Car-ma!

boomerang

A few days before Christmas, my daughter was in a car wreck. She is fine (no injuries), but unfortunately her car was totalled.

Her narc father pays for her car insurance (which is in his name) because due to her age and a few driving violations when she was younger (including driving without a license), rates for her are astronomical and I can’t afford to put her on my insurance either.

It was raining hard and a truck suddenly cut in front of her, her brakes locked up (she didn’t have ABS brakes), and she hydroplaned into the guardrail. She is fine but was pretty shaken up and it could have been bad!   Her car couldn’t be fixed so it was totaled out. The insurance company said they would pay $3,000 for a new car. She was happy because that meant she could get a better, safer used car.

The check came in her father’s name and he kept delaying and making excuses for not giving her the money for the car, or even taking her car shopping. He told her he had to wait for the check to clear. My daughter felt there was something fishy about his excuses and was starting to think he was lying to her.   She knows he’s not trustworthy, especially when it comes to money. He’s also a world class liar.

Finally, he got back to her.   He said that after bank fees there was only $1700 left, so she’d have to find something for that amount. She was very angry and upset.  She thought he’d already spent the money, and he most likely did, since he was bragging to her about his expensive new phone and other things he’d just bought. Obviously, he used her car insurance money to buy toys for himself.

Fortunately, her fiance was helpful, and also because he knows people in the area, he can get inside scoops on good cars at cheap prices. So she was able to snag a 2007 Mazda in good condition and not too much mileage for about $1300.
The car runs great and so far there don’t appear to be any problems with it.

This is when things turned weird.

The day after she got her new car, her father called her and said his truck’s engine blew out. Unbelievably, the first price the mechanic told him he would have to pay to fix it was…wait for it…$1700. He said okay, he could afford that, it be no problem. He lined up a tow truck for his vehicle and asked my daughter to ride him to the repair shop in her new car, where he would wait.

But on the way to the mechanic, he suddenly got a phone call from the proprietor who apologized for the mistake. The price, he said, would not be $1700, it would be $5,000.
Since $1700 is all he has, now he has to find a car for that amount or less.

Car-ma?

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An AutoZone commercial actually told me what was wrong with my car.

check_engine
I know the watermarks on the black background kind of ruin the effect here, but it still made me scream with laughter when I saw it.

It’s hard to wrap my head around this, but a commercial actually solved a problem I was having.

Or might have.

About two weeks ago, I stupidly left the gas cap on the back of my car while I was filling up my tank and then forgot to screw it back on.  I decided, since there’s a little door over it and some kind of metal flap over the hole, that I didn’t need to go buy a new one.

Everything seemed fine until about 3 days ago, when that blasted “check engine” light came on.   I had flashbacks to when my dying Ford Taurus’s “check engine” light wouldn’t go off for over two years so every year at inspection time I had to go through the unbelievably complicated process of obtaining a waiver from the DMV and spend about $200 or more to get that waiver.

I fretted and fumed and gnawed at the hard keratinized skin on the sides of my fingernails over the sudden appearance of the “check engine” light. I prayed it wasn’t something like the cylinders misfiring, as was the case with the old Taurus I finally sold (that car had 6 cylinders and “ran” on about three of them).  But other than that unnerving engine light, everything seemed fine.   The engine wasn’t bucking or stalling or having trouble getting started in the morning and besides, a full tune up was done just before I bought this car last March (it’s a ’99 Toyota Corolla).

Yesterday on my way home, I heard an AutoZone commercial.  It empathized with me about how traumatizing the “check engine” light can be, and then it told me it could be caused by a missing gas cap.

Hearing that was like finding out that a swollen mole you thought might be cancer is just a garden variety mole with a pimple hiding under it.   Dare I hope?   I rushed over to the nearest AutoZone (there’s one on my corner) and approached a friendly looking staff member behind the counter.

“Is it really true a missing gas cap can cause my check engine light to go on?” I asked the man at the counter.  “Your commercial told me that’s what it could be.   Is it really true?” I continued, excitedly.  He must have thought I was a complete idiot but I didn’t care.  I just wanted my problem resolved and thought he might be my man.

