Tuesday, August 21, 2012

JC's New CC

So we recently came home from a weekend away and discovered that one of the front tires on my car was flat.  The car had over 100,000 miles on it and we knew the front tires needed to be replaced.  And we’d been debating whether or not it was time to sell it and move on. 

But how do you know when that point is?  I mean, you could probably drive it for another 100,000 miles – but how much are you going to spend in pieces and parts to fix it and keep it running?  And where is the point of diminishing returns?

For me, the biggest question is: Does your husband work at a car dealership?

Since the answer to that last question is “yes,” it was a no-brainer.  And, let me tell you, it was the easiest car deal I ever had to contend with.  I drove to Vince’s office, signed my name a couple times and they handed me the key. Wow.  This is how I want to get every new car from now on!

And, yeah, okay, so I also had to hand over my credit card and put some money down on the deal – but I didn’t have time to dwell on that part too much.

In contrast, when I bought the Mazda over eight years ago in the PVE (that would be the Pre-Vince Era), I spent literally weeks online researching cars and trying to find out exactly what I should pay for the car I wanted with the options and features I desired.  

When I finally steeled myself for the trip to the actual car dealership, I went in armed with a notebook filled with my research and, because I am so lousy at math, I even had a cheat sheet of incremental percentage points over what I (and Consumer Reports and Edmunds.com) perceived the car should cost.  I was so prepared I even had the VIN number of the car I was interested in.  To make the deal as simple as possible, I had no trade-in, my financing was in place and ready to go and I just kept saying “No!” whenever they suggested something new. 

Yeah, I’m sure those folks loved me.  Fortunately, they were nice enough not to boot me out of the office or throw the key and paperwork out after me. 

But that was then and this is now.

Now I’m driving a 2013 Volkswagen CC.  It’s white. It has a beige and black two-toned leather interior.  It has really cool headlights and taillights.  And, oh happy day, it even has a Navigation System.  So now – just because I can – I sometimes turn that sucker on and press “home” and it provides me with turn-by-turn directions even if I know exactly where I am and precisely how to get home. 

It’s weird because it’s the first car I’ve ever leased and it doesn’t feel like “my” car. Instead, I feel like I’m sort of borrowing it.  This is silly because even when I purchased a car, it still wasn’t “mine” for several years until I’d paid it off.

But it’s probably better that I think of it as borrowed since I’ll think twice before painting my fingernails while stopped at a traffic light lest I accidentally drop the open bottle on the carpeted floor.  Or I might just refrain from eating that marinara-covered meatball sandwich so as to not mar the lovely beige and black leather car seat when I inevitably drop a meatball.

While Vince is not currently in my line of vision, I am quite sure he is vigorously nodding his head in agreement.  If he had his way, I wouldn’t even carry a purse or library book or briefcase or lunch bag with me every day.  And any grocery bags would be double-bagged for additional spill protection for the ride home in the trunk. 

There are a couple negatives about driving my new car.  Like, for instance, I have to worry about other drivers dinging my car door.  I can park at the far end of the parking lot, but sure as I’m sittin’ here, I would go out to the back 40 and find a crappy beater parked so close to my shiny new car that I’d have to crawl into the passenger seat and climb over the gear shift in order to get in to get away from said beater.

Another negative thing about driving my new car is that I was told that I needed to use premium fuel.  Really?  Darn.  My monthly gas budget has just increased exponentially.  I far prefer driving a car that uses plain ol ‘regular unleaded.

And, finally, a third negative about driving this new car is that this one is only a 4 cylinder as opposed to my 6-cylinder Mazda.  Sure, it has some sort of rocket booster thing-a-ma-jig on it so that it will go from 0 to 60 in mere seconds.  Blah, blah.  But it’s that first push to get it moving into traffic that is scary.  There was no hesitation whatsoever with my Mazda and I could zip into a line of cars traveling at speeds way higher than the posted speed limit without garnering the ire of my fellow commuters. 

But I’m getting used to my new CC and now know when I can safely merge into traffic without hearing the blare of horns from pissed off drivers.  And car dings are a fact of life.  I will just hope that this one’s dings are few and far between. 

