Archives for posts with tag: car

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St. Patrick’s Day 2017.

It was a cold, clear morning, and I left for work early so I could stop at the Dollar Tree to pick up some Luck o’ the Irish beads and accessories. We were having a party at work that afternoon (yes, my office is super fun), and I wanted to look festive.

My community is gated, and the gate I leave from everyday is on a hill. It’s not super-steep, but if the weather is dicey they will leave those gates open so drivers don’t have to wait for the gate to rise and possibly lose traction.

So, on this cold, crisp morning, I drove through the gate and hit my brakes as I descended down the little hill, because there was a car stopped at the intersection waiting to turn right. No extraordinary circumstances…just another morning leaving Lake Monticello.

As I pushed down on the brake pedal, the car wasn’t coming to a complete stop, and then I felt them give a little, so I pushed down even harder on the brake and then there was a whirring sound, and the car just kept rolling. I tried and tried to steer clear of the car in front of me, but there just wasn’t enough room, and I smashed into his rear bumper.

Fuck.

We pulled over, and I apologized over and over, not sure why my brakes decided not to work. It took him a good 5 minutes of digging through a pile of papers in his glove box to find his insurance info, and amidst a flurry of apologies, we exchanged info and parted ways.

The damage to both cars were mainly cosmetic, but it sucked none the less. I cautiously made my way into town and made an appointment to have my brakes checked, pronto.

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And my Kia dealership? They found NOTHING wrong with them. I asked how this could be…they had failed to work causing me to have this accident. Then they walked me through the workings of the ABS braking system.

They assumed that the ground where I attempted to apply my brakes must have been slick somehow…even though is was cold and dry that morning. When I described the accident to them, the whirring sound I heard was the ABS kicking in, causing my brakes to switch from the kind of braking that results in my car to STOPPING to the kind of braking that keeps my car from skidding.

I don’t like this system. I don’t like it because it has proven to me that when I go to STOP, my brakes might have another, brighter idea. An idea that causes me to crash into the car in front of me. An idea that causes $1500 worth of damage to my car.

ABS? I call BS.

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My family and I leave for our annual Florida vacation in a few days. While I’m looking forward to sunning myself on Flagler Beach and sipping wine in my dad’s pool, I am not looking forward to the 12 hour drive. I am also not happy about having to leave our poor kitty alone for a week, but then, coming home to a super loving pet who is so very thankful that you came back to him is nice.

It sort of takes the sting out of the fact that your vacation is over for another year. There’s been a lot going on in my life over the past few weeks, and here it is in a nutshell;

Good News! My oldest is home for the summer and working as a paid intern at a local radio group in the promotions department. With only two cars in the family, it’s been a bit of a schedule shuffler dropping her off and picking her up from various gigs, but she needs the credits in order to graduate, so ya gotta do what ya gotta do.

I love when she’s home. Our family is complete again.

Bad News: Her ex-roommates are a bunch of inconsiderate tools. When we went to move her out of her quad dorm apartment there was a ton of stuff left in the kitchen and one of the bathrooms. When the RA came to sign off on the stuff we cleaned up, she informed us that all the other girls had “checked out” leaving us to clean up the mess.

Left behind was a very large TV, a microwave, a toaster, a fridge FULL of spoiling food, cabinets FILLED with half eaten food and canned goods, pots, pans, a shower curtain, mops and cleaning supplies, NONE OF WHICH were ours. I had my daughter send them a text calling bullshit, and informing them that ALL OF THEIR STUFF was getting thrown out. They knew she was the last to go and left us with their shit to clean up. What total assholes.

Good News! I sort of got a new job. A local newspaper with an office two miles from my home remembered me from a previous interview and called to see if I was still interested in working for them. It’s only part time, so I worked out a new schedule with my current part-time employer(s). They are very flexible on time, which I love, especially during summer when my youngest daughter has little to do at home.

Bad News: One of my bosses isn’t thrilled about this arrangement, but is willing to see how it plays out. I am reducing my in office hours, and there might be times when they will feel the crunch because in essence I am less of a graphic designer here and more of a fall back receptionist. There are days where I just sit here and sit here with little to do but answer the phones. It’s boring. But I don’t want to just quit because with all my salaries combined, our family might not feel such a financial pinch once all the bills are paid, and that’s a very good thing.

