Quote of the Moment

"It's never wrong to hope, Byx," said my mother. "Unless the truth says otherwise."
- from Endling #1: The Last, by Katherine Applegate

Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Deal or No Deal

Just another update in the ongoing fight against the Universe...

On Saturday, after the eye exam disappointment (see the final addendum to my previous post), I figured I'd take a look at some cars. I didn't have a pre-approved loan, but I could at least see what was out there. So we ("we" being Dad, my sister, and I) swung by a nearby car dealer nest. The economy has thinned out the herd; we saw empty lots where a few tried-and-true dealers once stood. Made for better parking, at least. My sister opted to stay with the Mighty Taurus (lest it get too nervous) as Dad and I wandered off to look for a lot worth looking at.

We wound up at a Ford lot, where I figured I could get a closer look at that Focus I've heard so much about. Soon after our arrival, the vultures smelled fresh carrion and circled in for a landing. A bright smiling young salesman was all too happy to show us a bright smiling Focus. The price was about five hundred more than I wanted to go, but Mr. Bright Smiley insisted that price was "the easiest thing" about his job, he could change it at any time, no problem. I gave it a once-over, noting right away a few interior issues (one air vent was broken, there was no RPM gauge, and a few other minor things I probably could've gotten used to.) Then we headed out on a test drive. It had a fair amount of guts, and it took standing water like it was dry pavement, but I noted a disturbing body roll on the freeway on-ramp; I didn't feel as in control as I like to feel when operating a motorized vehicle.

We got back to the dealership, and Mr. Bright Smiley brought over Mr. Tall Smiley, who seemed to be the next rung up in the flock. Numbers were tossed around, none of which I was prepared to go for. So, Mr. Tall Smiley got Mr. Large Smiley, who must've been pretty close to the top vulture around. He tossed out some more numbers. I couldn't help noticing that the numbers they were tossing all related to monthly payments; the price, the "easiest thing" to change according to Mr. Bright Smiley, seemed suspiciously identical to the one I'd deemed a bit too rich for my blood. More discussions, more numbers, and more talk about what I would be willing to pay, and what I would be ideally looking for. Eventually, Mr. Bright Smiley took us over to a sister lot to show me more things. Each successive car seemed less like what I was ideally looking for - one of them was a two-door and one a stick shift, both of which were specifically on my "Do Not Want" list - but I gamely test-drove a couple before we headed back to the first lot.

Here, they pulled out their big guns. A 2006 Ford Fusion luxury edition. Leather seats. Computerized display. Roomy interior. It even had room for a full-sized spare... and an RPM indicator. I was test-driven out by then, but I agreed to take it for a spin. I didn't go on the freeway, just up a hill and back, but boy did that thing handle well. A V6 engine (like the Taurus), but a lighter body (meaning better MPG) made for a Very Nice Ride. But there was the price tag. It was five thousand more than the Focus, which I had told them was too much.

No problem, prices are the easiest part of the job, Mr. Bright Smiley assured us. I would need a co-signer, but they should come up with something I'd like. Dad agreed to co-sign, so they got his info and came back. The price they came back with, oddly enough, was nearly identical to the price they'd given me before Dad co-signed. So were the monthly payments. I told them I didn't want to buy, agreed that it was a great deal, but repeated that I was still just looking and couldn't afford what they were giving me.

But it was only Mr. Bright Smiley's second day on the job! Surely I wanted to help him? Not at the cost of bankruptcy, sorry. (Didn't say that in so many words, just repeated that the price was too rich for my blood.)

It's a great deal - you just can't find Fusions for that price! Well, no, they aren't as common as Focuses, but you can still find them. And they're still too pricey for a library page.

Between Mr. Bright Smiley and Mr. Tall Smiley, no fewer than five sheets of numbers flew back and forth. The monthly payments kept coming down. The base price stayed the same. My answer stayed the same, too.

At last, as I was leaving, they tried one last stab. Then - only then! - did the base price drop, even though that was supposed to be the "easiest thing" for them to change. (I suppose most people don't notice the base price if the monthly payments look low enough...)

Deal or no deal?

No deal. We left home in the Mighty Taurus, and in the Mighty Taurus we returned... after a stop for lunch, at least. (Three hours of saying "No" works up an appetite...)

(When I got home, I found I had some junk mail. A $500-off coupon for Lasik eye surgery. The Universe can cram that where it stuck its sense of humor...)


Oh, and for those keeping score, I tried again for a smaller loan - well within what I actually have in my credit union account - from the credit union, with Dad as a co-signer. It was rejected for the same reasons as before. So, evidently the fact that I've banked with them for over a decade and never overdrafted or bounced a check, and the fact that I have the money (and then some) in their bank, and that they could repossess the car if I defaulted in addition to taking the money I have in their bank and thus would be out absolutely nothing... all this means nothing to the credit union that's all about helping its members. Dad's suspicious that the fact that I'm a single woman is figuring into their decision, based on his own dealings with the same credit union, where they were willing to loan him unbelievable amounts of money despite outstanding debts (and me being debt-free in addition to credit-history-free.) Even the car dealers were willing to take a chance on me with my nonexistent credit rating.

