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What I Learned This Week – 3/19/17

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I am sure many of you were already aware of what I am about to tell you. But, this series of posts is called “What I Learned This Week”, not “What Everyone Else Already Knew.” So, ya.

I left work for my lunch break on Tuesday, something I don’t usually do. When I went to restart my car, it wouldn’t start. I’m a woman, so my only guess was my battery was dead, although it had started up just fine a half hour prior. And the dashboard lights were acting…unusual. They would all come on and sort of dance when I turned the key to try to start the car. Even where the “P” usually lights up to tell me it is in Park, it was cycling through and lighting up “R”, “N”, “D”, and “1” as well. It truly was the strangest thing.

I tried to jump it–nothing.

I have a cuter picture of it with a Christmas tree on top, but it would take me forever to find it.

I called in my husband, who while not a trained mechanic, totally understands engines and how to take them apart and put them back together. (I, on the other hand, believe they run on hamsters on wheels and fairy dust.) The crazy lights with the lack of success at jumping had him convinced it was an electrical problem.

During the next 24 hours, we proceeded to juggle the one remaining car and our two jobs and elementary school pick-up of M. I contemplated the hassle of having to pay a tow truck to tow my car the literally .3 miles my car died from the actual dealership. But as crappy as all that was, I have to admit the timing was actually fortunate because my husband was still home to assist me.

But while my husband was at work, I realized something…

In the old days when your battery died, it just died. Your headlights were weak, nothing would work. You could just jump it back to life and be on your way.

What I realized is that we don’t live in that time anymore. (Let me take this opportunity to reiterate that I don’t understand how a car engine totally works.) We live in a time where computers are ingrained into everything from our cars to our televisions to our electric toothbrushes. Computers are made by humans. Computers have unnecessary safety features. Computers fuck up.

I remembered that the second time my battery died in my beloved Aztek, I thought it had an electrical problem. Turned out that the battery got so low, that it tripped the anti-theft system. See what I mean about computers having unnecessary safety features?

So I hypothesized my battery had just gotten low enough that the car was like “Ya, we are done with this battery” without actually giving me a clear message that that was the case. Figuring that would be the least expensive option, I talked my husband into taking it to O’Reilly’s and getting it checked out. Sure enough, it was dead. After we spent some more time in a parking lot in a -10F degree windchill, it started right up.

The lesson this week kids is if your car is acting goofy and you have no idea how old your battery is, it may just be that you need a new battery. Your car is not your grandfather’s car. Unless, you know, it is. But if your family has children early, then chances are your grandfather’s car could be computerized as well. My family waits to have our offspring. My dad drove a Ford LTD from the 1970s. I am pretty sure it would have exhibited the standard blasé of a car with a dead battery. 🙂

From the broken mind of Jennifer Friess, the joining of hearts & souls…
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What I Learned This Week – 5/31/15

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This week I learned that my car cannot get fixed if there is no Internet.

Can you believe that?

I mean, I understand that stores can’t load gift cards or access your EBT account without Internet, but car repair?

Typical dashboard warning lights

Typical dashboard warning lights

My car started doing very funky things on Memorial Day. Warning lights that I had never seen before and had no name for kept illuminating on my dashboard. (I literally have NIGHTMARES about this exact sort of thing.)

So, on Wednesday, after a rather large storm, mind you, I took my car in to get it looked at. The car dealerships Internet was down. With no Internet capabilities, they could not plug in my car to the diagnostic to see what was wrong. They could not access my warranty information to see if it was covered. So, I left my car there. The dealership was nice enough to give me a ride home. I assumed I would be picked up again by the end of the day. I didn’t get my car on Wednesday. Or Thursday, for that matter, although, to be fair, I did add another repair onto my order for the dealership. The warning lights only indicated that the sensor was bad, and needed to be changed.

My husband was disgruntled that I didn’t get a loaner car. I was grumpy because they had my car there to work on at their leisure. I assume they probably gave priority to the customers who were waiting in the lounge, repairing their cars first.

