Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Cars are the devil.

I thought I might update on my recent car woes. Since I haven't had much drama in my life recently, I gotta create it where I can!

First, a bit of back-history. In the last couple of months, I have spent a lot of money on my car. First, brakes. This was normal, it was time to get my brake pads replaced anyway, so that was no big deal. $200 or so. A few weeks later, I was driving home from work when I realized that my car wasn't moving when I stepped on the gas. It seemed like it was thinking about it for a few seconds before deciding "Oh, ok. I'll go." Then... the check engine light came on. So, I brought the car in to be fixed, total was about $600 or so... and I thought I was done with it. Nope.

In the next few weeks, I noticed the air conditioning wasn't working like it should. And the check engine light came on. I brought it in, got it fixed, another $1000. Yuck. But, I figured as long as that is it, I'm still ok. Hah! A week later, I noticed the 'check engine light' come back on. It only stayed on for a day before it turned off again. "I guess that's nothing to worry about..." I thought to myself.

Then, about 2 weeks later, just when it started getting cold, I noticed my heat wasn't working as it should. It was fine as long as my car was moving, but if it was stopped at a light or in traffic, it blew cold air. I thought I would wait to fix this until after christmas, I could live with the frigid airs of Florida for a little while.

Next problem - a week ago this past Monday, I drove over to my friends Sam and Nick's house. We had a jolly 'ol time eating pizza and having girl talk. I left around 8:30 thinking I would get home nice and early and go to bed at a reasonable hour. I was driving for about 3 minutes when I noticed that my car was veering hard to the left. As long as I kept the wheel turned to the right to compensate, I could still drive. I thought something must have happened to my alignment or something. I figured I would bring it into the mechanics tomorrow morning before work. I drove a couple more minutes and got onto the highway. Suddenly, my car started making a very loud bumping noise and was behaving erratically. I pulled to the shoulder as soon as I was able and put on my emergencies. Turns out, I had a flat. And not just ANY flat. It was the mac-daddy of all flats. It almost looked like my tire had exploded!

I called the number for the highway people who will help stranded motorists. I initially thought they were called the Road Warriors, but I later learned that they are actually the Road Rangers. (I probably sounded pretty foolish when I called asking for the Road Warriors... good thing they didn't send swordsmen on horses to slay my car). I told them where I was located, and they said they would send someone out to assist me. I was pretty nervous waiting inside my car on a highway. I've heard of cars or trucks driving past a stopped vehicle, and moving a bit into the shoulder and hitting the car that was pulled over.

After I had been waiting for about 10 minutes, I saw a cop pull up behind me. I was relieved for that! I figured with the flashing lights of a police car, people would be much more careful driving past me. I explained to him what had happened, and that I was waiting for the "Road Warriors" to come and fix my tire. (He did not correct my use of "Road Warriors", but he probably snickered inwardly to himself at my ignorance!) He told me that he would wait in his car behind me until they came, and that I should just sit in my car and let the heat run to stay warm. Hah, I wish! Only cold air was blowing, so I just left the car off to save gas.

I was waiting about 45 minutes to an hour before another cop pulled up next to the first cop. They talked for a short while, and then both walked back up to my car. When they got up to my car, I opened the window and was VERY tempted to ask, "What seems to be the problem, officers?" but I restrained myself. Now, I don't remember their names, but so I don't have to say "cop number 1" and "cop number 2", I'll call the first cop "Frank" and the second cop "Dan".

Officer Frank spoke first. "If I knew they were just sending a trooper to change your tire, I would have changed it! " he said accusingly. He seemed a little hurt, as if I didn't think he could change it by himself.

"No, really, I called for the road warriors! I thought they were coming!" I gave him a little smile, as if somehow that would make him feel better. I do have VERY powerful smiles, after all. Officer Dan explained "I think the Road Rangers" (This is where I learned of my mistake) "stop working after 9:30, so they just sent a trooper. We can get this changed, in a jiffy, don't worry."

I got out of the car and opened the trunk to get out my donut. They struggled a bit getting my exploded tire off, but they did manage. When they put the donut on, they noticed it needed quite a bit of air to be safe. "We need air for your spare!" officer Frank joked. Officer Dan shrugged his shoulders and said he didn't have an air compressor with him. The officer Frank looked proud when he said that he DID have one in his car. He looked at me knowingly, as if to point out that everything would have gone quickly and smoothly if I just asked him to change the tire in the first place. Come on, like I knew!

