23 September 2010

pet peeve of the day

Somebody asks you a question. Then, either forgetting that you had answered it, or not believing your response, they go to ask someone else the same question. That person then comes back to you, and asks the question again, on the first person's behalf. If you don't trust someone, don't ask them questions. Or, just don't be stupid. Actually... just stick to the second part.

10 September 2010

The trials and tribulations of the steam machine, part deux

It all began with something relatively harmless. It was a hot day in the East Bay. Not blazing, but notably warm. Me and the molar were sitting in traffic for a few minutes when things began to pick up. I accelerated, and as I reached 60 miles per hour, I saw something fly off the hood of my car. A leaf, maybe? Upon further contemplation, based on where I had seen the object originate, and the way it awkwardly flopped away, I realized that the BMW emblem had melted off of the hood of my car, where I can only guess, it had been haphazardly glued in place. At the time, it was funny. In fact, it still is. But, had I only known that it was an omen of things to come, I probably would have jumped ship sooner.

Months passed, and more things began to come unstuck, or stuck in various places. A friend, getting into my backseat, had somehow dislodged a piece of door lining preventing the door from ever closing properly again. My drivers side window, during warmer months would refuse to roll down. During the rainy season, the drivers side door wouldn't unlock, so I'd have to crawl in through the passenger side. Fan belts came dislodged, and speakers randomly stopped playing sounds that fell within the frequency range of human hearing. Cigarette smoke damage, body damage, and carphone damage, I will take credit for.

Skip ahead to spring break 2007. My friend and I decided to take a last minute road trip to Portland, OR. Having just had a fan belt replaced, I figured my car was up for the trip, and at 9pm on a weeknight, we hopped in the car planning to get as far as we could go. That turned out to be Willows, CA. We exited the freeway for bite to eat, and as soon as we slowed down, we heard a whacking noise under the hood. The fan belt. Great. At this point, it was after midnight, and we were in a town populated with ghosts and fast food workers. My Triple A had just expired, so I had to call my dad to have him call them on my behalf. That night, and the next day, I spent 200 miles getting to know a tow truck driver, who I repeatedly unintentionally offended. Favorite moments include passing a truck stop full of semis:

Julia: Yeah, I thought for a while I'd like to drive trucks. Driving across the country sounds pretty cool. But then, I learned about meth. And truck stop rape.
Tow Truck Driver: Yep. I did that for 13 years.
(awkward silence)

I should have fired my mechanic after that. He had apparently used the wrong belt to replace the old one. But, at the time my parents were still helping me pay for these things, and as far as my mom knew, this mechanic (who shall remain nameless) could do no wrong.

The problems never really went away after that. The drivers side door can no longer hold itself open, and slams shut on your leg as you try to exit the car. The car shudders to the point where you could mistakenly think there was an earthquake happening, but only between 45-55 mph. My window now rolls down, but only 1/4 of the way. An oil leak went from moderate to severe, and up until yesterday, I was refilling it at least twice every 3,000 miles.

Just last week, driving home after work, the straw finally broke the molars back. This was the day my car became the smoke monster. The (toxic) steam machine. The bane of my existence. I had grown accustomed to the copious amounts of smoke that came out from under my car whenever I drove up or down a hill. I assumed that since it somehow JUST passed a smog test, that it was fine. Plus, my mechanic had less than 2 weeks ago replaced the valve that was causing the severe oil leak. This was just something else, I told myself. Not a big deal. The car feels fine.

There's typically at least 10 minutes worth of stop and go traffic on a very low grade on my commute home. Relatively painless, when you have something to listen to. My car was doing the usual smoking, but I've grown used to the cab filling with noxious fumes, especially since my window stopped rolling down. I think I've lost my sense of smell by now. But today, someone decided they wanted to be a good Samaritan.

The massive lifted truck driving next to me started honking and waving at me, trying to flag me down. "Pull over" he says, "right now! Your car's blowing up!" I tried to explain to him that this was typical, but, freeway communication is tricky- especially when your window won't roll all the way down. He continued to keep pace with me and yell at me about my cars impending death, as I grew progressively more frustrated, and delved into the pits of a full blown panic attack. "Blowing up" and "car" are two words that trigger within me what some would call "the fear". The thing dogs and wasps can smell on you.

What could I do? I can't to pull over on the side of the freeway in this traffic, I'd never get home. Triple A would take forever to reach me. Besides, I've been driving the car like this for weeks now, no problems yet. I decided to drive on. The dude in the truck threw up his hands and seemed to mutter a sexist remark as he changed lanes to get away from the looming explosion.

Needless to say, the car didn't explode. It didn't have any problem out of the ordinary, other than the massive cloud of death toxins oozing from its undercarriage. But, when people start screaming at you on the freeway, and glaring at you when you're on the street, driving becomes a considerably less enjoyable experience. "Single-handedly destroying the ozone, since 2010" my car screams. I thought to myself later, after the panic attack, that my car would be an excellent public service announcement for 1-800-453-SMOG, the "report smoking vehicles" group. I should get a sticker. I should donate it to them for publicity stunts. I should drive it off a cliff.

I have since decided to put $1,000 dollars into having everything PROPERLY repaired. By someone competent. Maybe, then I can trick someone in to buying it. Who knows, maybe somebody actually wants it. Maybe, with a new mechanic, the steam machine will drive like a dream. All I know is, for me, this relationship is over. We just don't have anything in common anymore. He likes to emit burning oil, I like my lungs. And so, I move on.

Wish me luck on my hunt for a new partner in freeway adventure.

03 September 2010

The trials and tribulations of the steam machine

1995 was a good year. I was 10, I had a sweatshirt with a smiley face with a goatee wearing backwards hat that I wore pretty much every day, and I still thought I was going to be a blonde supermodel in a blue dress with a red sports car when I grew up. 1995 was also the year the steam machine gleamed brightly in some BMW show room, waiting to be taken home.

I don't know anything about the person who drove it before me, other than they played golf (and left some tees in my trunk), and had a KILLER carphone. They also destroyed the engine because they never changed the oil. Enter my mechanic, who decided to rebuild the engine and sell it to a new and loving driver.

At 20, I was living in Santa Cruz, and finding ways to come back to the east bay as often as I could, usually on Greyhound, since my mom wouldn't let me drive the Silver Bullet (my 84 Volvo) on highway 17. As much as I loved the character of the Silver Bullet, and as special as it was as my very first car, I knew my mom was probably right. We decided it was time for a replacement.

I can't say I remember much about my first couple of years with the Molar, as it was then affectionately dubbed. I do remember when a drunk person threw a cup holder at my windshield and destroyed it. I remember filling it up with just enough gas to get me home for the weekend and back to Santa Cruz, if I didn't drive it anywhere else. I remember when another person drunkenly tried to tear out my carphone (without success). But, what I certainly don't remember was feeling like my car wasn't going to get me where I needed to go alive. I think you can tell a decent car from a great one, or a horrible one, by how much you remember about driving it. I have never driven a "great" car. And this car, the Molar, is one I will unfortunately never forget.

to be continued....