Bad News: My “new” used car began sputtering on my way to work this morning. It was then I realized I was on “E” and spent the next 10 minutes white-knuckled and praying that I would make it to the gas station before it totally conked out. After filling her up, I hopped back in thinking “problem solved!’

Nope.

My car was bucking, shaking, and idling very rough, and I was in a full blown panic because our 30 warranty was up 9 days ago. After dropping my daughter off at her job, I limped the car to the dealership. The sales manager hopped in the car to test it, and the dude who sold us the car reassured me that all would be good.

Good News! Less than 15 minutes later, my car was fixed and at NO CHARGE. How often does that happen??? These guys are the best, and I will use Price Kia in Charlottesville for a long as I live here.

Good News! A bit of bonus good news – had to get new blood work done, my doctor called to say everything was normal. EVERYTHING? That was the best new of all.

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This past Saturday, I said goodbye to a dear, old friend…the Slovie mobile. I had captained this boat for 13 years, and while she had her problems every now and then, she never left me stranded.

After 255,000 miles, it was time for her to rest. She’d carted our family to and from Martha’s Vineyard, Florida, and New York. She transported every Christmas tree since 2002, she moved a treadmill, a couch and several gas grills. Hell, she moved my first born to college.

She’s the only car my kids have ever known. She was big & comfy, with a fold down seat in the back that faces the rear, and an engine that could blow anyone off the line. But she also had her faults.

Her antenna broke a few years back…I’ve had a wire coat hanger there ever since. She only had a radio…no CD player or Sirius, and a cassette tape deck that no longer worked. Only one speaker still functioned, and in the cold, the driver’s side window was very slow to go up or down. And she was very noisy…you could hear wind, and rattles while you drove…sort of like old bones creaking.

A few weeks ago I noticed a new wrinkle. If I turned on the AC, her engine would get very sluggish…and there’d be smell. Like burning wire. With summer around the corner, it was fix her or see if we could get something newer. But I have to admit, I was tired of putting $500 – $600 of work into her every 8 months or so, because even though she was fixed, I was still driving a very old, noisy car with only a radio and an oil leak.

So we went shopping, which was a nightmare. Let me say this here and now. Car salesmen suck. They are vultures. Our first time out I left the dealership in tears because a loud, fast-talking asshole of a sales manger was trying to push me into a deal I was not comfortable with – a deal that we had to take TODAY or it was off the table.

I tried to explain to him that while this was just a rainy Thursday for him, he was forcing me to make a quick decision on something that would seriously affect me for the next 5 years. But all I got out was a blubbering sob, at which point I ran from the dealership.

So we started again. And we found a great car with a dealership (Price Kia) that treated us like human beings, not as a walking car loan. And you know what? We got a much better deal on a much better car, and I was so glad we hadn’t settled.

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So here is my very orange, very modern Kia Soul, loaded with a CD player, Sirius, a sunroof, and bluetooth so I can answer my phone hands free. While she doesn’t pack the power or have the room that the former Slovie mobile had, she is reliable, and fun and catapulted me into this century – it was my first time buying a car with a “20” in the date as opposed to a “19”. While I detest that black racing stripe, beggars can’t be choosers – everything else was perfect.

Just so you know, as we were signing the papers and I saw them driving my old Slovie mobile away, I broke down. I had to leave the room, find a tissue and collect myself. She served me well – I just hope Slovie II lives up to her memory.

car crash

Yesterday I debated exactly when to leave the house to pick up my daughter from school. I wanted to watch the end of Project Runway to see who got eliminated – I could have saved it until I got back home, but decided to fast forward through all the boring judges comments and watch it before I left.

Then the cat gave me a hard time as I was going out the door – did he want to go out or didn’t he? I sat waiting for him to saunter out the door I was holding open only to have him sit right in front of the threshold.

Ugh! Cats! I told him tough luck and closed the door behind me. Little did I know what these little and seemingly insignificant delays would do to the rest of my day.

