Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Brake-ing News

Francis now has all kinds of new parts; parts that make the braking happen. This is a good thing. It turns out that almost every part of the brakes that connected to the wheels had...issues. Many issues. Cylinders when away, discs went away, various pads, rotors...expensive issues.

Still--fixing these problems on Francis was way cheaper than buying a different Focus of the same year and similarly equipped. (Car Guy sold Francis to me WAY below the blue book value. Because Car Guy is magical. Also because he bought a Nissan and the dealer threw Francis in--meaning Francis didn't cost him all that much, either.)

The odd part is that the brakes never FELT bad. I was purposefully looking for a car that had very good brakes, because the Taurus' brakes were always less-than-adequate. It was as if the brakes Ford put on the Taurus had discs the size of quarters. They had as much an effect on stopping the car as a mosquito has in stopping a charging elephant. The Focus' brakes felt great when I test drove it. But now they feel way more awesome. Francis' brakes are MASSIVELY IMPROVED, not just a little bit. So bad brakes on a Focus must be 10,000,000 times better than good brakes on a Taurus. So there's that.

Here's hoping that all the brake repair that went into Francis means his brakes won't randomly give out on me. I've had that happen way too many times. I've even gone so far as to warn The Brother never to let me drive HIS car, because the brakes will certainly fail while I am behind the wheel. That happens when I drive cars. I will hit the brakes and think, "Again?" I do this instead of thinking, "Dear God, please let me live," which I imagine is what most people think when their brakes go out. It happens so often I keep a bottle of brake fluid in my cars at all times. Most people do that with a bit of oil, maybe some antifreeze...but not me. If I'm taking a trip in a car that isn't mine, I take the brake fluid with me. Because you never know.

It's a good thing I've had plenty of brake-failure practice. Considering the sheer volume of times I've had brakes fail, it's miraculous that I've only had one brake-related accident.

But practice with brake failure still doesn't make it fun to hurtle forward through an intersection, clutching the wheel as if wheel-clutching will improve stopping power. I'd really rather never have to deal with that again. Let's hope this massive brake repairdeals with any of those problems for a few years.

So, brakes fixed. Now let's see what other plot twists this summer throws at me. Will I be smote from on high? Will the library explode? Will I be washed away in a cataclysmic flood? Stay tuned and find out.

Meanwhile, tonight at the library I'm throwing a birthday party for Harry Potter. The kids will be making wands using this tutorial. It's a fun craft and a pretty easy one--you should try it!

Monday, July 29, 2013

Well, Gosh.

I was driving to work today in Francis and the brake light went on. And then off. And then on. And it continued to flicker the rest of the way to work.

This brings my count incidences when I've been driving a car as its brakes begin to fail (or give out entirely) up to six.


Sometimes I just want to sit down and weep.

Thursday, July 25, 2013

Best Buy and Other Complaints

For my birthday, my parents are having my good stereo put into Francis, so today Mum and I hopped into the car and drive to Best Buy with the stereo so it could live inside Francis's dashboard and play me music that is not shouted by Ke$a (who is appalling) or that woman on American Idol who keeps screaming at Mariah Carey (who is equally appalling).

Guess where the stereo is now?

If you guessed, "In an American Eagle bag in Francis's trunk," you were correct. Have 50 points.

When Mom made the appointment at Best Buy (to surprise me), the Geek Squad man asked what the make and model of my car was, what the year of the car was, and what the stereo was. Then he asked what car the stereo came out of previously. And that was it. We should have been asked just one other thing: what cables we had.

Apparently, there was a cable that hooked into the dashboard, deep, deep inside. When I pulled the stereo out of the dashboard of the Taurus, I assumed (silly me) that I wasn't supposed to grab the handful of cables running out of the back of the stereo and rip them out of dark parts of my car's internals where they were attached as if I were some kind of evil Game of Thrones character. I thought I was supposed to find the middle section where the cables hooked into other cables, unhook them, and take half the cables with me.

I was wrong.

