Archive for the 'Automotive Frustrations' Category

Google Goes Crazy

6 November 2007 at 9:21 pm
by Jonah

“I bought you a present,” Berck told me on the phone last week. “You should get it by the time I get home. I bought me a present too, so be watching for it.”

On Thursday there was a note on the door saying the UPS man had come and gone. On Friday there was a note saying he’d made a second attempt. There was also a note saying FedEx had made a SECOND attempt, and to sign and put back on my door if I wanted them to leave it. They apparently tried to deliver it again on Saturday, which was a nice day, and we had the door open, but they didn’t think we were home since we were in the study laughing uproariously at Top Gear. Berck was home yesterday, and when he went outside to water the plants, there was a note saying the UPS man had made his final attempt.

This meant that I had to go down and pick it up at the central office way down by the Citadel Mall. Berck could have done it, but I would have had to written a letter authorizing him to pick it up, because it was addressed to me. That and he’s up in Denver today sitting in on a simulator session. He took my car because it has a radio, and his has snow tires.

Last night I asked him where the heck I was supposed to pick up the package. “Just type the number in, and it will tell you.”

Google has this cool feature where you can type any FedEx or UPS package number into it, and it will connect you directly to the page with the tracking information on it from either company. Well, it’s supposed to do that. Here’s what happened when I did that:

packageTrack FedEx package 9253 3798 6688

Okay, but, remember, it’s a UPS package, not a FedEx package. So I went to Every single time I go to it asks what country I’m in, and every single time I tell it to remember that I’m in the USA. Then I put in my package number. Here’s what it said:

Tracking Number: 925337986688
Status: Not Available

So I called the 800 number. The automated answerer asked me to read out my package number. I did. The automaton said she was really sorry but she didn’t get it. I read it again. She apologized again and asked me to read it again. I read it extremely slowly. She suggested she connect me to a real live person. I said, “Thank GOD.” Why can’t they just let me type it into the buttons?

The guy I talked to asked for my package number again. I was beginning to memorize it. He asked if I’d been left a slip that said I could sign the slip and leave it. “This is my third attempt slip,” I said, “They’re not going to try to deliver it again.” He told me that I would have to go pick it up. “Yes, but where do I go to pick it up?” He gave me the address and told me how late they were open. I scribbled it down and then typed the address into Google. Google has this cool feature that you can just type in an address and it will give you a map of that location. It seems to like it best when you put in the street address and zip, so that’s what I did. (That and typing in “Colorado Springs, CO” takes a lot longer.) Here’s what I typed in:

911 emery cir, 80915

911 Emery Cir, Covington, KY 41011

You’ll notice the zips don’t even match. Fortunately, the first hit was for, and it had the whole address, so I added the last line. Notice that I even have the 9 digit zip:

911 emery cir, Colorado Springs, CO 80915-3413

911 Emery Ln, Elkhart, KS 67950

We’re getting closer, since Kansas is just next door. So I went back to the site, and clicked on the little link called “MAP.” It pulled up an map showing me exactly where the UPS center was. It also gave me the correct spelling of Emory Ln. Google has the best spell checker I’ve ever seen; most of the time I don’t even make the vaugeist attempt at spelling something correctly, trusting my sturdy search engine will figure out what I really mean. But apparently, they haven’t hooked it up to Google Maps yet. Come on… I was just one vowel off. Vanna, I’d like to get a refund.

Now I just had to get down to the UPS center. The problem is that there isn’t a good way to get there. The most direct way is to go down Academy Blvd., the busiest street in town. So I got off the Interstate and got on Academy at its northern end. I stopped for every single light except one until I got to Dublin Blvd. Then I stopped for good. The intersection of Dublin and Academy is on top of a hill, and in my little car, I couldn’t see anything, but people were getting out of the right lane like their lives depended on it. Then the light stopped changing. Northbound Academy Blvd. traffic kept coming, but we weren’t going anywhere. Then a fire truck that said HAZARDOUS MATERIALS UNIT on it edged out into the intersection, went north a block, and turned around and came back up to the right lane everyone was getting out of. This took ten minutes, I think, while we sat there doing nothing. Finally, the light changed, and we all gushed forward. I glanced back to see if there were a wreck or something, but I couldn’t see a thing. What a time to be in a car without a radio.

I had to stop for most of the lights after that, but at least we weren’t stopped for extended periods of time. The people at the UPS center wanted to make sure I was who I said I was before they gave me my package. “Have a good day,” the lady said, “What’s left of it.” That’s for sure, I thought as I walked out into the near dark back to my car. I went home via the Interstate, a much better way to go, even though I had to drive from the east part of town to downtown in order to head north. The road backed up right before my exit, and I thought it was everyone from Nevada trying to get out of the exit lanes while the people trying to exit onto Woodmen were trying to get into them. I got into the right-most lane, but I soon found out why everyone was stopped when I found my lane blocked by two cars who had tried to get into and out of the exit lane at the same time in the same place. Can we institute some rule that before you get your drivers license you have to prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that you know how to NOT crash into other cars and maybe condemn some people to riding the buses for life?

