My favorite 7seriesparts.com customer passed away recently. He was a wonderful man: brilliant, benevolent and productive.
He had great plans with good potential for massive process improvement for the automobile manufacture industry. I’m a senior software engineer (not as in “doddering with cane” but as in “respected in the industry, paid to give speeches and to teach at software developer conferences”) plus I’ve worked in an automobile plant and I’ve been a software and car geek since I was 17. So, I was hopeful that I could assist with the realization of his vision. One of my last emails to him said: “I’m basically approaching this not just as a theoretical exercise but something that might actually happen. You’re still young and you have much time ahead of you in which you can pull this off, and I’d love to see you do so in actual fact — and I’d love to be involved too.” Little did I, or he, know…
His life’s story is of a caliber that belongs in a novel of man as he can be at his highest potential. I wasn’t in love with Rick (I’m not mentally wired for romantic relationships with guys; imagine a rainbow bumper sticker on my car and you get the idea). Even so it was impossible for me to not be enchanted by how he thought, and how he expressed that.
Actions speak louder than words, so … here’s a somewhat comical story so you can see how much he inspired me. He and I had become friends in the process of chatting about used parts for his BMW 3-series convertible, but then he also bought a BMW 735i (model type E32). It was white, lovely and perfect except for rust spots on the two front doors. He needed two non-rusted doors. I made a point of finding him two pristine 25-year old used BMW doors in the exact right color and with perfect original paint with no dents or scratches, so he wouldn’t have to deal with the hassle and expense of painting whatever replacement doors he ended up getting, nor having to transfer the window, door latches, etc.
No offense to all my other wonderful clients, but I’d not in a million years have done all that normally. But for Rick, it was worth it. “Get Rick the doors he needs” became a personal mission for me. When I finally had them and announced it, I already had the route mapped out to personally drive and deliver them from Nevada to Indiana.
However, my email arrived while Rick was out of commission for a while due to his medical condition, and by the time he’d caught up with his emails he’d given up on waiting for the doors, and he solved the problem himself.
Anyway, I sent him this story so he could see how much he was valued. In this published version, I added some pictures and details for context and clarity, removed some curse words and replaced them with “Dammit” though what I actually said is a noun that’s a synonym for fertilizer. The last paragraph, I left unchanged. So: albeit edited, here’s my email to Rick:
I was continually aware of your need for two white front E32 doors, and in February I was in Sacramento at a self help junkyard and I noticed an E32 with two perfect white front doors. My van’s transmission had recently failed, so I was there in my tiny BMW 3-series car, the one with the very small trunk. [Here is a picture of the actual car].
Buying the doors that day would be pointless because …
- Plan A: It seemed vastly unlikely that I could fit even one of them into my little car’s trunk.
- Plan B: Strapping them to the roof of my car wasn’t viable either, because they were so heavy they’d dent it, and if they fell off they’d be a major road hazard, and besides driving home meant driving from near-sea level elevation in Sacramento all the way up to 7,227 feet, up the snowy Sierra Nevadas in the harshest part of the winter, up Donner pass, and then do the bobsled run down the steep eastern slope — not all that safe even under normal circumstances, and crazy to do with two heavy doors on the roof.
- Plan C: Buying them and leaving them in the junkyard parking lot and then rushing off to go rent a U-Haul van wasn’t viable either since that’s an unsafe neighborhood after dark, and it’d be dark soon since it was February and it got dark shortly after the yard closed. There’d be little reason to suspect the doors would not be stolen from the parking lot within ten minutes, or that I’d be safe in that empty, dark parking lot, when I returned with the rented U-Haul van.
More practically, it seemed unlikely I could lift even one door, for that matter. Large, strong, and equipped with power-everything, they are heavy! And even though I’m tall, I just don’t have the upper body strength a guy would have.
So, I figure I’d stay with my plan to buy various small parts this trip, and by next time I’ll have my van fixed, and I’ll be driving that, and I’ll come and buy the doors for you then.
As soon as I make the decision, I start second-guessing it. My mind keeps going back to those doors and how unlikely it will be for me to ever find such perfect white, original-paint doors again.
