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Monday, January 13, 2003

After all the torture I've gone through lately getting my car going, I was giddy with excitement when it started all three times I tried it today. It always starts when it's cold, first thing in the morning, so that time shouldn't count. When I got out of the post office, though, I honestly didn't expect it to start. I thought I was in the dead zone and would have to wait twenty minutes or so.

When it roared to life after I finished my business at the post office, I decided to take a chance. I'd been jittery all morning about going to the gas station, because the last time I got the tank filled the car balked right afterward. I even had the attendant look at it, but nothing worked except waiting those twenty magic minutes. I didn't want to go through that again, so when I pulled up to the full serve island this morning and the guy asked me to pop the hood, I happily complied. He told me everything was okay.

Well, I thought, I'll show him. He thinks it's okay, eh? Wait till I try to leave this place. But I was wrong. It purred, it hummed, it sounded like the car I've known and loved for over fourteen years. I even thought about running a few more errands while I was out, but I had too much to do back here.

About halfway home I was waiting for a light to change and I noticed something smoking. I hoped it was the car in front of me. I was willing to sympathize with that unfortunate driver, until I noticed my temperature gauge. The needle was pointing to the H. The smoke I saw was coming from under my very own hood. And so, now that I realized it, was the smell.

I was convinced I wouldn't make it all the way home. Every time I had to stop I stared at the gauge. Every time I pulled away again, I didn't believe the car would move until it did. I deliberately ran the last stop sign when I could see there was no one around for miles. As I negotiated the last stretch on my road, I looked for places to pull over and stop, just in case. Even after I pulled into the driveway, I wasn't sure I'd make it all the way to the house.

Instead of parking the car in the garage, I left it on the side of the driveway, just outside my bedroom window. I wasn't thinking at the time about the ten gallons of combustible fuel sitting in a tank a few feet from where I would be sleeping (if I ever slept again). All I thought was that this was as far as I was going to go in that car. Ever.

The stench got even stronger after I opened the hood and let it breathe. The "Check" light on the dashboard had come on just before I stopped, but it might as well have said "Checkmate." I could tell from the smoke and the smell that I'd never have any confidence in my dear old Honda again.

I was a wreck. After I called Mom and vented a bit, I went on line and did some research. I was a little more highly motivated now than I'd been when I started this process, two whole days ago. I found not only sales sites, but also financing and insurance information. The more I got into it, the less unsettled I felt. Things started to come together, and I began to believe that by the end of this week I'd be driving my new car.

That hasn't happened yet, though. I'll never truly believe in my new car until it's parked in my garage. It might take weeks or even months before I'll be comfortable with it. It has to perform, and it has to make my life easier. I don't want something that'll feed my insecurities, because I can be edgy and tense without any outside help.

looking east

Clouds starting to break up.

The loan amount I was approved for will cover about half the car. They were concerned that I hadn't had any recent installment loan experience. Well, of course not! The car I've been driving has been paid off for ten years. The Boss volunteered to help me with the down payment, in the form of an advance on my salary. During the discussion he asked me when my last raise was, and I take that as a good sign. I'm starting to believe. That's dangerous, I know, but I can't help it.

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The smell is finally starting to go away.

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One year ago: Blanketed
"Nobody asked, but here's a helpful housekeeping tip: Don't wash both sets of sheets on the same day."

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We couldn't wait til graduation day
We took the car and drove to San Jose
That's where you told me that you'd wear my ring
I guess you don't remember anything.