Gratitude: When Sh*t Hits the Fan Edition

The mechanical objects in my life have plotted against me.

Dead Battery

After we got back from vacation, I went to start-up the Honda Element and found that it was dead. Hmmm, maybe I left a door open or interior light on? I charged the battery and drove around a bit, but it was dead again the next day. To figure out what was going on, I broke out my little friend, the multimeter:

I tested the alternator and it was fine. The voltage on the battery was OK, but that isn’t the only test. I strongly suspected that the battery was the issue since it wouldn’t hold a charge.

In a monumentally severe lapse of judgement, I had purchased the battery at Walmart. Dealing with the automotive department at my local Walmart is an exercise in futility and pain. The employees communicate with grunts and glares. And they are all angry. Very angry. A root canal would be more fun and faster.

Scott the auto technician (and I use technician in the loosest of terms) told me he had to verify that the battery was dead. I would have to leave it at the shop and he would test it. No problem.

Thirty minutes later, the phone rang:

  • Me: Hello.
  • Walmart: Scott from Walmart. *grunt*
  • Me: Hi!


  • Me: OK? Anyone there?
  • Walmart: Tested your battery.

<more silence followed by a grunt>

  • Me: Ummmmm, OK? What’s the verdict.
  • Walmart: Dead.
  • Me: OK? What now?
  • Walmart: Come back in.
  • Me: And then what?
  • Walmart: Warranty it out.

<more silence>

  • Me: What does that mean? Do I get a refund?
  • Walmart: New battery.

I went back to Walmart to find that the service counter was as empty as my head after a couple of strong beers on an empty stomach. I finally spied my verbally challenged friend Scott who was putting bottles of car wash on the shelf. He and I locked eyes. So normally, this would be a cue for Scott to come over and help the waiting customer that he had spoken with not more than an hour ago. Nope. Scott went right on putting crap on the shelf.

I could go on and describe the next 30 minutes of this ordeal, but I don’t want to bore you death. The Honda Element is now back in business and I’ll do my best to never set foot in awful Walmart again.


Bottom Bracket Bane

I was out on a bike ride and my bottom bracket started making a horrendous noise. For those of you not familiar with bike parts. the bottom bracket is this:

I was frustrated. My butt and gut have grown large. I need exercise, but had no choice but to turn around and head home. I retrieved my bike toolkit and fired up YouTube. It was at this time that I learned there about 584 different types of bottom brackets and each requires a different tool. This must be a plot devised by the tool manufacturers. I didn’t have the tool for mine, so headed off to the local bike shop to buy one.

The bike shop was sold out of the tool, but the tech offered to disassemble the bottom bracket with their own (it took him a while to find the right one). He would then order a new bottom bracket assembly and I could then put it back together myself. Great! Until it wasn’t.

The bottom bracket wouldn’t budge. After 12 years, the cup nut holding it together had become one with the threads of the frame. The bike tech called another tech in to assist. That tech then called in another tech. An hour later, the nut gave up the fight and came loose. I was relieved, but what a pain in the ass.


But Wait, There’s More!

I took a shower (after working on the dead battery issue) and it wouldn’t drain.

Then, the bottom bracket on my eBike started creaking. What is it with damn bottom brackets?

I disassembled the drain and cleared the clog.

I tightened the bottom bracket and the noise stopped.


And I’m Thankful

The gift of Financial Independence is time. Others FI enthusiasts frequently write about seeing movies in the middle of the day, taking naps or reading. But the time is also a buffer for when you have to spend hours in hell (Walmart). If I didn’t have this buffer, I’d be spending my nights and weekends dealing with this nonsense instead of enjoying my family.

While I had to deal with the Walmart service department and a feisty bottom bracket, I also acquired new skills. I now know how to test an alternator with a multimeter. I also know how to disassemble my road bike’s bottom bracket. I’ll throw these skills on the pile of stuff in the back of my brain. Next time one of these things break, I’ll know how to deal with it.

And I fully acknowledge that my issues are trivial and first world problems. The true value of the buffer will be realized when a real problem presents itself. Maybe a loved one will get sick or a friend will have an emergency and need my time. I’m so thankful that I have this buffer.

And bottom brackets of the world; don’t mess with me.

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33 Responses to Gratitude: When Sh*t Hits the Fan Edition

  1. I love your attitude! Being thankful even when all the sucky things keep happening 🙂 I agree that time is the biggest thing. We all get mad about these things that waste our time because it feels so short and precious. We were actually looking out over our 3 acres yesterday, which is in desperate need to be mowed, and imagining what it will be like when Hubs is home and doesn’t have to fit it in around his schedule. When it rains out his yard time for two weeks, he will be more likely to have time when it’s not mowing after retirement… when time is in much more supply. It’s the dream that we are not letting go of!