So I suppose I'll have to find alternative funding for my new(er) vehicle, and find another way to build up a credit rating. I'll figure something out... still sucks in the meantime to be turned down twice.

Oh - and mostly for nostalgia's sake... the YouTube version of O'Rafferty's Motor Car (One of those albums that imprinted itself on my brain at an early age, and which continues to cycle through my head whenever I look at used cars.)

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Red Lights

Red lights are generally not good things. They stop us in traffic. They alert us to trouble. They generally foul up our days.

At work, the Red Light watches over us on the wall, letting us know when the Great Crane is unhappy. When the Great Crane is unhappy, we're unhappy. Without the Great Crane, totes full of library material cannot be unloaded from the rack into the lanes, so they cannot then be emptied and sorted on the belt into other totes, which cannot then return into the depths of the rack via the same Great Crane to be regurgitated for shipping later. Usually, when the Red Light flashes, it goes away in a few minutes; just long enough for me to get a bit of a lead on my lane. When I actually empty my lane before it recovers, there tends to be bigger trouble in the works.

I emptied my lane twice today. And that was just in the first half of the shift.

This week, the Red Light has been unusually active. Because of it, we started on Wednesday with what was essentially a holiday load - the sort of load we expect to see when there's been a holiday and a subsequent backup of books to flood us. To put it in perspective, a "normal" day starts with 700-/800-odd totes in the rack. On Wednesday, we started with over 1200. Today being Thursday, we were marginally further ahead - high 1100's - but still behind in terms of where we usually are. Red Lights don't help this situation much, especially not long Red Lights.

In any event, we knew we didn't have a snowball's chance in heck to finish before Friday (or before Saturday, for that matter), but we gamely trudged back after the break to give it the ol' library try. After all, every tote thrown was one less to throw tomorrow.

Not one hour later, the belt stopped. The chute doors slammed open. An ominous silence filled the air which had, but a moment before, been filled with the cacophony of dropping books and clattering totes and squeaking conveyor wheels. And the Red Light laughed at us from on high, laughed at our pitiful efforts to outwork it and outwit it.

Evidently, a transformer had blown somewhere, a transformer that - somehow - just took out the part of our building that houses the important stuff. Who blew it? Danged if we knew, but the guys next door poked their heads in to ask if we were down, too.

So, anyway, we lost the rest of the day waiting (in vain) for power to be restored. Tomorrow, we once again return to do battle with the ever-mounting backlog and the dreaded Red Light of Doom.

I dread the numbers that face us tomorrow...


Red Lights... things that stop us, that hold us up. I seem to be hitting nothing but red lights in my quest to replace the Mighty Taurus.

By the time I had time (i.e., didn't have a work schedule screwed up by mandatory lame meetings and subsequent overtime to make up for work lost to said lame meetings, had no Family Projects that ate my day, and didn't have to drive family anywhere) to call about the golden Chevy Classic, it had vanished, never to return again... at least, not with a For Sale sign.

After three days of trying, I finally got the credit union online loan pre-approval function to work. It was supposed to give me a yea or nay within four hours. That was on Tuesday afternoon; I just checked an hour ago and it's still "Pending."

I might - might - be able to get away this Saturday to finally do some test driving, but I'd like to know what price range I can realistically look at, which can't happen until the credit union's peculiar definition of "four hours" elapses. I also have a sneaking suspicion that another Family Project is going to spring up that requires my attendance (which is what happened to last Saturday.)

All in all, I'm getting mighty sick of Red Lights in my life.

FRIDAY UPDATE - The Red Light theme continues... The Great Crane and associated equipment continued to be temperamental today, resulting in us carrying over nearly a full day's worth of totes (somewhere in the 6/700 range.) I felt remarkably unproductive and useless, especially since I'm too close to the page hour limit to work the extra shift on Saturday that the boss had to throw together in an attempt to tackle the backlog.

And, after finally breaking down and calling the credit union, I found they'd turned me down on the grounds that I have no credit history. This, from the only financial institution with which I have a credit history - and with which I have the amount of money for which I was asking, so it's not like it was a risk to them even if I defaulted. (I mostly wanted the loan so I wouldn't wipe out my savings in one go, but could drain it gradually as my paycheck replaced it.) Why they couldn't have told me this online, I don't know. I'm thinking about trying again with Dad as a co-signer, but their website isn't really full-service except during banking hours, so I wouldn't hear back until Monday anyway.