Plus, a 4-cylinder engine really does get better gas mileage than a 6-cylinder.  Makes that expensive gas a little less hard to take.

And I have a Navigation System! 

Road trip, anyone?!

Friday, August 17, 2012

One of THOSE Days

Today must be Friday the 13th.  It isn’t?  Really?  ‘Cause it sure feels like it.

I woke up this morning in a relatively good mood.  I say “relatively” because no matter what time it is, I could always use another hour of sleep and I tend to wake up bleary-eyed and a teeny-tiny bit grumpy.  But it’s Friday – so I figured the day could only get better as it went along – right?

Oh, so not right.

I didn’t have to wash my hair, so that chopped a good 20 minutes off my morning routine and I showed up at the breakfast table early.  That rarely happens.  So Vince and I had a little extra time to chat and discuss our weekend plans and catch up on life.

Catching up on life is not necessarily a good thing when you’re also downing vitamins, munching on Raisin Bran and slurping coffee.  Time, you see, moves at warp speed when you think you have a few extra minutes.

Suddenly I realized I was five minutes late for my morning commute so I jumped up, grabbed my stuff and ran out the door. 

It wasn’t until I was nearly at the entrance to the freeway that I realized I left my cell phone at home.  This was surprising since (a) I never EVER leave home without it, and (b) I could’ve sworn I’d had the thing surgically attached to my body. 

Sure, I could have peeled off the road and done a u-ey and gone back home to retrieve the phone, but since I was already running behind schedule I decided to see if I could manage a whole day without my cell phone.

And, yes, smarty-pants, I did experience some dizziness, a touch of nausea and several heart palpitations at the thought of spending an ENTIRE day without my cell phone!

The first test came when I screeched to a stop behind a long line of stopped traffic as emergency vehicles and tow trucks raced along the berm to come to some motorists’ aid.  Turns out a truck had dropped a load of cement blocks on the freeway and a number of cars were unable to zig-zag around them.  There were half a dozen vehicles on the side of the road with smooshed tires. 

I’m guessing that those people were wondering if it was Friday the 13th, too.

Realizing there was no way I was going to make it to work on time, I reached for – yep, you guessed it – my cell phone.  And it wasn’t there. So now I had no way of alerting the office that I’d be a few minutes late.

Okay, not the end of the world.  I mean, it wasn’t like I was going to be hours late or anything.

Remarkably, the mess on the freeway didn’t hinder traffic too much and I was soon on my way.  I say “remarkably” because usually a single set of brake lights tapped on by a cautious driver is enough to slow down the entire platoon of commuters so that it tacks on an additional ten minutes to the commute. 

(By the way, did’ja like that?  “Platoon of commuters”?  I just made it up.  Hey, if there can be a flock of seagulls or a pride of lions, I figure there can be a platoon of commuters.)

But I digress.  As usual.

Anyway, I finally reached the office without any other delays or mishaps.  And fortunately I was only a few minutes late, so I figured the day was looking up.

That would make me wrong again, Skippy.

Once I’d gotten settled, I did a quick check of our bank accounts – something I do on a routine basis.  Dealing with the banking in our household is not for the faint of heart.  I mean, I was a single woman for a long time and I haven’t been able to give up all control by using just one joint checking and savings account.  So we have individual accounts and we have joint accounts.  My mom thinks I’m nuts, but then she has been married for over 60 years and can barely remember being single. 

Anyway, imagine my, uh, consternation, when I saw a negative balance in my checking account of over $1,000!  This is not possible, I thought.  Only I added a couple additional words for, um, let’s say, color commentary.

Apparently, I paid off a credit card, which was issued from another bank. Only I paid it off twice. So now there was a big credit on our credit card, but not enough money in my checking account.  Aargh!

You might think this was no big deal, wouldn’t you?  All I had to do was transfer funds from one account into the other to cover the deficit.  Well, sure.  And I did this. But the funds were in another bank and it usually takes 24 hours to complete the online transfer.  By then, I would’ve been hit with a $37 NSF fee.