“Yes, it’s true, because without it, oxygen can get into the fuel line and interfere with the engine’s running, ” the smiling (or was it smirking?)  clerk informed me.  Then he presented me with a new gas cap for my car’s model.   It came in a tiny little cardboard box and everything.   I was told I’d have to run the car for about 50-75 miles before I could expect to see the engine light go off.    In a day or so, I’ll let you know if it worked.

 

 

A close call.

broken_wheel
My son took this photo while waiting for the tow truck. Look at the wheel.

Earlier today, my son called me. He told me that while crawling along in slow moving traffic, his car suddenly wouldn’t steer properly. He heard some metallic sounds like something breaking, and suddenly his steering wheel stopped working at all! Fortunately, he reacted quickly, and slammed the car into Park and put the hazards on.

He got out of the car to look under the hood, but he saw someone in another car pointing to his front driver’s side wheel. It was bent sideways. He called a towing service and at the shop they told him his wheel was about to fall off!

He’d been on his way to work, and because he was unable to come in, lost a day’s pay as well as having to shell out some bills for the repairs (AAA is covering the tow). Working as a shift manager in a convenience store, he’s not exactly wealthy.

He could have been really angered by the inconvenience and expense. He could have groused about the lost pay and the fact he has to pass on meeting up with some of his friends tonight. It’s certainly understandable he would be at least a little irritated by all that! I know I would be.

But he was looking at this a different way. He said he felt blessed. I asked him what he meant, and he said, “It could have been so much worse! I could have been driving at 65mph on the Interstate!” My son is an atheist, but he said he felt like some sort of presence, if not actually God, must have been protecting him and made sure he was driving at only 6mph when his wheel began to go.

Thinking about what could have happened to my son was sobering, but how right he is! Something that seems like a huge pain in the butt can actually be God’s way of keeping us safe from something much worse. You just never know.

Sometimes I think my son is wise beyond his years.

Online begging.

gofundme

I’ve always felt put off by the idea of begging for money online, mostly because so many people are so judgmental about it and like to victim-blame and tell people who beg for money online to pull themselves up by their bootstraps or “Get a job, loser!”   Even though I have a “Donate” button on this blog, I’m always hesitant to call attention to it because it seems too much like begging to me.

But I have this problem and using a service like GoFundMe or Paypal seems to be the only way I can solve it.   My 15 year old car is about to die.   I had the transmission rebuilt last year and that ate up my tax return, but it was a good investment because I had a car to drive for another year.  But over the past few months, a whole host of new problems have come up.  I feel like I just keep sinking more money into keeping it running and it’s really starting to get out of hand.  I just had the alternator and battery replaced (which I really couldn’t afford) and was told the oil leak (which I already knew about) is so bad they would have to take the whole engine out to find out where it is.  In the meantime, the car’s drivable but I was warned the leak is dangerous and the car could even catch on fire!  So I can’t use it for anything but getting to and from work, and only maybe for another month or so until tax time.

I should be getting a tax refund, but I don’t think it’s going to be that much (I have no exemptions, ensuring I get the maximum amount).   Due to my low income (like many people today especially in my geographic region, I’m underemployed)  I’m unable to save any money and pretty much live paycheck to paycheck.   I have almost no disposable income.  If you’re wondering why I have Internet, I don’t pay for it.  I’m getting Internet via Wi-Fi and pay my neighbor a $10 courtesy fee to use it.

I’ve been reluctant to trade in the car I have now, because it’s paid off and I don’t have to worry about the burden of monthly payments, which would be  more than I can reasonably afford, especially since any down payment I could put on a new (used) car would not be very much.   I also don’t have good credit because my ex ruined my credit rating, so I probably wouldn’t get financing anyway without a cosigner and I don’t know anyone who could or would cosign.  Asking my family for help is not an option for me.

So I have a problem because there’s no way I can get back and forth to work, or go anywhere, even the store, without a car.    Taking a taxi everywhere is out of the question and there are no nearby bus lines.