I hustle and I get all my small parts removed. This junkyard is vast, and so they lend out steel carts that are like over-sized steel two-wheeled wheelbarrows, for carting one’s parts from somewhere in the yard to the front gate cashier. The BMWs are located near the farthest fence, so it’s a loooooong distance from there to the front gate.
I cart my small parts to the front gate, pay for them and load them into my little bronze-colored BMW. While doing so, I notice there are two other BMW 3-series cars like mine, parked next to each other, a red one and a white one.
It is becoming dusk, and the yard will close in less than an hour. I decide to go for it. So, I run back and try to get my hands on an available cart — not easy and I have to wait for one to become free, since near closing time they’re all spoken for. Off towards the barely-still-visible sun I run, pushing the cart along until I get to the BMW with the white doors.
Of course, this type of car has a great many wires running from the body of the car into the door, and cutting them means someone else later has a miserable job splicing them together. So, I need to get the wiring gently and precisely disconnected without damaging any one of these many wires. I concentrate. Driver side, done. Passenger side, done. Yay! But, tick tock. It’s getting dark. Move fast, no time for mistakes. Think, act.
Okay, to get the door off, there’s a trick. I have to slip the clip below the central metal rod, where I can’t see it, and then hit the safety pin upwards with a hammer. Safety glasses? Didn’t bring them. Careful, aim, tap tap, driver side loose, passenger side loose. Good. Oooh, darker yet.
In other junkyards, someone walks around with a megaphone and announces: “Attention, customers! The yard will be closing in x minutes!” where x is 30, 15, and then when it’s close to closing time, they yell “bring your stuff, we’re closing.” Not this yard. It’s too large for them to walk. So, they drive around in a little junk car to spread the word. I hear them drive by, yelling out the times. I can’t hear what they say, and my phone battery is dead so I can’t see what time it is.
Okay, hinges. Bottom one first. Bolts almost all off … now I have to hold the door up while I take off the last bolt off the last hinge or it’ll fall on the gravel or my foot. Gawd is this door heavy. Okay, got it. Put it down … gently … driver side.
The cart is so big it doesn’t fit in the rows between the cars, so I parked it some distance away. I try to pick the door up and haul it towards the cart. Gawd is this thing hard to carry. My body mechanics right now would give an ergonomics Nazi nightmares. I sometimes do private strip shows for extra money, and if any of my clients saw me now they’d never consider me graceful again. Maybe they’ll be impressed by my contortionist skills? [Here are some pictures of me in one of my professional stripper dresses.]
Lugging the door, I’m kinda twisting and limping and doing a hunchback imitation, but I’m at the cart, yay! Oh no! The cart is large, but the door is so huge it doesn’t fit inside the cart. Now what? I kinda balance it on top. Okay, it’s there. Yes, yes, lady, thank you, I know the yard is closing soon.
Next door, same story. Finally I get that door off and hauled to the cart too, and I gently balance it on top of the other door. No dents, no scratches … careful, careful. Okay, ready to go. Wait, my tools. I abandon the cart, run back and get them. I probably forget one or two, but no time to check. Go, go, go. Okay, tools. Where do I put them? I can’t carry them and simultaneously push the cart. So I ease both doors aside and stuff my tools into the cart under the doors.
I lift the back of the cart, wheelbarrow-style, to push. Lifting the cart makes the doors wanna slide off. I kinda try to scrape the cart along without lifting the cart handles. It doesn’t budge. I lift it a tiny bit and can make a few steps’ progress but then the doors start to slide off. Then I stop and put them back in position, and try again. Stopping is good anyway, because the cart with the doors is so heavy that I have to stop every minute or so to rest anyway. Problem is, I don’t have much time.
Clone me a couple of times and you’d have a three-stooges show, just too slapstick for publication. I know I look ridiculous, and I’m not used to looking like that. I don’t like it.
I make slow progress. The doors keep sliding off, I keep pushing them in position. I am still far, far away from the exit and cashier. It’s a vast place. And when they close, they shut down their central computer system so there’s no “oh, don’t rush, we’ll keep it open for you a few minutes longer.” If you’re late, you miss out. And there’s no keeping the doors for later. Anything one takes off a car and then doesn’t buy, they destroy, on principle.