They went out to get it, and when they brought it back he asked me to plug it into my cigarette lighter. I did this and they bent down to fill my tire. The switch flipped on... but nothing. Confused, they moved one of the cop cars next to mine to use the cigarette lighter in that one, just in case there was a problem with mine. Still nothing. Well, I wouldn't say nothing. I could feel the heat coming from the window of his car, and it felt GREAT considering that I had been shivering in my car for about an hour.

I was just about feeling like I would never get off that darn road. I looked down to my phone to send out a quick text message saying just that, and when I looked back up I saw that the officer Frank had taken apart the charger part of the compressor. I was pretty impressed that he knew what he was doing, and that he thought he could fix it that way. He was fiddling around with the tiny springs and other pieces inside the charger, and then I heard "oops!" from officer Frank. I looked questioningly at officer Dan, and he told me that one of the tiny springs had dropped to the street. They shined their flashlights on the ground, trying to find it, but I didn't have much hope. I glanced at the street from inside my icebox, and I thought I saw something glint in the street. "Is that it?" I asked, pointing from inside the car. I opened my door and reached under the cop car and picked up the spring.

"WOW!" they both marveled. "What amazing eyes you have! How did you see it from all the way over there?" I basked for a while in the admiration and said "Oh, I just saw something sparkle." They smiled at me and got back to work messing around with the tiny pieces. Then... he dropped it again. "Shoot! See if you can see another sparkle!" But before I had the chance to use my awesome sparkle powers, they found it themselves.

By now, I was getting pretty frustrated at how long this was taking. I was grateful that they were going through so much trouble to help a stranded motorist, but I was tired, and cold, and I wanted to go home! Finally, officer Frank realized that a fuse must have been missing. "I think I know where it went," he said, "My son was asking me for a fuse the other day for his guitar... I think he probably figured I never use this and took it."

"Tell your son I am very mad at him!" I said. Officer Dan turned towards the road and looked at all the cars driving by. "I bet they are all saying, 'How many cops does it take to change a tire!'" he joked. I laughed appreciatively.

Officer Frank thought that the only thing they could do would be to drive the tire to the nearest gas station and fill it up, then bring it back with them. This sounded like it would take a while. "Can't I just take one of your tires?" I asked. He laughed... he must have thought I was joking.

Officer Dan suggested that he call his girlfriend to bring his air compressor from home. "Well, if you do that, I am getting out of here fast!" said officer Frank, walking back towards his car with his broken air compressor.

"Is he afraid of your girlfriend?" I asked officer Dan. "You have no idea!" he laughed. I pondered for a while over what that could possibly have meant; however, before I could ask for more information, officer Frank walked back up to my car to wish me luck. I thanked him for his help before he left.

After another 10 or so minutes, officer Dan's arrived. She never left her car, so I didn't have the chance to see what was so scary about her, but if she brought a working air compressor I DIDN'T CARE! Officer Dan walked back to my car with his compressor and got to work. I heard the noise of air blowing. "Success!" I thought. Then I heard "hmmmm...." coming from officer Dan's general direction.

"Was that a good hmmmm?" I asked. He shook his head. "Unfortunately I can only get this filled to about 40 pounds. This tire takes 60. You are going to have to drive up to the next exit and go to a gas station to fill the rest of this up." Drat, I thought this was done! "Ok... well, thank you so much for all your help!" He nodded (I imagine if he would have been wearing a hat, he would have tipped it) and walked back towards his girlfriends car.

Initially, the lazy part of me thought I would just take my chances with the deflated tire. I mean, 40 pounds is still pretty good... I could probably make it! I really didn't want to get out of my car and go back out into the cold any more than I had to. But I decided I didn't want to take the chance that my spare would pop. And I did have half an hour still to drive...

I managed to find the gas station with no problem, and filled up the tire with only a bit of difficulty. Then I finally headed home. A drive that should have taken 30 minutes ended up taking about 3 hours of my life away! But, I made it home, and planned to wake up early to bring the car in to change the tire.

