Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Bonding time with The Chief- Part 1

     So you may have noticed, but I haven't been on top of this blogging thing as much as I would like. Mostly because I've been busy this week. I had arranged to buy the Jeep on Tuesday. In between looking at the car and buying the car, I had to figure out how to pay for it. I called my bank, and found out that the "only way" I could get cash was via postal money order. However, you need to purchase a money order with a debit card.. Which I had lost. So, I had to settle for using Jason as a middle man and writing him a check to cash. I feel bad, because I was about to suck Jason into a lot more of my problems than I would have liked.

     I had agreed to meet up with Paul for dinner on Tuesday after work. We met on California Ave and caught up while watching people ogle at his electric motorcycle. We finished our meal and went our separate ways. I had arranged for Jason to pick me up at the California Ave Caltrain so he could drive me to go get the car. I had brought a copy of the Kelly Blue Book estimated value of the car in hopes of talking the price down. It occurs to me that I should have done this before agreeing to buy the car. This isn't the last lesson in buying cars I would get.

     We arrived in Redwood City, and Jason asked me if I had bought insurance yet. Hmm.. I had shopped around for insurance, but for some reason I thought there was a grace period between buying a car and insuring it. It occurs to me that this was a stupid assumption, but since I had already shopped around for insurance, I knew who to buy it from. So Jason offered to look up the phone number while I was inside taking care of all the paperwork. Off I went, to attempt to negotiate price and to transfer the title.

     I walked up to the house and greeted the grandmother with a Polish "Good day!" She was ecstatic. Needless to say, negotiating the price didn't work out. Since I was still paying less than I had planned to spend on a car, I didn't mind and moved on. Next came the paper work. The Polish mother reminded me of my very own Polish mother. Similar haircut, similar build, similar way of talking. And of course, she works for a bank, so she knew how to handle all the paperwork (much like my own mother). It was rather hilarious hearing the daughter debate with her mother (not unlike my own mother and sister). The daughter spoke in Polish though, as her parents made her when she was young. The mother recounted "When they were young, if they spoke English to me, I would speak Russian to them. I don't understand you, and now you don't understand me!" Reminds me of when my parents would speak Russian to hide things from my sister and me.

     The paperwork went reasonably well. No real snags, apart from writing my first name before my last name (a common problem I have. Maybe I should just start writing Nawrot, Michael on all of my psets and tests). At some point, the daughter made a similar mistake and cursed in Polish. I snickered and she responded with "O no! I can't say that in front of him! He understands!" The entire time, the grandma was using the mother as a translator. Finally, as I was leaving, the mother finally caved and explained, "Mama! He can understand you! He just can't speak very well!"

     The grandmother was even more ecstatic. Suddenly I found myself in a casual conversation littered with broken Polish and resulting laughter. I don't remember much of the details, but the conclusion was as follows:

"Here, take some home made Pierogi with you!"
"O, wow, thank you!"
"Mama, I babysit near Tesla! Next time Grandma makes Pierogi, I'll bring him some!"
"That would be amazing! Thank you so much! You guys are too kind"

... For what follows, they owe me a lot of fucking Pierogi.

     It didn't start off too bad. I got out of the house, got the insurance company's phone number from Jason, thanked him for the map, and told him I would catch him later. He left, I got in the Jeep, adjusted the seat and mirrors, and went about attempting to drive stick for the first time (excluding the stick I've driven on an electric Porsche, of course. But you can't stall an electric car in the same way, so that doesn't really count). I'm glad I know the theory and the physics behind it, because I'm sure it would have taken me forever to figure out otherwise. So I put it in reverse, stalled once, and then set off on my merry way. I was going to drive it around the block to get used to it, then call the insurance company once I was no longer in front of their house (to not be creepy and awkward and all). I did just that, with many a stall along the way. At this point, it was getting dark. I called the insurance company and started going through the motions. In the meantime, I had noticed a few quirks about the car. The dash illumination didn't work, there was no interior lighting, and the glove compartment was tiny. Things I could live with or easily fix. The lady from the insurance company was quite friendly and helpful. However, when it came time to check my license and driving record, we ran into a bit of a snag. "Sir, the DMV database for New Jersey is down for maintenance... I'm not sure we can do this tonight. I'll give it a try, but it might be another twenty minutes or so. I'll give you a call back."