I ended up getting my car back on Friday. I mentioned my long wait to the cashier, hoping they had planned on giving me a discount or something. No, I just got an earful about how hard the outage had made her job :-/

I learned something else this week as well.

Let me tell you a little story. You know how sometimes you hear music in your head, like a certain song that just won’t stop? Well, in high school, I used to have Garth Brooks and George Michael singing in my head. At the same time. Singing different songs. This went on for weeks, maybe months. Long enough that I still remember it to this day. It made me realize that they both had really nice voices that actually went pretty well together. I also realized this dueling music in my head made it hard to concentrate on listening to the boring teachers.

I actually just found out today that this magic in my head actually became a reality back in 2000. I found the video below of Garth Brooks joining George Michael on the song “Freedom” at an event called Equality Rocks on YouTube. Garth shows up at the 2:30 mark. See below.

Have I mentioned that I was fortunate enough to see Garth Brooks in concert this year? Thanks Patti Keno!

Garth Brooks at Joe Louis Arena, 2015

Garth Brooks at Joe Louis Arena, 2015

My first book, The Wind Could Blow a Bug, is NOW AVAILABLE!

PURCHASE as a Paperback or eBook on Amazon.com TODAY.

[Pssst…Book 2, When You Least Expect It, is COMING SOON!]

What I Learned This Week – 8/24/14

The last six weeks or so have been very trying in my life. There were events that others would be able to take in stride. There were events that would have crippled other people more. I have done the best that I could. I am still here. I tried to control my anxiety with exercise and, when I couldn’t manage to get more than a few hours of sleep on my own, sleeping pills occasionally. I read that lack of sleep actually makes anxiety worse. I tried to balance all factors.

My manager at work left. This created a full-time opening with a raise in pay that I could not pass up interviewing for, even though I find interviews highly stressful. I didn’t get that position. But another full-time position became available, so then I had to interview for that. And the decision-making process took longer. I had to plan several weeks of my life duly as “if I get the job” and “if I don’t”. I learned that I got the job. I enjoy it, although it has not all run perfectly smoothly.

WEEK-anxiety

This meant I went back to work full-time after 3 years. I had only ever worked full time when my son was 3-9 months old. My husband had been home with him then. M is now 3 1/2 years old. We had to enroll him in preschool daycare, a new experience for all of us. I have the same hour long commute that I used to have. But, I can no longer just roll out of bed a half hour before my departure time and hop in the shower, then run out the door. I have to pack lunches the night before. In the morning, I have to get myself ready, then wake up a boy who does not wish to be awakened. I have to get him to use the potty, wash his hands, and let me change his clothes. Then he wants to eat breakfast and drink. And I have learned that Sagittarius children cannot be rushed. (At least that is the case with mine.)

On the twilight of the second day of this new routine, my vehicle of 10 years decided to die. It was its time. I was not angry. Just, well, lost as to what action to take. My husband let me use his vehicle for a week and a half. But we had to car shop and get a new car. That meant less time for household chores and a few late nights getting to bed so that we could test drive and sign loan paperwork after work at the car dealership. I had to contact my insurance agent to switch over the policy.   Rediscovered how difficult it is to get anything done when you are unavailable at work 7:30AM-6:00PM Monday through Friday.

New Car: 2011 Jeep Patriot

New Car: 2011 Jeep Patriot

Speaking of which, we also had to get a new checking account, switch two direct deposits, and close the old checking account.

I had to clean out my old car, post a classified ad, then meet with people who bought it. We live in the city. They don’t take kindly to junk cars sitting unattended for very long.

I also had to postpone, then cancel a dentist appointment for my son.

I am still taking my mom grocery shopping every Wednesday night. Now we don’t leave til 7:00PM. My son and I don’t make it to bed until well after 10:00PM, which makes it very hard to get up come Thursday morning.