The next morning, I brought the car to the mechanic and told them about the tire. I figured since I was there, I would have them check out the heat problem, and check into why my check engine light went on for a few hours 2 weeks back.

I was waiting around for my ride to work when the mechanic came inside to show me my tires. "Yep, I think I see what happened here. See your tires? They are all cracking on the sides. I don't know if it is from age or what, but you're going to need to get them all changed." "Greeeaaaat..." I thought. "This is going to be pricey." But, I told him to go ahead and change them all.

My ride came and I got to work, and a couple of hours later I got a call from the car place. "Well, we found out that your heat isn't working because there is a problem with your temperature gauge. And your temperature gauge went bad because whoever changed your hoses last time didn't do a complete coolant flush, and all the impurities built up and caused the inside of your water pump to rust and corrode. You will have to change the water pump otherwise it will just cause the temperature gauge to go bad again." OK, I have that in quotes, but that isn't exactly what was said. I am not as knowledgeable in cars as I would like to be... and mostly what I heard was "blah blah blah blah you are putting my kids through college, thanks! blah blah blah".

I felt sick waiting for what came next... what this was all going to cost me. "This is going to run you about $1050 altogether." I let a slow whistle out. "Ok... I guess if it needs to get done, it needs to get done..." I said slowly. "He thanked me (a bit too enthusiastically, I think!) and said he would call me when it was ready.

Cut to the end of the day, I was dropped off again at the mechanic. I picked up my car and handed them my credit card, hoping that this was the last time I would see them in a while. I drove home, happy about the heat I felt coming out of the vents. I noticed a strange smell shortly after I was driving, but I figured it was just the smell of new coolant, and that it would fade. Then, when I was about 5 minutes from home, I saw white smoke coming out of my hood. "Nooooooo!" I cried, banging the steering wheel. The car place closed at 6, and it was 6:15, but I figured I'd try to reach them anyway. I did manage to reach someone, and he told me to just come in the next morning. They figured it was probably just a fluid that splashed on the engine and it was burning off, but they wanted to check just to be sure. I prayed for that to be right.

The next morning I woke up bright and early (again) to take the car in. It's a half hour drive to the mechanic from my home, and it was FREEZING outside. I was very happy that I had gotten my heat fixed. 10 minutes into the drive, the heat hadn't kicked in yet. I also noticed that the temperature gauge hadn't gotten above the C (the same spot it was at when I started the car). I did see that when I was stopped at the light, it started to creep up, but as soon as I started driving it was back to the C. By the end of the half hour drive, the heat still hadn't kicked in, which was definitely not normal. Even when my heat was broken, it kicked in by the 10 minute mark as long as I was in motion. I did notice that the heat seemed to get warmer at the stop lights, but I lost it as soon as I started moving. That was the opposite problem I had yesterday! The good thing was that there was no smoke or smell, but the bad thing was that I just spent a thousand dollars to get the heat fixed (and tires, I know). I told the guy what I noticed, and they said they would check it out.

I kept my fingers crossed the entire day at work. I called the mechanic at around 1 pm to see if they found anything. "Actually, the guy that was working on your car can not recreate your problem. He says the heat is working fine." "Well, did he try it when the car was in motion? I think it works when you are stopped!" I asked. "Yes, he took it out for a drive, and he said it was very hot, but he'll try it again."

When work was over and I got back to the mechanic, they told me they didn't find anything wrong. They said to try driving it again and if there was still a problem, to give them a call.

I hoped that this morning was just a fluke... but when I was driving, I again noticed inconsistencies with my heat. Sometimes it seemed hot when I was idle, sometimes it seemed cool. Sometimes it seemed hot when I started going again, then it cooled down again. The temperature gauge stayed at the C when I was driving, and creeped to a normal temperature when I was stopped in traffic... but as soon as I was driving again it went back down pretty quickly.

Ugh. I called the car place the next morning and told them I would bring it in on Saturday. I decided I should be there to make sure it got fixed. I suffered in the cold for a couple of days, and when Saturday rolled around, I got to the mechanics around 9. "Hi, remember me? You guys fixed my heat earlier this week... and it's still not working. The temperature stays at C unless I am stopped, and it creeps up again." He said "hmmm, that sounds like a stuck temperature gauge. That would explain your problem with the heat, and even the check engine light if there is a sensor problem. Did you tell the guys this before, or did you just notice it?" I didn't feel like screaming, so I just said "Well, I did tell him, but maybe he misunderstood."