    PS: Wal-Mart. UGH! We avoid it as much as possible. Then we go for some insane reason and experience what you experienced, and rant and swear to never go again. That is our cycle against Wal-Mart. It never seems to end.
    Ember @ An Intentional Lifestyle recently posted…6 Lessons From My First 30 Days BloggingMy Profile

  2. There sure are about 584 different kinds of bottom brackets! It is a true pain. Its not the tool manufacturers doing this, but the frame manufacturers because each frame comes with its own proprietary bottom bracket these days that only that frame manufacturer produces. Its a buy in once and never change type of deal. The only issue, every generation that bottom bracket changes types again and the tools and bottom brackets of the previous generation are no longer made. It drives me crazy to the point that I won’t buy a frame unless it has a 68mm screw in bottom bracket. Even my top of the line race bike, Pinarello Dogma, has a screw in bottom bracket.

    Congrats on getting it out. My recommendation to you, take it out once or twice a year and grease the threads. You will never have that issue again and the squeaking will be no more. If you ever have squeaking, the solution is just remove, grease and reinstall.

    Enjoy your newfound knowledge.

    • Thanks for the advice! I just added “take apart all bottom brackets” to my fall/winter todo list!

      Pinarello Dogma! I googled it and that is a nice ride!

      • Indeed, it is a dream ride. I wanted one for years until I moved to China where I could get one for 10% of retail price! How’s that for a deal.

        A little annual TLC for your bikes keeps them in good condition for years to come. My wife’s bike doesn’t need much since she rides it <1000 miles per year. Mine fleet on the other hand require lots of maintenance for 10,000+ miles per year in sandy and rainy conditions.

        One last tip for the bottom bracket. You can get them out without the "right" tool using a vice. Take the crank off, put the BB in the vice and then spin the frame in the correct direction. Keep in mind that one of the cups is reverse threaded. This is how I get the most stubborn of stuck parts out.

  3. Team CF says:

    So not WMT shares for you then? 😉
    Guess you are glad to be FI so you can deal with all this crap in a relaxed manner?
    Enjoy the bike!
    Team CF recently posted…July 2017 Options Trading UpdateMy Profile

  4. That definitely sounds like a challenging week but as frustrating as that was, you could have been at working, working for the man. I’d much rather deal with those issues then a good day at work 🙂
    Mustard Seed Money recently posted…The Best Tips for Buying a Used CarMy Profile

  5. Nick Klenke says:

    I feel your pain. My relationship with Wal Mart ended when they stripped the threads on my oil plug and it took me 2 hours of fighting with the “technicians” to get reimbursed for the repairs.

  6. Doppleganger Wayne says:

    To paraphrase the famous line from Love Story, “FI means never having to go to WalMart”.

  7. Apathy Ends says:

    Anytime I have brought our car in for batteries or tires at the big retail outlets (Walmart/sears) it has been a hassle. I get they need to find workers and don’t want to pay full out mechanic wages, but at least be competent.

    Finishing the basement is my next DIY project, will be doing some YouTube videos and buying cases of beer for my buddies that do HVAC and Electrical

  8. The Rhino says:

    The vagaries of the bottom bracket would test the patience of a Buddhist monk

    Get a load of grease in there to help getting the beggar back out in the future

  9. I went to Walmart for a tire repair one once. I agree with you that their automotive staff do NOT inspire confidence. I should have trusted my instinct and gone elsewhere.

    Luckily the tire hasn’t exploded 😉

  10. As you noted, if these are the worst you have to bear consider yourself lucky. Someone has to be your mechanics coworker all day…;)

  11. Joe says:

    Heh heh, back to real life. Yeap, at least you have time to deal with all these problems. Working people has these problems too, but they become a lot more stressful. Having more stuff just means more time spent on upkeep.
    We just got back from a camping trip and now I have to get a car wash. School starts next week and I need to meet the teacher to talk about our kid’s hearing issue. Soccer starts Saturday and we need to get uniform. etc,etc,etc… Why are there so many things to do?
    Joe recently posted…So Long 2017 Summer Break!My Profile

  12. Amber tree says:

    Well, you conclude with a new benefit of FI that’s I never imagined: having time to deal with sh!t with loosing quality time with family.