Parker

Parker

Yesterday was our 11 year wedding anniversary. The day started by us saying our first goodbye to one of the furry children of our union, Parker. We think he suffered a stroke a number of months ago, could be going blind, and has exhibited a change in behavior. We had him in our lives for 9 years. I have always hated that dog. Now I hate him for making me cry at his absence.  (A fuller obituary will come this week.)  He was such a challenge to live with in every way. Although, I have to believe that maybe he was sent to us to prepare us for the trails that M, our son, would present to us. Maybe Parker was the opening act.

My husband left with Parker. M, Dave (our other dog), and myself were in the backyard. When I went to go back into the house, I realized my husband, with other things on his mind, had locked us out. So then M & I had to walk the half hour to my mom’s apartment to pick up the spare key. I was fortunate that I could leave water with Dave in the backyard, and that the stroller was on the porch. It could have been worse. It could have been raining or snowing (this is Michigan, afterall…). It also could have been better. I just got off of 4 days on my feet at work doing manual labor to prepare for an event. I WAS SORE. And I had had no ibuprofen or caffeine yet for the day. My mom was able to provide keys and caffeine. By the time I got home, my husband had already returned.

It was so hard yesterday, to pet Parker knowing it was the last time. Knowing we would never feel his velvety brown head again, or his short hair, that was course when it was dirty and soft when it was clean. I am sure I will continue to find it stabbing me in the cups of my bras though. It was easier yesterday when he was gone. But then harder again this morning. Yesterday he was still in our lives, that stupid, miserable dog. Today will be our first full day without him in our home. I am sad that it seems empty. But I am comforted in my belief that no other family would have put up with his whining and peeing on the floor consistently for 9 years. And it is a much more peaceful and calm atmosphere already, without having to fight with the Parker over everything.

Yesterday we also attended our niece’s 6th birthday party. That was fun. I especially liked where I got to sit on my butt and rest. Then my husband and I went to dinner to celebrate our anniversary. We had alcohol and steaks. My son had a slight meltdown, so we went home after that. I then watched a NASCAR race on TV, which I almost never get to do anymore. I went to bed.

I was awakened at 11:30PM by Dave barking, my husband on the phone, and a police searchlight shining in our front window shortly thereafter. It seems a drunk guy couldn’t find his way home, so he decided to sit on our porch and smoke, try to flag down cars, then lay down on our deck. My husband called the cops. They took the guy home.

Finally. Our totally weird anniversary day was done.

And also, hopefully, our messed up last few weeks.

Then this morning, we find the dude’s cell phone. It was dead, so we put it on our charger. We checked his contacts. We snooped through his Facebook and found out his name. My husband was almost about to call the number for “Mom”, when the guy called his own phone from his friend’s phone. He came to pick it up. He half-assed apologized. Apparently, if my husband and I REALLY wanted to celebrate our anniversary, we should have been at the same bonfire that dude went to.

Also, my asbestos friend, who is like family, has lost her dad a few weeks ago. Her family (who is like family to me) had a car accident last week. Their car was sadly totaled. Since they were just across town, I went and gave them a ride home. I would have anyway, but I figured I could use all the karmic pay-it-forward I could get. (It worked. My mom had not yet gotten in the shower when I knocked on her door for my spare key yesterday.)

What I Learned This Week(s):  I have to admit, in the long run, everything is probably working out for the better. It is just not always easy to see that at the time it happens. And, can I have peace and quiet now, please? Can I have some sense of a schedule and normal?

Oh wait, next week we are only working/daycare for a few days, because then we will leave on vacation. And, of course, screw up our internal clocks so that we will be all off schedule by the time we return. Oy.

R.I.P. Baby Car (2003-2014)

Bad Ass Forever

Bad Ass Forever

My 2004 Pontiac Aztek, sometimes affectionately called Baby Car, was officially put to rest today, with an odometer reading of 226,793. My Aztek was purchased on September 22, 2003 from Underwood Chevrolet Buick Pontiac Oldsmobile in Clinton, Michigan. All my miles.

