So Easily Entertained, Laments of the 13%, and Country Music IS Noise Pollution

Those of us in the automotive industry aren’t exactly noted for being paragons of virtue, sad to say.

Last night I realized just how easily entertained I can be, and it’s sort of sad.  Jerry has been complaining about the slight vibration in the front end of his truck since the tires were rotated, so I had to follow him over to the dealership last night so their service department can tell him the same things I told him.  1. You have a 4WD truck.  It’s not going to ride like a car. 2. I personally don’t care much for Dunlop tires- at least not the ones Toyota uses as factory equipment tires.  They are OK if you drive the vehicle every day, but we are talking about a 2010 Tacoma with 9,000 miles on it.  When these tires sit, they cup.  When tires cup, you get vibration.  I had to deal with complaints about Dunlop tires (granted these weren’t the same exact model tires) 20 years ago when they were original equipment on Camrys- and the ones who bitched about them always had low mileage cars that would sit for long periods of time.   Most people aren’t fussy enough to even notice a slight vibration like that in a truck, but Jerry is sensitive enough to smell the fart someone just cut up in Moose Dick, Alaska (which is a hell of a long way from beautiful Central Ohio, for those ill-acquainted with geography.)  He notices anything even slightly off with that truck, even if it is well within the realm of normal tolerance.  I pity the service advisor who’s dealing with him.

Maybe I should not take sadistic enjoyment in tormenting car salesmen, especially when buying a new car is about the furthest thing from my mind, but I couldn’t resist wandering the new car lot as I’m waiting for Jerry to drop off his Tacoma with yet another whiny diatribe about the Dunlop tires.  I’m sure he thinks if he whines enough they’ll give him a free set of Bridgestones of his choice, but I highly, highly doubt it.  They’re not a safety issue or even a wear issue.  You have a bit of a vibration at 70 MPH.  Whoop de doo.

Just buy yourself a new set of tires if you are that damned fussy.  I told you to make them swap them out for Bridgestones before you took delivery of the truck…

Anyway, I didn’t even really get a chance to peruse the first two three-door Yarises- other than to glance and keep on walking because they were automatics- on the lot before a thin, sort of ferret-faced salesman starts chasing me down.  That’s what I get for perusing a new car lot on a weeknight.  The first thing I tell him is that I’m just checking out the new cars while I’m waiting on the old man to drop off his truck and that I’m not looking for a new car.  But of course, he persists, so I ask him if they have any (Scion) XDs or 5 door Yarises with manual transmissions.  Mr. Ferret gives me a sort of a weird look and asks, “You aren’t interested in an automatic?”

Ok, so ferrets are cute.  This guy wasn’t, but you get what I mean.

Hell, no, I think to myself, but then I have to wonder how many of the 13% he has actually encountered, and if he has had the rare opportunity to encounter one of the 13% who happens to be female. So I decide to take it easy on him.

“Sorry, but I only drive manual transmissions.  I won’t buy an automatic, which I know sort of narrows down my choices,” I replied, thinking that might make him give up right there.

It must have been a slow night, because the poor guy was running around all over the lot to see if they had any XDs or 5 door Yarises with manual transmissions.  They didn’t, but he did insist on getting my phone number (I gave the home number that I never answer) and e-mail. I don’t entirely want to piss these guys off because I’ve bought my last 4 new cars there.  Even though I pretty much despise car salesmen, I don’t want to be that much of a bitch.  I’m not interested in a new car right now- especially because Toyota isn’t building the Yaris sedan which is what I already have, and am perfectly OK with- anymore.  The XD is intriguing and even though it is a hatchback, that might cross my mind, but good luck finding one of those with 5 on the floor.

Yes, the manual trans is available, but have fun finding one with it!

I hope that I don’t have to resign to driving a farking Volkswagen just so I can get a sedan with a manual transmission the next time I buy a car.  It’s not that I dislike Volkswagen- as far as performance goes there’s no one like the Germans, and VW’s recent models (especially the Jetta and Passat) are interesting- but they are more expensive, and from what I’ve seen in the past, much less reliable than Toyotas.  Who got the farking idea that people who drive manual transmissions only like hatchbacks?   Who got the idea that everyone who likes a manual transmission can afford a European car, even if it does end up being a Volkswagen?  I know it’s hard to cater to the 13%, and I don’t mind that most of the available vehicles are econoboxes, but dammit, there is a market there!

The Jetta GLI could be fun, but I still wonder- how reliable?

I’m not enthralled with buying any car that isn’t made by Toyota, and I’m not buying an automatic anything, even if it means I drive my current Yaris until I drop dead.  So there.