Mum and I drove all the way to Best Buy (1 hour) and got turned away at the door, because we were one cable short of a party, and Best Buy doesn't sell the cable we needed, even though it is the standard cable for every model of Pioneer stereos produced in the last 10 years.

Then I went on Pioneer's website and tried to order the cable. The cable itself was just under $15.00, but then the shipping for the cable was $15.33, making the simple act of dropping a bag of wires into an envelope and popping the envelope in the mail more costly then the process of manufacturing the wires in the first place.*

That is, in the words of my gran, "Ruddy stupid."**

What makes things worse is that I drove all the way to Best Buy and back, spending money on gas just to spend more money on a cable that will be mailed to my house, followed by spending still more money at some future date, when I drive back to Best Buy to have the cable and stereo installed in my car. All because Best Buy Guy didn't ask us all the questions he was supposed to ask.

I find this all quite vexing. And Best Buy Guy owes me 15 bucks in gas.

* I did not buy THAT cable, I bought a knock-off on Amazon, which was $8.00, no tax, no shipping cost. Take that, stupid Pioneer.

** Imagine that in an English accent.

Saturday, July 20, 2013

Francis Focus VI

I have a new car! It is a 2006 Ford Focus in a pretty silvery sage green color (which is lucky, because I had exactly no color choice whatsoever). It is wonderful.

I wrote out a list of everything I wanted in a car. On that list, I wrote the words "Ford Focus" and put a little heart on either side, because I am 12 years old. I gave the list to Dad for him to drop off for our Car Guy to look at. And he didn't give it to Car Guy. Several days passed, and Dad called Car Guy to mention that I was interested in a Ford Focus.

"That's funny," Car Guy said. "I'm driving one right now."

See, Car Guy had gone to an auction to find a car for his granddaughter, who was looking for a Nissan Somethingorother. He found the Nissan, but it ended up going too high for what his granddaughter wanted to pay, so he dropped out of the bidding. By the end of the auction, the Nissan still hadn't sold. The same dealer had a Ford Focus that hadn't sold. Car Guy told the dealer that he'd buy both and gave the dealer a price, then the dealer went for it. So Car Guy had a car for his granddaughter and another car, a Ford Focus, which he figured he'd sell. I doubt he imagined he'd sell it so fast...

By the time Car Guy had made it back to his shop, Dad arrived to look at the Focus. It had a bit of a bushing issue, Car Guy said, and he had it set to be fixed the following day. There were also a few chips out of the paint, like from gravel or something like that. Car Guy was getting those fixed as well. Also he was buying new tires.

It wasn't ready to drive yet, so Dad told Car Guy I would be by on Saturday to test drive it, since it would have the wheel bushings and tires replaced by then. Meanwhile, he snapped a few pictures, sent them to me, and went back home.

I obsessively Googled the 2006 Ford Focus SES ZX-4 at work, I stared at the pictures, and I hoped hoped hoped that no one had ever smoked inside that car, or dumped Febreeze inside it, or Axe Body Spray, or anything else that would make me allergic to it and prevent me from purchasing it, if it happened to be perfect in every other way.

Friday, after work, I went to the lot even though Car Guy wasn't there. Mom came along. And we stared at the car and looked through the windows and we thought it looked VERY GOOD. I may have named it then.

Saturday, I jumped out of bed and went to drive it. And it was brilliant. The brakes were lovely. The steering was responsive. It had working everything. And it would be MINE. So the little Focus went off to get its paint touched up and I waited patiently until Thursday afternoon, when I went and picked it up.

I have named my car Francis Focus VI for this reason: A few weeks ago, Pope Francis came out and said to all the Catholic Church workers (priests, nuns and the like), that they ought to not be driving around Bugatti Veyrons but instead purchase something more humble, a car of the people.

I imagine he meant for them to choose something like his car: a compact Ford Focus. So even though I am not Catholic, I named my car Francis after him, Focus because it is a Focus, and the VI comes from the six in 2006.

I may have put a lot of thought into that.

Friday, July 12, 2013


This is the part of my day when I want to curl up in the fetal position in a dark room and pretend that no one wants anything else from me at all, especially not money, and I don't have to listen to anything but the sound of the episode of Modern Family I'm currently watching.