Slowly, I trundle along. It’s very dusky now. The lady drives the little junk car past with the megaphone blaring that the place was about to close, so get out. She seems nice enough and we made friendly chit-chat earlier. I can’t really talk because I’m out of breath and my throat is dry but I manage to ask if she would let me pile the parts in the trunk of her vehicle since she is headed back anyway. Nope, she says. On I go. Pretty soon, my odds of making it to the cashier on time become negligibly low time-wise but on top of that, my strength is almost gone so making it at all is looking iffy.
Two guys walk past carrying a BMW steering wheel. My sex appeal is zero, I know. I’m dirty, dusty, distorted, tired, panting, and I’m wearing junkyard clothing and work boots, and I’m inarticulate.
[Like the picture below but without any sparkle and more dirt.]
Charm quota available for use: zero. Reservoir empty. Cannot deploy. I try to appeal to their tribal instinct and I manage to ask if that’s a BMW 3-series steering wheel they’re carrying. Yes, it is. I ask if it’s their red and white BMWs parked near mine. They stop, talk. Tribal bonding occurs. They offer to help. Thank you!! Yes, I need help. So very much.
They both help but they’re struggling too, the doors are that heavy and awkward. I feel less lame, seeing that two big, strong guys are struggling to move the stuff that I moved solo. I get my breath back and I chat them up. They’re heavily into BMWs. I make them an offer so one each of them can take one of my doors home to his place in Sacramento and then I’d come by and pick them up later … anything so I don’t have to load and transport them. They accept. I hand over some cash for that. Yay! Now I know what Churchill felt like when the US joined the Allied war effort.
But then right at the gate, they change their mind, and give my money back. Dammit. Anyway, I buy the two doors. By now they have a few scratches and I hate that because 30 minutes before they’d been pristine. Damn.
The place is emptying; few people left. The parking lot is almost empty, and it’s almost dark — not the time and place for a slender blonde part-time stripper girl to be. So far I’ve only had consensual sex and I prefer to keep it that way. Time to go. I leave the doors by the gate, and run to get into my car and drive it to the gate. From the trunk, to make room, I remove my tools and the parts I bought previously, and I throw them into the passenger compartment, anywhere. I spread my arms and measure the trunk and the doors, and I guess. Maybe I can fit one door into the trunk. The other, maybe upside down in the open sunroof?
I try to lift a door up. I can’t lift it any more. My arms are spaghetti. I feel, literally, powerless. I hate feeling that in any way, but physically, it’s even worse. The body parts I need the most are like they’re paralyzed. They can move but they can’t lift.
I look around. The junkyard staff is ready to roll the big gate shut. They’re standing around, waiting for the magic instant so they can go off the clock and go enjoy their Friday night. They’re just standing there, waiting, a few feet away. Big, strong guys. I ask for help. They say no.
I don’t have a right to their help. I know that. But it would have been nice.
I try lifting again, one more desperate yank. I manage to lift one door. It moves a little. I almost get it up to the trunk sill. It falls. Damn! Now it’s scratched more and also the corner is dented. Dammit. Finally a tough-looking customer who is about to leave sees this, and offers to help. I almost cry tears of gratitude. He lifts up one door and puts it … in the trunk. OMG it fits!! The second one? Well, heck, feel free to try, kind Sir. It fits somehow too! Wow, who’d have thought that possible. My little BMW looks like a clown car with the massive white E32 front doors vertically sticking out of the trunk, wow. I thank the man profusely and drive off.
Bang, bang, bang. The wind from the forward motion, is pushing my trunk so that it hits the doors and scratches the paint. I stop by a convenience store and I buy some Band-Aids and put them on the doors to prevent more scratching. It works! [Here’s a picture I sent to Rick too.]
Up the snowy Sierras, down the steep eastern slopes my little BMW parts express drives, back to Nevada, then to the desert, drive, drive, drive, then finally home. By now my arms have rested enough so I can take the doors out myself. I do, and the story ends happily enough.
Due to all the falling, they’re not pristine or even all that nice any more. I know you don’t need them anyway, but I don’t really want to sell them to anyone else either. I want to keep them as a reminder of how much I can do, when I care enough.
Anyway, now you know I value you and I really really tried to get you some nice doors. And I almost succeeded. 🙂 So know that someone in NV likes you that much to go to that much effort for you 🙂