I can’t remember the last time I had insufficient funds in my account and I didn’t want today to be the day I broke that streak, so I spent the next half hour on the phone with both banks.  Neither wanted to be accommodating and suggested that the other bank do thus-and-such to fix the problem. 

This was not helpful.

Now, I could’ve just let the second payment to the credit card bounce back as unpaid due to insufficient funds.  Then the credit card balance would’ve been zero instead of a big credit.  Plus, I would no longer have insufficient funds in my checking account.  Problem solved, right? 

Oh no.  Because I just couldn’t stand the thought of being charged that stinkin’ fee.

By the way, I was conducting all this personal business on my work phone – something I am loathe to do.  But who forgot her cell phone this morning??  Yes.  Plus, with the whole freakin’ banking industry being modernized and all, the automated system did not recognize the phone I was calling from.  So I had to jump through even more hoops to prove I was who I said I was.

Right about then I swear I heard a snarky little voice whispering in my ear, “Not a good day to forget that cell phone, was it?”

Now I could’ve done a number of things at this point.  Take a cash advance on my credit card to cover the funds and deposit it into my checking account. Withdraw cash from the savings account in another bank and deposit it in the checking account.  Go home and hide under the covers until Friday the 13th, er, 17th was over.  I mean, there were a number of options available to me.

So what did I do?  Well, I’m a little ashamed to admit it, but I got all teary-eyed.  I just don’t make these sorts of mistakes – and I’m the one who has her checking account balanced to the penny.  So how dorky was it to shed tears over a measly thirty-seven dollar charge?  Because, bottom line, that’s what we’re talkin’ about here.  It’s not like the banking police were going to come and arrest me.  (I hoped, anyway.)  

But after indulging in my momentary pity party, I trotted myself over to the bank and covered the difference.  Tomorrow, of course, the online transfer will kick in and I’ll have twice as much in there.  And, of course, there is still that big credit on the credit card. 

So right about now I’m trying to talk myself out of doing a little retail therapy to get that credit card balance back to “0.”  I could have myself a whole lot of fun. 

But given how this day has gone, I suspect that the following would occur: 1) My purse would develop some inexplicable hole and the credit card would fall out and some nefarious character would swipe it and have a LOT of fun with it, and 2) That same truck that lost its load of cement blocks this morning would somehow find me on the way to the mall (since he missed me the first time) and I’d have four flat tires and no cell phone with which to call a tow truck.

So I’ve decided that my best course of action would be: 3) go home and hide under the covers until Friday the 13th, er, 17th is over.

Yeah, that’s what I’m going to do.  But first I’m going to find my cell phone.  This dizziness, nausea and heart palpitations need to go away.  And next time?  Well, next time I’ll make a U-turn and head back home for the phone because I’m banking (ha) on the fact that none of this would have happened if I hadn’t forgotten my cell phone. 

That's my story anyway.  
Have a good weekend.  
But don't forget your cell phone.  
I'm serious.

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Things that Bug Me

Lately I’ve been noticing that things bother me more.  Guess I’m gettin’ old and cranky, huh?  Maybe.  But with the immediacy of social media, we see the same things over and over.  And over and over again.  Ad nauseam. 

With that said, I’ve come up with a list of things that bug me. 

#1. Saying, “With that said…” or the shortened version, “That said…” 
Whenever someone says or writes either of these, my teeth grinding goes into overdrive.  I can’t remember the first time I heard the expression, but it seemed innocuous at the time.  It’s a transition. It works.  But by the time I heard it for the millionth time, it got a little old.  It’s kind of like people peppering their speech with “you know…” or “like…” or “totally…”

And, yes, I, like, totally wrote the line, “With that said, I’m coming up with a list of things that bug me” with tongue firmly planted in cheek.  It, like, you know, helps to keep me from grinding my teeth. 

#2. And while we’re on the subject of overused expressions, how about the ever-popular, “Just sayin’.” 
Ack.  Thank you for letting me know you said something.  I wouldn’t have guessed otherwise.

#3. Women who pose for pictures with their elbows bent and their hand on their waist.  This pose is everywhere.  Just look at Facebook.  And when you get a group of women together, only the two on the ends are happy because they get to pose like this.  The middle ones are probably itching to put their hands on their waist, but elbowing the chick standing next to them would probably be considered a little rude. 

