Sunday, January 31, 2010

10 Steps in the ownership of a car

A new car.  mmmmmm....who doesn't like this most American of things.  Ownership of a new car, even if it's only new to you can be one of the most exhilarating experiences you can have.  Once you get that car you will notice several things about yourself as you get to know your new means of conveyance.  This list goes over the feelings you have in the life of a new car.  Some of these bits don't show up if you get a used car.  But many of them still apply.  Note:  This is AFTER the pain of negotiating for the price of the car in question which might warrant it's own top 10 list.  It's probably the reason more new cars aren't sold.

1. Euphoria (that new car smell) - Everything about the car is AMAZING.  Look at this!  Look at that!  There's a button that does this!  There's a switch that tells you when you need to go to the bathroom!  They've thought of everything!  Every time you get into the car, you breathe in those toxic (yes toxic) fumes of new car-ness.  Wonderfully euphoric.  It's at this point that the cost of the vehicle, the soul(s) you had to sell in order to get into the payments evaporate into distant memories.  You adjust the seat several times to find the perfect position.  You preset the radio with your favorite stations and remark on just how much better music sounds in this vehicle.  You make a standing rule that NO HUMAN WILL EVER EAT IN THIS VEHICLE!  You quite honestly wish to keep this feeling as long as you possibly can.  It's true love as crushy as it gets.

2. Woah! The breaks/Gas/ etc are pretty different.  -  Usually in the first week, you run into all of the idiosyncrasies of your new car.  "Wow!  those are really strong breaks!" This is usually said as the person behind you nearly rear-ends you.  The acceleration is different.  You hope to the better, but sometimes there is a bit of a response wait between the pushing down on the gas and the acceleration of the car.  you realize that your turning radius is very different.  no more 7 point turns to make a U turn in the road.   OR 'Ouch!  I didn't think I'd hit the curb!'  It takes a week or so to get used to all the little strange bits involved with your new car.

3. New girlfriend/boyfriend - for the first while.  Your new car is so precious that you will find yourself parking like an Idiot just to protect it's precious clear coat finish.  You will take strange routes to and from work to avoid that gravel spitting up and putting a scratch on it.  You will wash all the time.  Just like a new Boyfriend or Girlfriend.  You will do all the 'little' things that you would not normally do.  On top of that, all other cars look like boxes with wheels on them.  They probably shouldn't even be on the road.  This is of course unless you happen to drive by that Ferrari or something, but even then you'll say 'pssht I wouldn't ever pay THAT much for a car'

4. still a little thrill - Park like a normal human - Now it's been a few months and you are still thrilled to see that car in your garage, but you've come to understand that it's just not nice to park diagonally across 6 parking spots because you don't want to get a ding.  You start to park like a human being.  You are still careful.  You still drive by close spots because the cars next to you look like they just came from a WAL-MART and so you know that you are subjecting your darling to undue risk.  You still make yourself walk a little too far because of this car you drive.

5. The first real ding - Son of a!!! I'm gonna sue!  Look at that!  it's horrible!  You examine the cars next to yours closely, you think about getting a small paint sample off the edge of the door to see if they were in fact the culprit.  You consider how much it will cost to get it fixed, but you will still know it's there.  The first real blemish.  On the other hand, the good news is, you can park anywhere you like now.  You still love your new car, but you are gonna park where ever because once there is one ding, there are bound to be others.

6.  Well, I GUESS it's a nice car - This is the part where people that come ride in your car think it's really nice, but you've already been a  little jaded because of the ding.  You can see the blemishes because you drive it all the time.  You are around that car day in and day out.  Sure it looks nice to an outsider that doesn't know it.  I mean, it's an ok car I guess.  But you know how it is.  In this area you daydream about a new car again, but you really have no intention of trading this one in on anything.  You are upside down on the payments anyway.

7. Old reliable (car may get a name) - It's been over a year, maybe 2, and you are so comfortable with the 'new' car that you might have even given it a name.  Old Betsy, or the Blue Dart or something equally clever.  It's a part of you now.  You know nearly everything about it and you feel like it knows you.  It's like your faithful dog.  Always there, ready to speed you off to your next obligation.

8. This isn't regular maintenance! - The car used to always turn this way without a problem.  I turned off the radio for a minute and I've never heard THIS noise before.  When you let go of the steering wheel the car acts like it has an internal GPS it's following, Or of course you get into come kind of accident.  This hopefully happens later than sooner, because at whatever point your car takes more damage than just a ding or requires a repair costing several hundred dollars.  It's the first problem with your car that you can't quite decide weather to fix it right away, or just get it taken care of the next time you take the car in.  But every time you experience that new 'quirk' it bothers you until you finally get it fixed.  Aahhhhhhhh glad THATS over with.

9. Duct Tape - Well, there's things you want to fix and there's things you GOTTA fix.  Your car has taken on the appearance of nearly any car on the freeway.  It has a little rust here.  a ding or two there.  There's a crack in the front grill from when you hit that deer and didn't want to replace the actual grill work.  There's the missing hubcap.  You start 'fixing' things yourself because you don't want to 'sink' anymore money into it.  Yes the car still gets you from here to there, but you wouldn't really consider it for a long distance trip.  (The first time you rent a car to go on a long trip and leave your car home...your car cries).  You are not in the mood to get a new car.  In face you sill fiercely defend this car.  'It's a fine car.  just a few nicks and scratches, that's all'  But every little piece you replace.  Every part you pick up at pep-boys, every can of rust-o-leum you buy is another nail in this cars coffin.

10. Time to put Grandpa in the home. - You've had enough.  the repairs for the car are becoming more expensive than the payments on a new car.  The only real problem is , do you trade it in on a new model?  or do you donate it to the kidney people.  Well, when you trade it in, just remember, what they give you for that car will be an insult.  You will regain a new appreciation for your reliable wheels.  So you may sell it yourself, or you might just donate it after all.  But once you've made that decision, that car is dead to you.  You may let it rot out on a parking lot somewhere with a sign on it with your phone number, or you might just call for a tow.  All you can think about is what is your NEW car going to be like?  You aren't going to make the same mistakes you made with this POS....Oh no.  You are going to do it smart this time.  It's the circle of life really...the circle of life.

So the next time you drive down the road and see a rickety rust bucket that can barely keep itself together long enough to get through the intersection.  Just remember.  At probably more than one point in it's life, someone said 'That sounds like a fair price for that car, I'll take it'

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Top Ten things about a trip

Today I just returned from a business trip.  A seminar on database security.  This business trip lasted just under a week.  I left Monday, and returned Friday.  I know, a REAL week long trip has you leaving Sunday and returning Friday, but this was long enough to make a few observations.  When you go on a trip, especially, but not exclusively for business; a few things happen.  You aren't yourself.  What you are is an Adult.  Kids don't travel for business,  not unless they are Mylee Cyrus.  It all involves planning ahead.  Something most of us try to not waste time with.

1.  Get organized - Even the most scatterbrained of us have to remember 2 things when we are traveling.  Where are our 'papers'.  In the World war II movies, the Germans would always ask in that all too suspicious tone...'Papers'.  It never seemed to work though because the spy's always had their papers and as they said 'Everything is in order'.  In the business travelers real world, there are no forgeries that don't land you in a lot of trouble for a long time.  You have to deal with your boarding pass for your flight, and your ID.  The ID part you only need when you are entering the boarding area of the Airport and go through security screening.  The boarding passes on the other hand will require 1 per leg of your journey.  Going there is usually the easiest of the two.  Coming back is another story.  You STILL have to have these things on your person to get back home!  So we all devise a sort of organization that dictates where we will put our papers even though the rest of our life could be a complete disorganized mess.

2.  Emergency Food - When you travel, it often happens that your flight will be delayed, or canceled.  In such cases, you can of course go to any number of overpriced eateries/pubs located throughout the airport concourse that will offer food and drink.  If you are on a budget or don't have the time you KNOW you won't be able to count on the flight for any form of sustenance.  Usually I bring a sleeve of RITZ crackers (everything tastes great when it sitz on a ritz) and a box of some form of candy.  I can't tell you how often I've fallen back on this bit of miniature preparation.

3.  Dress Stupidly - This is what I don't get.  You know that thanks to some bunch of zealot Idiot individuals, we all have to go through flight screening.  This is because it's OH so bad to profile bad people.  Why?  well I guess because they are offended at the possibility of being caught.  Israel uses profiling extensively and you know how many incidents have happened for them?  You guessed it.  If you happen to fit the profile, that's a problem for you certainly, but on the other hand, that's the price of security.  So anyway, when you get the security screen thing happening, you must empty ALL contents of your pockets onto a scanning tray as well as your shoes and a belt and anything else metal.  Then you walk through the scanner that takes a picture of you naked (not really naked, more like a black and while special effects scan of you naked, but who cares.  They don't really have time to look at you with anything in their brains other than 'nope doesn't look like she's carrying a gun either, NEXT').  So finally to the part I really don't get.  These IDIOTS in business suits that get on planes.  They have full belts and tied shoes and probably a little bit of something in EVERY pocket.  The ONLY way to fly is with a fanny pack holding everything you've got, sweat pants and slip on shoes.  Makes that security line a breeze.  Sure you aren't dressing for success, but success doesn't really find you in the middle of the air port, and you can always pack other pants in your carry on.