"Well, we'll take a look!" he smiled.

After waiting around for 3 hours, they finally gave me back the keys. "It was the temperature gauge and the sensor," he told me, "you shouldn't notice any problems now." Hallelujah!

And now cut to today. I have not had any problems since Saturday, so I think this car craziness is finally over! My wallet is a lot lighter, but at least I have heat and tires! Thank goodness this is over, because I'm pretty sure I couldn't write another word about my car.

The end!

Sunday, December 5, 2010

The Rants of a Sleep Talker

I told myself that I would attempt to write at least one blog entry a week. Since the last one was last Sunday, I guess I am due!

Unfortunately, I did not have many adventures last week. I did go out for a friends birthday last night however, and it was tons of fun. We went to a restaurant called the "Oyster Bar" first, and the food LOOKED delicious. I did not try it, as I had eaten not too long before getting there, but the Pepsi was to die for. After that, we went to a really cool little bar called "Independent". Wow, what a neat place! It was very tiny, and it smelled of Cloves when I walked in. They had all kinds of obscure beer signs all over the wall, and had a fantastic raspberry flavored beer that I can't remember the name to. I only had a sip, as I was going to be driving home, but I can't wait to find out the name of that beer to try again. Next, we went to another bar called "The Garden" which was even more interesting than the previous one! The outside seating part of the bar had giant plants and trees everywhere, which almost made you feel as though you were sitting in someones garden. The inside was noisy and dark with club music playing so loud it vibrated your brain. There were couches arranged in corners where you might sit with friends and try to have a conversation (which would probably only have been possible if you could read lips). I preferred sitting in the outside garden area, and that is where we spent the remainder of the night. Lots of fun was had by all!

Ok, so by now you are wondering about the title of this post. Or maybe you didn't notice it. If you did not notice it, SHAME on you! Read every word I write and SAVOR it!

Moving on, let me explain. I have always known that I talk in my sleep. When I roomed with people in college, they would tell me things that I said, and I have occasionally woken myself up at night because I was talking. Well - not too long ago, I purchased an app for my phone which would allow me to record anything that happened at night. The recorder is sound-activated, so it only turns on if there is speaking or another loud noise. The other night, I decided to use the app (I hadn't used in a while because usually I only get me muttering a little, or moving around, or I get nothing at all.) But I had a very vocal night this time, and my voice was extremely clear (I must have been laying very close to the recorder). What I heard on it was too amusing not to share. So here it is! Enjoy!

1:13 am - "hmmm... What'd she say?"

2:07 am - "HEY!"

4:20 am - "So throw it in the trash, for them? Or do you still want to keep that? The garbage."

5:49 am - "I'm not Lisa!"

6:31 am - "Hahaha! Scary!"

6:40 am - "Don't do it."

6:47 am - "Do you want me to start getting you the big carrots and you can cut them up? You think those will last longer?"

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Let's try this blog thing again...

Well, it has been quite a long time since I wrote a blog post. Over a year since I wrote a real one! For shame, Karen. Technically, I am not 'traveling' anymore... but I'm going to keep this blog anyway. I did 'travel' to Florida last February, when I moved from New Jersey. And I 'travel' to work every weekday... but enough excuses! I am keeping the name, whether it makes sense or not!

What have I been up to in the past year? Well, I after 3 months of looking, I did find a job as a research associate in a surgery center. I really like the job, and I get along extremely well with my co-workers. I moved into my own apartment in July, and I love it. I have a fantastic view of the lake (it's really more of a large pond), and it's pretty big for just one person. I have been having a bit of trouble with a little nuisance called the 'ghost ant'. I had been fighting them for weeks with a product called "Terro Ant Baits" (they seem to LOVE that) and a couple weeks ago, I thought they were gone for good! I couldn't find a single one anywhere. But then last Saturday, I saw a couple in my bathroom. Or rather, I saw about 10. I had an ant bait left over, so I opened it up and put it on my sink. I went back to look at it a few hours later, and the thing was SWARMING with them. It was pretty gross. Even when I thought I had a bad problem last time, I never saw this many in one place before!

