3

Yet Another Reason Why I Don’t Like Car Dealerships (And Why I Love Amazon Prime)

Wow, a daytime post. Yada yada yada.

So, last week, the lightning adapter on my car’s iPhone charger came off and disappeared somewhere in or out of my car. So, I went to Target, bought a new adapter, put it on the cord, plugged it back in, and…nothing. When I tried to take it off, it was stuck. So stuck that I literally had to rip it off, damaging the iPhone charger cord in the process. I took it to Graphite (a niche computer store on University Avenue with actual technicians who know what they are talking about, unlike Target), and they said that it was a specialty piece for my car, and they had nothing like it in their store. They suggested I either a) go to the dealership, or b) go online (they did a cursory search, and found one for $50).

I chose the first option, and after a few days (and buying a cheap cigarette lighter charger that would charge my phone, but not play music over the stereo system), I went to a Nissan dealership that shall remain unnamed, to see if they could help me. I was directed to the parts department, gave them my cord, and after about 10 minutes, the guy who works there returned, and said.

“We have one left in stock. It’s $100”

Obviously, no deal. After calling my dad in shock at how much this stupid cord cost, I decided to look online for one. So last night, I went on Amazon and searched. I found a cord advertised for 2013 model of my car (which is 2015) that looked very similar, so I put it in my cart and bought it. How much was it?

Fourteen. Ninety. Nine.

And because I’m an Amazon Prime member, there was free one-day shipping or free two-day shipping available (but seriously, why would you want two-day shipping when you could have one-day shipping? Logic?). Despite ordering it relatively late at night, it showed up early this morning, having come from Indiana (despite the return address being a warehouse in Kentucky). I got in my car at about 1 PM, plugged it into the car, put on the Lightning adapter, and plugged my iPhone in, and prayed that it would work.

Unsurprisingly, it did.

Seriously, car dealership guy, not cool. 100 dollars for something I could get online for 14.99? This is why nobody wants to be friends with you. People claim that the Internet can be bad for business, but in this case? Not so much.

And that’s another reason why a) car dealerships are terrible and b) Amazon Prime is amazing.

16

Electronics: Always Retail, Never Resale

One of the great things about my new car is that finally, finally, I can play music from my iPhone through the sound system.

When I got my previous car, I was hoping to have that capability, but nope, didn’t happen. I even had my friend Rahul, who knows cars, read my manual for me and he confirmed that I couldn’t. Therefore, one of my reasons for the trade-in was so that I could join the 21st century and stop having to hope that people wouldn’t be annoyed by the slight background music.

My new car has an iPod button on the radio, and it even came with a cord…but of course, it’s a 30-pin cord and I have a Lightning.

I have officially cemented myself as a First World citizen.

So, I needed an adapter. I looked online and there was some company selling them for 99 cents, but I decided to go to Best Buy and pay whatever they were offering, which happened to be 30 dollars for the Apple adapter. Needless to say, I probably got cheated, but a) I wanted to have it now, rather than order it and risk it arriving here after I leave next week, and b) electronics tend to be better at retail value, for some reason. At least for me.

There are certain things that are great to buy used or from discount stores/off-brands, to save money. Books? Absolutely. Clothes? Yes, even though my mom disapproves, yet my favorite pair of jeans (RIP) came super cheap from a resale shop. Furniture? Almost always. I have had exactly two items from IKEA that have lasted my last three moves: my night stand (which was wobbly from the get go) and my TV stand (which is not bad, but getting old-looking). All other IKEA things into which I have sunk good money have fallen apart (whoops, almost typed asleep) after one move. Yet, my ancient coffee table has moved from Maryland to Texas to Wisconsin to storage to current apartment with barely any scratches, other than the ones made from the vacuum cleaner, darn edges.

But for quality electronics? I pay retail. If it will work as it’s supposed to forever or at least for a reasonable amount of time, I will give you a blank check. I’ve gone through about 594270 pairs of dollar-store headphones, so many cheapo batteries, and several car chargers, two of the “ISound” brand that looks like it comes from Apple but it does not. Seriously, one stiff gust of wind coming through my car’s window and whoosh, right out of the cigarette lighter.