4.  Bring a paperback book - I love my electronic gizmos.  just love em.  They do everything you know.  Now they even have those electronic books with the electronic INK that doesn't look like a monitor but looks more like a printed page.  It's amazing.  Oh but there are all these whiny people going on about how they like the FEEL of their book or see how many pages they have left or any number of other curmudgeonly reasons to not completely embrace the new technology.  I see the image of old man Crandall shaking his cane at them 'whipersnappers' complaining about the damage done to his mulberry bushes.  Well, all you technology-snubbing hoity toitys now have a legitimate excuse.  On international flights, they are going to make you shut everything off for one hour before landing.  Like this is going to help with ANYTHING.  As it is, no music player, no video contraption, no nothing.  Well, best bust out that Danielle Steele pulp you've been waiting to sink your teeth into in all it's musty Random House glory. 

5. Bring power strips! - For some reason, there is rarely enough power provided to today's busy traveler.  All the power blocks we have for our gobs of gadgetry usually take up at least 2 if not 3 standard power plugs.  I have a 3 way splitter (those big orange blocky ones with the ground) that I always carry with me.  It is just enough to do the job and I know I will be able to use all 3 plugs for the price of one.

6.  Look at your extras - There are extras in the made for tv movie that is your life.  You see them every day, but they really play a more important role in an airport.  You don't know it, but one of these people will probably be seated next to you.  Is it that gentleman that looks like he has a million stories to tell and each one is JUST as interesting as the last?  Or perhaps it's that enterprising young lad that has the 32 Gig Ipod with overdrive headphones that might be unaware that it is only noise canceling to him?  Maybe that fussy woman that looks like she might have an incontinence problem?  The other thing to notice is that on TV all of the background people are pretty good looking.  Contrast that with the aggregate view from the airport gate lounge.  Contrast indeed.  It appears they hired the same group of extras to be present at the filming of the DMV scene of your life story.

7.  Don't trust ANYONE - After enough trips to the theater most people get a healthy respect for the tourist/business traveler getting the flim flam.  As a result, the savvy business traveler ends up trusting very few people.  This is most evident when they are walking down the street.  You see them sizing up everyone they see.  Wanna have some fun?  look for a out of town business type and just bump up against them and then walk the other way quickly.  Be prepared to run though.  If they don't run after you, watch them, they will check for their wallet.  It's funny.

8.  Diet?  What Diet?! - When you are traveling on the company dime for some reason your expense report takes over your common sense in menu.  Expense report food is expensive both in cost as well as in calorie.  Especially if you are on receipt report.  You feel obliged to eat at every meal because you are forced to if you want to use your benefit.  You start eating breakfasts that would cover your entire daily caloric intake.  Of course if you want to reverse this, just get your company to give you a total per-diem for the trip keep what you don't spend and all of the sudden you are eating your breakfast bagel well into dinner time.  Plus you get to keep extra change for souvenirs.

9.  Seat belts?  are you Serious?  -  At what point did the FAA decide that there are still some people somewhere that don't know how to operate a safety belt?  Didn't everyone on the plane just have to get through security?  Which is more difficult?  Getting through that security screen?  or putting a metal tab into the buckle and then lifting on the buckle to release.  Incidentally this comes about for the same reason that it's still illegal to bathe in the wintertime in Indiana.  It may have been a law on the books at one time, but nobody ever decided to legislatively take it off the books, so even though nobody enforces the law, they still have record of it.  The FAA has had that same song and dance on the books for airlines to follow and they aren't in the mood to actually go through and change it. 

10.  Don't go with full bags - If you are a light traveler like me, you never ever check a bag.  You just jam it in your carry on and your 'book bag'.  Here is the problem, when you come back you are going to have a few extra pounds of things in your bags to take back as well as the stuff you came with.  You gotta get some chotchkies for the kids from the exotic city of Cleveland.  So make sure you have a little extra room in the case to fit the other stuff you bought.  You will thank yourself.