Personally, I blame Hollywood and the whole red carpet thing.  Hollywood poses are everywhere these days.  But two of the worst offenders are Kim Kardashian and Snooki.  Try to find a photo of either of these, um, ladies without their hands on their waists.  I’m guessing that by now they must have a Pavlovian reaction of snapping their hand on their waist whenever they see a camera.

#4.  Making the Duck Face.  Do women really think this look is sexy?  Oh, sure, I suppose some women are able to pull it off.  But most of the duck face pictures I’ve seen just look plain silly.  Especially when some joker Photoshops big fake lips or Daffy Duck lips over the lips the poser already has. 

Marilyn Duck Lips. 
However, I do think we’re seeing the pose a little less frequently lately – possibly because it has been ridiculed so much.  And, actually, it’s not a new fad.  After all, you can Google pouty lip poses by Hollywood icons such as Marilyn Monroe and Bridget Bardot.  But, like anything taken too far, it starts to look ridiculous.  Once Snooki started making the duck face, “sexy” left the building.

Whoa. Duck Face AND hand on waist. Score.
#5. Snooki.  There was a time when I didn’t know what a Snooki was.  And my life was still full and complete and, dare I say, happy.  Yet, I couldn’t possibly live in today’s society without knowing who she is.  And that bugs me.  Even worse, the fact that I’m writing about her bugs me.  All I can do now is wait for the day when people will once again ask, “What is a Snooki?”  And life will again be happy.  That. Is. All.

#6. Putting periods after every word for emphasis.  Okay, so I’m outing myself here.  I do this.  I just did it.  And while I haven’t quite gotten to the stage where it bugs me, I sense that moment on the imminent horizon. 

#7. Gas tanks.  Some are on the right side of the vehicle and some are on the left.  This bugs me.  Why?  Because I end up circling the gas station like a land shark trying to find an empty pump.  As soon as I spot one and circle around to it, someone with the gas tank on the opposite side of the car has snuck in there ahead of me. Grr. 

Hey, Auto Industry? Pick a side already and stick with it!

#8. Online shopping.  Well, actually, I’m ambivalent about this one.  I both love and hate it.  I get emails about things I never even dreamed I absolutely had to have – until I see the email or the online ad for it.  And then, of course, I realize I absolutely have to have it.  What’s worse is that they make it way too easy to order it online.  Just say no, huh?  Yeah, like that works for me…

#9. Being asked to take a survey.  Have you noticed that everyone wants you to take a survey lately?  You buy a single pack of gum at the neighborhood market and the clerk asks you to take a short survey about the service you received.  Survey requests are everywhere.  You only have to answer a few short questions online and you’ll be entered to win big prizes. Yeah, sure.  Does anyone really win these big prizes? I certainly never have.  Or if you went out to dinner, and you answer their “brief” survey, you’ll get a code you simply have to write on the receipt and you'll receive a free dessert or appetizer the next time you show up at that restaurant. 

This bugs me.  Why?  Because I can NEVER locate the receipt with the code the next time I go to that restaurant.  Or, if by some miracle I remember where I stashed it, I’ll discover that the code has expired.  Usually the day before.


About the only time I truly wish to take one of these surveys is when I’ve gotten lousy service.  Inevitably, that’s the very time I’m not asked to take a survey. Could there possibly be a correlation?

#10. Making lists of things that bug me.  Why does this bug me?  Because the list could get really, really long.  I’d be zipping along and arrive at #287 without a thought of stopping. And that makes me feel really old and cranky.  Really.  I mean, I can just see it now.  I’m going to be that crazy old lady with the gray bun, shaking her cane and yelling at the neighborhood kids to get off her property.  I’ll complain about everything.  I’ll start every other sentence with, “When I was young…”  And, of course, everything will have been better back then.  Or harder.  Because if it was harder, then I must be better than these foolish young people who have it so easy.  And who don’t have anything better to do with their time than posting photos of themselves with their hands on their waist and making duck lips faces at the camera. 

