Last week my daughter got pulled over by a policewoman just after midnight for having a light out over the back license plate. After a short reminder that she shouldn't be driving past midnight because she's not 18-years old yet, the policewoman let her off without a citation or warning if she promised to replace the light.
The next morning I removed the dead light and found out there are actually two lights that illuminate the license plate. Removing the light modules was the easy part. Prying the tiny bulbs out of old plastic clip took a few minutes, but I eventually got them out. I couldn't decide if I should try replacing the module or simply the bulbs. A quick check online told me the modules were about $40 each. I spent the next 20 minutes cleaning the modules with a rag, vinegar, and about a dozen Q-tips until they looked better than 18-year old lights should.
With the modules cleaned up, I tried to locate the bulbs online. I figured this would be the easy part, but I couldn't find anything at Amazon or a number of online auto parts stores that looked anything like the bulbs I'd just removed. So I headed to the closest auto parts store in my town.
When I entered the store, I brushed off the offer to help me find whatever I needed. I mean, how hard could it be to find a pair of bulbs? I began searching for a bulb that looked like the old one in my hand. The most difficult part was trying to read the specs on a bulb less than an inch in size. But I found it! It looked just like my mine in size, shape, and color. I grabbed a two-pack and headed to the register.
The man, whose help I brushed off earlier, took a look at the package of bulbs and said, "Did you find what you came in for?"
"Yep. I just needed two bulbs to replace those that burned out over my license plate."
Again, he looked carefully at the package of bulbs. "Well, just to make sure, what model and year is your vehicle?"
"2000 Nissan Maxima"
He looked at his computer screen, shook his head and then did something I wasn't expecting: He jumped over the counter! As I stood in stunned silence, he returned with another nearly identical package of bulbs.
"You had the right size, but higher voltage and wattage than what Nissan recommends. You don't want to melt the plastic casing. These are exactly what you need."
That's what I wanted to hear. I left the store 6 bucks lighter, but I got a lot more for my money that day. This man had potentially saved me from causing a more expensive problem to my car. He also valued my time and didn't want me to leave the store until I had exactly what I need. How often have you left a store thinking, "I think I have what I need" or "This should work"?
When I'm shopping for something that's outside my expertise, it's calming to hear the expert say, "This is exactly what you need" not because the person is making a boastful claim but because he has done his research and is confident in his recommendation.
My Nissan is now back on the street, and I'm left with my most challenging task of all: Getting my daughter home by midnight.