Something tells me that isn't going to happen.

So instead, I am going to laugh at this for a while and wait for it to be time for me to go home and go to bed.

I'm out of Modern Families to watch.

Also the cell phone company screwed up the billing. Again.

Also there are too many things to do, and for some reason, people seem to want to call me and tell me about the problems they have without listening to the problems I have, which I suppose works out okay for them...not so much for me, though.

Also I keep throwing up. I imagine this is either because of medicine, stress, or medicine AND stress.

Also, I may have found a car. I don't even care anymore. I just want all that to be over, so I can go back to all the other things I have to do, because there are too many of them. Too many things.

And now I am going back to work. Because this was my 15 allotted minutes of rest, during which I allowed myself to guessed it...overwhelmed. Now back to fixing all of the things.

Wednesday, July 10, 2013

The Black Smudge

I have no car, and it is depressing. I am now like a woman without a country, all my belongings crammed into a single bag, moving from car to car as the days pass. I can't even leave a straw wrapper behind me, because that would be rude, so now my purse is crammed with receipts from drive-thrus and straw wrappers, from all the sweet tea I drink.

I drink a lot of sweet tea.

Add to that the necessity of carrying around a car charger with me, sunglasses, tissues, and everything else that usually lives in my car, and my purse has become a giant bag of stuff. I even have to carry around my back-up book just in case I finish my lunch book. So two books instead of one! That means my purse is heavy. Very heavy.

It is so heavy that I popped the button that holds one side of the strap on my purse. It shot across Walgreens like a champagne cork, ricocheting off an end cap and landing in the shaving aisle. I had to unbutton the other strap, shove the strap in my purse with the rest of my stuff, and slink across the store to pick up the button, all while praying that, on the security cameras, I looked like a girl with a broken purse and not a rampant shoplifter.

I bet I looked like a shoplifter.

I even avoided going back, because it was so shameful. I thought, "They will have blacklisted me by now. I will be a persona non grata at the Walgreens." And that is horrible because they are the only place that always has Sudafed in stock, and I can't live without Sudafed. My sinuses will explode and fly out of my face just like that button flew off my purse, and I can't imagine how expensive THAT surgery would end up. Pretty darn expensive, I think.

But today, I had to go to the store before I went to work, because I needed to buy boiled sweets.

You see, one of my fillings changed the shape of the tooth in question ever-so-slightly. The other filling (the one in Toothy), has medicine inside it and has a temporary filling. One of those things, or possibly all three, has made my mouth feel strange, so I keep swallowing air. And swallowing air makes me throw up.

I have been throwing up since Tuesday morning. Randomly, because it has nothing to do with the food I eat. One minute I'm fine, the next, I am so-very-not.

The only way I've ever found to stop myself from doing the air-swallow thing is to suck on a boiled sweet through the day.

This is likely why I have cavities. Also the sweet tea. Also I am eating pudding right now. So there's that.

I slunk back into Walgreens for a bag of Lifesavers (which are, in fact, actual lifesavers, because if I have to throw up one more time, I will throw MYSELF off the library roof). And it wasn't a big trip, so I thought it would take five minutes but it ended up taking 15 minutes because the lady in front of me needed to get cash back and Walgreens only gives you $20 at the most, so she bought what she needed, got disappointed, then bought cigarettes for another $20 back, then candy for another $20, and then something else for still another $20 until the cashier and I wanted to throw all the cigarettes at her and tell her to use the ATM two steps away. Seriously.

And then I rushed back out to the silver car, my dad's OLD car and now my mum's, jumped inside, and went to work.

But when I walked into the library, I noticed a giant smear of filth on my hand, and I knew where it had come from, and I knew it wasn't going anywhere. It was the black smudge, and it was there to stay.

