Tag: Driving

My Old Car

In 2006, I bought a used 2002 Chevy, for $4000.

It was a reliable damn car, and lasted longer than any of us expected. But about a year ago, the AC compressor went out. I decided it would make more sense to get a new car than fix the old one, so a few months ago, that's what I did.

I planned on giving the Chevy to my dad, who needs a car. But when we went in to transfer the title, we found out I couldn't. Turns out that, some years back, he sold his van to a coworker without getting the title transferred over. The coworker abandoned the van (whatever "abandoned" means; as we'll see below, in the eyes of the law "abandoned" can just mean "parked on the curb too long"), and now Dad's stuck with a $500 fine before he's allowed to register another car.

So the Chevy's been sitting out on the curb for the past few months, while I've been waiting for Dad to get his paperwork sorted. During these months, I didn't take the car out regularly to keep its battery charged -- I knew I should have, but it was a-hundred-and-fuck-you degrees out, and if I wanted to drive a car with no AC in that weather, I wouldn't have bought a new car.

So, my own damn fault; by the time I tried to take the car out again, the battery was dead.

The design of the street I live on makes it difficult to line two cars up for a jump. I've got a little device called a Power Station PSX that's got jumper cables and an air compressor built into it, but its battery was no longer holding a charge. I had already E-Mailed the Power Station company to ask if the battery was replaceable, but I'd received no response.

At any rate, on Thursday the 19th, I got home to find a bright orange sticker on my Chevy declaring that it had been confirmed as abandoned and I had 120 hours to move it or it would be towed.

I don't know if the police officer who left the tag was just a busybody -- it's pretty obvious to a casual observer that nobody's driven this car in awhile; it's got cobwebs and leaves and shit under it --, or if one of my neighbors complained about my car to the police. In the latter case, jeez, neighbor, I wish you'd just come and rung my bell and talked to me about it. I know the thing's an eyesore, and I didn't mean for it to be there this long, but is it really going to be any less of an eyesore in my driveway? If you'd asked me to just clean up the leaves and the cobwebs, I'd have done it.

And yeah, I've been meaning to get that battery charged anyway, but a hard 5-day deadline is a little tight. I mean, it's nice to have a weekend in there, but even if I can find a battery with Amazon two-day shipping at this point, it's Thursday night and that means I won't be getting it until Sunday.

I wondered if I could just reverse the thing back a car-length. What's the legal standard for moving your car? So I called the Tempe Police Department, and talked to an officer who politely and repeatedly failed to answer that question. "How far do I need to move it?" -- "You need to move it." -- "Yes, but what is the legal standard for moving it? If I move it one car length, will it still be considered abandoned? If I move it a couple of houses over, will it still be considered abandoned?" -- "Sir, you just need to move your car within 120 hours." And so on.

Ultimately, I decided the only safe course of action would be to move the Chevy to the driveway and keep my new car on the curb. This doesn't really seem like it solves any kind of a problem. I pointed this out, in exasperation: "If I just switch them so that the old car is in the driveway and the car I drive to work is on the curb, I don't see how that's helping anybody."

"Because," she said, "then the car isn't there during the time you're at work." And I remembered, ah yes, never ask a police officer how a law makes sense, and disengaged from the conversation. It reminded me of the Douglas Adams story about the time he was pulled over to the center lane in the middle of a curve, and when he protested to the policeman that this was unsafe, the policeman responded that it was safe because he was there at the request of a policeman.

Yes. Yes of course everybody is better off because, during work hours, there's not a car in that spot. In case there's, like, a block party in the middle of a weekday and there's no other place to park. How silly of me.

So I went back to trying to figure out whether I could change the battery in my Power Station, or, if I couldn't, whether I could replace the whole thing -- and, either way, whether I could do it by Tuesday afternoon.

A replacement Power Station would run $150 -- and wouldn't be there in time.

So I searched some more for answers on whether I could replace that battery. And I found a YouTube video demonstrating how to do exactly that.

The official battery, the brand and model that came with the Power Station, was expensive and I couldn't find it with Prime shipping. But, for the first and only time in human history, a YouTube comment proved helpful: commenter Maverick Alchemist noted that, based on the voltage, wattage, and physical dimensions of the battery, an item listed as ExpertPower EXP12180 12 Volt 18 Ah Rechargeable Battery with Nuts and Bolts should do the job. And whaddaya know: two-day shipping.

I kept busy Friday night and Saturday; I made sure to get my chores out of the way -- yard cleaned, dishes washed, laundry done, bills paid, groceries purchased -- before Sunday, to make sure I'd have plenty of time to take care of the car -- change the Power Station battery and jump it, at minimum, and then, if something broke down along the way (battery didn't arrive on time, battery didn't work, jump didn't work...), time to get somebody to help me push the damn thing into the driveway in case my wife and I couldn't manage it by ourselves.

I managed to finish all my other chores up in time to take Saturday night off and go to the Alamo Drafthouse to see the Mads. I'll have a post about that along soon.

