Category Archives: Transportation

Car Trouble.

Those of you who know me will be aware of the fact that I’m not the kind of person who defines himself by the car he drives. Accessories are not for me, be they chrome wheels, 5,000 Watt stereos or any of the other multitude of gewgaws and embellishments that some people are so keen to lavish on their vehicles. It’s only fair, however, to point out that for the past 13 Years I’ve been driving a BMW X5, either the one owned by my ex and I or the one belonging to my ex Father in Law.  I got the X5 as part of the divorce settlement as it was the only vehicle that had my name attached to it and there was no way that the Suburban would be of any use to me even if I’d had any claim on it.

All was fine and dandy until late last year when I learned that I would need a new starter motor some time in the future, but there was no need ( nor indeed, the cash) to fix it there and then. Fast forward to a few weeks ago when during a regular inspection I found out that the car needed repairs costing in excess of three times the Kelley Blue Book value. Indeed the labour on just one of the repairs – replacing the timing chain guides – was more than the car was worth. I have the suspicion that all BMW parts are flown in by chartered Zeppelin directly from the Fuhrerbunker, such is the cost.

I decided to just run the car until it failed and look for a replacement in the meantime.Of course, when the car did die, it was at the perfect moment – just as I was taking my daughter to her first soccer game of the season.  I had no choice but to call my ex who picked up the kids but didn’t even offer to give me a lift. Of course, I wasn’t going to give her the satisfaction of asking, so I missed my daughter scoring two goals in her team’s 4-0 win. Bugger. To cut to the chase I ended up buying a 2008 Honda Accord.  Not my ideal car, but affordable, reasonably well equipped and with only 30,000 miles on the clock too good to pass up. Added to which, it was a pretty easy process – I gave it a test drive after trying the Corolla and paid for it there and then.  I am still getting used to it, and I miss the oomph of the BMWs 4.4 litre engine, the rear wiper, etc but as cars go it is pretty sweet.

My sweetie, on the other hand, had a nightmare. She found a 2014 Fiat 500 with only 5,000 miles on it online , so we duly packed the kids into my car and headed off to the dealership.  It had the features and colour scheme she wanted and she enjoyed the test drive while I stayed and chatted with the lead salesman who seemed to be a pretty decent chap, which just goes to show what a bad judge of character I am. Once she returned we began the pantomime of price negotiation. He knocked $1,500 off the $14,000 price ( not what we’d seen online)  and after mentioning that we’d seen the same model cheaper from online dealerships and asked him if he could come closer to them, he came back from a chat with his manager and said in a very snippy tone “I think you’d better buy your car online then”. My extreme surprise this was beaten only by the fact that he didn’t actually say ” And don’t let the door hit your ass on the way out”. We left immediately, feeling confused, upset and offended at his truly dickish behaviour and the abrupt end to the afternoon.

A couple of days later the dealership called my sweetie and after some messing around, including refusing to deliver the car, she went back to the dealership and got the car for cost.  Fiat 500s don’t sell in that part of the world, an area dominated by full size pickups and muscle cars. Still, they messed her about, arriving late to pick her up and then wasting so much time she missed the boat they knew full well she needed to catch. We also caught the dealer in a lie: he’d said he couldn’t deliver the car as he didn’t know how to drive a manual transmission, but later said he’d had the car shipped to the dealership because he wanted to see how it drove.

The kids. however, love both cars. The first thing my son wanted to do was read the owners’ manuals the first time I picked them up, and he helped my sweetie set up the bluetooth in her car so she can play music directly from her phone. I really resent the way the dealership messed her around over a car they knew damn well wouldn’t sell, and even their attempt at redemption was full of major league dickheadishness. I bought mine through an agency and it couldn’t have been easier, so I guess we experienced both ends of the spectrum.  With any luck it will be the last car I own and I’ll get a good 20 years out of it.

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Sailing Away

As you are aware my commute includes a ferry ride,( See “Street Life”) which you would think would be a relaxing way to travel, but you’d be wrong. The morning commute is pretty painless unless I forget something and have to go back into the house. I’ve done this on more than one occasion and arrived at the terminal in time to hear the  warning announcement that boarding is due to end to allow the boat to depart on time.  Often I will simply not bother to go back for a forgotten item as missing the boat means  being 45 minutes late for work. Also, the 7:20 sailing is commonly known as the “Slacker boat”, and I have no desire to be seen on that one.

I now spend the crossing walking around the sun deck, going up and down the stairs at either end in a feeble attempt to get some exercise and with any luck lose some weight. If you have to ask “How is that working out?” you obviously haven’t seen me lately. My main gripe is with the evening sailing.

I finish work at 4 p.m. and that gives me time to stop off at the library and still make the boat with time to spare. Lately, this has been the least of my worries. You would think that with no traffic issues, a crossing time that is easily met at much less than full speed and  alleged cut off times for loading the boats would leave on time. But Nooooooo. For at least the last month, I have arrived at the terminal as late as 4:25 only to see the boat in the middle to far distance. How difficult is it to run on time? last week the boat left an astonishing 25 minutes late! Whisky Tango Foxtrot? Is it laziness, incompetence, a requirement to save fuel or the fact that they all have well paid union jobs? I hate to go all Lily Tomlin, but the ferry service motto really should be “We don’t care. We don’t have to.”

It would be bad enough in the winter but this summer has made things unbearable. Let me explain: We are not equipped for temperatures in the high eighties for weeks on end, and this is particularly true of the ferry terminal building. There is no ventilation other than one set of sliding doors leading to the boarding ramp which are left open and a side door to the outside walkway. This means that lining up in front of the turnstiles quickly resembles a visit to the world’s most prudish sauna as a couple of hundred tired commuters cram into an airless waiting area with too few seats. This is not the most relaxing way to end the workday as you can imagine, especially as most people arrive sweaty, tired and ready for home.

I choose to wait on the walkway which at least gives me some fresh air and occasional breeze but I still have to run the gauntlet once the incoming passengers have disembarked. I try to pick what looks like a fast moving line but inevitably end up in a line containing tourists, usually from the Midwest who regard public transportation as some form of socialism and only one step removed from a U.N. takeover of the United States.  They are identified by their dull eyed, slack jawed, doughy faces which quickly take on a confused and befuddled demeanour as they fail to comprehend how to pass through the turnstiles. “There’s a bloody picture taped to the top of the machine showing you which way to swipe the ticket you moron!”  I don’t actually scream this, but oh, how I want to. Sentences not taken directly from the bible seem to be beyond them, but surely they can relate the picture on the turnstile  to the ticket in their hand? Presumably they don’t have ferries in Jesusland, or indeed any boats except for replicas of Noah’s Ark.

Eventually we are able to shuffle aboard and I head topside to continue my walk. I’m by no means the only person who does so, and most people amble along, taking in the view or chatting with friends. There is one exception though. He looks like a perfectly ordinary office worker, but once on the top deck he changes.  I’m not sure what disturbs me more: the fact that he removes his shirt before he strides purposefully around the deck as if on a mission, or his pierced nipples.

The now routine lateness of our arrival means that I can no longer get to the post office before it closes. Not a major inconvenience as life goes, but enough of a pain to make it awkward for me to pick up any packages too large to fit in my P.O. box other than at the weekend. This is particularly galling at the moment as I’m waiting for a very important package: A starter motor for a jet ski I’m restoring.

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