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Archive for the 'Car' Category

Pick your (license) plate

Wednesday, April 4th, 2007

I like that the Indiana BMV is asking Hoosiers to vote on their favorite of four license plate designs. The most popular plate will be chosen as the standard plate beginning next year. (Full story here.)

I don’t like that they’re not letting us see which ones are leading the pack. I don’t want to wait until May to see which wins.

When I voted yesterday (which was around 4 p.m. according to my twitter update about it) it told me more than 14,000 people had already voted. But I want to know how many have voted so far and what other residents are leaning toward. My man-on-the-street interviewing for the story at the J&C revealed that many were favoring the solid blue one with the torch on it. It was “simple.” But it reminds me too much of Michigan, and isn’t Michigan changing its plate because it’s more difficult to read light text on a dark background? My favorite design is the one I have displayed with this post.

Still, the greenish license plates in Indiana currently are pretty ugly. But then, Ohio’s license plate is straight-up boring.

(Side rant: I still reject the state nickname Hoosier. It sounds silly. And not that Ohio buckeyes are any better, but at least a buckeye is a real thing. As far as I can tell, a Hoosier is nothing except someone from Indiana. What’s up with that?)

The ticket wasn’t the annoying part

Friday, December 22nd, 2006

I consider myself relatively patient when I deal with bureaucracy. Last spring, when I couldn’t file my taxes because Social Security had my birth year wrong, I was understanding. Mistakes happen, I told myself. So I took a few hours out of my busy day to patiently wait in the Social Security office downtown to get it fixed. I didn’t even complain.

So, when I got a speeding ticket in Michigan this week I didn’t even bother whining or trying to get out of it. It happens to the best of us, I reasoned. But I’ve never gotten a speeding ticket before, and perhaps that was why I was so absolutely confused by the transaction that took place.

Apparently, in Michigan if you’re from out of state and you get a speeding ticket you have to do one of two things on the spot, a) you have to pay $100 toward your court costs right then or b) you have to surrender your license.

I didn’t understand what the officer was talking about. I really didn’t. I made her explain three times what she meant. She wanted to take my license? Why? What, like I wouldn’t need it anytime in the next month?! Or she wanted $100? Cash? Right now? Most people don’t carry that much cash with them.

Luckily for me, my grandparents had given me $100 for graduation the day before, which I had in my wallet waiting to be deposited in the bank upon my return home. Needless to say, I wasn’t about to give up my license and hope I didn’t need to produce it anytime in the next month or so. So, I handed her the $100 bill I couldn’t really afford to give up.

I asked her how much the fine would be. I was trying to gauge how much more it could possibly suck. She snapped back, “I deal with five different courts and they all have different fines. Call the number on the ticket.” She was needlessly vicious about it. I consider the cost of the ticket a perfectly legitimate question, and even if you do deal with five different courts the base price of a ticket should probably be something you know.

Today, I called the Eaton County number on the ticket to hear the damage. According to the recording, it is $95 for going 5 mph over in a 70 mph zone. OK. I can handle that. Except one thing: I already put down $100. So what becomes of that $5? I wanted to make sure I heard it right and wasn’t missing some type of other fine that would still be due if I mailed in the ticket without any other payment. So, I listened through the whole recording until the message said, “If you want to talk to a traffic clerk, press 1.”

I pressed 1, and I waited. And waited. And waited. Five rings. Ten rings. Two dozen rings. Four minutes. No one picked up. There was no message saying, “Hey we’re out to lunch,” or “Please call back during our normal business hours, between never and forever.”  There wasn’t even a voicemail where I could ask someone to get back to me. Nothing. Just an endless ring, ring, ring that apparently was going unheard.

Ugh. So I guess I’ll just send off the ticket and hope I wasn’t wrong. Let that $5 be absorbed the state of Michigan and put toward something like courtesy training for the officers who pull people over and phone training for the traffic clerks who are apparently too busy to pick up the phone.

Why I avoid oil changes — take four

Monday, December 11th, 2006

So, I just received a call from the mechanic working on my car. Apparently the hose that is leaking coolant (now about 2 qts low) is a part of a larger part that is actually composed of four hoses and a central unit. The cost for the part alone is about $90. The cost for the labor to install said part (“a mess of hoses that are hard to get to”)? Well, the total with tax is going to come out to about $254. Ain’t life swell.

Why I avoid oil changes — take three

Sunday, December 10th, 2006

My car goes into the shop tomorrow. What started out as a simple, but badly needed, oil change has culminated in my car necessitating a trip into the actual auto shop. That of course means more money I don’t have to spend and an early morning wake-up call for me so I can drive it to Akron for its 8 a.m. appointment (that is, if it doesn’t overheat before it gets there).

I took the car back to the place I got the oil change on Wednesday, and they told me (after much deliberation and head scratching and me sitting there in the cold) one of the lines going into the heater core (still don’t know exactly what that is) was leaking on to the engine, thus causing my coolant to slowly evaporate and for the engine not to cool off, which explains why it was 20 degrees outside and my car was overheating. They don’t fix those at that place, naturally. So, I made an appointment with my regular shop as soon as they could see me, which is Monday. They said, depending on which line it is, the cost is between $60 and $120 JUST for the part, it doesn’t include the labor — oh, and it’s a hard to reach spot so it’s labor-intensive.