The silver car (which Dad calls the Silver Bullet, after something), has some major issues. Firstly, water leaks into the trunk when it rains, forming at one point a giant pool in the trunk that we could have hatched frogs in, or mosquitoes, but mostly it grew mold.* But then Dad solved this problem in the rational way: by using an extra-long drill bit to bore a hole through the bottom of the trunk and out the bottom of the car, so the water could drain.** Also he threw away all of the non-metal things inside the trunk, like the lining and the piece of wood that covers the spare tire and makes the trunk flat and keeps the bolts that hold the car together from tearing holes in plastic bags filled with groceries. Moreover, it is a coupe, which means two doors, which means giant doors, which means heavy doors. And the doors are too heavy for the hinges. At one point, the driver's side door hinge failed and you had to lift it to close the door. That got fixed, but now it clicks a bit, meaning I don't trust that door at all. Not one bit. Then there is the smell, which is a chemical/flower smell, meaning a headache when I ride in the silver car.

None of that is enough to make me not happy to be driving the car, to be driven in the car, or grateful to have access to the car. It is reliable. It is fuel efficient. It isn't a death trap, like my '91 Honda Civic was.

No, the reason why the silver car is not my favorite is because randomly, when inside, outside, or around it, you discover smears of black filth on your hands, arms, clothes, etc. Dad told me yesterday that it was the rubber seals--that someone had attached them using a fixative that was now dissolving into greasy smears of filth. All I know is that soap and water does nothing--once that stuff is on your skin, it's not going anywhere.

And that is why I've named the silver car The Black Smudge, or Smudge for short.

* This is one of the two reasons I am actually allergic to the silver car.

** I know, you thought the rational thing was to clean out the water and have the trunk re-sealed. But don't feel bad, I thought that too! Turns out we were both wrong.

Tuesday, July 9, 2013

How to Care for Your Teeth in 14 Easy Steps

1. Check up

2. Panic

3. Fillings!
     A. One happy, easy filling
     B. Two temporary fillings--teeth drilled and filled with antibiotic, then filled (for now).

4. More panic! Because what if the antibiotic-filled teeth are WORSE than the dentist thinks? What if HE HAS TO TAKE THEM AWAY FOREVER AND YOU CAN NEVER EAT BREAD AGAIN?

5. Guilt, because tooth care was so expensive, you could not afford to treat your asthma and your various other diseases AND care for your teeth, so now you must suffer (from both at the same time and from poverty)

6. Shame, because you are such a wimp, you are allowing yourself to be tormented by teeth (and poverty)

7. Rage, because your old dentist sucked so badly, the work he did went wrong, leading you to the current state of affairs. No new bad teeth exist, only OLD bad teeth, with fillings that went bad. Stupid Old Dentist.

8. Repeat steps 4-7

9. Fix other tooth (after dentist's vacation)

10. More x-rays! Fix temporary fillings--after antibiotics stew under the temporary fillings for 6 weeks.

11. Teeth cleaning. And poverty.

12. Did I mention poverty? Because there will be a lot of that. A LOT. Because no dental insurance. Why would you have that?

13. Meanwhile, consider that two hugely important chunks of your body aren't covered by standard health insurance--if you have health insurance, your eyes aren't covered and your teeth aren't covered. Your ears might not even be covered, if you have hearing loss and want a hearing aid. Never mind that the health of those parts of you can have a massive impact on the other parts of you. I mean, can you imagine if your health insurance company decided not to cover your heart, or your lungs? Would you go for that? That's basically what they're doing with eyes and teeth...and they're getting away with it. This sucks.

14. Repeat steps 4-7 a few more times

15. Repeat all steps that apply annually. For the rest of your life, or until your teeth are all removed and replaced by bionic teeth that can cut through steel and have a half-life of 700 years. Yes, they are radioactive. Did you imagine bionic teeth wouldn't be?

Guess which parts of this list are happening to me RIGHT NOW? Really. Guess.

Monday, July 8, 2013

When Entropy Attacks: Part the Second

As the drill approached my face, I plotted murder.

Not really. I'm a pacifist. But if I was going to murder someone, it would be my OLD dentist.