Yikes.  At the rate I’m going, my status as the crazy old lady should occur sometime around the middle of next week.

Or maybe I’m already there.
Just sayin’.

(Shoot me now.)

Thursday, August 2, 2012

Pinterest Revisited

So I’ve been on Pinterest for a while now and I’ve gotta admit that I’m just a little bit addicted.  The inspirational quotes!  The cool party decorations!  The clever home organizational tips!

But sometimes the pins confuse me.  I mean, someone will take a photo of a normal person with normal hair and write, “Love the hair!”  What confuses me is that the person’s hair is nothing special.  There is no style to it that I can discern.  And the color is, like, brown.  So I speculate that the pinner has perhaps thinning hair and is dreaming about having a full head of hair again someday.  Or maybe the pinner has wildly curly hair falling to her waist and is thinking that the short, relatively plain straight brown hairdo would be SO much easier to work with.  I dunno.  We tend to want what we don’t have, don’t we?

Sometimes the pins annoy me.  Like when there are 25 consecutive pins about how to decorate one’s nails with polish so that each nail is a different color. Or so that each nail has a zig-zag design.  But Pinterest is nothing if not educational.  I mean, I’ve learned that ombré nails are apparently a big thing right now if I am to believe the multitudes of pins about them.

Ombre nails. Go for it!
I’m sure there are people who enjoy all those different nail looks, but to me those manicures look like an awful lot of effort for something that would last about two seconds after I started scrubbing the bathtub.   When I was looking at photos of all those fancy fingernails to include in this blog, I came across one photo that downright scared me.  Long, pointy nails with metal decorations glued to each one.  Clearly, this is a person who never scrubs a bathtub.  Actually, I’m not sure how she  does much of anything.  And I suspect that, um, even a simple potty break would pose certain challenges for any person sporting these nails. 

Another trend I’ve noticed on Pinterest lately is that people pin all sorts of photos of white rooms.  Everyone marvels over these white rooms.  They make comments like, “Would love to live here!”  And, “I want this room!” 

Now I will admit that the photos are sometimes pretty impressive.  I look at those rooms and think, “Wow, that’s awesome!  Of course, sometimes the room is overlooking, say, the Pacific Ocean – so it wouldn’t really matter if the room was decorated with a ratty white couch and a threadbare white rug.  But sometimes the white room is just a regular ol’ room in a regular ol’ house.  And practically everything in it is white.  White walls, white ceilings, white furnishings, white knickknacks.

An all-white baby's room. With a chandelier, yet. Right.
I can’t help but think that if I were to walk into one of these houses, I wouldn’t even be sitting there for five minutes before blurting out, “You know what this room needs?  A little color…”

Nope, I'm just never going to be one of those uber-decorator types who go for certain looks that most folks simply don't "get."

One of my favorite things on Pinterest is seeing all the creative ways people have figured out how to serve food. I read pin instructions like, “Carve out a gourd and spoon in veggie dip – makes a great container and looks good on your Thanksgiving table!”   Huh.  And here I just use a plain old bowl.  Who woulda  thought?? 

And did you know that you can make your own marshmallows?  I’ve not bothered to delve further into such pins because (a) I’m not a big fan of marshmallows, and (b) if I were ever to need marshmallows, I think I would simply run to Kroger and pick up a bag.  I cannot imagine putting time and effort into making homemade marshmallows. 

Individual seven-layer dip cups. Brilliant!
Nevertheless, if I were to one day lose my mind and decide to make homemade marshmallows, I know exactly where to look to find the “how to” instructions.

The other day I actually put one of the pins to the test.  I made individual cups filled with 7-layer dip for a little gathering we had.  And my father-in-law raved about them. He thought they were a marvelous idea.  So…see?  Pinterest has improved my life already. 

And who knows?  One of these days I might invite you over for a party and might even serve you veggie dip from a hollowed-out gourd.

Just don’t expect any homemade marshmallows.  And definitely don’t expect me to be sporting talon-like nails with sharp metal decorations affixed to them. 

Frankly, I prefer challenge-free potty breaks.  I don’t care what Pinterest says.