Maybe I should just move to NYC, Boston, Chicago, LA… somewhere with awesome public transportation and where oil changes and expensive mechanic bills will not be an issue.

Why I avoid oil changes — take two

Friday, December 1st, 2006

My life is not a sitcom, or a drama, or even one of those horrible made-for-TV Lifetime movies. But sometimes I swear it seems like it. I have these moments where I’m stuck doing something or standing somewhere and I think to myself, “If I ever write a book about my life, this is definitely getting included.” Last night I had one of those painful moments.

I went to Akron last night to grab dinner with my mom and go to Border’s. Everything’s fine on the drive there. Everything’s fine on the drive back. As soon as I pull into a parking spot on campus, however, I start to smell something faint like maple syrup. As soon as I put it in park, it starts smoking. Clouds of white smoke pour from the right side of my engine. I turn the car off and get out in the pouring rain (because in all great car trouble scenes there’s pouring rain).

I hit the release button on my hood, determined to see if I can figure out the issue. (Yeah, right.) That was my first problem, I didn’t even know how to open the hood. I call the Stater to find someone to help me. (Take into consideration that we are by nature not car people.) Then I call my dad, who is my go-to on car problems. I know when I call my dad and say, “Dad, I just had an accident,” or “Dad, my car won’t come out of park,” or “Dad, I know it’s 3 a.m., but we have a flat tire and we’re on some random two-lane road in Cuyahoga Valley, and we don’t have a jack or know how to change a tire,” he will answer and either calm me down or say, more often than not, “I’ll be there in…” But he doesn’t answer. So, I stand in the rain and wait, looking like an idiot to the dozen or so people who walk past me because while my car’s hood is still smoking, I’m just staring at it, immobile.

Eventually, after we open the hood and I am satisfied nothing was actually on fire or anything, I calm down. Sean says it was probably just overheated or something. But that makes no sense. My car has never done that before, and isn’t the coolant, which I had replaced the day before, supposed to prevent that? The smoke came from the area where the coolant is at, which leads me to believe a) the guy who changed the oil and coolant spilled some on the engine or b) he screwed something up when he was working on it. Either way, I have to go back today or (probably) tomorrow to figure it out. It definitely shouldn’t be doing that.

You know, my dad asked me last week if I’d want triple A for Christmas and I told him it was probably a good idea because I’d be moving away soon and wouldn’t know anyone. Maybe he knew something I didn’t.

My mom called back later (she was my call after my dad), and I explained what happened. She asked her friend who used to be married to a mechanic what that might be. Immediately her friend replies, “Oh, maple syrup? That’s bad. That means your heater core’s going bad.”

So, whatever a heater core is, I have to add that to the list of things to be checked and fixed when I’m done with all these papers, projects, exams and classes — basically, when I graduate and have a little free time. It really is sad that I look forward to a real job where I’ll work 40 hours a week instead of 60+ on top of five classes. I might have time to read all the books I buy at Border’s, or take up another hobby… maybe working on cars?

Why I avoid oil changes

Wednesday, November 29th, 2006

After I dropped off the last $300 Kent State will ever squeeze from me at the Bursar’s Office this morning, I decided I’d stop at Starbucks and then grab lunch before going back to the newsroom. As I was leaving Starbucks, I happened to notice the oil change sign, and it reminded me that I needed to get the oil changed in my car. Needed is actually an understatement. I absolutely had to.

My father actually yelled at me — my parents have never yelled at me — last weekend when he took my car for a few hours to get new tags for my license plates and get it e-checked. He noticed the sticker I’ve been avoiding eye contact with all semester. The sticker that reminded me I should have taken my car in about 2,200 miles ago.

It’s not that I’m a horrible car owner. Well I’m not the most responsible one, as anyone who knows about the window that wouldn’t roll up can attest. I kind of let it chill for a month before I had time to take it in for repair only to have the shop tell my mother, who told my dad, who called and laughed at me, that it wasn’t working because the window lock was on. (I still contend that when they fixed the issue with my gear shift they bumped something that fixed the window. There is no way it was the window lock. I tried that and everything else just about every day I got in my car.) I just don’t have time to worry about things that don’t actually prevent me from getting from point A to point B. So, I try to ignore them as long as possible, which is why I took my car to get an oil change today.

I pulled into the oil change place and popped my hood. About five minutes later, I noticed the one guy step back and say, “What the heck is that?” Now, you know it’s a bad sign when the man working on your car deems it necessary to call “hey look at this” to two other people. I gulped.

Apparently, as I learned today, your coolant is supposed to be neon green. He held up a container with some of mine and said, “Your coolant is brown, and it smells bad.” I just looked at him and asked how much.

Add an extra $80 to the oil change and factor in the Starbucks and the Bursar’s office, and I easily spent between $400 and $500 dollars today. Gulp. Considering that’s half a month of the editor’s salary at the Stater, I’m pretty much screwed.

Still, I guess it’s better than the last time I got my oil changed. That was the day they told me my back struts were broken. I still don’t know exactly what struts are or how they break, but I do know that they cost about $500 to replace, even when your grandpa hooks you up with one of his friends. In fact, I’ve only recently finished paying my grandparents back for that one.

Sometimes not knowing is better. It’s easier to ignore, which is exactly why I avoid getting my oil changed.