Tuesday, August 16, 2005

The Wild Ride

Remember how I said I'd named my new car Phouka? Well, apparently it was more than just a whim. Here's the story of my journey to the Willamette Writers Conference two weekends ago.

On Thursday morning I'm sitting at the Ford place, my bags all packed and the car loaded, crossing my fingers that the correct replacement mirror will actually show up sometime before 2pm. The part arrives, they get my car right in and install it, I only end up paying $39.00 for the labor, and I'm on the road for Portland by noon. Great so far, right?

Well, then I get to Baker City, Oregon, fill up with gas at the local Chevron and head for the Taco Time to grab a quick lunch, which I eat quickly in the car while it's idling in the parking lot. Then a light in my dashboard Message Center starts flashing, toggling back and forth between the messages "check engine" and "check transmission." Oh, wonderful! Since the car's still running and functional, I head straight back to the Chevron station, beside which is a small repair shop called "Grumpy's Repair." They obligingly put their brand new diagnostic computer on my car and get an invalid code reading which the computer can't decipher. Then suddenly everything checks out fine. They take a glance at my transmission fluid and oil and can't find any problem with that, either. So apparently everything's fine and Phouka's simply been playing some odd little trick on me. And of course, there's nothing anyone can do about it unless it happens again. Just lovely. Oh, and I now owe Grumpy's Repair $50 for that computer diagnostic. YeeeHaaaw!

So I get back on the road, and when I reach Pendleton, I pull into the parking lot of the Burger King to grab more food, and I drive over one of those concrete bar things that are supposed to mark where your front wheels go. Only my undercarriage is so low that it scrapes right over the darned thing and the only way to get off it is to back up. This partially rips off the plastic air dam under my front end and it is now hanging down behind my right front tire. So I go to the trunk and get the roll of duct tape that for SOME reason I put in there the night before and tape the hanging plastic piece to the underside of the front bumper so it's not dragging on the ground. And I go on. Muttering to myself, shying at every new noise or rattle from the car. Trying not to think about THAT problem, and THAT problem, and THAT problem, and what could possibly happen next. I'm doing some pretty good mental compartmentalizing by this time. Fortunately I have a book on tape, which helps take my mind off all the bad travel Car-Ma.

Then I get to the Multnomah area and I hear a sharp CRACK, which is apparently a rock hitting my windshield, thrown up at me by the truck & trailer rig just in front of me. I'm still waiting for the dreaded crack to appear, and hoping that it won't. I can find no damage, but that could still show up at any time.

By the time I get to the hotel, I'm shaky, hot and bothered, and not in a good way. But I'm at the conference--finally. Oddly enough, the rest of the weekend went without a hitch and the trip home was completely uneventful. It even turned out that rather than me having to replace the air dam (which would have cost $95 plus labor) the nice guy in the parts department was able to re-bolt the thing up for me for free, and the only consequence of the mishap is a small tear in the right side of the air dam, which for the time being is not going to hurt anything. If it ever finishes ripping itself apart, I'll have it replaced, but in the meantime I have no desire to see my credit card go up in flames.

Upon hearing this story, one guy at the conference actually thought this was a pitch for a comedy screenplay. Eh? Any takers? We could call it..."Phoukatrails". Or maybe "Driving Miss Crazy." You want to write it up and sell it, be my guest.

Wednesday, August 03, 2005

Warning, Apathy on the Loose!

I called the Ford place today to make sure the part had been ordered and that they expected it in by Thursday morning, because if it doesn't come in on time, I may have to whip out the plastic and pay for an unwanted and very expensive plane ticket or rental car for the weekend. Excuse me, but I like to make contingency plans ahead of time, if possible. The people in the local Ford service department have informed me that there is no way they can secure a loaner car for me or even give me a free or discounted rental if for some reason my car's belated mirror doesn't come in with tomorrow's freight. In other words, if they screw up again, tough luck for me. They are unwilling to do any more than they have already done (a 10% discount on the labor, which amounts to...what...about $6?) to make things right with me even though it was one of their employees who made the original ordering mistake that caused this nerve-wracking delay. If the guy had just double-checked his order numbers, the part would be here and the car fixed already. That $6 doesn't even cover all the gas I've wasted driving back and forth to Ford to try and get the mirror fixed since last Friday. But they don't care. After all, it isn't their time and money at stake.

I have made every effort to remain calm and reasonable (a condition which much resembles a doormat) but if for any reason the part doesn't come in with tomorrow's freight, my whole conference weekend is screwed. And I've already paid for the conference--well over $450. And here's the part that really burns my bacon: the freight truck gets in any time between 10 a.m. and 2 p.m. So I might be sitting there in Ford's waiting room until 2 p.m. and still not have the part to fix the car. And why the heck did they give me a 9:30 appointment if the freight truck isn't expected to get in until 10:00? Huh? Riddle me that!

I better not try to write on the new book today. I'd probably have to kill something.

A Careless Moment

Hectic schedules take their toll. As is probably obvious by the date of my last blog, I haven't seen much of my computer for the last week and a half due to kid-related responsibilities. But I am supposed to be going out of town this weekend to the Willamette Writers' Conference in Portland. I'm leaving on Thursday--provided I get my car back in time.

Yes, it's in the shop again--or it will be. This time it's my fault. I banged the driver's side rear-view on the side of the garage as I was backing out on Friday, and now it's taking forever to get the replacement part in. Apparently, the guy in the Parts department ordered the wrong part on Monday, so I get there this afternoon to drop off the car for its appointment to get the mirror replaced, and ta-dah! No part. So I may or I may not be able to get the car fixed in time to drive to Portland. It depends on whether they ordered the right part this time and whether it arrives here on Thursday morning as it's supposed to. If it doesn't, it's going to mess up my entire weekend. One careless moment, and I've managed to give myself no end of grief. Hopefully this is one mistake I won't make again. It was expensive, too. And here's the kicker--the part they ordered is coming from...wait for it...Portland. Grr.

On a brighter note and in honor of my daughter's moon-watching the other night, I've added a "current moon phase" feature to this blog. So if you're too busy to go out and look at the moon, just scroll down a ways and presto--instant moon watching. Have a great weekend, enjoy your summer, and check your mirrors often when backing out of the garage.