I’m not picky about the car I get, as long as it’s reliable.    I do not want to answer the private classifieds (used cars are a lot cheaper when sold by individuals but are usually sold “as is”) because I don’t want to be stuck with something that has unforeseen problems and that can’t be returned.  I looked at the prices of cars from used car lots in my area and they are all more than I can afford, even if I were to get financing.

So my last option is to set up a GoFundMe.   My goal would be $5,000.   I feel like using GoFundMe  to raise money for a car is kind of icky and shameful but what else can I do?    Apparently many people have been able to raise funds this way (and some for more questionable reasons like paying off credit card debts or funding a vacation!).  I’ve always wondered how that works though.  Do rich people with extra cash to burn browse the site picking random people they think have a deserving cause?   Do people actually do that?

The other thing about using GoFundMe, is that you’re required to use your real name.  I’d provide the link (I haven’t set up the account yet), but I don’t want my real name connected with this blog.  Therefore, if you read this blog, feel like you’ve been helped, educated, or entertained by it, and feel like contributing something, you may use my Paypal which is under the Donations tab in the header.  If you can’t contribute, no worries! But I thought it wouldn’t hurt to ask anyway, even though I hate to.   I hope no one minds me asking.   I know sometimes people feel manipulated by such a request.

If you’d like to help, please click this for information about my Paypal:

https://luckyottershaven.com/nuts-and-bolts-general-information/donate-to-the-blog/

Little gifts on a crappy day.

new_geodes
Latest additions to my rock and geode collection.

Life can be surprising. On the whole, today has been a crappy day, but there’s always something to make a bad day more tolerable, if you just pay attention. God doesn’t forget about you even when things seem hopeless and you’re ready to either pull out all your hair or kill someone.

My day started like this. I’m trying to get my car legal but everything about it has been so hard. It failed inspection because of the emissions test. I go through this crap every year. Because I’m off work this week I finally have time to get this shite taken care of, but after everything I need to do is finally done, it’s going to eat up half this week. Cars require more maintenance and cost more than kids, I swear. Especially if you are too poor to buy a new one and are forced to drive an old beater like mine.

Sitting in the repair shop at about 9 AM and feeling put upon and surly, I posted this on my Facebook wall:

So i’m sitting here at the car repair shop trying to get my 13 year old junker fixed so it can pass the emissions inspection…or i can at least get a waiver from the dmv so i’m not driving this pos illegally anymore…gonna spend some time at the library or the rock shop while i wait. Then tomorrow probably going to have to wait around at the dmv all day for the waiver if i still fail inspection. This state just wants to suck money from you any way they can…if i lived in south carolina, florida or tennessee i wouldn’t have to put up with this shit, spend money i don’t have, and waste half my vacation on this. Sorry about all the lower case letters but i’m trying to type this on my phone.

They told me there were 5-6 cars ahead of mine and they probably wouldn’t be able to get to it until late this afternoon and I didn’t want to wait that long, so I decided to start walking home (I had no access to a ride and taxis are way too expensive). The walk home was 5 1/2 miles, in the burning hot sun, along roads with no sidewalks. I will NOT walk back today, but am prepard to walk back there in the morning to get the car early in the morning when it’s cooler (I’ll be sure to wear better shoes instead of the flip flops I wore today).

But it won’t be over. Not anywhere near it. Once I get the car, I have to take it back for a second inspection. If I don’t pass, I can take the second “fail” inspection plus all the receipts for the work I had done (you are required to spend at least $200 to prove you at least tried to get it fixed) to the DMV and stand in line for a waiver so I can drive the car legally. THEN I have to take the waiver to the tag office and tax office (two separate buildings) and pay for the registration and taxes. This crap is going to eat up most of my vacation week.

My court date is August 6th (I was pulled over last month for a expired tags because of the failed inspection) but this week is the only time I have to get all this crap done. I probably won’t have a day to just relax and do other things until Thursday. It really pisses me off because the car is safe to drive, and would pass inspection anywhere else. It’s a waste of time and money in my humble opinion.