To understand why, we must move back in time, to when I was a Little Laura and a chunk of tooth fell out of my skull in the band room, and I was sad. Chunks of tooth fell out of my skull all the time back then. It was because of what I like to call "chewing," and I was constantly surprised that no one else had to spit bits of filling into the waste basket between bites. Teeth were always breaking, that was what teeth did, and if they didn't break like that on other kids, it just meant that other kids were freaks with teeth that could be used as multi-tools, ripping open packaging, punching holes in tin cans, prying the tops off bottles, and so forth.

I had weak teeth. And that meant I saw a lot of my dentist.

Who was evil.

Firstly, he didn't believe in pain. Well, maybe he believed in HIS pain, but not in mine. Like, say, your tooth breaks in two in the lunch room. You would call and he would be like, "See you in two weeks!" And you would say, "But it HURTS!" And he would say, "Take a Tylenol."

For the record, when your tooth snaps in two like a stale pretzel, Tylenol doesn't stop the pain. Liquor might, but not Tylenol. And as a child, I wasn't really given ready access to liquor, nor should I have been. Instead, I would just chew on the other side of my mouth and eat lots of pudding.

As time passed, enough chunks of tooth had fallen out and been replaced that I knew certain things about my dentist that a person just shouldn't know. For example, I knew he enjoyed going to the salon for a perm several times a year, because he forgot what decade it was. I also knew that he feared children and disliked people. Which is bad when you work with people and children (who are small people).

I also learned that it didn't matter what I said to my old dentist, he was going to ignore me. So when I told him during my senior year of high school that one of my top teeth hurt, he ignored me. He told me it was sinus pain and didn't bother to take an x-ray, even though I was due for x-rays.

On four other occasions, he ignored me as I complained about that specific tooth. "It's your sinuses," he would say. "Take a Tylenol."*

Today I had most of that tooth drilled away! Because guess what? It was actually messed up all along! Who would have thought? Certainly not me, I mean, what do I know, I'm just a stupid girl, right? It's not like I noticed or complained about anything over the years, did I?**

I would just shrug this off and say it was one goof in years of good dentistry if my poor mum hadn't just had four teeth removed because the root canals Old Dentist gave her over many years had all gone bad. ALL of them. So there is a pattern of suckiness and neglect from Old Dentist as WELL as bad perms.***

So, New Dentist, who is probably the best dentist I have ever met,**** drilled away a big chunk of my tooth and shoved antibiotics in it, then closed the top off with a temporary filling.

What does this mean? It means that I MIGHT get to keep that tooth. Hooray! It also means that he might have to rip that sucker out of my skull like that torturer guy did to Jennifer Garner in an episode of Alias I saw once. Although hopefully with more anesthetic.

It also means that if you can't associate the word "gentle" with your dentist (even if in your brain, your dentist is holding a drill when you picture him/her) kick your dentist to the curb and find one that will listen to you. Do this before you start wondering if cramming a Chiclet into the space where your real tooth used to be would fool anyone.*****

I will keep you up to date, because I am so throwing a tooth funeral if poor Toothy has to go. This is my bad tooth's new name. I named it because if I'm going to swear at something, it had better be differentiated from the other nearly identical things around it, so it knows exactly who I'm talking to.******

* If Tylenol doesn't help when your tooth shatters like broken glass, it sure as heck isn't going to cure MY sinus pain, which can fell elephants, bring down mountains, and collapse stars.

** This is sarcasm.

*** There is no such thing as a good perm on a man. Or if there is, I don't know about it.

**** He actually said "Hello!" before dragging out the drill, strapping me down, and ripping chunks of tooth out of my head! Who does that? I think New Dentist is a saint.

***** If you have never wondered this, you've never had a tooth shatter mid-vacation when you're trying to enjoy good Southern barbecue. 

****** That's right, we're personifying the tooth. Meanwhile, soon, my mouth (thanks to Toothy) will have cost me more money than my Taurus did. That means I refuse to eat a bad meal again. If I go to a restaurant, and someone brings me pasta in a cream sauce, and the cream sauce has broken, I will sent it straight back, because if I am spending this much money to fix my mouth, I am raising the culinary standards around here.