Repairs are costly. Isn’t that the truth? Nothing in life is cheap, but when it comes to car troubles, you can feel the pain coming as soon as the car starts to struggle through its chugs. You know a big bill is on the horizon, and there’s nothing you can do about it except take it and get it done as soon as possible. There’s the stress from getting it repaired, but also the added financial stress, the mystery of it all, because who knows what it’s going to cost? The labor costs could end up amounting to anything, and the parts are insufferably expensive on their own, too. Buying a new alternator is about $400 on its own.
So when it comes time to get repairs done, there’s a lot going on in your head. The last blog post talked about the mental stress of getting work done on your car, and this post will talk more about the financial stress, while discussing the specific instance that happened in my case.
When we brought the car to the repair place, there was some stress caused by the questions asked by the guy at the desk, who needed to know everything and anything about the part that we brought in advance. Apparently we weren’t supposed to buy a part in advance, because of warranty purposes, but when Alex called the place the day before, they said it was fine and not to worry about it. The guy said he would call me after they diagnosed the problems with the car, but then the call never came, and Alex had to call them herself to get an update a few hours later while I was in the shower. It was a back-and-forth struggle to figure this whole issue out.
I ended up taking an Uber, for the first time, from the apartment back to the the mechanic, only to find out that they needed me to wait another 40 minutes for them to replace the battery. So I took up some space in the Popeye’s across the street and that was that.
So, on Wednesday, I went to the mechanic to get the car fixed. If you’ve been
following this saga over the past few days, you know how much anxiety and frustration this has given me, and it’s only compounded over time. The more I jumpstart the car, the more nervous I get that this will be the last time it works before the battery inevitably explodes or shuts off, never to be used again. Then I’d have to get someone to tow the car out of the apartment’s parking garage, but no tow trucks are allowed there! And what if I parked the wrong way? How am I supposed to get to the mechanic then?
Needless to say, these are all the thoughts that went through my head while contemplating what to do yesterday. We are lucky to not have more car trouble than we already have, but of course our first bout with car trouble became a nightmare, hence this blog’s title.
A couple of times while leaving school, I remember the car alarm slowly starting to go off, and then the lights flickered back and forth, and then the engine started to sound slower, producing a muffled noise that shocked me into even more fear. Would the car stop working in the middle of the highway? Would it not work the next time I tried to jumpstart it? Every time I jumpstarted the car, I had the fear in the back of my head that it wouldn’t work, that all this effort would lead to me having to take another day off from work because I couldn’t get there in time. I contemplated taking an Uber back and forth, but the idea of getting in a random car in the middle of Norwalk at my workplace didn’t sound great. We ended up settling on me taking the day off on Wednesday to settle our car trouble. I’ll talk more about that in the next blog.
Doesn’t everyone hate traffic, to some extent? I know I do, and I experience traffic pretty frequently, to varying degrees. Traffic is definitely the worst. I hate it so much. Today I’ll be talking about a very specific type of traffic, the traffic that follows you no matter where you go. That’s what I experienced on the way home on Saturday, continuing the same misery I had because the car wouldn’t start and its battery seemed to be shot.
Here’s what happened: the highway was closed from exits 11-7, and unfortunately, I needed to get off at exit 7. I knew this in advance, but I forgot about it on the way home with all the stress going on because of the car troubles. So as soon as exit 11 hit, I needed to get off the highway and onto some backroads home. It took a while to get there, though. Unfortunately, there was traffic on the way to the exit and traffic as soon as I got off the exit, because everyone and their mother were using Google Maps just like me to figure out where to go next. So everyone was holding up backroads and everyone was flooding the streets endlessly because of the traffic and road work taking place, during the day too! The traffic followed me wherever I went, and it added an entire half hour to my commute home that day. I was worried that my car, in all its battery-draining misery, would stall out somewhere because it ran out of fuel or something. Thankfully, that never happened, because my anxieties don’t know a damn thing about how cars work and probably never will.
At the very least, they know how to jumpstart a car now. That’s something I wouldn’t be able to say earlier, but I can say now.
The alternator is dead. The sequel to my most recent blog post is, of course, about what happened next. That’ll be about $400 dollars, out of pocket. Alternators are so unnecessarily expensive. I wish we didn’t also have to contend with the repair bill, too. If only alternators were easy to replace by yourself, then the manual labor would cover the repair bill.
