Wednesday, July 14, 2010

The Return of Car Karma

My poor car karma is legendary – or perhaps more accurately, notorious. I've had a good run of it though lately, through no skill of my own, I assure you (and here I'm choosing not to include my mother's past unfortunate experiences with my Civic).

By my poor car karma returned in early June when I was rear-ended while passing through Manyunk, PA en route to spend the day with my grandmother. I'd stopped for the light at Green Lane when WHOMP! A car slammed into the back of mine. Apparently, there had been a bee in the car with the young girl driving it (without license or updated insurance card) and she "freaked out." Oy. Vey.

Let me take a moment here to say that you should pray never to be involved in an accident in Pennsylvania. Of course, you should pray never to be in an accident period, but Pennsyltucky turns the already difficult process into a nightmare. Apparently, the new law states that cops do not come to the scene of an accident unless the auto damage is such that a vehicle is undriveable or there are injuries. One must visit their local precinct the next day and fill out a police report. Except if you happen to be from out-of-state. Then you're supposed to call in to the precinct where the accident occurred. Except no one has told this to the precincts, because when I called in, I got an enormous run around where I was bumped from precinct to town hall to 911 operator and back to the precinct. This included a long, useless conversation with a new 911 operator who took the whole report over the phone with the beep beep of the 911 mechanism sounding the whole time only to be told by a new supervisor at its completion that this was completely the wrong office to take the report and I should call the local precinct and do it all over again. The officer then hung up on me. I'll leave you to guess what I said then.

Anyways, once I'd stopped shaking, I looked at my back bumper and was glad I'd bitten the bullet and bought a small SUV. To the naked, untrained eye there was limited damage but once the insurance assessor and the auto body shop got a look at it, more extensive repairs were determined. So my CR-V has been in the shop since last Tuesday and I've been driving a Jeep Liberty rental. It was a cross between that and a Kia Spectra and as they were offered at the same price, I took the Jeep.

I hate this car.

First of all, for a good-sized small SUV, it has small seats. The center console bulges into the driver's leg space and the space is narrow enough that the inner door handle and seat belt buckle press their images into my hips. Now, I admit, there's a lot of me to accommodate, but this is a little ridiculous. There's no cruise control either. A year ago, this wouldn't have bothered me as I'd never had cruise control in my life, but I've gotten used to it in my CR-V. And the Jeep is a noticeably heavier car; I'm finding it requires constant concentration. If I look down at the radio or the a/c control for a second, it drifts and if I zone out during for the smallest moment, suddenly I'm doing 80+. Despite my (OK, well-earned) heavy foot reputation, this is faster than I want to go. There's the position of things. When I glance down at the dash, the first thing I see is the RPM counter. To check the speedometer, I must look left. So there's maybe a 2 second disconnect before my brain registers that the speedometer is not where is should be and then tells my eyes to glance left. During this 2 second delay, while my attention is off the road, the car drifts. That's when I also realize that somehow I'm doing 85 mph. Also, it's a hatchback so I have to step back from the trunk after opening it to avoid being smacked in the head by the dang door.

Then there are the little things. Look, up till last year, all I knew was the one-armed bandit, roll-up window mechanism, but I got spoiled in that one year. The driver's side window goes down with one click but not up. And the lack of cruise control really bugs me. This is a big, expensive car and yet, no cruise control? It has an automatic function on the lights, with is nifty; you turn them on auto and leave it there. But when it's only raining, I can't tell if they're on or not, which is the law in New Jersey. With the constricted nature of the seats, I can't even reach into the back seat for anything. No sky hooks either, which makes getting in and out of the Jeep interesting with its height, heavy doors, and no extra loading ledge. There's only two cup holders (yes Dad that does matter), which are weirdly placed, and the a/c takes nearly a full minute to turn on, much less cool off the cab. It's a real pain in the donkey to park too; judging the space difference is dicey and I'm frequently hanging 1 or 2 feet out of the space for fear of bumping the front end.

Is there anything I like about it? Sure.

Um…hmmm…lemme think.

OK – it has interval wipers with gradations, not just one interval and then you have to go full throttle. I had that in my Geo Prism and really missed it when I transferred to Hondas. The gear shift is back in the center console where it belongs – getting used to the CR-V's on dash gear shift placement was a challenge, let me tell you. The engine is big. No, I don't know how big. Whatdya think this is, Top Gear (love you guys!)? But it's big and lugs along unless I push the accelerator to get it to downshift and speed up already, dang it. It's actually on the quiet size despite its size and does a decent pick up when I downshift without the resisting noises my CR-V sometimes blesses me with. Altogether, it's definitely a much quieter ride, offset by the one thing that's really makes the Jeep bearable.

Satellite radio.

Took me two days to realize I had it, but it's been pumping ever since. I've got octane rock, alternative rock, and coffeehouse rock on constant play with country (yes, country, deal with it), 40s on 40s and classical on the other presets. No commercials, no ridiculous DJ shenanigans, no multi-plays of the same 3 or 4 Boss songs, or Zepplin or Floyd or the Stones or AC/DC just to get to one Muse or Airborne Toxic Event, or Kaiser Chiefs or Hailstorm, or any other off-the- Billboard-list alternative rock bands that I'm enjoying. It does peter out under overhangs and overpasses but those are momentary losses and after years of DirecTV snafus, I'm a duck –it just rolls off my back.

It's a good thing I found the radio too, because I just found out that the auto body shop (Midland Park Auto Body; terrific guys doing terrific work) found more damage to my car as they were reattaching the door and it'll take at least another day. Frankly, I'm expecting to go through the weekend with this puppy, which will include a trip to PA this Saturday.

At least the tunes will be cranking. Pray for good car karma.

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