The Difference Between Alaska and Pennsylvania

I just walked into a parts store, rattled off the VIN of the new van and asked what the engine was, what the transmission was, if I could put a transmission from a 2 speed diesel F350 pick up in it. The guy behind the counter didn’t blink, he just looked up the information and found that he didn’t have it. Up here no one thinks it’s weird that a girl knows the difference between the 7.3 International IDI engine and the 7.3 DI Ford engine. They would think it was weird if you didn’t know.

When I was in Pennsylvania and I went to part stores the people behind the counter wouldn’t know what they were selling. They’d look it up in their computers and read it to me and have no comprehension. Further, they’d assume that I didn’t know either. In their minds some guy, some mechanical guy, must have told me what to come and ask. Because obviously women don’t know these things. Even regular people (ie, men) don’t know these things down there. Down there, you just take your car to people that know and you assume it’s some kind of rocket science.

Here women are regular people too, and why would you pay someone else to work on your car? Maybe if was an engine rebuild or an electrical problem or something really complicated. But if you didn’t know how to work on it at least a little, you wouldn’t be driving it. And if you pay someone to change the oil in the winter you feel pretty wimpy about not crawling under there in the snow and doing it yourself.

At the Ford dealership the man behind the parts counter looks at me like I’m crazy. What kind of idiot buys a van without knowing what kind of engine it has? After the last few months down south, I’m a little grateful that it’s my ignorance, instead of my knowledge, that’s shocking.


  1. So the popular conception of Alaskans as radically self-reliant, it seems, is no myth.

    Interesting to see how perhaps a bit more gender equality emerges from that milieu, at least in this case.

    Have been enjoying your blog for a while now, btw. Holla if you ever need anything in Oakland, CA.

  2. Beauty crackback re: girls knowing cars, Tara. Here’s my favorite part of “My Cousin Vinny” in your honor, sister.

    “However, in 1964, the correct ignition timing would be four degrees before TDC!” 😯

    Great stuff … keep telling the truth, Tara. That’s what’s great about you…

    ~ Irish

  3. The more rural an area the more self reliant people tend to be. There are fewer available resources for getting things done, so you either go without, make do, or make it yourself.

    Over time and generations this breeds a better type of person, IMHO, who doesn’t sit down and wait for someone else (think FEMA during one special crisis down in New Orleans) to take care of them when something needs doing.

  4. good on ya! you dont come across many canadian chicks down here that know much about cars (present company included but i dont drive either 😛 )

  5. Hey there, just found your blog, and love what I see so far! I’m impressed with your writing ability, and when I read this post, your “cool factor” went up about 10 notches.

    We get some of that in rural TX, which gives an interesting contrast when I go back to Dallas, where I work. Some folks think they’re so helpless, they won’t even open the hood of their cars! Not even for the required steps:

    1. Open hood.
    2. Put hands on hips.
    3. Open one of the fluid caps, doesn’t matter which. (Watch out for that one that says “do not open when hot”…)
    4. Swear.
    5. Say, “Must be the solenoid.”
    6. Swear again.

    Then you can call the tow truck!

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