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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…
NOW AVAILABLE! Troll Gurl and the Cursed Kingdom

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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.

My Pseudo Dad

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As I have mentioned here before, my dad died before I was born. I grew up watching sitcom fathers on television. I went to my best friend’s house and watched her father (I can only think of one friend whose house I regularly visited in my my teenage years who had a father in their daily life).

What did I learn from all this observation?

I learned that a dad’s job is to make sure your car gets fixed properly.

I bought my first car in 1997. Since that time I have thought of the Service Manager at my local GM dealership as my Pseudo Dad.

pseudo
adjective
1. not actually but having the appearance of; pretended; false or spurious; sham.
2. almost, approaching, or trying to be.

http://dictionary.reference.com

He is old enough to be my Dad, but he is maybe 5 years younger than my mother. That would make him about 20 years younger than my actual dead dad.

You can’t argue with my logic. He always makes sure my car gets fixed.

Me in my first car. 1989 Pontiac Grand Am

Me in my first car. 1989 Pontiac Grand Am

I present to you some semi-boring examples of car repair below.

My first car, a 1989 Pontiac Grand Am, started making very bad banging sounds when I went over bumps. I thought it might be a problem with the shock. I was partially correct. The problem was a hole had rusted right through the trunk, and now my shock was actually in my trunk. I made arrangements to get it fixed the same afternoon. My pseudo dad called me that evening to tell me about a friend of his who could fix it at a discount for me. As I had already dropped my car off somewhere else, I didn’t take him up on it. In retrospect, I probably could have saved some money if I had taken his recommendation.

On one occasion, I took in my second car, a 1994 Pontiac Grand Am, to get the oil changed. It had been making a bad sound when I drove, but as I had no money to get it fixed, I was ignoring it. Well, it turned out it was a bad wheel hub or bearing or one of those things in your wheel that is expensive and goes bad regularly on all the Pontiacs I have ever owned. My Psuedo Dad wanted to fix it right then, but he could tell from my questions that that wasn’t my plan. He asked why, so I told him. I didn’t have any money until I got my paycheck, which would be a week away. He had the mechanic do the repair on my car. All I paid for that day was the oil change. They trusted me to come back in a week and actually pay them several hundred dollars, which I did. My husband would say that it was probably some sort of critical repair that they weren’t allowed by law to let me leave without repairing it. But no one told me that at the time. So I choose to believe that my Pseudo Dad was just trying to help me out.

On another visit to the dealership (Probably for an oil change. I am pretty diligent about those. 203,000 miles on my current car proves that it is a smart strategy.) with the same 1994 Grand Am, my Pseudo Dad noticed that I had a sock tied to my drivers side mirror. Now, there was a logical reason for this. A semi had ripped my side mirror loose in a freak freeway entrance ramp merge gone bad. It was only hanging from the cords that connected it to the handle inside the car for adjustment. I tied the sock to the mirror so that it would prevent/reduce the mirror from scratching up the paint on the side of my car as it bounced around. My Pseudo Dad asked me if that is how I was drying my laundry. He found it very amusing. I did eventually get the mirror replaced, but I never got it painted. So the replaced mirror was flat black and the original one was glossy black.

A few months back, I thought my 2004 Pontiac Aztek was dead for good. I went to run an errand. I shut my car off and ran inside. When I returned to my car, it would not start at all. I had had no problem starting it 5 minutes before when I was at home. And it started to do this weird buzzing thing, where the needles on all my gauges would bounce up and down in sync with the buzzing. I left the car and walked home. I was afraid it would blow up.  (That would have been REALLY bad.  I left it in the parking lot of my insurance agent.  If my car burns down their building, do they still have to pay out the insurance for my car?) The next day we made a plan to take it up to the dealership to pronounce it dead. My husband ended up letting the tow truck company take it back to their garage, because he thought maybe it was just the battery. (Just a battery? But the thing WAS TICKING LIKE A TIME BOMB!) When I called to cancel the appointment with my Pseudo Dad, he talked to me for about 10 minutes, explaining how to check the voltage to see if it was a bad battery vs. a bad alternator. And he explained how a low battery can set off the anti-theft device. (I was not even aware that my car HAD an anti-theft device!)

