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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.

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Greetings from Poland…

…Ohio, where I am spending the night on my way back to Madison. Today was too stressful for words. Except these twenty:

Bye Baltimore! Wait, what…car dead after thirty miles? For real? RIP. Backtrack, new (used) car, nighttime mountain drive, hotel.

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Things I Don’t Like: Car Shopping

Today, I agreed to go look at cars with my mom.

I thought it would be fun.

Even though I just found out I have a 4.0 GPA in my doctoral program, my brain just did not think this through.

I remember when my dad took me to look for a new (used) car. I mean, used car salesmen are a different species than new car salesmen, but they’re still both from the same genus. The first place I looked, the car salesmen acted like complete buffoons. They passed me off to one another like I was going to sleep away camp for the first time and they were the counselors. After driving two cars that I didn’t like, with statistics and car facts being casually tossed in a constant stream in my ear. Okay, more like lobbed. When I went to leave, the guy actually said, “let me take you upfront so I can give you your license and we can all say our goodbyes.” Okay, I get what you were driving at (no pun intended) but just take some hints – I’m not interested, so just give me my license and we’ll call it even. I ended up going to a different place where they were nice to me but not overly nice, and ended up buying the first car I tried.

We were “only going to look at two places.” Two times the fun.

At the first place, we were met by this younger guy who seemed kind. My mom asked all the questions and I just kind of stood there for moral support. His appointment came in, so he tagged out for this old guy with both hair and teeth missing, who had a deep voice – not a pleasant bass, more of a “can I get you a drink of water?” voice. We tested the car, and even though he was a new car salesmen, he still didn’t shut up for the whole drive. We left, since my mom wasn’t thrilled with the car, and went to the next place.

The second place, a Toyota dealership, was actually the same place her previous car had come from, so they knew her there. She even had the card of the guy, and called him to ensure that he was there.

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An Adventure in Snow and Ice

Last night I got an idea for a story to write, so I stayed up writing until 3 AM for no good reason at all, after which I told myself I’d get up at 10 at the latest…yeah, didn’t happen. I was in bed until the afternoon and then on the couch, not doing much, until I got dressed, dragged myself out into the snow to Michelangelo’s for a cappuccino and sandwich around 3:30 (ironically, when it started becoming night again). I decided to head out to do some last-minute shopping before the trip: Marshalls, Walgreens, and Metcalfe’s, for some candles, toothpaste, and last minute sustenance items for tomorrow’s drive back to Baltimore.

Walking back to my car in the dark, I realized that the accumulated snow on my car merited a cleaning, so I figure, no problem, ten minutes. I wipe off the snow, and what greets me is something that I’m completely unprepared for…

ICE.

Not just ordinary ice, thick ice. Coating all the windows, front, back, and side.

I took out my ice scraper and began to…well, scrape the ice away. Seeing as I couldn’t find a single spot in which to stick the scraper end, I bashed it into the windshield hoping I wouldn’t shatter it (that’s not possible…is it?) to make a small crack in the impenetrable wall of ice, and used that to scratch a tiny hole that slowly grew bigger. I did the same on the side and back. A half hour later, I had barely made a dent in the windshield, but decided to go anyway. I got into the car, with about a ten-inch window of visibility towards the front. Ok, I’m just going to have to duck and be extra careful, I said to myself. With the defroster cranked up and the wipers going, the back window was beginning to thaw out and I could roll down the side windows for some extra perception, but the windshield was going to be a problem. I just hoped that I’d make it out and back alive.

My first stop was going to be Metcalfe’s, so I prepared to turn right on Langdon, when I realized…I can’t see a thing out of the passenger side of the car. Well, left turn it is then.

After a few carefully navigated turns, I found myself on Johnson Street, which was slightly more paved than Langdon. At this point, I was starting to feel a pain in my neck from the awkward angle at which I was twisting it to see out the sliver of non-iced windshield. I can’t go on like this much longer, I gotta stop, pull over, and scrape some more. The problem: there was nowhere to pull over and there were other cars on the road as well, making it difficult to change lanes or make any sudden stops.

The heat generated from the car started warming up the bottom of the ice sheet so that if I sat with my head forward, granny-style, I could see the whole road through the thin strip that was slowly getting clearer. Only that hurt my neck even more, so I kept going.

All of a sudden, it got darker. It was then I realized that I had no idea where I was driving, or what road I was on. All I knew is that I was heading east. Then I realized I could barely see in front of me. Were my lights on? I turned my brights on just in case. Wait a minute…had I scraped the snow off my headlights?

Fuck.

I was driving on a dark, country road with an ice-covered windshield and the only light coming from a car that was behind me, shining on either side. This wasn’t good.

However, I was keeping within the lane as best as I could, obeying the speed limit (like I had an option) and remaining on the road without crashing. I saw some lights up ahead – maybe there’s an intersection coming up. At this point, Bonnie Tyler’s “I Need A Hero” came on my iPhone, and with a chorus of dun-dun-da-dun-dun, I was tearing through the wintry road like a crazy person, the ice melting away just enough to get a clear picture of the whole road if I looked forward a little bit. It felt so intrepid, like that daredevil showdown scene in Footloose, only with just myself, a bunch of snow and ice, and no Kevin Bacon.