Well, I drove home for about an hour after my friend jumped the car. I made it home safe and sound, and being the eternally exhausted person I am, I went to bed within a few hours after getting home. We didn’t test the car again on Saturday because of that. Maybe we should have, considering what we discovered afterwards, that the alternator, not the battery itself, was to blame for this whole mess. We called Alex’s dad, only to find out that it could be anything at fault with the car.
We waited in the garage for someone to arrive to jump our car. The first person to come help wasn’t able to reach our car, because of how we parked and the fact that there was another car next to us. The second person reached us, jumped us, and got us to the AutoZone in Stamford in time for us to figure out what was wrong. That’s where we discovered that the alternator was to blame. The guy who helped us took his time looking at the car while I sat in it and Alex talked with him about it.
Unfortunately, there aren’t any mechanics at AutoZone to replace the alternator for us. So, I had to contend with figuring out how to get to work the next day. Alex changed her shift from 8-4 to 7-3, to allow us to get to a mechanic in time together. Alex also bought a manual jumpstarter so I could get the car moving enough to get it to work and back. Here’s hoping that it works on the way back, because it worked enough to get me here!
Nothing like trying to start your car in the middle of nowhere, only for it to buzz, beep, creak, and stop in its tracks within a few seconds. Nothing else will set your mind at ease or make your feelings of anxiety any better in this moment than a complete and total fix to the situation, but you know in the back of your head that nothing will fix this quickly, let alone easily. You’re afraid of what to do, considering your state of mind and everything else going on the night before. The only way out is to phone a friend and hope for the absolute best.
A few seconds later, your call is answered. You wait in your sweatpants and sweater in the sweaty, steamy heat, amplified by your steel automobile, for your friend to arrive in time. You wait and wait and wait, hopeful that eventually the heat will die down or your air conditioner will turn on after twisting the knob to the left over and over. It never seems to turn on.
That’s when things start to take a turn for the better. Your friend arrives about ten minutes after you called him, and you wait in the car while he jumpstarts the engine. Nothing feels normal any more. You wait until the heat disappears, but it never does. Sooner or later, the engine is up and running, and your car is ready to go. You know that you’ve just been exhausted by stress, so you turn the car off and go back inside the house, only to realize that turning the car off ruins the whole ordeal you just went through. You call your friend again to come back, realizing how much of a nincompoop you are.
It happens. You never know what to do in a situation like this until it actually happens to you.
For a long time, I used to pretend that I was a good driver, even though the more likely situation is that I’m a fairly lucky driver. Except for one time when I accidentally bumped someone’s car in the Branford Starbucks parking lot, I hadn’t gotten in any major accidents or collisions. One time, when driving up to UConn, I narrowly avoided getting totaled on the highway when my brakes blew out, and I had to pull over to the exit ramp and wait, patiently, for AAA to arrive, as my phone battery slowly ticked away at its last life. Needless to say, I was pretty stressed out by this, and it transformed my evening into a night of driving home in the passenger seat of a tow truck. I remember stopping at a gas station and picking up hot fries.
So, when I say that I’m a good driver, what I really mean is that I know how to react in emergency situations to lessen the potential impact of whatever accident is about to happen, or won’t happen. But that’s not always true, especially not nowadays. Accidents happen all the time, on the highway, on the roads, anywhere. And it’s easy to be overwhelmed by the need to step out and talk with the person who hit you or whom you hit, especially while cars are blaring around you, sirens and horns and angry passengers on the road behind you. As someone with anxiety, that feeling gets stressful very quickly.
In reality, I’m not a very good driver. I still don’t know how to reverse that well, and when I take turns, it’s easy to forget to put my signal on when no one is around me. Obeying the rules should be easy, but sometimes they slip your mind because you’re so focused on other things that preoccupy you. It’s okay though. It’s going to be okay.
I talked about my commute in a separate blog post, but today I’ll be discussing, more specifically, the dreaded highway.
When I first started driving, at the age of 17, I was afraid of the highway. I never went on the highway during any of my on-road exhibitions before getting my license, so I had to learn the ropes after passing the driver’s test. To be fair, I haven’t reversed or backed up into a spot since I was 17. I’ve done plenty of three-point turns and parallel parks, but going backwards has never been a favorite of mine.
Nowadays, I rely on the highway for pretty much everything. It’s how I get to work and how I get home from work. It’s also how I navigated my way home when driving back from UConn many times without my GPS available; just knowing what exit to take and when to transfer onto which interstate highway was enough to get me home all those times. Being familiar with the highway gives you an almost unlimited freedom of travel. It’s worth learning how to drive on it, if anything just for that. I mention this because I know a few people who refuse to go on the highway, who are so scared of it that they will never be seen there in their whole lives. It’s kind of a shame, given the highway’s amazing utility.
