

After a couple of hours, I began to realize that my car had been designed by a team of highly skilled engineers whose main design objective was to keep me from changing the power steering belt. The other belt, the one for the A/C, was as easy as I had expected. But the power steering belt was a different story altogether. They had placed the tensioner bolt – the piece that needs to be loosened before removing a belt from a pulley – about a foot up from the bottom of the engine, right between the engine block and another very large part, in a crack barely wide enough to fit a butter knife. The thing is as close to the exact center of the entire motor assembly as anyone could wish it weren’t.

In the end I had to get a special tool made up of a very stubby socket for tight spaces, and a long flat handle about the thickness of a butter knife. Apparently I am not the only one who has had this type of problem. It still didn’t work. At this point I started to feel frustrated. I was tired, my back and arms were stiff and sore, and I had removed all the skin from my knuckles. So I went to Kwik Kar. After the oil change, I asked the mechanic if he had had trouble with the belt. “No,” he said, “It doesn’t need to be changed.”

“The other one was cracked,” I told him.

“This one wasn’t,” he replied. It was a $75 job, twice the price of the oil change. I thanked him, paid for the oil change, and left.

It is nice to find a business that provides good service at a fair price. When it is staffed by pleasant people, so much the better. The hard thing is to find all this, and the kind of old-fashioned ethic that truly puts the customer first, even ahead of legitimate profit.

Like anyone else, I have had repair shops try to take me for all they could. My wife once paid for an oil change, after which I found the same filter as I had put on her car the last time. That is one of the reasons I like to do things myself. Honesty is, unfortunately, something of an unexpected bonus these days.

The mechanic at Kwik Kar would have been perfectly justified in changing the belt on my car. I asked him for the service. He checked the belt, found it still good, and even put the little splash shield back in place that goes on the inside of the fender. Not only did he go out of his way to serve a customer, he did so in the process of saving the customer money at no profit to himself. That goes beyond honesty. That is something truly rare: honor.

I think I might just keep going back to Kwik Kar for oil changes. You should too.

Will We Ever Find A Dinosaur Frozen In A Block Of Ice?

I love the “Ice Age” movies. Who doesn’t? Granted, they kind of go downhill after the first one, but it’s a gentle slope, and making a sequel better than the original is arguably impossible. Don’t get me started on Star Wars.

One of my favorite scenes from “Ice Age” is the one where the oblivious Sid, lost in the ice cave and peering at the walls with his natural curiosity, is startled by a frozen fish with large needle-sharp teeth. He turns quickly away, only to be confronted with a much larger, much scarier specimen: a Tyrannosaurus Rex, razor jaws gaping, frozen into the icy wall. Sid continues past a row of frozen fossils in phylogenetic order; all share features in common with Sid. As he reached the end, he stops, completing a tableau of his own evolutionary history.

The last time I saw the movie, someone asked if a dinosaur had ever been discovered frozen in the ice. I said that we haven’t, which prompted the question whether we ever would make such a discovery. What a find that would be! Much as I love the idea, it is very unlikely. I don’t like to say “impossible” – too many things once considered impossible have already become reality – but in this case, it might not be too strong a word.

The frozen dinosaur in the movie was buried deep in a glacier. Glaciers are frozen rivers; they flow downhill towards the ocean just like any other river, but much more slowly. As the bottom of the glacier melts, the top is being formed out of snow that falls high in the mountains where the glacier begins.

For an animal to become trapped in a glacier, it would have to die high up in the snowy mountains where glaciers form. The animal would be covered over with snow that would slowly turn to ice as it built up over centuries. After some thousands of years, it might be found deep inside a glacier like the frozen dinosaur in “Ice Age”.

As far as I know, nobody has ever found an animal frozen inside a glacier. It may have happened, but I doubt it. Animals need food, and there is nothing to eat high up in the eternal snows where glaciers begin. Humans are the only things that climb around glaciers on purpose. If an animal got lost in the mountains, it would die long before it could reach the source of a glacier.

We have learned many things about dinosaurs since I was a child. Some scientists think that certain dinosaurs may even have been partly warm-blooded, like some fish are. But no one is suggesting that dinosaurs were able to live in icy Arctic conditions. There may have been mountains with glaciers during the Triassic, Jurassic, and Cretaceous Periods when dinosaurs were alive, but the dinosaurs would never have been anywhere near the tops of those mountains.

It is a pretty sure thing that no animal, much less a dinosaur, will be found preserved inside a glacier. But I still love the movie.