But there were a few small things that happened that made this ordeal a little less aggravating and even made me smile. Before I made the decision to walk home from the repair shop, which is in an area with a lot of funky shops and outdoor eateries, I decided to get coffee and a muffin from one of the cafes. I sat down at one of their little outdoor tables, read a book I brought with me, and ate the muffin and drank the coffee, which were both delicious.

I happen to collect rocks and geodes, and across the street was a rock shop. Most of their rocks and geodes are indoors, but some of the less expensive ones are displayed on tables in front of the store or in little fountains. I found a large geode filled with white crystals that kind of spoke to me. The shop wasn’t open yet but an employee was just pulling in. I asked him how much the geode was and he said he thought it was $5. I was shocked such a big, beautiful rock would be that cheap. He said he’d have it held for me and to come back in 15 minutes.

When I returned, the woman in the store told me I’d been quoted the wrong price and it was actually $15. I guess she saw my disappointment because then she smiled and said since $5 was the price given to me that she would sell it to me for that price. I was overjoyed. I selected 3 small colorful stones (the red one in the photo is actually a piece of glass) from one of the outside fountains. So I walked away happy, prepared to trudge the 5 1/2 miles back to my house.

Along the way, I saw a dead bush whose branches intrigued me because of the pattern they made. This is not a black and white photo but looks like one:

branches

About 45 minutes later (when I was about halfway home), I had to stop and rest and refill the water bottle I was carrying. I found a Shell station that had a little sitting area next to it complete with a bench to sit on near the curb. I placed the rocks down on the curb and took the beautiful photo of them you see at the top of this page. When I looked up, I saw something else–a magnolia tree in full bloom, so I decided I needed a couple of pictures of that too:

magnolias1 magnolias2

I walked the rest of the way home thinking about the post I was going to write and suddenly the issue with the car seemed a little less aggravating and overwhelming. I even felt that these little gifts from nature were God’s way of letting me know he was always there no matter what.

ETA: About 15 minutes before the shop closed, I called them and was told they were actually able to FIX the problem and I should be able to pass inspection, but was told to drive about 100 miles first to make sure the engine light doesn’t go back on.

So I got the idea to go back to The Light Center in Black Mountain tomorrow, which will put about 100 miles on the car. I found this place to be very peaceful and healing when I went there last September and wrote this post about it (this blog was exactly one week old!) I’ve been wanting to go back anyway while I’m off. (I don’t think this is incompatible in any way with my Christian faith). If the light doesn’t go back on, then I should pass inspection and will be able to bypass the waiver thing at the DMV and just be able to go get the car registered and that will be the end of it, God be willing.

My dead car.

my_deadcar

So my transmission just died. It was acting up for almost a year and finally gave out this morning when I tried to go forward and the car went nowhere. The only way I could go was in reverse.

My dilemma: do I throw good money after bad to have it fixed/replaced or get a new car? It’s a tough decision.

I don’t want to be locked into monthly payments which are a huge financial burden on someone with my income, nor do I want to buy someone else’s problem. Forget about buying a new car. I know my car. I know its quirks. I’m thinking that if everything else looks okay, it might be worth getting the transmission rebuilt or replaced. I have almost enough for that right now. I could save up the rest over a few weeks.

My car is a 2001 Ford Taurus sedan (yeah I know, lol) but it has an absolutely fantastic sound system that I don’t want to give up…I know that’s probably not a good reason to try to have it fixed but I really don’t want a new car right now. I like this car and I own it free and clear.

I could be set back $1600 at BEST…I already gave them permission to remove the tranny…that alone sets me back $389. I’d be hesitant to tell them to forget it now, unless they tell me it’s going to cost over $2K.

Sometimes I wish I lived in a place where I didn’t need to drive or have a car. Even when your car’s paid off, they’re more expensive than children–what with all the upkeep, oil changes, gas, repairs, car insurance, registration, etc. They’re a never-ending money drain.

My registration expires this month. So I have that to worry about too. It won’t pass inspection because my check engine light is on again. I go through this every year.