Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Patience - RIGHT NOW!

I guess it's a good thing I'm actually capable of having patience. Or maybe it's just a case of really, really lowered expectations.

Take my recent experiences with my car, the one I just got back with the pretty new outside. After the second time when a minimal drain on my battery required jump starting, and with winter coming up, I decided I needed to replace it. Nevermind what the gadgets said about it being just fine, thank you. I have a winter to get through as well as a 4500+ mile trip, where I need absolute dependability. It's worth a few months less use of the old one. Then, there were tires to replace. I'd done two earlier in the year, and with upcoming snowy conditions, it was time to go for a full four with decent tread. One of the rear tires had a slow leak, and maybe it was in the tire though nothing showed like a nail head. And what the heck: oil change due as well.

So, Walmart. On a Sunday in the X-mas shopping hubbub. Hour and a half wait.

That was OK. I brought X-mas cards to work on. First, 70 return address labels. Then fold and stuff 70 X-mas letters I'd written and printed out before leaving home. I left the picture cards home, not willing to risk any damage to them in Grease Central. I'd add 70 addresses, but honestly, we just didn't have all of the ones we needed for the cards we wanted to send out this year. Steve isn't used to sending out cards, so he needed to dig up nearly all the addresses for his list. (Just got the last two finally.) And if that wasn't enough, I had a book in the bag which only had the first chapter read.

Ergo, patience. Plus, I've waited at Walmart before: ergo, lowered expectations.

Sore back too, since without any table to work at but juggling everything between two chairs, I was doing a lot of twisting in the same direction and my body started protesting halfway through.

Or, what should have been halfway through. A full hour into the wait, the whippersnapper at the counter, an obvious new trainee, came to me and announced that the two tires he knew he had at the start of our transaction were no no longer anywhere to be found. A bit later one of the actual fellows working on my car came in to verify that I really wanted my battery replaced, and questioned why I canceled my tires order. I explained they were not in casa, and he went to check for himself. I guess he'd had some experiences with the trainee guy before. But they truly were not there, so after finishing up my car, taking up the full hour and a half without replacing any tires, he called over to another Walmart, confirmed the presence of the desired tires (they had 11) and had them reserve two for me, sending me over there.

Another hour and a half. And a broken TPMS sensor discovered, possibly explaining why one tire required filling every 2-3 weeks. Possibly not, since the other one had a valve stem where the center part couldn't be replaced because it just turned in place, not unscrewing, demonstrating stripped threads. I'll know in another three weeks or so. I can't be sure which back wheel landed on which front side, even though I asked for a straight rotation.

Finally I got home, and was able to enlist Steve's help in finishing up the cards, or at least as far as we could go at that time. Some addresses were still missing then, and there were cards I wanted to put notes in. He stuffed the picture card inside and licked envelopes, while I added stamps.

However, the car stuff still wasn't done. I'd spent Saturday at Steph's house in Minneapolis. Together we were sewing my piece of silk into my tunic for the wedding. This actually means I helped at the dining room table with layout, pinning and cutting, and she did the traipsing up and down the stairs to use the sewing machine. It finally got to the point where there was nothing left that I could do, and we were pretty talked out by then, so I drove home after her offer to finish up. Eventually I'll have a bunch of Czech art-glass buttons to sew on it, 7/8" shank roses with irridescent backs. Leaving, my car started missing and my engine light began flashing, then held steady.

OK, this has happened before. The cure before has always been to turn it off and restart. This no longer worked. So all the running around Sunday was a bit nerve wracking, wondering if it was going to get bad enough to stall out. I started putting it in neutral every time I hit a stop.

Monday morning it went in to my favorite mechanics at Mike's Amoco in downtown St. Paul. Yes, they're worth driving the 41 miles for when at all possible. They're good, tell you up front what they can/can't do for you (no trannys, no allignments), and never charge you for 4 of something when only one needs replacing just because the book says it's done that way, unless you give the OK, don't add in fixes for things that weren't broken in the first place. It was acting like an engine coil (this car has 4) had given up the ghost for real this time, as it had threatened many times before. So the engine codes say.

Plus, I still had a TPMS sensor to replace. Walmart didn't carry my kind.

In almost no time I was out on the road again, ready to work. You thought that was good news? Well, the sensor got replaced, but the "missing" problem turned out not to be the coil - cheap and easy to replace - but the fuel injector. It seems that instead of going spritz spritz spritz with the gas, it went drip drip drip. Not conducive to firing. More expensive to fix. And not a single replacement in the metro area. It needed to be shipped in, taking a day. So meanwhile they put injector cleaner in, in case it might fix things, and sent me on my way until the part arrived.

About 20 miles down the road my TPMS sensor light came back on. Dang! Which tire was going flat this time? Did they fix it wrong? Did they fix the wrong one? Back I drove to the shop, after checking tire pressure (fine) and dropping the work I had aboard. No problems, go ahead and drive again, just keep an eye on them in case...

The car at least was drivable, though still a bit nerve wracking. There was a "sweet spot" at about 35 MPH, and another at 50-62, where you could almost be fooled into thinking there was nothing wrong. Almost. Try maintaining either of those speeds driving around the metro area.

Now let's top off the day by having the dispatch computer system totally crash at work. We wound up calling in on our cell phones, writing down the run information, and calling back when we were ready for more work. We had to tell them where we were as well because there was no GPS working. Oh, yeah, and noting the time of the drops on our logs because there was no computer to keep track of that for you. The next morning after logging in, those runs would show up on your blackberry and you'd have to wade through them, dropping each one adding time/date information so it wouldn't show falsely that they got dropped a day late at 7:23 in the morning, or whatever.

And yes, through all this I was able to remain patient. Cheerful even. Hmmm, what's wrong here?

Tuesday was deja vu. After completing a run, I got the call my part was in so I headed over to the shop again. This time I finished the X-mas card letters and got well into that book I'd started. The fuel injector was replaced, I turned the car on... and it was still missing. They sprayed stuff on all four cylinders, making for quite a wheeeeeeeee as my fan intake feasted on the chemicals. But, still missing. They got the bright idea to replace my spark plugs, reasoning that the dripping of the gas had likely fowled them up. I saw them: it had. A couple more tiny tweeks, and she's purring now.

They checked on my sensor: it needs to be programmed after being replaced, meaning going to the dealership, more down time. I'll think about that. I can ignore the light, treating it as if it wasn't there in the first place, just like every other car I've driven to this point. I'll just keep an eye on the tires myself, like in the good-ol'-days.

After emerging from the repairs, I tried logging back in to work and... gee, down again. I did say deja vu, after all. Cell phone and pen-and-paper time again. Oh well, been here before. At least there was work, and I was in shape to do it. No fuss, no bother. Let's just get on with it. Someday, likely soon enough, there will be things to loose my patience over.

Just not now.

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