... Great. I had nowhere to be, so I continued practicing around the block. At some point, I got a voicemail. I pulled over and gave it a listen. Turns out the database was probably down for the rest of the night. Great. Screw you, New Jersey DMV. I'm not even in New Jersey and you still find a way to make me wait. At this point, I was stranded and needed to find a way back home. Driving without insurance, despite my momentary lapse of reason, is stupid. So I called Jason and asked if he could please come back and pick me up. I felt like a bit of a tool at this point. the Jeep smelled like it needed a rest from me burning the clutch up, so I got out and wandered around for a little bit. Finally, the insurance company calls back and informs me that I have been successfully insured. Right about then, Jason shows up. I felt bad for having him make the twenty minute drive yet again, but at least now I had somebody to guide me home.

     Off we went. The burnt smell hadn't quite gone away, but I figured the clutch had enough time to cool off that it was probably fine. I stalled a few times on the way up to the 101, at lights here and there, but I was keeping up and only pissing off a few people. Then the shit hit the fan (well, if there was a fan to hit). We pulled up to the last light before the on-ramp to the 101. As I was coasting down to a stop, clutch fully depressed, the idle dropped and the engine cut out. Uh Oh.

     I pull up at the light and tried to get the engine to turn over. At this point, Jason was two cars in front of me, first at the light, and didn't really have much of a choice but to go. This intersection was quite busy, and the people behind me were very frustrated when I didn't go. Even worse, I couldn't find the button for the emergency lights. I was stuck at this massive intersection with no engine to move me and no way of alerting anybody around me of what was happening. The light changed several times, and at some point, I got the engine to start. The idle was terribly rough, and it sputtered and died before I had a chance to move. Finally, after several more light changes, the engine came on, but this time, I kept the revs up by holding my foot on the gas. The guy in front of me kept inching forward, afraid I would run him over. I guess waiting at a light with a big Jeep roaring its engine at you could be a bit intimidating. Finally, the light changed, and momentarily breaking my streak of bad luck, I didn't stall. I rolled around the corner and into the nearby gas station. Right as I rolled in, the engine sputtered and died. This night was not over yet.

     I got a call from Jason as he was trying to make his way back to me. He had taken a wrong turn and almost wound up crossing the Dumbarton Bridge. It was going to be a little while. So I popped the hood and found out the cause of my problems. The coolant overflow bottle was completely empty. I opened the trunk and found some gloves, rags, and antifreeze. Seems like somebody had had this problem before me. I sure would have liked to have known that ahead of time. I checked the oil as a precaution and proceeded to refill the coolant bottle. At some point during this process, Jason showed up and helped me push the car over a speed bump and into the light. I filled the bottle with antifreeze, and watched it all disappear somewhere. Luckily, we were at a gas station.

     I went inside the station and asked for some antifreeze. The guy pointed to some and said, "It's right there, but I'm afraid we're closed"

"O.. My car broke down and I really need some antifreeze."
"Well, I guess if you really need it.. But I just counted all the money and I don't want to do it again.."

Too bad I didn't have my Visa.. *kicks self*

"Ok, thanks a lot man."

*rings it up*

"$10.87"

     It occurred to me at this point that I had run out of cash, so I had written a slightly larger check to Jason, as a sort of ATM transaction on top of the money for the car. However, this meant I only had two $100 bills on me. I pulled out the hundred and the gas station attendant just glared at me. "You've got to be kidding..."

Luckily, I had a single and I let him keep the $0.13 of change, so he wouldn't have to count the coins again.

     Needless to say, we attempted to refill the coolant some more, running the engine a few times only to see the coolant disappear into nothingness yet again. I threw in the towel (or rag, I suppose) for the night. The gas station attendant was leaving right as I did so, so I asked him where I could park for the night. He pointed me to some spots, and as he left, I got the engine to start just long enough for me to pull into a spot and kill it. I got all my stuff out of the car (seeing as it doesn't lock at the moment) and drove off with Jason. It was close to midnight now, and I had started this whole car buying trip around 7:30. We stopped at Jack-in-the-box on the way back (delicious, by the way), and ate in Jason's living room while I researched potential causes of the problem.

Fun fact: If you search 1988 Jeep Cherokee, the second autocomplete is "Overheating".

After doing some research, I went to bed, hoping to recover The Chief the next day. I was exhausted from all the excitement, but unfortunately, it wasn't over....

3 comments:

  1. Old cars are the best. Mine (less glamorous '89 dodge omni) craps out periodically, too.

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  2. This comment has been removed by the author.

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  3. There are not enough Pierogi in the world...

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