At the song’s end, I came to a large intersection – Route 15 – where instinct told me to head south. I had no idea how far I had gone – perhaps I was in Columbia County by now or something – but the intersections on this much larger and better-lit road bore names that I didn’t recognize. Just when I felt hopelessly lost, I saw a “Welcome to Madison” sign, and the lights of West Washington in front of me, ensuring my safety. The icy windshield was about half-gone. At a red light, I opened the Maps app on my iPhone. I had taken County Road CV out to just past the airport, where I have to go to pick up my dad tomorrow. Unfortunately, I missed the turn onto West Washington, but took Milwaukee Ave to get me there just as well, arriving at the East Towne Marshalls at about 8:15. I parked and turned off the car.

I’d made it. Through the ice and snow, and dangerously low visibility, I rode it out and got there alive. It would’ve sucked on a National Lampoon level if they were closed…

But they were very much still open, so I did some shopping, and then made my two more predetermined stops before getting home. I was about eighty dollars poorer, but my windshield was almost completely clear and I felt so alive.

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Thoughts On My Car

Today, I took my car in to the garage on W. Alabama St for an oil change. I was about 1000 miles overdue for one but at least it’ll be done in an hour or so. Until then, I’m having late breakfast/early lunch here at River Oaks Coffee House – egg salad sandwich and iced coffee, a meal that is on my like list. I decided to take a break from the laptop and read (or type a blog post from my phone, but same idea) to take a break from staring into BuzzFeed and Facebook statuses all day.

My car is very special to me. At times, it is my best friend. I know it sounds weird, but my car and I are in a committed relationship.

My first car was handed down to me by my sister, who had to give it up when she went to college, and handed down to her by our aunt and uncle. It was a gigantic puke-brown 1994 Toyota that we called Mighty Big Vehicle because the license plate started with MBV. It was…mighty big, and very much an old person’s car. It was clunky and chunky and hard to maneuver into a parking spot. It briefly became my sister’s again when I left for college, but when she graduated, I transferred up to UMass and she traded up for a new car so the car transferred to me. It was all going pretty well until the end of first semester, sophomore year, when stupid me was trying to maneuver it out of the snow and unwittingly set the engine on fire in my parking lot, in full view of my house and those of several frats and sororities. I lost my shit and panicked big time (well, so would you if your car was on fire) and cried, screamed and yelled while up to my waist in snow. Oh and like fifty people I knew and even more that I didn’t know watched. The fire department came and hosed it off but I was way too far gone to function. I remember my landlord hugging me very tightly, yelling at my RA’s parents who showed up randomly for a visit, and then going to Rabbi Ruderman’s house for dinner with his family. It happened at about six in the evening, so my unstoppable and awesome dad flew up and got to town before midnight – he was planning on coming up anyway to help me pack and move out for the winter the next week but he came up immediately. Add that to the list of reasons I like my dad. I was very lucky and lost very little in the fire: my laptop was in my room, my phone was in my pocket, and my wallet escaped only lightly singed. I had a book on the seat which got ruined, and my backpack had a big hole in the bottom, and an empty plastic bottle was now fused to a strap. Strangely, I had two small stuffed animals – bumblebees, one purple and one red – that survived in the backpack unharmed. They were also in my pocket when I passed my driver’s test, so now they were officially up for canonization by my standards, bestowing upon them the name of “Lucky Bugs” and they will forever live in whatever backpack I am using. They’re actually with me right now. I lost my iPod in the fire, but that turned out to be a life-changing event, so I guess you could say that everything does happen for a reason. The worst part was that word had spread around and now everyone knew, and I was getting calls and texts about it. I’d like to think that I lived it down but every so often someone would mention it, usually in conversation while drunk. The best part was that some people actually thought it was planned, because it was right before finals week and was indeed quite a spectacle to be seen. That’s one way to break up the end of semester stress.

Anyways, I got back to Baltimore and on new years day 2008 I found the love of my life, a used 2000 Subaru Outback in a particularly unusual shade of olive green. It was the third car I tried and from the moment I got behind the wheel for a test drive I knew it was mine, sort of like Ollivander’s in Harry Potter. I didn’t care that it was used by some guy in Virginia…now it was MINE. The title is in my name, and I own it. The newest automobile addition to my family, and the first that is solely mine. My dad even asked me if I wanted a new car for graduation, but I said no and ended up going to Ecuador for a month instead, which was way better. It does not have a name or gender, because all my friends who have gotten that level of intimate with their cars have also seen their mobile companions die in horrible ways, and since I’ve made it this far (over 160000 miles) I think it’ll stay unnamed, just “my car.”

My car has scratches and scrapes and is usually dirty inside and out. It’s been in snow and sand, and hit more curbs than you can shake a stick at. (Seriously. Curbs are evil.) It has been driven by me, my mom, my dad, Dan, and probably Echo in a week or two. My sister has been banned from the driver’s seat since getting it into an accident the first time she borrowed it. When I lived in Israel and was asked who or what I missed the most, it was always the answer because a) I love driving the open road and b) unlike my people family, it can’t buy a ticket on a major airline. It has an unhealthy habit of enjoying parking tickets as a snack, but we’re working to kick the habit. It is very well traveled, having been to Maryland, Virginia, DC, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, Delaware, New Jersey, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Vermont, New Hampshire, North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Tennessee, Alabama, Mississippi, Arkansas, Louisiana, and Texas, and this summer it will hopefully see Oklahoma, Kansas, Missouri, Iowa, and Wisconsin for the first time, making it more traveled than most Americans.

Most importantly, it has gotten me safely from point A to point B more times than I know and for that I’m grateful.