The road I take to the school is mostly rural. There are a few intersections and a roundabout, but it’s mostly quiet. The busiest spot is when I pass the Food Lion shopping complex. Folks are always turning in and out and I’ve seen my share of accidents there so I am usually a bit cautious and watchful while in that area.

Yesterday, as I was approaching the entrance to the shopping complex, I saw a gold car waiting to turn onto the road I was traveling on. I was then surprised to see it pull out in front of me – I was a bit too close for comfort and was doubly annoyed after a quick glance in my rear-view…not a soul behind me.

That irks me to no end – when someone feels the need to pull out in front of you – making it a necessity for you to apply your brakes – when there is nobody behind you. I thought to myself, “why couldn’t this person wait until I went past?”

As I am applying my brakes I then see this person put on his right turn blinker and go to turn into a driveway that is a mere 20 feet past the shopping center intersection. So rather than cutting in front of me and gunning the engine to minimize the effects of his poor driving judgement, he is coming to almost a complete stop in order to turn into a driveway.

I am thinking “wtf” and braking hard, and begin to steer my car a little to the right to avoid rear ending him when he puts on his left turn signal and proceeds to make a U-turn right in front of me.

This is where things go slow-mo. I know I’m gritting my teeth and bracing hard on the wheel and pushing the brakes with all my might and I can see his car getting closer, and closer, and closer and I know I’m not going to be able to stop in time. And…

BAM.

Not BAM!!!!!!! Just BAM. By this point, with all the braking I had to do, I was probably only going 20 miles an hour when we hit. Maybe less. But we hit. I could see the side of his car was smashed in and was cringing at the thought of the damage to the Sloviemobile.

We pulled over, and I got out to look and was amazed to see nothing more than a scraped bumper on my car. No dents, so cracks, just missing paint and some scratches on the corner of the bumper. I figure my car’s been to the prom in a torn dress for a few years now…one more scratch won’t kill her.

The driver was a young boy – 19 or so – and we were both shaken but thankfully nobody was hurt. We exchanged information…it’s amazing how difficult it is to write legibly when your hands are shaking. We were polite and friendly – no yelling or blaming, although I did ask him why he felt the need to pull out in front of me. We didn’t call the police, only because I had to get to the school to get my daughter, but I called them once I got home just to make an official report.

Then there was the call to the insurance. I told my side, and he told his, which was different from mine – and that worried me. But the insurance guy on the phone told me that he’s been doing this for a long, long time and that the impact evidence on both of our cars corroborates my story and not his. He told me to rest easy and not to let this bother me all weekend.

But it does. My last car accident was when I was in my twenties, and this kid admitted to me that this was his first one. My only consolation is that my car won’t need any repairs, but I felt so bad for this kid who had to go home and show his parents a banged up car – and that the accident was his fault (regardless of what he told the insurance company).

But you know what? I won’t rest easy until my insurance company tells me that I am officially not at fault.

I also thought about the randomness of this event. There was nobody else around when the accident happened. Had I left my house 30 seconds before or after, had I waited to watch the end of Project Runway, or had my cat walked out the door rather than deciding to sit down and be difficult, I may have avoided this entire incident.

I think about that a lot, especially when I hear news reports of a tree falling on a passing car or a bridge collapse. There’s something to be said about timing. And yesterday? Mine was all bad.

securedownload2lnAll summer long I’ve been glancing at the 8/12 state inspection sticker on my windshield with a blossoming sense of dread and anxiety. Inspections on the sloviemobile usually means plunking down a huge hunk of green to fix all the things my car failed.

The law in Virginia when it comes to inspections sucks. If you fail, they put a special sticker on your car, and you are NOT allowed to drive the car unless you are on your way to a mechanic to get it fixed. That means that if you take your car to a shifty mechanic, they can pretty much say anything is wrong with your car, and you have to pay to have it fixed or you can’t drive anywhere – unless you want to risk getting pulled over.

When I lived in Jersey, you had 30 days to have the problem corrected, which to me seemed more reasonable. A few years ago I had a cracked tail light. I covered it with red tape, and you couldn’t even tell it was there unless you looked closely. But, my car failed because of it. I was not going to pay $200 plus labor for a new tail light cover. Instead I had hubby look around a Richmond junkyard where he found one for a few bucks and installed it himself.