So $30 Lightning adapter, I hope you’re in it for the long haul, because I don’t want to be wrong, because that is not a world in which I want to raise my future children.

Oh, and when I got home, my mom announced that she had a Best Buy coupon in her purse.

Of course.

8

The Worst First Snow Ever

It’s funny how the smallest things can get you thinking about a story to tell.

So, today, I was getting a new car after spending Thursday and Friday of last week shopping. I know, I got one last year, but it was under extreme circumstances, and my dad said that if I wanted to, in 6-12 months’ time, I could trade it in if I wanted, so I took him up on it. I looked at about four cars at two different places, one in White Marsh and one in Timonium. I ended up finding a practically new used car (2014, only 6700 miles on it) at the place in Timonium. The salesmen was from the African nation of Burkina Faso, and while I waited the requisite several-hour wait for a new car, all the usual questions came up, including “tell me about the first time you saw snow.”

He didn’t have much to say, but it reminded me of when my family hosted these two girls for my high school’s basketball tournament. They came from Miami, and I’ll call them Meghan and Melissa, because both of their real names actually started with M. It was February, and it had snowed the week before, but most of it was gone. The first afternoon the girls arrived, the topic of snow came up. Meghan had visited New York in the winter before, so she had seen snow, but Melissa, who was born and raised in South America and had only recently moved to Miami, had never seen snow. When my dad mentioned that he saw some snow still on the ground at a local mall, Melissa went crazy, so my dad took her to see the snow.

They arrived at the mall at sunset, and indeed there was snow.

But it was the littlest, grossest mound of black parking-lot snow there ever was. Looking something like this.

Still, that didn’t stop Melissa.

She bolted out of the car, in her jacket, capris, and little hemp sandals, and climbed up the little mound of snow, and stood proudly on top. Her first ever snow. She thought that it was the most exciting snow ever, even when we told her it was probably the worst bit of winter. She asked if she could eat it, to which my dad was like…normally, yes, but not this black snow. Or yellow snow.

And that’s the story of Melissa’s first snow.

Oh, and I bought the car. It is new and cute.

6

Today I Learned Something New About Cars

Basically, the title of the post says it all, but here is the story anyways.

So, today, I felt like altering my plans of sitting and doing not much else other than watching Twin Peaks and making several cups of coffee with my new Keurig by heading to the Columbus Antique Mall. I love antique stores, and I usually have the self-control not to buy much, but I just kept seeing things that I liked today and ended up with $60 worth of stuff, including a knick-knack shelf, a limited edition Princess Diana beanie baby (the grand prize of the 1990s) and an awesome red quilted jacket/shirt thing that is a tiny bit small but it’s one fine piece of clothing and comfortable, too. Once, I saw a beautiful brown quilted jacket at that very same antique mall, tried it on, loved it, and then put it back because it was a bit too small. I’ve been kicking myself ever since, so today when I saw the red one on the form, I was like “mine.” The sleeves are way short, but I can roll them up, and I can only get the bottom two frogs closed unless I want to wear it open, which is fine by me.

Anyway, the car story.

So, riding high on my antique mall buys, I head home with about a half a tank of gas left. I could probably go until Madison, but there’s a $2.34/unleaded Kwik Trip right at the edge of Columbus, so I go there instead. I exit my car, put in my credit card, then try to open the gas door. And guess what?

It’s locked.

It’s been known to be finicky in the past, but it just wouldn’t budge. Fortunately, there was an attendant on duty (which so few gas stations have these days; get on that, gas stations) and he tried and tried but couldn’t get it. So, after a phone call with Dad, I call Triple-A, and get a chipper woman named Bethany who sounds slightly high but is curious as to why my gas door is acting the way it is. I tell her that I probably have enough gas to get home, so I can take it to a mechanic in the morning, but then she stops me and asks for my make/model/year, and then goes to the Internet because it’s in front of her, to help find a solution. I guess this is what Triple-A people do in their spare time, just like every other working person on the planet. After I fail to find any sort of lever inside the car to open my gas door, she suggests:

“Why don’t you try unlocking all the doors of your car.”