If you are interested in getting an idea... though this photo doesn't even give the problem justice! There were MANY more than you can see on this picture.

What is it with me and ants? At my first apartment, I had those flying ants that came in through my sliding balcony door, where the wood had rotted away. In my second apartment, I had those little black biting ants that just loved crawling around on the carpet in my office and biting my legs. And here, I have ghost ants. I keep my place clean! I am not supposed to have ants!

Hmmm, what else... well, rather than write EVERYTHING that I've been up to since I moved to Florida (I don't really want to write a years worth of posts) I will just start from last weekend.

I have always wanted to volunteer for Habitat for Humanity, and on Saturday (Nov 20), I finally had the chance! I had to wake up pretty early to be there at 8am, but even though I woke up later than I wanted to, I managed to make it there on time. For some crazy reason, there is no traffic that early on Saturday mornings. Go figure.

Anyway, when I got there, I signed in and they talked to us a bit about what Habitat for Humanity was. Contrary to what I had previously assumed, Habitat for Humanity is not really a 'charity' in the sense that they give away houses for free to people with nowhere to live. What they actually do is offer a needy individual (who meets the qualifications) a 30-year interest-free loan on the house. The person (or persons) who are buying the house are also required to do something like 750 volunteer hours with Habitat before they are allowed to move in.

So on this particular day, there was a lot of siding work to do. We were put into groups and we worked together with dangerous power tools and ladders and hammers and nails. As far as I know, no one cut off a finger, but I think someone hammered their hand instead of a nail. Oh wait, that was me. Hah, something slipped when I was doing my thing, and I got a nice little bruise on my hand, but really, nothing to write home about. Even though... I guess that is what I'm doing now!

The group I was in was really fun - but one of the women working in it seemed a bit ill... she kept coughing even while insisting that she was fine. (This will be relevant later in the post). We worked like this from around 8:30am to 2:30pm, with a half hour for lunch. By the end of the day, I was completely beat, and just wanted to get home to take off my shoes and relax my feet. Building houses is HARD work! I can't imagine having to do that every day for my job... especially in this Florida heat. This was November, so I probably would have left WELL before 2:30 if I had volunteered in the summer. But, it was a great experience, and I would love to do it again. Maybe in January, when it's a bit cooler.

So I got home, and decided that I didn't want to go anywhere else that day - I just wanted to relax... I think ended up going to bed at around 9:30. The next morning, I woke up with a headache. One of those headaches that end up following you throughout the day. And as the day progressed, I noticed a bit of a scratch in my throught. "Great." I thought. "I probably caught whatever cold that woman had." I hoped that I would have it out of my system by Thursday, (Thanksgiving!) when I was supposed to volunteer to serve food at a shelter for the homeless. Unfortunately, it just got worse and worse. I went into work on Monday, and felt awful. It was only a partial day, and we had the rest of the week off, so I was thrilled when I got home and could take a nap. I woke up from my nap feeling even worse. It took another day before I realized what I actually had. The flu. The FLU! I haven't had a flu since I was in grade school! I always scoffed the flu shot as pointless, because I *never* get the flu! Hah, little did I know that all it took was volunteering at a charity to get me sick.

Anyway, I don't really have any other interesting news since then. I was pretty much laid up my entire week off. I am just really feeling better today... still have a bit of a cough but nothing else.

I was so hoping to have many fascinating adventures on this week off that I could write about! I suppose I could tell you about how bored I was sitting at home, but that would likely be as interesting to you as reading a Facebook status update detailing what I ate for lunch today. (It was grilled cheese).

So anyway, that is all for now. Hopefully I will keep this up. I feel a bit rusty in my writing... I actually started this entry last week, but my sickness kept me from finishing it. And trying to write an entry that was postponed for a week is not as easy as writing one that was fresh in your mind! I was tempted to just forget this one and start anew when I had more news... but I figured that would be likely to start a vicious circle of me half=writing all my entries, and never getting one published.

Hasta, until I think of something else to say!

Tuesday, February 23, 2010


I did tell some people that I was going to start this blog up again when I moved to Florida. At this time I haven't really had much of a chance to get started on that... but I do plan to get some kind of blog up and I will keep you posted!

No news yet on the job front, and it's 75 degrees here in Florida! I think that is all you need to know right now.