Sunday, May 29, 2011

Like my dad always says: it's better to be lucky than smart.

     I don't think it's entirely fair to claim that this week has been unlucky. It's mostly just been my forgetfulness and poor planning. Between missing shuttles and trains, losing my checking card, and forgetting paperwork, it really just comes down to the fact that I don't look things up far enough ahead of time and that I forgot to put my card back in my wallet immediately, for the first time in three years. This stuff happens. However, this afternoon certainly had an aspect of bad luck about it.

     I woke up rather late, seeing as I had nothing I really had to do. I finished off that massive blog entry below (finally), then got my stuff together and went off to the bank. The plan was to go to the bank and get a lot of cash so that I could buy a car tomorrow, and then go to San Fransisco for the day. None of that happened.

     This buying a car thing is currently my number one priority, outside of my job. This state is impossible without one (and quite possibly with one, but I digress). I found an amazing deal on craigslist, but it was a ways away (Concord, about an hours drive north of here), so I couldn't get around to it until the weekend. It was a 1993 Mercedes 190E 2.6 liter with 182,000 miles on it, for $2300. The pictures made it out to be in great shape, and according to the kelly blue book, that car with that mileage in excellent condition is worth $2250. Everything seemed fine. I found the ad on Wednesday night and called the guy on Thursday afternoon. After talking to him for a bit, I learned that the only noticeable issue with the car was an occasional smell when the AC came on. He was looking to sell it because he had a family and the car was too small. He was only the second owner, and the previous one had been a well-off businessman who drove it to and from work, and that's about it. The car had been in California its whole life, so it had never seen real weather. It seemed perfect. After researching the car some more, I learned that they typically last for 300k miles, and that even Mercedes thought it was one of their most over-engineered cars. I have to admit, I kinda fell in love with this car before even seeing it. I was already starting to imagine myself driving to work in a Mercedes every day.

     So I set off to downtown Mountain View today to get some cash. I wanted to write myself a check and cash it at the local Bank of America. Now, I don't actually have a Bank of America account. I have an account with a local bank from New Jersey that only exists in about three counties. Not sure why this seemed like a good idea, when I knew I was going to be going off to study in not-one-of-those-three-counties. So I got to the bank after a half-hour walk, about fifteen minutes before they closed. I got to the counter and asked them if they could cash my check. They asked me for my debit card, I told them I lost it, and they had to look up my social security number. So I told them.

"I'm sorry, nothing seems to be coming up.."

Hmmm... well, I certainly exist and that's definitely my SS number. That's odd.

"Uh... What?"
"Do you have a Bank of America account?"
"O, well then we can't cash this check."
"Seriously? I was under the impression that I could go to any bank with a check and cash it, and if it isn't my own, you'd just charge me a fee."
"No sir, you need to go to your bank and do this"
"But my bank is on the other coast!"

.. Well, now I felt dumb. So, defeated, I voided the check, tore it up, and left the bank. Unsure of how to handle the payment issue, I called the guy who I was going to buy this car from. After letting the phone ring for a while, he finally picked up.. and told me that he had sold the car to his aunt. I was not thrilled. In fact, I'm still angry. So, at this point, my trip into San Fransisco was the only thing I had to look forward to for the rest of the day. However, I was hungry and didn't want to wait until I got into the city to get some food. Being in downtown Mountain View, it seemed convenient to find a place to eat.

     I wandered around on Castro Street for a while, doubling back a few times. On my way to the bank, I had noticed some Greenpeace people heckling others on a corner. Only in California, right? I had ignored them the first time, with my headphones on to drown them out. The second time, though, I had my headphones off and they stopped me. I let it happen, to be honest. After all the crazies on campus, and around NYC and Boston, I've gotten pretty good at giving the cold-shoulder. But I was in no rush, and I was curious how they would approach me. So, I was stopped by a girl named Soul. She had neon blue eye make-up on, a nose piercing, and I'm pretty sure she was wearing colored contacts, because I've never seen eyes that blue. She immediately got into the pitch, and was very good at it. She was actually quite convincing. However, I wasn't buying it, because frankly, I can't stand organizations that are all about "giving the people more power" and "giving everyone a voice". That may work in other countries, but I often feel that Americans are too dumb to handle having their own voice, and it'd be better if they just kept quiet. Case in point: Greenpeace is very anti-nuclear. As an engineer, I realize that nuclear can be very safe and well executed, and I frankly think that more nuclear is a good thing. However, by giving people who associate the word nuclear with bombs and radiation poisoning a voice, we're prevented from having a very good solution to the energy problem.