Beep-beep. Beep-beep. And…BAM. It worked. Thank you, Bethany at Triple-A! I had not even thought about that. I knew I had the back doors locked, because I was scared that the door would open and the shelf would fly out, but I didn’t think that would mean anything.

Apparently, in some cars (or at least mine), doors locked = all doors locked, including gas door.

Seriously, I did not know this.

I called Dad on the way home and told him, to which he was like, “oh, that’s news to me” and then proceeded to tell me a completely unrelated story about one time when he was getting gas near the courthouse and locked his keys in the car. Great contribution, Dad.

And that’s how I learned that in order to get the gas door open in the car, I need to have all the doors unlocked.

Lesson learned.

Oh, and BTW, I was watching my interactive map yesterday and in mid-afternoon I had exactly two visitors: one from Northampton, Massachusetts, USA, and the other from Northampton, England, UK. What are the odds?

1

How To Get On My Bad Side On A Road Trip

I like adventures as much as the next person, and nothing says adventure like a road trip. I can never refuse an offer to get up and go somewhere.

But if I’m the one doing the driving (which I normally am), you better follow my rules of the road.

1. Don’t play your own music if/when I’m playing mine.

I don’t really care if you play your own music, but at least have the courtesy to ask, rather than just turn it on to try to overpower my music. And if it’s really bad, I have the right to claim it’s making me tired. Which brings me to number two.

2. If I’m doing all the driving, we are taking breaks when I say so.

People who don’t drive don’t understand how tiring driving  is. Driving is fun but extremely tiring, even if you’re the Energizer Bunny. Which is why you never see him drive. If it means that we have to stop every twenty minutes so that I can stretch or find a bathroom or sit and not be in motion, we’re stopping. Drivers need breaks. And no, you’re not driving my car unless you have a license, insurance, and the ability to get me a better car should you damage mine.

3. If you volunteer to navigate, navigate.

Yeah, I do some research before road trips, but if it’s somewhere I’ve never been before, there’s the possibility I can make a wrong turn somewhere. I have a GPS on my iPhone, and you probably do too. Don’t offer to do it and then fall asleep or sit there doing nothing.

4. If I ask you to navigate, navigate.

Sometimes you just need some direction. If you’re sitting in the passenger seat and my phone is right there, take a look at it and tell me if we’re going in the right direction. And don’t make me ask twice. Which brings me to number five.

5. If I ask you to stop doing something, stop doing it.

This list of activities includes horseplay, making horse noises, sticking your head/face/camera out of the window, having a too loud conversation, arguing/yelling, or just being annoying. Leading up to one of my least favorite things.

6. Never play with the windows.

I don’t care if we’ve been in the car for two hours and you’re bored; you should have brought a book. Putting the windows up and down is annoying enough; at least ask me before going ahead and doing it. Sometimes people don’t like getting a blast of cold air in the face. My parents always used to tell me to leave the door closed in the summer because we’re not paying to air-condition the front yard, and though I hate to admit it, they were right. If you want A/C, I’ll put it on. If you want windows down, we’ll do it that way. But we’re not doing both; it’s harmful enough to the environment as it is, and I don’t need you to make me feel guiltier. If you insist on having the window down, the A/C goes off. And if I ask you to put it back up, I’m not trying to bake you alive, I just want to put the A/C back on.

7. Don’t spill in my car.

Okay, so accidents happen, but my car is pretty new and I’d like to keep this one pretty at least for a little while. Just be careful.

8. Don’t offer seats in my car to people.

This car’s not your car, this car is my car. I operate it, I pay for the gas. If we’re going somewhere and you have a friend who wants to tag along, ask me. Most likely I’ll say yes and I won’t even ask them to pay. But also understand if I say no. Don’t promise someone a ride and then tell me.

9. I am not your personal car service.

I understand if we’re going shopping and you want to go into stores you see, or you have to pick something up, but I’m not going to drop off every single person anywhere they please. If there are a group of people in the car, and we’re heading home, remember that I’m tired and I want to get home too. I don’t care if you want to get home in time to watch the basketball game. If you want me to leave earlier, don’t ask when we’re there, ask me earlier than that. I don’t care if you’re going to be late to meet your friend; I’m not going to risk an accident or a speeding ticket for you. Actually, don’t take a road trip with me and make plans back in town with another friend on the same night.