So Sunday rolled around. I took the Power Station out front, grabbed my tools, and set to taking it apart to change the battery. The process was tedious -- a hell of a lot of screws, and a couple of inconveniently-placed nuts -- but straightforward. The new battery arrived, the new battery worked, I buttoned it back up. The new battery didn't have a full charge, so I went ahead and plugged it in for a few hours, just to be sure.

And so finally, Sunday evening, around sundown, I went out, popped the hood, wired it up, and turned the Power Station on.

I turned the key.

It started.

First try. It really couldn't have possibly gone any better. Like I said: this old girl is reliable.

So I drove around the neighborhood for about half an hour, to make sure I got a good charge. It was a nice drive, too, with the windows down; we're still seeing some pretty warm days here (I think that day got up to the high 90's), but the evenings are pretty much perfect.

I'll try and take it out once a week or so from here on in, so I won't have to do that again.

2 interviews down, 1 scheduled.

I've never been very good at gauging my performance at interviews. 'Cept maybe that one in 2011 where they misheard me and thought I called myself a slacker. I was pretty sure that one wasn't going anywhere.

Anyway, had two today. Neither the ideal company but either I'd be happy to take, under the circumstances. We'll see how it goes.

The first one was way up north. I managed to drive past my old apartment complex and two of my old places of business. There was a traffic accident on the freeway, so I had to take a detour, but I'd left early enough that I still got there 20 minutes early. Which was good, because I wound up waiting at the gate for 10 minutes while the security guard confirmed I was really there for an interview.

After that I still had enough time to stop by Ray's for a couple of slices of pizza -- provided I was willing to put up with the certainty that I would hit traffic on the freeway if I took half an hour to eat.

The 17 was actually surprisingly breezy, but I ran into trouble as soon as I got on the 10.

And when I say as soon as I got on the 10 I mean it. Like, no sooner had I merged onto the on-ramp when someone in the next lane decided it would be a great goddamn idea to merge directly into the space that my vehicle was presently occupying.

I made it out without a scratch and with only a little bit of leaning on my horn. And still managed to make the next interview a half-hour early.

I've got another tomorrow, sort of. It's not an interview per se, it's a meeting with a rep at a new temp agency to prep for an interview.

We'll see how that one goes, too.

Mostly Painless

Well, can't say that meeting was any more helpful than I anticipated, but at least it was short -- I was out within half an hour.

They want me to sign up for some website or another (currently down), upload my resume, and sign up for updates. I also got the paperwork to switch my unemployment over to deposit directly in my regular account instead of the Chase one they opened for me. I've been meaning to do that since day one but am much more keen on getting around to it since discovering Chase started charging me a fee for not using my unemployment account during the months I was employed.

Just so we're clear: I am the sort of guy who will close his bank account over six dollars in fees.

Because I fucking-well need that six dollars more than Chase does. As evidenced by the fact that it's the account where my unemployment checks go.

On the whole, though, it was a good reminder that, even unemployed, I'm not so badly off. I've got a family that supports me, emotionally and, when occasionally necessary, financially. I'm in better shape than a lot of the folks I saw who went in to DES just to use their computers to apply for jobs.

Anyhow, on the way home I found gas for $3.39 a gallon. I was pretty excited about filling up my tank for about $30. Up until a mile later when I saw it for $3.35. And then when I saw it for $3.38 a mile away from my house. Oh well; $3.39's still pretty good.

Samuel Adams Boston Lager

So far this week I have closed a house, looked for work, shopped for cars, and picked the spot where I'm getting married.

Now that I am home, about the only damn major decision I intend to make is what beer to get out of the refrigerator.

And some shirts from Threadless I guess, since I need new T-shirts and Groupon's got a deal.

I'm thinking 8-Bit Blues and Halfling and Wizard. (I'm sorely tempted by the Mike Allred Monkey Around shirt -- and it's only $10! -- but it looks like it would be goddamn hot in the summer.)


First thing when I got onto the freeway this morning, some fucking idiot tried to lane-change directly into me and I had to lay on the horn and the gas.

A bit later I got a look at her -- surprise surprise, talking on a cell phone.

Bad enough to almost cause an accident because you're on the fucking phone, but I think it's just extra special to continue the conversation afterward instead of maybe considering the possibility that you should hang the fuck up now.

Self-driving cars can't get here soon enough. Because human drivers sure as fuck aren't getting any smarter.

What I Did This Weekend

  • Drove to Tucson
  • Saw Brave
  • Went to Bookman's. Bought a used copy of Perdido Street Station and the first Cerebus trade.
  • Watched MST3K (Night of the Blood Beast). Slept through the middle.
  • Had some barbecue -- David grilled up some turkey burgers and chicken dogs
  • Watched Godzilla: Final Wars
  • Caught Vertigo at an independent theater
  • Hit up an Irish pub. (Tip: 20%, plus an extra dollar for live music, plus one more dollar for not charging me for my pint of Guinness. Considered one more dollar for overflowing the urinal; decided that wasn't really my fault, and hey, I let the waiter know.)
  • Walked out into a monsoon; got good and wet.
  • Dealt with the joy of Arizona drivers in heavy rain.
  • Came home.

Good times.

And my good friend Jim is off to New Mexico for grad school. Good on ya, Jim.