     Soul tried very hard to convince me. I agreed with her on a number of points, and I do think that a strong effort needs to be made to take environmentally friendly measures. I even brought up the point that I work for Tesla and am very interested in the field of clean energy and transportation. However, I was very obviously not interested in signing up for her mailing list and donating on a monthly basis. I said "no thank you," but that was not enough. After heckling me some more, she pulled the best line I've heard this week.

"I won't back down, because if I back down to you, then I back down to the corporations!"

Really? You think that? This is why everyone thinks you're a bunch of dumb hippies and doesn't take you seriously. First off, the "corporations" that you speak of aren't autonomous monsters that are out to destroy our planet. They're all groups of people, just like you and me, and they aren't out to do intentionally harmful things to the planet. Nobody is out to destroy the planet intentionally. In fact, a lot of corporations are taking initiatives on their own to be "greener". I can't even begin to put into words how angry this made me. But I kept a level head, said no for the fifth time, and walked away. Instead of taking the "O, I agree with you and do green things" approach, I should have just told her "screw renewable energy, I love burning gasoline." Lesson learned.

     After this, I finally found some food. It was a pretty meh chinese place, but they gave me a lot of food (likely laden with lots of MSG) and I ate all of it. I walked home to check the Caltrain schedule and get my sweatshirt, as I anticipated it would be fairly cold in San Fransisco. I got home and noticed I had a fair amount of time until the next train. I wound up laying down, at which point the food-come kicked in quickly and I fell asleep for about three and a half hours. I woke up and decided San Fransisco wasn't happening.

     At this point, Jason had returned home from cherry-picking, and we decided to go get some dinner. He had to do some furniture shopping, so we'd knock out a few birds with one stone. We decided to go to Santana Row to accomplish this task. Incidentally, Tesla just opened a store at Santana Row, so we thought we'd check that out too. We arrived, stopping by the Tesla store first. It turns out it's not very interesting to go to the showroom when you work for the company. What they show you isn't very new or exciting, and even though their new head of marketing is Apple's old head of marketing (and thus the Tesla store is more like an Apple store than a dealership), it's still just standing around looking at a car that I see about twenty of every day.

    After a stop off at Macy's, Jason and I wandered around Santana Row, looking for some food. After crossing paths with some Porsche's and a Lamborghini, and some careful maneuvering through crowds of women in cocktail dresses and men in shirts and ties, we decided that we were too poor to eat at Santana row and went elsewhere for food. This involved a lot of driving, as we found out that everything in the area closes at 9:30 on Saturdays. Great. It's just like Boston, but instead of walking around the corner to find another option, you have to drive for 10 minutes.

     This brings me back to the point of a car. I've found another potential option. It's a 1988 lifted Jeep Cherokee. More specifically, it's this one. It's certainly no Mercedes, but it's $500 cheaper, and the entertainment off-roading will provide cannot have a price put on it. A lot of my friends in Jersey are into Jeepin', as we like to call it, and this will be a fun way to get back into that. It's certainly a bit ironic, seeing as I work on zero-emission vehicles, but hey, I might as well have fun while I can. And from a financial point of view, I'd have to drive 6700 miles before the Jeep would be more expensive than the Mercedes. I'm checking it out in the morning. Who knows? Maybe I'll be the one running over trees by this time next week.

     And maybe I'll try to go into the city tomorrow. Best laid plans of mice and men, right?

1 comment: