my name is not alexander…

… but I had a Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day.

It’s “cold” here this week, meaning it’s gone all the way down to -3C. But today was the day I was heading over to Quadra, and when I do that, I take my car. The car was covered in frost because I hadn’t driven it for a couple of weeks so I had to scrape the windshield and everything, like it was winter. I had the car running while I did that. Once it was scraped I went back to my apartment to grab my books, music and coffee and headed to work.

The plan was to stop at the library, grab a few boxes of books and then get on the ferry. But when I got down the steep hill of our parking lot I had to wait to turn left onto the road. And then my car stalled. And then I tried to start it. And then it wouldn’t. So there I was, blocking our complex’s entrance with a car that wouldn’t move. It had worked well enough to get me down the hill but now I was on my own.

It’s a standard and not a very big car so I figured I’d just put it in neutral and roll it out of the driveway (pushing it back up the hill to my parking spot was obviously not going to happen). But a car is still much more than I can push while trying to steer it. I got it a couple of inches before hitting a bump the car was perfectly happy to rest against. At that point a guy who was coming into the parking lot helped me by pushing the car while I steered it to the side of the road.

Then I ran to work. I was there late by this point and our other librarian was busy with a question and our manager’s office was closed so I had nowhere to actually be except other people’s workstations. From one of those I looked up the number for BCAA roadside assistance and called.

My complete inability to know anything about a car or the things you need to know about cars then overwhelmed me. I didn’t know my BCAA number because I haven’t received my card in the mail yet and apparently you have to sign up for online access to your account separately, because that internet thing is just a passing fad, so I couldn’t find it in my email. The operator asked if I needed a boost or a tow. I didn’t know. The car ran and then it stopped. I don’t know what that requires.

They sent a tow truck to boost and then tow if necessary. They’d call five minutes before it got there. The tow truck called and asked where I’d need to be towed to. I had no fucking clue. It’s not like I know any mechanics here. I hoped it just needed a boost.

The tow truck arrived and my (factory) car alarm went off. I could not shut it down (it stopped by itself after 30 seconds). I could not find the hood release. I did not know where the battery was in a VW (it has a plastic cover – the tow truck guy found it). I did not know what my role was in being the boostee. If I tried starting too soon would I wreck something? Should I wait for some signal? The signal to try starting it turned out to be the tow truck guy getting exasperated with the moron he was helping.

The car started and he told me to make sure to let it run for 20 minutes. I agreed that was a good idea and sat in the car as he drove away. Two minutes later it died again. So I went back to work.

The other librarian went to Quadra even though it was two ferries later and made it so she couldn’t really get anything done there or here. I could have gone as a walk-on, but then I couldn’t have brought any boxes of books with me. Which is why I “need a car” for this job. I don’t “need a car” to get to work, just to haul work’s shit around for it.

Later I went and tried starting the car again, without a boost. It started but then died after 4 minutes of idling. That time I was paying attention to the dashboard and saw which lights went on just before it died. So I guess tomorrow I need to get it towed to Courtenay where the dealership will know what to do with it.

All of that was frustrating as fuck and has done nothing to make me happier about owning this stupid vehicle. It’s not as terrible a thing as the condo was (which I have to remind myself about – I am not as unhappy now as I was when I was trying to get out from under that awful decision) but I hate it. When something breaks on a bicycle I can see what the problem is, find a YouTube tutorial and (maybe) fix it. When something breaks on a car I can be fucking helpless.

Now, all of this would be frustrating but tolerable if I was somewhere I knew people. Where I could call a buddy up to give me a boost and a bit of advice. Where tomorrow I could go for breakfast with people and gripe a bit but then get on with things. Go play train games on Sunday afternoon or something. Instead I’ll do all this shit by myself and pay too much because that’s what knowing shit-all about this stupid machine costs.

I like seeing water and mountains from my apartment. I love that a cold snap here is -3C. I like my job well enough. But today I’d trade all those for people to play games with and who’d pick me up when it’s too cold to ride my bike.

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2 thoughts on “my name is not alexander…

  1. fongolia says:

    Oy, I feel for you. I had a (vaguely) similar encounter when I took in my bike last week for a tune-up, in terms of not knowing anything about the bike or what I wanted done to it. He was like “So, do you want ______ or _______?” and my response was “I do not even know what that means.” Then it got awkward as he pointed out all the things wrong with my bike and all the things that needed fixing, which would cost $150. And I had just wanted to use this $25 Groupon for a tune-up, but he said they can’t really “tune up” parts that don’t work. Then I had to argue him down into ONLY replacing the back brake and I’ll have to sign a waiver that their work is not guaranteed and that I turned down all his safety advice (and all the while he was shaking his head and saying “well, it’s your bike, buddy”). I left in a sour mood and grumbling about customer service, but I’m too clueless to tell if he was genuinely concerned for the bike or just wanted to rack up the bill. Peanuts to your horror story, but I just thought I’d share that.

    • jjackunrau says:

      Oh it feels crappy to have someone do that “it’s your life buddy” headshake. No one’s done that to me with the car yet thankfully. But I’ll probably end up throwing money at the car till the problems are manageable again.

      It’s amazing how much of a difference knowing what’s going on with the machine makes. I’ve had your kind of situation with bikes but there was enough information out there for me to feel informed and confident in saying “No seriously, this is all I want done.”

      My current bike is probably the simplest I’ve had since my police auction BMX when I was 7, but it was exactly the kind of bike I’m confident I can take apart and put back together without making it unusable or unsafe. If I bring it into a bikeshop there’s practically nothing they can do that I don’t understand (though they have the tools to make the work easier and faster).

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