I had to take the car to the store and wouldn’t you know it – 2 blocks from home a cop pulled me over because of my failed inspection sticker. I explained it was nothing but a tail light cover and hubby was on his way home with it but we needed milk and was it really that bad that I took the car to the store? I think at seeing the brick my youngest was in the middle of shitting made the cop take pity on me and let me off with a warning.

Today I took my car for its annual inspection and I was dreading it. My car, at 218,000 miles, hasn’t passed an inspection in about 5 years. The last time it came through with flying colors I had taken it to a local shop called Kenny’s Auto Repair – a real run down joint with a zillion cars in the parking lot waiting to be worked on.

The next year, for reasons I can’t remember – probably convenience – I took it elsewhere. Each and every year, there was something wrong with my car. Brakes, tires,  leaking ratistat, loose flukengoogle, axle dandruff; if it could fail you – it was wrong with my car. The cost to get a new sticker on my windshield? Anywhere from $200 to $700 bucks. It hurt, but we figured it’s still cheaper than a car payment, so we may as well patch her up.

This year I took her back to Kenny’s. I got there 6 minutes after they opened, and there was one gal ahead of me. By the time 5 more minutes had passed, 3 more people came in for inspections, and the wait was more than 2 hours. I took it as a good sign – the sign of an honest mechanic. I watched them hoist her up on the lift, and 15 minutes later, lower her back down. Then, they were backing her out of the bay.

I looked to the mechanic with hopeful eyes, fulling expecting bad news, but hoping to hear none.

“You’re all set.” was all he said.

She passed? Really? Even with all her clunking and clattering and her coat hanger antenna, she passed?

I was so happy. So relieved. We don’t have a pot to piss in financially these days and the thought of having to put hundreds on the credit card to pay for whatever this year’s pre-inspection ailment was had me super bummed. But she passed. She passed.

As I drove home in a cloud of sheer elation, I thought of all the other mechanics over the past few years and wondered if they were simply taking advantage of me. Is it possible that my car was a-okay but they just told me stuff was broken to make a couple of bucks? I have a sinking suspicion that they did.

From now on, my car is only going to Kenny’s – that is, if I she’s still running a year from now.

Me in my mid-eighties glory beside my little blue beauty

Everyone remembers their first car. The car that was all theirs; no borrowing mom’s keys, no begging an older brother or sister to take them here or there. Mine came in an odd and unexpected way. It was given to me by what was pretty much a total stranger.

It was 1986 and I had just graduated college. I was walking to work at a local newspaper, and then, when I got a better job a bit further away from my house, was taking the bus. This sucked. I was taking the bus and I wasn’t even heading into New York City – I was commuting to Teaneck, New Jersey. What a burn.

My brother in law was involved in a softball league at the time. I used to go and watch him play with my sister, mainly because after the game we would all go out and have a few beers. I was single, and it was a fun way to spend a spring/summer weeknight. While bs-ing with one of his team mates, my lack of personal transportation came up, as did my utter loathing at having to use the NJ transit system to get me to and from my 9 to 5.

a reasonable facsimile of my car

Turned out this guy had a car he was trying to get rid of. It was an old convertible (huh? what? did you say CONVERTIBLE?) and his dad was sick of it sitting in the driveway. Apparently there were so many things wrong with the car, he was having trouble selling it. It was pretty much mine for the taking if I was interested. Interested? I was practically frothing at the mouth and eagerly made an appointment to come see it the next day after work.

It was a Karmann Ghia, which I had never heard of before. It was described to me as looking like a squashed beetle, the more popular Volkswagon, but to me it was a thing of sheer and utter beauty. This car had personality to spare. It didn’t run. It needed brakes. It had no heat. It had no radio. It had no seat belts. But the body was beautiful, and it was abso-fucking-lutely free. The seats did not adjust – they had been bolted into the floor, so it was critical that I fit behind the wheel. As I slid into those leather seats and gripped the tortoise shell wheel, my feet hit the pedals like cinderella’s glass slipper.