I’m also wondering who around here is getting such a taste for oat opera.  Unless I put my headphones on, I am accosted to a rather foul auditory garbage dump of twangy tunes that make me think I’ve died and gone to redneck hell.  I try to be polite and use headphones if I want to listen to music outside of the privacy of my own car, because I understand that not everyone wants to hear Jethro Tull’s “Aqualung” cranked up.  It’s a cool song but sort of gross when you think about it.  I know I have unusual tastes in music and don’t aspire to inflict them on others.   But why do others think I want my auditory channels violated by Conway Twitty or Shania Twain?

Please, please spare me from bad country music- and most of it is IMO, incredibly bad- unless you want me to start playing David Allan Coe.

Some Pigs are More Equal, Vertical and Breathing, and Fun With Cars

 The French, God love them, in spite of their penchant toward socialism and love of abysmally designed motor vehicles, have a saying: Plus ça change, plus c’est la méme chose.  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

The difference today is, sadly, that there is still a pro-slavery crowd preaching the morality of forced servitude to the masses.  It is a far more deceptive form of servitude, though.  The preachers of the religion- and it is a religion in which Government is God- of socialism keep telling the masses that we can reach some grand utopia if only we let government have all of our resources…so the government can “redistribute” them.   I can go on and on ranting on that point, but suffice to say that someone has to pay for all the “gimmes” to the entitlement crowd, and it seems that “someone” always ends up being people like me.  It’s just a tad bit grating knowing that all the money I pay out in taxes and insurances goes toward other people getting (for free) things I can’t afford.  If I think about it too much, it really pisses me off.

I can’t stress it enough.  Read  George Orwell’s Animal Farm.  Which pigs are more equal?  Of course, the phrase “more equal” is an oxymoron to begin with, but the political correctness movement has brought us an era in which being some sort of protected minority du jour buys one privileges that the rest of the population is not accorded.   Is it truly in the interest of “equality” to give special scholarships to black students, while white students with better GPAs and more notable achievements are denied, or to hire a person who belongs to a minority group who is less qualified to do a job?  Doesn’t this send the message that ____ group is inferior and can’t achieve anything without someone fudging it for them?

I am all for equal rights, but I despise “affirmative action,” which is simply reverse discrimination.  It’s an attempt to make “some pigs more equal than others.”  There will never be equal rights in this country until or unless there is no preferential treatment given to anyone on the basis of race, religion, gender, disability, national origin, sexual preference, ad nauseam.  No one has equal rights until no one has special rights.

Ok, I’m done with today’s rant on government and society, before I piss myself off too much.

You win some, you lose some.  I do well to remain breathing and vertical.

Speaking of remaining vertical, tomorrow my illustrious son and his buddy are going to go to Cinci to retrieve his car, saving me at least part of the road trip, and I get my car back. I want to go hang out with Dad for awhile but I’m trying to think of creative ways to avoid having dinner at the nursing home.  I’m still having nightmares about that shrivelled up piece of sausage (?) and whatever that dried up film was on the outside of the coffee cup, but there are times when dining is more about being social and polite than it is about pretending to be a frigging gourmet.    Perhaps it is a sad commentary on my life that I am looking forward to driving a Yaris, but I have driven far worse in my life. I’ve owned a plethora of cars in my time- some good, some abysmal, some classic, and some forgettable. Maybe I can remember them all:

1979 Subaru DL- it was completely trashed long before I got it, but memorable because it was my first car, and when I got it there was a behemoth pack of Trojan rubbers in the glove box.

1975 VW Rabbit- this car completely sucked because it was a (rare) carbureted Rabbit – (same powertrain and induction as an old Dodge Omni… those one barrel Solex carbs sucked… and just as depressing to drive) and it had a number of bizarre electrical faults. It would not start if you turned it off at Burger King, for example, which makes no rational sense.

1977 VW Rabbit- ugly as hell but would run like a raped ape because we put the air distributor from a Porsche 944 on it (more air=more fuel on the old mechanical Bosch CIS injection systems)- this was the car I beat the boys with the Novas and Chevelles with the 350 engines and 411 rear ends in the quarter mile.  I know, drag racing is bad, but when you’re 18 and like to teach young punks some simple physics, it was really fun.  Horsepower means nothing unless you have the low end torque to back it up.

1972 VW Super Beetle-my first and last air-cooled VW- had to sell it to the ex to have money to move.  Loved the car, in spite of getting frostbite in my ankles from driving it in winter, but sometimes getting away from an ex is worth the trade-off.