Halloween '08, Part 1: My Trip to Flagstaff

I went to Flagstaff yesterday, to see my old Rocky Horror cast perform. There are fewer people I know there every year.

If the needle is to be believed, I pulled off a 320-mile round-trip on 3/4 of a 14-gallon tank of gas, meaning I averaged around 30 MPG, going 80 on the highway for most of the trip. I do appreciate my Cavalier.

The trip up was reasonably quick. There were a couple of points where traffic slowed to a crawl, and one of them was on the hill. If you've ever taken the 17 north through Arizona you know the one I'm talking about -- that bastard hill where you can floor it and still not hit the speed limit, and where it's a pretty good idea to cut off the AC so as not to overheat your engine. That hill. Traffic was stop-and-go there, and, just my luck, for the past sixty miles I'd had to pee but figured I could wait until Cordes Junction. (Sunset Point is right at the top of the hill, but it's currently closed; Cordes is another 15 miles.)

I met my old friend and castmate Tami King, and she convinced me to go to both shows, the 8 PM and the midnight. I don't usually do that, but she told me 8 was a Hell Night (one where they shuffle the actors into different roles) and I had to see it. She was right: Jason totally nailing Columbia's tap part was worth the price of admission all by itself.

I think the biggest lesson to come out of Halloween was that chicks love Dr. Horrible. I wore a Dr. Horrible costume and wandered around the NAU campus, and one woman squealed and clapped and took my picture and another ran up and hugged me. I think I may reuse the costume next year.

(Dudes liked it too. At least two did the evil laugh -- one while driving past in a car, so apparently I was noticeable from a moving vehicle. And I had a conversation with a guy dressed like Einstein, or possibly Dr. Wily, about joining the Evil League of Evil.)

There were some pretty cool Halloween costumes at the midnight Rocky show, too; I saw the Monarch and Quailman. Also, there was a guy dressed like a hippie, except I don't think it was a Halloween costume; judging by the smell he hadn't changed his clothes or used a shower in several days. I moved to the other end of the theatre just to get away from the hippie stank, only to have him wander over to where I'd gone several minutes later, sit a few rows behind me, then on the floor in front of me, and finally right next to me. The people behind me were convinced he was doing it on purpose, but I got the impression he was stoned out of his mind and had no idea what was going on and was just sitting down next to random people. As the theatre filled up, I pretended to know some people who walked in and sat down next to them, where there were no open seats nearby.

I stayed at the Super 8 off the 66, near the Barnes and Noble. Knowing it would be a late night, I asked if I could check out later than the usual 11 o'clock; the lady behind the counter said I could check out as late as noon.

I woke up at 8 AM to the sound of a very loud engine running. In hindsight it was probably a bus from the nearby Greyhound station, but in my half-asleep stupor I managed to convince myself I'd parked somewhere I shouldn't have and was about to be towed. I put my pants on and snuck a quick look out the door, which proved this was not the case, but by then I was paranoid and my heart was racing and it took me probably 40 minutes to get back to sleep. And I didn't sleep very well after that, either.

Housekeeping banged on my door around 10:30. I struggled to get out of bed and back into my pants to answer and ask for more time to sleep. The housekeeper opened the door before I had completed my task and got a good look at my bare ass before fleeing.

I went back to bed; the phone rang at 11 to tell me I had to get out. I asked if I could have more time and the lady said no. So I got dressed, packed up my belongings, and threw them in the car, then wandered over to the office and explained that there had apparently been a miscommunication because I'd been told I could have until noon. The woman behind the counter was apologetic and said nobody had said anything to her about it; I asked if I could have twenty minutes to grab a shower before I left. She said that was all right. So I did that, and I think I may have left a sock there.

On the plus side, I didn't have to take time to shave, as starting today I am preparing my mustache for Brad's annual mustache and sweater party. (My plan is to start with a full beard and shave it down to something ridiculous on the day of the party. However, if I have any job interviews in the next few weeks, I'll probably have to shave it down to a goatee so I look presentable, and shave that down to a Zappa 'stache on party day.)

The ride down was much more stressful than the ride up. No major bottlenecks, but the road was a lot more crowded and people kept riding my ass. Look, I'll happily move over to the slow lane if I find I'm struggling to stay above 65, but if I'm doing 80 and that's not fast enough for you, you can go to hell and take your giant pickup with you.

(Also, the hill that is such a bastard on the way up is more of a Super Fun Happy Slide on the way down. But that's obviously stressful in a completely different way.)

Today my legs are sore. I'm not used to circling the entire NAU campus in knee-high boots.

Bad News/Good News

An inauspicious beginning indeed: it's only mid-February and I'm having a nail removed from the second tire this year.

Though this is an improvement over the last time. Trying to get a tire fixed is trickier on New Year's Day than on a regular work day when you work nextdoor to Arrowhead Tire.


I had a productive afternoon.

I got a long-overdue oil change, a car wash, and bought a new pair of shades to replace the pair I left at the Mexican restaurant on Saturday night.

(I was due for a new pair anyway. I'd had those things for three years and they were all scratched and I was missing one of my spare lenses.)

I got to cross two things off my To-Do list.