10. Under no circumstances should you unbuckle your seat belt, open the door, or exit the car until I’m parked and the car is off.

This isn’t just a road-trip-with-me rule; this is a rule everyone should know. You can jump on or off the back of a truck in the Andes, or a bus in Israel, because I’ve done both, but never, ever exit the car until the vehicle is in a fully stopped and off position. You’d think that this was common sense, but I had to learn to tell people this, and I learned the hard way. One of my housemates in college managed to break rules 8, 9, and 10 in a single night. He and I were going to a mixer at Mount Holyoke College, the girls’ school in South Hadley, about 15-20 minutes down the road from Amherst. Before we left, he told me that we’d be giving his friend Norman a ride.

And yes, I believe that is his real name, but I don’t care about this one. Not only did he tell me we were doing this, a) I did not know who Norman was, b) who was going to take Norman back, and c) Norman wasn’t even coming to the house, my housemate had offered for me to pick him up at his place, which was in the middle of nowhere, and he didn’t even give us a decent address or directions.

We finally find him, he gets in the car, and barely says a word to either of us. We drive in relative awkward silence down to Mount Holyoke. I turn into a parking lot, and before I stop the car – in fact, before I even decelerate, I was going at least double-digit miles per hour, I hear a click, his seat belt is off, and without even saying thank you, he jumps out of the car like it’s on fire, slams the door, and takes off running towards the library. Turns out he wasn’t going to the mixer at all, he needed to go study or meet friends or something there and didn’t even have the courtesy to ask me. For some reason, I wasn’t tipped off by the fact that he brought a backpack to a mixer – maybe he kept his wallet in there? Anyway, my housemate starts to do the same, and I grab his knee with my free hand, and yell using his full name, “don’t you dare get out of this car until I am in a parking space and the motor is turned off.”

I’m normally very calm and forgiving, but I spent the next few minutes actually shouting at him while leaning on his knees to keep him from leaving. Since he had a brain – and needed a ride home – he sat and listened to me yell my head off about every single way he fucked this evening up before we even made it inside the mixer. I had half a mind to actually take him right back home, but then I realized that I couldn’t take away his allowance and hey, I wanted to go to the mixer too. But he did apologize, he learned his lesson, and we became closer friends after that. The only reasons I gave him another shot are because he did some really nice things for me, he bought me a full tank of gas even though he didn’t need to, it’s hard to stay angry at someone you have to live with and see every day who could potentially turn the rest of the house against you, and overall he’s a pretty great guy, and I knew that social skills were not part of his expertise.

To this day, when I am driving, if I even hear a click of a seat belt before the car has stopped moving, you are getting yelled at without warning and are in danger of becoming banned from my car.

On that note, let’s go and have some fun!

 

 

 

4

Groove Is in the Car

So, two summers ago, I went on a family trip to Germany. By family, I mean myself, my sister, my dad, and two cousins, because my mom’s ideal vacation is preferably within walking distance of our house (okay, my dad came up with that one), but you get the picture. The first part of the trip involved flying into Frankfurt, spending a day there, then renting a car and driving around Bayern (Bavaria) to see the house where my grandmother was born and the town she and my grandfather lived in as a married couple (which was also his hometown; people didn’t go too far to meet their spouses, kind of like Tinder, only with more actual tinder since they lived in the countryside). Also, to visit the gravestones of our great, great-great, and great-great-great-grandparents, which involved some breaking and entering (but that’s another entry). So it was basically our death tour of southern Germany. We joked that Christians go to Europe on church tours, and we Jews go to Europe on the death tours. We would then get rid of the car in Fuerth, which was incidentally where my aunt was born, and take the train across the border to Prague, Czech Republic for Phase II of the trip, which still managed to venture into death tourism. But more about that in another entry.