But when I opened my present, I was very pleased. Was it worth all of the above hassle? I’ll have to try it out to find out.

Berck still doesn’t have his present. He called FedEx, and they told him to put the signed sticker on the door and they would deliver it today. The sticker is still there.

Hot Rod

31 March 2007 at 8:30 pm
by Jonah

Today I replaced the exhaust and sway bars in my car. Berck helped.

Actually, I spent a good portion of the day looking for pennies. I got four of them. I found a fifth, but Berck wouldn’t let me get it when I was fishing out the bolt he dropped in a drain while he held up the heavy grate.

I spent the rest of the day getting my hands dirty unbolting and then bolting things. Berck decided to go ahead and make the improvements that he wanted on the car now before he’s out of a job in July or gets hired elsewhere and he can’t use the Hobby Shop on the Academy anymore. Being able to use a lift for the day, along with an impact wrench and borrowing tools and getting a guy to thread a bolt that the store sent you with threads too short, all for fifteen dollars, is pretty hard to pass up… especially when torquing sway bar bolts requires the tires resting with the full weight of the car on them. Try getting under a Miata to do that without a lift.

Berck also ordered new shocks (the ones in my car don’t even match), but their train got delayed, and they’ll be here next week. The new sway bars made an amazing difference in the car’s handling. The new exhaust will add about five horsepowers, Berck reckons, and it also sounds really cool. On the test drive later in the day, he kept looking for bridges to go under.

Next we washed the car in the wash bays attached to the Hobby Shop; they cost half what it costs in town.

Berck rewarded my hard work with a special treat. The girl at the drive-thru at Culvers opened her little window and giggled, “I like your car!”

Berck replied, “I do too.”

The car works!

17 December 2006 at 10:09 am
by Berck

Amazingly, the car went back together without too many left over parts yesterday afternoon. It appears to be working just fine, which is something of a welcome relief. Unfortunately, I’m not totally convinced that I didn’t screw something up that will show up a couple hundred miles down the road, but there’s not much I can do about that. Joanna’s been busy washing and waxing it even.

The current plan is to leave Monday morning for Knoxville, spend a couple days there, then head on to Mobile in time for Jesus Day. After that, we’ll progress in a southerly direction to that lovely wasteland my dear mother has chosen to call home. Maybe we’ll put the top down or something.

Southern Tour — Day 6, Stuck in Memphis with the Mobile Blues Again

14 December 2006 at 5:12 pm
by Jonah

Berck declared that we had to do laundry yesterday, because it had been 5 days and he was out of underwear. Fortunately, the house’s new washer and dryer were being delivered. The refrigerator also arrived, so now we can keep the few remaining cans of Dr Pepper inside it. Unfortunately, the refrigerator wouldn’t make ice. Berck’s dad finally figured out that you had to hold down the water lever until water came out (a really long time, since it has to snake through all the tubing used to make it cold and then reset the ice tray.

I washed a load of sheets in the new front loading washer, after I went out to buy a bottle of HE detergent. Then I put them in the dryer, but the dryer kept saying that the filter needed to be cleaned. Being a brand new machine, we knew that wasn’t the problem, that there must be a blockage in the duct to the vent outside. I finally got the thing to quit beeping and shutting off by pulling the hose out of the wall and just letting it vent into the laundry room.

A guy came out this morning to look at it. He stuck a snake through the outside vent in and announced that he couldn’t get it through. There’s an indentation of the garage that separates the laundry room from the outside wall. This garage is the only one I’ve ever seen that’s painted and spackled. There’s a little hump of drywall along the floor of the indentation of the garage where the dryer vent goes, so the guy hacked through it and exposed the duct. It looked like someone had stepped on it, smashing the duct so that it was a wonder any air could go through it at all. Of course, then some idiot drywalled over the smashed duct instead of straitening it out or replacing it… a perfect example of “it’s not my job.”

As for the other appliances, we can’t use the dishwasher or the range, because when Berck’s dad bought the house, the developer agreed to swap them out for a quieter dishwasher and a gas range, only they haven’t done it yet. Berck’s dad hasn’t bought a microwave yet either, so we can’t even boil water.

