"Screek, screek. Screek, screek."

I have known the sound of technology torture.

Certain sounds trigger memories long wiped away. But a worn blade of my car's windshield wipers scraping against the glass echoed a chilling note from the past.

Usually, the sound of windshield wipers appeals to me. With an efficient squeal, the rubber edges sweep water aside to restore visibility.

Aided by a squirt from an automatic pump dispensing glass cleaner, bugs and bird droppings vanish under the tireless black arms. Technology saves an otherwise blinded driver.

But take away the storm, take away the smashed instects, take away the need, and windshield wipers offer nothing but torment.

I became an authority on the subject once when a small aspect of control in my universe slipped into nonexistence. As I stepped into my car, the seam of my coat took a sudden, inexplicable fancy to the turn signal lever. For some reason they intertwined the very moment I sat down, and the lever snapped.

With that, a master control of my car died.

I could not just stick the lever back into its slot on the steering column. No, somehow a welded seam had broken, leaving me with no way to signal turns in traffic short of sticking my arm out the window.

Fortunately, with a little angry tinkering, I discovered I could still activate turn signals by jamming my thumb into the steering column and popping a little plastic knob. Disgruntled about the inevitable expense of another car repair, I drove home.

Two days later, rain began to fall as I drove. I reached for a lever that was not there. In my car, you normally twist the conveniently located turn signal lever to activate the wipers.

My worry increased as drops swelled into a stormy sea on my windshield. Waterfalls from the sky cascaded the highway. Cars in front of me began to shimmer and fade. I jammed my thumb into the steering column to signal a turn off the road.

Fortunately, a little more angry tinkering allowed me to discover that I could still activate the windshield wipers by using the edge of a pair of fingernail clippers and an old plastic fork from the glove compartment.

With a chortle of triumph against the foibles of technology, I drove through the storm.

But technology refused to be beaten by its own game. Driving back home several hours later led to another discovery - the difficulty of driving at night, in semi-fog, without bright headlights. Yes, in my car, you normally pull back the conveniently located turn signal lever to activate the brights.

Not even a plastic fork would repair this one. The rain had long since stopped, but my windshield wipers continued.

"Screek, screek. Screek, Screek."

At night, wipers moving without rain is no big deal. But it's another thing entirely without rain ... in broad daylight ... for several days.

Sure, I tried to find some other way to turn them off, other than cutting the engine. I knew needle-nose pliers might do the trick, but I did not have any, and nobody at work did either.

"Screek, screek. Screek, screek." Attack of the wiper viper.

I could see the double-takes and the cocked eyebrows as I drove down the main street of town every day with my wipers screeching away. Veering into a turn lane, I could see the visor on the cap of the man in front of me turn as he looked at me in his rear-view mirror.

"Screek, screek."

I finally relented and bought pliers for $6.95, and as I suspected, that technology worked where fingers, tweezers and screwdrivers had failed.

I guess once in awhile we need a power outage, plumbing breakdown or car problem so we can appreciate the technological complexity of our world.

Besides, despite the embarrassment, I had the most buffered windshield in town.

Now that he sees more clearly, Brad Bolchunos, the south county reporter for The Daily Astorian, is maniacal about changing his wiper blades.


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