When it comes to car repair, Pseudo Dads and GM Service Managers know what they are talking about. I don’t think my Pseudo Dad is still the manager. I think he has stepped back and is helping to train the new manager. Which is fine, as long as he is still there. Hopefully his retirement and my purchase of my dream car, a Jeep Wrangler, will coincide with each other.

My Pseudo Dad does not have the conventional looks of a sitcom dad. But, I am proud to call him my fake dad. Except that I don’t tell him I think of him that way. Because, you know, that would be weird…

I Want a Jeep

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My dream car


In my youth, I used to see Jeeps in the TV shows I watched, such as Mork & Mindy and the Dukes of Hazzard. The first real life Jeep I fell in love with was one that was always parked outside the local bowling alley. I assume it probably belonged to the owner. I believe it was a brown Jeep C-J. I used to walk by it to get to the grocery store all the time. I always thought “when I grow up, I am going to have one of those”. Apparently, I am not yet grown up. *sigh*

Hot Wheels Jeep C-Js


I have two Hot Wheels Jeeps I have had since I was a kid. One I got from McDonald’s in a Happy Meal. (Mmm…McDonald’s.) The other I got from sending in UPCs from Frosted Flakes. The brown one is almost the same as the one that used to sit outside the bowling alley.

Jeep license plate


I have a Jeep hoodie I bought several years ago. But it is too big, so I hardly ever wear it. I also have a pink Jeep license plate I bought to put on my Jeep. That I do not have yet.

Jeep Stroller


As you may have guessed by now, my baby has a Jeep brand stroller. The cute one with the little steering wheel on it. It was the first purchase my husband and I made for our upcoming arrival. We bought it very early on too. What is it they always say about the about the first trimester being the one most likely for things to go wrong? As soon as I was beyond that window of time, I bought a Jeep, baby. A Jeep baby stroller. Correct. (I love my stroller. It is about three inches too wide sometimes, but we manage.)

I rode in a Jeep once. It belonged to my cousin. I was in the backseat. I was too young to really remember much about the ride. My husband always wants me to test drive one. But I always decline. If I test drove a Jeep and I didn’t like the ride, I would be heartbroken. If I test drove a Jeep and loved it, I would be in misery because we do not currently have the funds to buy one. So, a test drive is a lose, lose proposition right now.

Me & my Aztek when it was brand new, before all the miles and hail damage. I have cool black and highlighted hair in this pic.


Last time I bought a car (in fall of 2003), I wanted a new car because I had never had one before. I really wanted a Pontiac Aztek. I figured the car I would actually get and could better afford was a Pontiac Sunfire. A Jeep, due to price, was totally out of the picture. My husband talked me into the Aztek, and I am glad he did. The Aztek is an awesome car with oodles of space inside. (I am trying for 200,000 miles in mine. So far, I am over 194,000.) I am also glad my husband made me buy an Aztek because that is the last year Pontiac made them:(

“Tell me more about your dream car,” you say? I want a red Jeep Wrangler hard-top 2 door with automatic transmission, 4X4, fog lights, and an mp3 plug-in. I know a four door would be more practical. But not on my bank account. And it destroys the classic Jeep look I have found so darn appealing for so many years. I plan to drive it forever. And when the red paint starts to peel or not, I will have it custom painted in pink camouflage. How sweet would that be? Then it would totally match my Jeep license plate.

The one downside to owning a Jeep will be my husband. He likes to take things apart. Everything. So, I know there will come a day when I am like “Honey, it is raining outside. I need to go somewhere. I really need you to put the doors back on my car for me.” But I will smile when that day comes. Because that will mean that I finally have my Jeep I have always dreamed of.

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