1979 VW Rabbit- not as fast as the ’77 but it was my very first 4 door, and my very first Blaupunkt stereo with 16 speakers and 100 watt power amp.  Led Zeppelin cranked up in this car was awesome. Spending $800 in repairs in one month- brakes, control arms, front shocks, rear shocks, tires and a starter,  was not so awesome.

1990 Chevy Cavalier- worst piece of shit I ever owned- and I bought it new.  The week after I bought it I had to have the hood painted.  The lifters clanged like a diesel’s, and the oil pan drain plug was stripped from the factory. I was glad to see that son of a bitch go.

1983 VW GTI- I could kick myself in the ass for selling this classic. Damn, it would run fine…  But it was black, a 2 door, and the A/C didn’t work.  Plus, at the time I had an infant in a car seat, and that does NOT work with a 2 door that has no A/C.

1988 VW Fox- not magic, not tragic- it had 4 doors and working A/C, but I sold it before I ever had to have the clutch replaced.  Clutch replacement on front wheel drive cars with longitudinal engines is a bitch, and a repair that’s way too expensive for me.

1994 Toyota RN series truck- I loved this truck.  It had 250K on it when I begrudgingly let the old man trade it in on his ’99 Tacoma. The old 22RE engines were virtually indestructible.

1998 Toyota Corolla- It was purple and I loved the color.  But I made the mistake of putting aftermarket aluminum wheels on it and had nine kinds of trouble with them, and then I became enamored of the Celica I saw in the showroom.

2000 Toyota Celica- Another car I could positively smack myself for trading in.  This beastie was fun to drive and fast as hell.  But Steve-o couldn’t fit in the back seat, and the lease was up so I had to trade it in on something.

2005 Scion XA- This car was fun and it had 4 doors and more room in the back seat.  The only reason I traded it was because the lease was up.  I don’t see myself doing leases anymore.

2008 Toyota Yaris- I liked this car too, until I got rear-ended and was paranoid taking it back even after the body damage was repaired- and I was offered a hell of a deal to just buy a new one with more safety features on it.

2010 Toyota Yaris- This is my current ride- exactly like the 2008 only with power everything, cruise and side airbags. Why the hell they don’t make the sedan anymore is beyond me.

In all honesty it is difficult to find a decent car if you’re one of the 13% of American drivers that prefer a manual transmission.  The Europeans offer the best rides for those who like to shift gears themselves- but they’re also the most expensive.  The Japanese do offer manual transmissions in a variety of models, but most of those are base model econoboxes, (my vehicles of choice) so if you like options you’ll likely end up dealer trading for them or special ordering them.  I’ve gotten lucky with most of the cars I’ve bought recently- nobody wants the manuals with all the toys- so I get better deals.

Steve-o found out today that his automotive hypocondriasis was exactly what I thought it was: something stupid.  Steve-o is also a member of the 13%, and he’s also aware that the Europeans have the best offerings for those of us who pass by all the cars on the lot that only have two pedals.  Audis, especially turbo Audis with 150K+, are very temperamental when they have vacuum leaks.  He had an improperly sealed valve cover and a slightly cracked flange leading to one of the vacuum lines. It was miraculously devoid of the catastrophic failures he envisioned, and frankly, I barely noticed the trivial, almost indiscernible miss on cold start before he took it in for repairs.  He would crap himself if he had to fire up Dad’s ancient Mazda van and listen to the lifters clang like a diesel’s until the temp gauge gets at least half way up.  That disturbs me- and I try to be very easy on it when it’s cold- but I admit the play in both the ball joints scares me more than the lifter noise.  I hope to avoid the larger potholes and divots with this thing.  At least I get my car back tomorrow, after I hear his whining about how it hydroplanes in the rain (no shit when you’re going 85) and the wind blows it around. I’ve not heard any whining about the 40+ MPG it gets on the highway though.

I have to wonder what kinds of drugs the artist of this painting was on.  Cats with umbrellas, in the snow?

Clandestine Observations, Weed Whacking While Drunk-and-Stupid, and Hooray for Technology!

I never realized how much more affordable covert surveillance equipment has become in the past few years.  Some of Jerry’s drunk-and-stupids would be positively You Tube gold.  The time he tried to start a fire in the fireplace with gasoline would have been right up there with the stuff you see on World’s Dumbest or 1,000 Ways to Die, only flashpoint doesn’t kill you, (usually) but it does burn off body hair.