The title was signed over to me and I had my friend John tow the car with a rope to a garage. I don’t recall how much it cost to fix, but I only had done what was needed for it to pass inspection and for it to run. As I drove that sputtering, stalling beauty with the top down the 7 blocks to my house I felt like a queen. Not only did I have my own car, but she was a real show-stopper. I parked her in my driveway and washed and polished and buffed every square inch of that car. The guy who gave it to me stopped by to see it a few days later and was amazed at how good it looked. At that point I think he was sort of pissed he gave it away.

Although it was a gem, it was a tough car to drive if you didn’t know how. It was prone to stalling at lights – I learned how to put it in neutral and rev the engine until the light changed. It did not like going up steep hills, especially when I had one or more of my girlfriends in the car with me. Once it passed inspection, the emergency brake broke, so I had to get creative when I parked using trees, curbs and lamp posts to keep the car from rolling away. I never did get the radio, but I used a boom box and made sure the glove box was crammed with an array of mixed tapes.

When winter came, the car got sightly less likeable. The convertible top, when driving down the highway, would bow upwards, letting in a gush of freezing cold air, and if mother nature felt so inclined, snow or rain. It got so cold during long trips I  went out and purchased a pair of hunting socks that would heat up with the use of a few D batteries. Otherwise my feet would actually go numb. I would also dress in several layers of clothing…sweaters, gloves, scarves, and even a big fedora hat. I was bundled from head to toe. This was not so bad when I was travelling at night, but to drive on the highway during the day in this get up was kind of embarrassing. Folks would be riding in relative comfort up the NJ Turnpike in cars with the heat on and coats off – yet here I was outfitted like I was ready to take part in the iditerod.

Summers were priceless though. Cruising around in that blue baby with the top down was a dream come true, especially when I went to the shore on the weekends. My hair was always a mess, but it was a small price to pay – that’s what pony tails are for.

After a few years more and more things began to go wrong with the car. I was needing to put too much money into it, and I could tell tons of other things were on the verge of breaking…expensive things. So I put an ad in the paper and sold her for $600. It only took a few days – she was snatched up pretty fast. I went out and bought a Dodge Colt hatchback with an AM/FM radio/cassette, heat, air conditioning, and a working emergency brake.

I immediately missed my Karmann Ghia.

And I still do. When I see one on the street or puttering down the road, it makes me melancholy and a little envious. I think back to those years where I cruised the streets of New Jersey in my blue little beauty and it makes me wish I’d never let her go. Especially when I am behind the wheel of my 1999 Mercury Sable Wagon with close to 200,000 miles on it. Not a fun car. Not by a long shot.

 

Are we there yet? Are we there yet? Are we there yet?

This is going to be one humdinger of a 4th of July weekend. Our little family, sans our two adorable kitties, will pack our gear into my old station wagon and chug along the interstate towards New York.

Destination: Cuddebackville with a Layover in Leonia.

It’s been a few years since we have visited the family and friends who reside in this sleepy little upstate NY town, and I for one am ready to return. I am looking forward to sitting around the fire pit at night, tipsy and laughing, talking about everything and nothing at all. It’s quite relaxing.

I am happy that my husband going to see a lot of his family members that he hasn’t seen in a long time. He has five brothers, and miraculously, they will all be present and accounted for this weekend. The six of them have not been together at one time since our wedding 17 years ago. It should be interesting.

I am also anxious and excited to visit my hometown of Leonia. I want to just park the car and walk the streets and visit the park and take pictures and remember. Remember all those little places where a small piece of my childhood still remains.

I want a Hiram’s hot dog. I want to buy button licorice from Bischoff’s Ice Cream. I want to drive down Oakdene Avenue and see my old home. I want to take my kids to the Leonia pool, where endless summer hours were spent swimming and sunning and waiting 30 minutes to go back in the water after eating ice cream.

I want to visit NYC and cross the George Washington Bridge. I want to see Jersey from across the river while cruising down the Henry Hudson. I want to eat White Castles in Central Park.

I think I’m going to run out of time before I run out of stuff to do. Ain’t it always the way…