Berck called the machine shop to see if the head was ready this afternoon. It had indeed been warped, and now it was all ground down to flat again. We took Berck’s dad’s ’96 Miata back over to South Memphis to pick it up. Berck insisted on putting the top down again. As we drove along I-240, we started smelling antifreeze. By the time we pulled into Napa, Berck announced that the engine was hot and switched off the engine. We coasted into a parking place as steam poured out from under the hood. It was like experiencing deja vu. Berck opened the hood to expose antifreeze squirting everywhere from somewhere behind the engine. With my Gerber and an enormous amount of effort, Berck managed to pull the offending hose out from back behind the blistering engine and was able to get a similar sized piece of hose from the auto parts store, in whose parking lot we were so conveniently located.

$60 (for the engine head shave), $1.07 (for the hose), a bucket of water, an hour, and a lot of grunting later, we were on our way back home. We got to the house in time for Berck’s dad and grandmother ready to go out to a very late lunch or slightly early supper.

We went to a Memphis original called The Half Shell that Berck’s dad used to eat at when he was our age, only this is a new branch way out at the city limits where all the new mortgage farms are being built. Berck’s dad ordered a dozen oysters on the half shell that we wolfed down immediately. I don’t think I’ve had raw oysters since I was seven. I haven’t known what I’ve been missing since. Now I understand why people eat them.

I ordered the crab cakes, which were pretty bad. Berck’s dad complained, and our waiter took them off the bill. Everything else was delicious, including the huge plate of fried mushrooms served with horseradish sauce.

Grandmother couldn’t get out of the air mattress by herself last night, so Berck’s dad made a platform out of boxes to put it on for tonight. He tried to get her to look at beds online today, but she didn’t want any of them.

Berck is going to work I don’t know how long on the car tonight, now that he can put it back together again.

Southern Tour — Day 5, New Digs

13 December 2006 at 6:11 pm
by Jonah

Berck and I spent the night at the new house last night. I had to literally make our bed. We got up and fortified ourselves on salt & vinegar potato chips, the breakfast of champions, and set to work on the car.

Berck decided to get some sanding pads to clean the gasket sealer off the top of the engine block, since our scrubbing with carburetor cleaner had only marginal results. The rest of the contents of the storage units arrived after noon, and the house got a lot fuller with disassembled furniture and unpacked boxes. It also meant the appearance of the drill press, so Berck could drill through the stud stumps in the catalytic converter. The only problem is that we couldn’t find the chuck key to change the drill bit. We searched through all the boxes marked workshop but to no avail. Finally, I went out to Lowes to try to buy a new one. Unfortunately, they didn’t have any big enough. So I found a Home Depot; they had larger ones, but I was still 1/16th inch short. I looked at the drill press they had on display, pulled its chuck key off the side of it, and thought about putting it in my pocket and walking out with it.

I informed Berck of my failure when I returned. He called his dad, who said he would look for one at Sears. A little later he returned with success. He had gone into the Home Depot and told them his drill press he had just gotten didn’t have a chuck key, so they went in the back and gave him one. I guess if they won’t sell you one they might give one to you.

The end result is that we don’t have to buy a new catalytic converter. All of the stuff we ordered has arrived except for the stuff we called in this morning. Berck called the guy at the machine shop who told him to “check wi’ me mawr e’nin,” and he told him, “Hmm, at’ll be MAWR e’nin.”

Grandmother decided that she absolutely had to move into the new house today, despite not having a bed yet. So now the thermostat is turned to 80 degrees. We closed the vent to our room and will probably sleep with the window open. After Berck cleared an area of her room of boxes and inflated an air mattress for her, she asked Berck’s dad, “I thought you said you had a comforter I could use?” He set up a TV for her in there and gave her a quilt.

Yesterday Berck’s dad took her to the doctor for a persistent cough she’s got that she’s been complaining about constantly. When the doctor came in to see them and asked how she was feeling, she smiled and answered, “Oh, just fine!” When they left, Berck’s dad asked her if the doctor had given her anything for her cough. “No, he just said if it wasn’t gone in a week to come back and see him.”

Berck’s dad is a physician himself, so he was furious that he’d gone through the trouble of taking her to the doctor if he wasn’t even going to do anything to treat her symptoms. Berck and I went over to Aunt Robin’s house last night to meet his dad to go out to dinner, and I popped in to say hi to grandmother. She asked if I could do her a favor and gave me a prescription and a $20 bill (because clearly I’d have time to fill it on the way for the three of us to go out to eat but her son hadn’t on the way home from the doctor’s visit). “I just don’t want to bother him,” she said.

Berck’s dad rolled his eyes when I told him this and complained to the pharmacist, when we stopped at a Walgreen’s after supper, that this was a waste of time, filling a prescription for a placebo. We got back, and Berck’s dad took the prescription back to his mom. He came out of her room furious. “You know what she just told me? ‘I forgot to tell you…’ The doctor gave her a cortisone shot.”