Speaking of 1,000 Ways to Die  today I had to explain to some Uncle Dad (ill-educated backwoods redneck) that there’s a reason why one does not install a remote start kit on a vehicle with a manual transmission.   Something about disabling the neutral safety switch (the gadget that keeps you from starting the car unless you have your foot on the clutch) is one of those Not Very Good Ideas.  Just color me ethically cautious, but 20+ years in automotive have made me both cautious and cynical when considering the average person’s ability to understand simple directions, i.e. being 100% sure the car is in neutral when you try to start it without having your foot on the clutch.   If I’m telling you a particular modification is not a good idea, chances are I’ve either tried it (lots of experience in the School of the Burned Hand) or observed the carnage when someone else did.  I spent way too many years of my life in mechanical shops and in close proximity to body shops. 

It  does beg the question why would anyone want a remote start kit (even if you don’t drive a manual transmission car) to begin with.  I don’t want my car running without me in it.  This is Ohio, and winters can get cold, but it does not get cold enough here to warrant letting any modern car run unattended for any length of time.  That’s why vehicle manufacturers came up with all the nice innovations such as computer controlled idle and timing and electronic fuel injection.  The electronic controls make the necessary adjustments to idle, timing and fuel mix to adapt to the ambient temperature, so that puppy is going to start and run even if it’s cold.  Start the bloody thing and take off already, that’s how newer vehicles are designed.  It heats up quicker that way (both the engine and the heater, which gets hot because the cooling system from the engine gets hot) and it saves gasoline.  It’s not like back in the day when you had to play with carburetors and chokes and mechanical distributors and such, only to put the car in gear and have it stall out if you didn’t let it sit and idle and get relatively warm first.

Believe me, I don’t miss carburetion or conventional ignition one bit.  The scary thing is I am old enough to remember both- and know how they (are supposed to) work.  Rube Goldberg had nothing on 1970’s and 1980’s (blecch!) domestic carbureted vehicles’ fuel and emissions systems. It’s a bloody engineering marvel if and when they DO work.  Most of the time they didn’t, especially in the the depth of a wet, cold Ohio winter.  There’s a reason why nobody is still driving their old 1982 Chevette- many reasons, actually, but I don’t think there are very many of those old turds left that still can be driven- even if the floorboards by some Act of God failed to rust through.

I may be one of the last surviving women on the planet who knows how to decipher GM carburetor (and differential, and speedometer gear) charts.  Just because I know how to look up the component parts for these old carburetors in the old GM charts doesn’t mean they are available (most probably aren’t) but it’s a quaint old skill, sort of like using a slide rule, or writing a letter using pen and ink.  The guys who play with vintage/classic cars will understand exactly what I’m talking about, but most people will scratch their heads and wonder what the flying thunder I’m talking about.  Have fun rebuilding that four barrel Rochester for your Chevelle.  There are vintage suppliers who still deal with that old stuff, but as for me, progress is a good thing.  I may be many things, and not all of them lovely, but I am certainly not a technophobe- especially as it applies to the automotive world. I want to see a car that gets 100MPG (if it’s not too dorky- like the Smart Car that has no room but still doesn’t get any better mileage than my 4 door Yaris sedan- or expensive I would probably buy it) and for the most part I like the electronics and gadgetry available today.

However, I don’t need a remote start, even if it were safe to use them on a manual transmission vehicle (and trust me, it’s NOT!)  I really don’t mind being a bit cold for a few minutes while the heater warms up, and there are few things I disdain more than wasting gasoline.

Speaking of wasting gasoline in creative ways, I got to observe yet another drunk-and-stupid adventure last night.  Joy!  I am afraid to look in the back yard.  Jerry found himself a very sweet high-faluting John Deere weed whacker.  Now, I don’t get excited in the least about yard implements.  I don’t like yard work, and I’m doing good to even start a lawn mower or a weed whacker.  But Jerry loves yard work, and he loves the lawn tools, with the passion that middle-aged men have for all things lawn, and he gets even more excited about dangerous gasoline-powered toys when he’s good and besnookered.  After a twelve pack, and after Bob showed him how to put line in this particular weed whacker, Jerry was out to weed whack everything.  I stayed in the house with the dogs.  I am only hoping he steered clear of the tomato plants, the eggplants and the zucchinis.  I will have to go investigate tonight when I get home and can see the carnage in the light of day.  I am hoping he kept his whacking activity limited to the weeds around the sidewalk and the hedges, but redneck + alcohol + gasoline powered lawn toy is bound to equal some sort of mass destruction of plant life and anything else he could reach with the whacker.

I need to get some of the spy camera and micro DVR stuff.  Jerry out running amok with the weed whacker would have been priceless You Tube fodder.