At this point, it's looking more financially viable to pay 8/900 to get the Taurus tranny dealt with, watch the antifreeze for its random dips, and just keep my fingers crossed that it limits its starting issues to parking lots rather than stoplights. Kind of like I'm doing now, except for also watching the transmission fluid and killing the AC at stoplights "just in case."

On the plus side, this frees up Saturday to go get glasses instead of looking for a vehicle, but the way this week's been going I'm leery of setting foot outside my door.

SATURDAY UPDATE - The kicker of the week... I went to get my eye exam for a pair of new glasses, and was told that the doctor wasn't in. In fact, according to the lady out front at Pearle Vision, there's an optometrist convention, so almost every eye doctor in the area's away.

Universe, I think you know what you can do with your sense of humor at this point... Really, it's getting just a wee bit old, don't you think?

Saturday, March 14, 2009

Taunted by Gold

About a week ago, in the local supermarket parking lot, I spied a sign. "FOR SALE," it read. A nice, shiny golden car about the size of the Mighty Taurus, gleaming in the sunlight. So I wandered over to look closer at the info posted in the window. A 2004 Chevy Classic with surprisingly low mileage (under 30,000.) The price... well, I could do it without a loan, but it wouldn't leave me much of a safety net.

I stood there and looked at that car for a good, long while. Thus far, my search for a new(er) vehicle has been limited to Internet pricing and review searches. I'd been leaning toward a Focus or something similar, because they look reasonably reliable and because, when I enter my list of demands in online car dealership searches, it's one of the cars that keeps popping up. I hadn't even thought of Chevy, and I couldn't offhand place the Classic in my meager mental list of car makes. I was also hoping, in this economy, that I could get something a bit newer than a 2004, which would (theoretically) buy me more time before major issues. But there it was, not five slots away. It looked clean. It looked shiny. It looked a heck of a lot better than the poor old Taurus, with its disintegrating paint and various slow leaks and occasional starting-in-the-parking-lot issues.

Eventually, I wandered into the store to do my shopping, then went home. I poked around online and searched for more online reviews of used cars (surprisingly difficult, unless one counts general user reviews.) I thought about going out to dealerships, and I thought about that golden Chevy - which didn't look like such a bad deal, if the posting public could be trusted.

A few days later, I was back at the grocery store. And there the Chevy Classic was again. Still shiny. Still golden. And still for sale. So this time, I at least wrote down the phone number of the seller. And I stared at the mileage (so temptingly low...). And the year (a little older than I wanted...). And the make (born and raised a Ford driver...). And the price (doable, and likely negotiable... and completely devoid of used car salesmen and loan applications...).

As I shopped, I reminded myself that I had no idea what, really, lay beneath that gleaming golden exterior. Maybe the tranny's about to go. Maybe the owner smokes like a chimney and has incontinent Chihuahuas. Maybe it handles like a ton of bricks in a three-wheeled pram. And maybe I really ought to hold my horses until I do more homework.

In the checkout line, I looked at Consumer Reports. The annual auto issue just hit the stands. Stupid, mocking Universe... Of course, I bought it, but still - stupid, mocking Universe...

As I started up the Mighty Taurus, it wouldn't start. Not on the first go, at least. While I gunned the gas to get it started and waited for it to mellow out enough to trust in gear, I kept looking across the parking lot to the golden Chevy Classic. And I remembered I had my cell phone, and the number to call. And the money right in the bank.

Stupid, mocking Universe...

Much as I know I ought to do some actual test drives and more intensive hunting, a small part of me wonders if I ought to just make the call and get that Chevy down to the mechanic's for a once-over.


Oh, on a completely unrelated note, anyone know anything about wireless routers? My tax refund came in, and I thought I'd indulge myself and the Little Black Critter, but the only info I can find online is so mired in technobabble not even a die-hard sci-fi fan could decipher it. I don't want to screw up existing computers just to let the LBC go online to update itself like it so desperately wants to do.

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

End of the Road

First off, Happy Square Root Day!

And now, on a less jubilant note...

The Taurus was due to have a small leak in the transmission repaired today. The cost, however, was close to what the car was worth on the open market. So it came home as-is.

And we still can't replicate the antifreeze problem reliably, though we did call the mechanics to let them know that, no, they didn't fix it right and they should expect the Taurus back at any time when we have something more definitive.

There appears to be no rhyme or reason to the increasing problem of rough starts and idle RPM dips.

All this means one thing: After nineteen years, the Mighty Taurus is officially coming to the end of the road.

With fluid checking and some hoping and praying, it'll last me long enough to get another car.

Guess I better figure out what kind of auto loan the credit union will pre-approve me for. Oh, yeah, and I'd better secure more income to make car and insurance payments.

I can't say I didn't see it coming, but still...