We arrived in Frankfurt sometime in the afternoon and checked into our hotel to catch up on sleep, so we could check out and get the rental car first thing in the morning. I’ll point out that I was not as tired as the others, since I decided to pack everything in one large backpack as opposed to a rolling suitcase. A rolling suitcase is better for the back, but – shocker! – Europe is the land of stairs and cobblestone streets, especially in Germany, and I’ll never forget bounding up the stairs out of the metro station in downtown Frankfurt with two weeks’ worth of belongings strapped to my back like nobody’s business, only to realize that I was standing alone on the street level, looking down at everyone else who were trying to lug their suitcases up, step by step; unfortunately, a recurring theme throughout the trip of me waiting at the tops of staircases. But I was probably tired anyway, so I slept.

The next morning, we eat breakfast, during which time my dad and one of my cousins goes to get the rental car. I’m kind of excited; this might be my first chance to drive in a foreign country, as all of us on the trip except one cousin had licenses. After a long, long, long time, they come back with good news and bad news.

First, the bad news: the car is a stick shift, and my dad is the only one of us who knows how to do that.

Then, the good news: since my dad hasn’t driven stick in a long time, my cousin got to laugh at him attempt to figure out how to do it.

This was clearly going to end well.

So, we grab our stuff and troop around the corner to the rental car lot, and load in. That was the easy part. Then came the task of turning the car on and driving it out of the parking lot. We had a couple of backfires and rocky starts, but before any nausea could set in we were off on the road.

And that’s when it got worse.

I don’t know much about driving stick, but apparently there is gear switching involved, and other things, so my cousin told my dad when to shift gears from the passenger seat, while my dad was driving down the open road and attempting to navigate us toward Wurzburg. If you’ve ever driven in Germany, constantly stopping and starting the car on the road is never a good thing. One minute we’d be sailing along, then it would get clunky for the gear shift, then it would settle out again. All the while, my dad is not watching the road as closely as he should, so we have a few close calls and swerves into wrong lanes, and plenty of honking German drivers. Plus, there’s the fact that we’re in a foreign country and we don’t know where we’re going.

Eventually, my dad gets accustomed to the car, but by this time we’re a little off course. We have the voice GPS on, but she’s speaking in German and we can’t figure out how to switch her over to English. Also, it’s getting stuffy in the back, and we need some A/C, so my cousin hits the button, and what comes out isn’t air, but…

“I couldn’t ask for another/I-I-I-I-I/I couldn’t ask for another/I-I-I-I-I/Groove is in the heart…”

And I broke out laughing.

Because when you’re driving down the roads of rural Bavaria at 9:00 in the morning while trying to figure out how to work a stick-shift, the perfect soundtrack is 1990s one-hit wonder “Groove Is In the Heart” by Deee-Lite. It was just such an irreverent moment, and the spontaneous remergence one of the most awkward songs ever really captured the zeitgeist (German word, yes!) of the moment. Not to mention that the song is probably still on the German pop charts.

Sometimes things are upsetting and funny all at the same time; and then that moment hits where the right song comes on.

And of course, I had to awkwardly do hip hop while belted in the middle seat, between my cousin (who was not born when this song was a hit) and my sister (who does not approve of dancing in the car).

Nice to see that song still has relevance.

3

Lights On But Nobody’s Home

Walking home from Chabad earlier tonight, I saw a car parked outside my building with its lights on.

And the motor running.

And the keys in the ignition.

I don’t know why people think that this is a good idea; it wastes gas, and of course, it would be so easy for someone walking by to just break a window (or open the door, as it’s most likely unlocked) and drive away. I looked to my left and my right, and seeing no one. I just stood there and stared at the car, as if I expected the driver to be hiding on the floor to jump out and surprise me. I walked up to it, very close but not touching, and contemplated just getting in and driving away…serves you right, lazy bum who didn’t want to pay for parking because you were only going to be “just a minute” and your high beams are blinding everyone who is trying to walk down the steep hill. At night. When it’s cold. And there’s a frozen lake at the bottom. I should just move it up the street a little, to mess with you. You made it so easy.

Anyway. Decided to go inside instead, up to my nice warm apartment.

Oh, and as I walked in, a tall, friendly-looking Asian guy was walking out. After he left, I watched to see if it was indeed it his car, and it was, and he drove away. Eh, I wasn’t in the mood to fuck up your day anyways.