I sold it to someone for a rock bottom price, as the cost of towing and repairs to get it running again will be steep.

My Aztek has served me well. It never left me on the side of the road (although once the battery did die in the insurance agency’s parking lot. But at least I was within walking distance of home.)

My Aztek once held my husband, myself, mother-in-law, sister-in-law, my dog, a wheelchair, and all the supplies my MIL was taking home from her camper for the season. It is a feat other, larger SUVs could not handle.

I loved that the rear seats could be removed completely. My Aztek was once loaded floor to ceiling with 25 years of my crap as I took it to my sister-in-law’s garage sale.

We once took a trip and camped back there, using the optional tent package. On another trip, we were able to take 2 bicycles along with us by just taking off the front tire and popping them in the back.

My Aztek hauled our belongings to our first and (so far) only house. It carried drywall to redo our ceilings. It carried our first dog, then our second dog as well. It has carried my mother and MIL to many doctor appointments and grocery stores. It hauled me to all my doctor’s appointments when I was pregnant with my son, then hauled him to his many doctor appointments for his first year, everywhere from Toledo to Ann Arbor.

Note the black duct tape on the window.  I used blue until I could no longer find it in my house.

Note the black duct tape. I used blue until I could no longer find it in my house.

The Aztek has been a wonderful car for me. Sure, things started to break off or stop lighting up in the past few years. And there was the recent issue of having to duct tape the passenger window shut. But, I rode it hard for a lot of years. (Huh-huh. That sounds dirty.) It drove a daily commute of 74 miles for most of its lifetime. Never had a tune-up, because, well, when you get to a certain point, you have to go with “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it.”

I was so proud when I reached 200,000 miles. My new goal instantly became to take it to 300,000 miles. Plus, well, it would be good for my wallet to not have a car payment for a few more years.

But, alas, it began to overheat on the 2 minute drive home from the grocery store, with all signs pointing to a blown head gasket. You have to love a car that waits till you pull in the driveway to heave its last sigh.

While I am happy that it did not go to the junk yard to rot and rust, it is almost as painful to think of someone else owning my baby.

The Aztek will never be forgotten. It will always hold a special place in my heart.

The End

The End

What I Learned This Week – 8/10/14

This week I learned that the going rate for used cars these days in Southeastern Michigan is around $10,000 for 100,000 miles.

Considering I was looking for a car with less than 100,000 miles and had no money, I found that rather disconcerting. I also wanted a car newer than 2004, and that sat high.

As many of you know, my dream has always been to own a Jeep. At the first dealership we visited, there was a Jeep! A CJ-5. That was manual. From 1975.  And not for sale. It turned out it was the salesman’s car. We still somehow scored a ride in it from him around the parking lot. He implied his virility many times by mentioning all of his numerous kids and grandkids. He also showed my husband the battery in his back for pain management (T.M.I.!).

Next we ended up test-driving an H3. I think they look better than the 4 door Jeep Wrangler. When I drove it, I felt powerful. I kept growling and making Tim Allen macho sounds. My husband liked it a lot more than I thought he would. But the sticker price was too high. And I couldn’t even imagine the cost of new tires for that thing!

The H3 that we test drove.

The H3 that we test drove.

There were lots of Ford Explorers and Escapes on the lots. I thought I might end up with one of them. I was really only interested in the Explorer for its movie cred–Ford Explorers were the vehicles in Jurassic Park. I credit that movie with starting the sales boom in SUVs in the 1990’s. If it can outrun dinosaurs, imagine what it could do in a volcano eruption or zombie attack…

So what did I end up getting?

Well, it IS a Jeep. Just not my red Wrangler that I dream of. Not yet, anyway.

It is a 2011 Jeep Patriot. It is newer with less miles than I had thought I would be able to find. A pleasant surprise.

2011 Jeep Patriot that I took home.

2011 Jeep Patriot that I took home.

It is sooo weird to have a new car after almost 11 years.

You know what you have to do when you get a new car, right? You have to take a trip with it.

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