When I drove to Boston this past weekend, we took I95 the entire way there, and then on the way back, we transferred all over the place: I90, I84, I91, route 15, I95. So many Is; it was mind-boggling to travel that way, but it was scenic and interesting to explore. Google Maps took us in a completely different direction from what we were used to, and we ended up driving past my friends’ place up at UConn.
Today, I’m going to discuss driving, specifically taking left turns. The idea for this blog came to me while I was driving to work this morning. I was in the parking garage of 101 Park Place, pulling out of my parking spot, when I saw another car zooming around the corner. Every time I’m in the garage, it seems there’s another car rolling rapidly along, usually turning right down the stairway. The problem with turning right is, it’s a tight turn and there’s a metal grate lining both sides of the stairway, close enough to the cinder block edges that cars can scratch against it. Inevitably, this happened to me during our first week living in Park Place. I turned right, and the car door was scratched all over. I had a anxiety attack as soon as it happened, knowing fully well I messed up the car majorly but not knowing the extent of the damage done to it. When I pulled over and looked at the car, the anxiety settled a bit, especially because Alex was reassuring me that it wasn’t a big deal. But regardless, the scratches are still on the car and we’ve yet to fix them. It’s on our agenda!
I turn left into most parking spots, also. Not as a result of the scratch, just in general. I’ll go out of my way to turn left into a parking spot and make sure to turn smoothly and slowly into it, even though a right-turn parking spot might be closer to the destination. I love being able to turn left, as I don’t have to stress as much about parking. It’s a deficiency in my driving skills, and yet I don’t really have any urgency to fix it. I feel fine turning left when I need to.
After hanging out at my friend’s house in North Haven over the weekend, I had a really unfortunate experience that haunted my Sunday and made it infinitely worse than it ever needed to be. Thankfully, Alex and I were able to salvage it for our own gain and made the drive worthwhile for us, but still, you can’t help but think about all the time wasted. All the experiences not fulfilled or left unfinished. It’s a bit depressing to think back on time wasted for a simple mistake, something easily preventable, but it’s better to move on and move forward, as I’ll be doing by writing about the experience in this blog post.
What happened is, I hung out over my friend’s house and drove back in the early morning, around 4am. Yes, very late but I was wired on coffee and felt completely fine, so don’t worry about my driving! In fact, the driving is the crux of this whole experience, and after all is said and done, I have to be a good driver, right? So, I lost my medicine bag, filled with all my important medications and more, and realized that I left it in North Haven. I found this out as I was unpacking my backpack before going to bed at 5am. I went to bed knowing I would have to drive back and forth to North Haven again after waking up, which I would eventually do with Alex’s companionship. We listened to The Adventure Zone together, caught up on lost episodes, and picked up some food and smoothies from Claire’s Corner Copia in New Haven, our favorite local restaurant and eatery. It was nice to drive together, nice to listen to podcasts together, and nice to enjoy some food from one of our old favorites. All in all, not a bad day, just an annoying day.
Time tends to quicken when you least expect it to,
Like a car rushing on the highway, agile yet interruptive,
When an SUV crosses into your lane and you yell expletives
Harsh words your parents told you never to say,
But that was a long time ago, before you learned how to drive
Amidst the horns and muffled engines you feel strangely
Attracted to this speedy SUV and its uniqueness.
You kick the sedan into ignition and attempt to catch up,
Hoping to match the damn SUV’s path at the speed of light,
And the compact steel of the sedan sheds away gradually
From the trunk, the wind-shield wipers, the glass windows
With the more weight you lay on the gas pedal,
And if the whole sedan deteriorates and collapses
Under the pressure of gravity you’d be blissfully clueless.
In that wonderful moment time is rapidly short, and lags.
You cannot catch the uncatchable when
It’s hurling naturally at light speed and you’re
Struggling to reach 85 on the speedometer.
It’s difficult finding a silvery SUV during rush hour
Especially when it seems everyday is a constant hour of rushing
And traveling in fifty directions for the same silvery SUV
You saw yesterday, the day before, a week ago, last month,
That’s probably cut off many other sedans along its path
As it was passing you by happenstance on its way to work
Or to meet a special someone who never knew you existed.