    We have a dead battery as well, it is already replaced once. I need to find jumper cables…

  13. ” After 12 years, the cup nut holding it together had become one with the threads of the frame.”

    Transpose “cup” and “nut” for some entirely different imagery.

    I’m grateful to have my family back home after a summer of frequent long drives to see them.

    Physician on FIRE recently posted…The Ultimate Hedge Against Future UncertaintyMy Profile

  14. Ughhhh. That’s exactly how the people at our Walmart are, too. I’m sure I’d be pissed off if I had to work at Walmart, though. My mom used to work there and hated it.

    Sorry all this crap happened to you! But ain’t it nice to have the time / patience to deal with it without all the added stress of a full-time job?
    Mrs. Picky Pincher recently posted…Mkay, what is up with our side hustle obsession?My Profile

  15. Tom says:

    Here’s what the buffer of FI can do: it allowed me to spend time last month with my dying sister. (Otherwise I would have totally made the NYC meetup.)

    I flew down to visit her in the hospital and hospice. I didn’t have to worry when the first flight home got cancelled, or the next day’s flight home got cancelled too, or about having to drive home from Dulles to CT rather than drive. Likewise, it wasn’t an issue to jump in the car and drive to VA when the end finally came, and to be away from home for eight days during services.

    Now, I don’t need to deal with the triviality of the inane corporate world while I’m trying to sort out my grief afterwards either. I admit, I’m lucky that my part-time-consulting client was OK with me shifting my schedule – but FI also lets me lose the business, if it had to come to that.

  16. This is part of why I became a minimalist. I know some people enjoy maintaining stuff, but it just isn’t for me. I can rent bicycles right outside my door and I love to walk and take the bus over driving.

    I agree though… it is good practice to not let this kind of stuff frustrate us and to give gratitude instead.
    Primal Prosperity recently posted…Thank you Mother Nature. You saved 2017.My Profile

    • Minimalism. This is something that I think about every single day. And I just spent 4 hours today cleaning up and getting rid of stuff.

      I can see a day when I own zero cars. I’ll always own a bike though.

  17. Dex says:

    Press fit or threaded. not that hard.

  18. Mr. Tako says:

    Oh man, that’s a pretty horrendous week! I’ve had weeks like that, when everything breaks…

    It can be frustrating, but the fight against entropy must continue! Onward soldier!
    Mr. Tako recently posted…Learning From Panics And ManiasMy Profile

  19. Sometimes the issues come all at once. As you said, at least you have the time to deal with them. I had some car troubles on my wife’s car last week and it was like a circus. I was taking things apart, replacing parts, putting them back together, driving to the parts store. This was a daily basis after work for 3 days, but I had to continually put the car back together to go to work the next day. I cannot wait until this whole “work” thing is not part of my everyday life.
    FIbythecommonguy recently posted…DIY Fence BuildMy Profile

  20. Tracyl5 says:

    Time is definitely what I want out of FI. With working 40 hours a week now, if I have to go to the grocery store, or get my car fixed , or run any other errands, I can’t get in a workout. And since I’m trying to prioritize my health by working out, I have no time for socializing after work. Ugh, I’d love to have more of a life!

    I worked at Walmart in college, and it WAS hell! The only good thing Walmart ever gave me was Mr. Bob Koski, my co-worker in hardware, who worked there just for fun. He was 80 years old, flew in WWII, did woodworking, and was the kindest, wisest soul I’ve ever met. He’s gone now, so I’m tearing up just thinking about him and the fun we had at work together. They say as long as people say your name, you’re not really gone… So there you go, Bob, you’re still here, still impacting my life.

  21. MrWow says:

    Glad to see your bike broke. WAHAHAAHA!!! I’ll just sending the lethargic vibes your way!!!!

    In all seriousness, I just had to replace a spoke that I popped but it was in behind the cassette. FUN!! But it’s done now. I’m hoping that will be the last of it for a little while. Just gotta keep up with them just like cars. Just that cars these days are a huge pain.

    The Speedy eats batteries for lunch. The shop guys say it’s a known issue. Apparently the alternator isn’t big enough for the engine since it was the first year of the 1050. So now I have to plug in my gas moto like it’s an electric, and have like 3 spares in the garage.

    I also just saw a great quote recently… ” I don’t know how to fix anything. I just take stuff apart and put it back together. ” That’s my new mantra.

  22. Mrs.Wow says:

    Bike issues? I know it all too well. See comment above
    Mrs.Wow recently posted…Happy National Waffle Day!!!!My Profile

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