Uh, I haven’t driven it much

So, this is probably a contender for the ultimate White People Problem, but my car wouldn’t start, so I had to call for help. I am the first to admit I’m not mechanically-minded, so in times of crises, like warning lights turning on or off on the dash, or cars not starting, I find a professional.

My car is a 2017 Ford Fusion that we got specifically so I would have something to drive to the office, and then (as you may recall) my office got eliminated. So, it hasn’t gotten nearly the usage we expected. In fact, the insurance company kept calling me to tell me their tracking device (that gave me a policy discount) obviously needed replacement because it wasn’t sending any data.

So, the Fusion has been resting quietly in the driveway. For some time.

It rested so long, that when I finally needed it, I couldn’t get into the car.

What I mean is that the automated key clicker-thingie wouldn’t open the door, so I couldn’t get into it the easy way, and at that point, I didn’t know that there’s a secret old-school key hidden in the automated key clicker-thingie, so I was stuck.

Eventually, I found the secret manual key documented on YouTube, but I was afraid I was pushing too hard on the secret manual key (to pry off the secret manual cover), so I gave up.

That was a couple of weeks ago. We’ve been to Ohio and back. Actually, we’ve been a lot of places, but since Virginia is usually with me, we just take her car (which used to be my car.)

So, I’m not really sure when I drove it last, but it’s been a while. I could estimate it, but my attorney has advised against it.

Hey, I lost my job, I’ve been looking for a new one, I was accepted as a SCORE volunteer mentor, we’ve been on a couple of trips, the Spousal Unit had surgery. I’ve been busy.

Let’s just say it’s been a while.

So, I assumed the battery was dead. When the automated key clicker-thingie didn’t work, that confirmed my assumption to me. That is the extent of my automotive debugging skills. It was time to consult a professional.

It occurs to me that if we had driven it to Ohio, my son (who is not a mechanic, but is amazing with tools) probably could have fixed it, but if we could have driven it to Ohio, there wouldn’t have been anything to fix.

So, I called AAA. Well, I filled in the online form. Then, I remembered the last time I had a dead battery, the mechanic sold me a new one, so I canceled the call. Then, I called Ford Roadside Assistance, since their new battery would be under my warranty. I hoped.

I’m not really sure why I have AAA when Roadside Assistance comes with our cars, but so it goes. Call both, have them race to the house. I’m pretty sure some mechanics work for both, anyway.

Ford Roadside Assistance is great. The 800-number texts you for the address, so you don’t have to read the address to a voice-recognition system. The operator can figure out much of your life from the last eight digits of the VIN. They text you a URL where you can track the tow truck from when it is dispatched until your injured car arrives at the dealer.

They dispatched someone to tow my car in, which seemed like overkill, but having just been to the ER and then admitted overnight for a vertigo attack, I’m used to overkill.

When the mechanic called to verify the address, he said he’d just jump it first, since it sounded like a dead battery. (Dead battery, you say? Maybe I should be a mechanic!)

So, this should be simple.

However, it’s my life. Simple, it is not.

The mechanic was a lovely gentleman who managed to get the secret key to remove the secret cover, and got the driver’s door open. When I told him I was afraid it would break, he laughed in that not-at-all-condescending mechanic laugh, and told me I couldn’t break it.

Sir, may I remind you that you are standing in front of a broken car to which I have done nothing?

(I didn’t say that, because I still needed him on my side.)

With the door open at last, we could try to start the car, which didn’t work, as expected. I was afraid he was going to show me a secret way to use the secret key when the push button didn’t work, but either there isn’t one, or he spared me.

So, once in the car, we popped the hood.

Hmm.

He said, “This car has not run in a long time.”

So, I admitted it may have been a short while since last usage.

He said, “You know how I can tell? Look at those nuts in here.”

It really helps if you’re familiar with the Southern/Texan African-American accent, because the soft lilt of horror is what makes this conversation the fun ordeal it was.

I looked where he was pointing. These were not “nuts and bolts” nuts. These were pecans.

“They’ve been chewing on some of these wires. Something was livin‘ in here.”

Pause.

“I don’t know if this will jump. I can’t tell if any of these wires have been chewed through.”

Pause.

“See where these are chewed?”

Pause.

“If this jumps at all, you’re very lucky.”

Pause.

“This is a new car.”

So, now I’m ashamed, and I started quietly removing the half-chewed pecans and empty shells from the platform in front of the battery. I’m beginning to understand why there didn’t seem to be as many squirrels in the yard this winter.

He attached the jumper cables, and the car started right up.

“You got very lucky.”

I nodded.

Very lucky.”

Pause.

“This is a new car.”

More shame duly noted.

So, he ran it until there was enough of a charge for the “Check Engine” light to come on, and then he decided towing it would be the best course of action.

I think he really just wanted to give the car some quality time away from me.

It’s at the dealer now. If he’s a character witness, I may never see the Fusion again.

On the other hand, I drove it from the driveway to the front of the house, so he could drive it onto the flatbed. (In his not-at-all-condescending voice, he said, “I’ll take it from here” as I pulled up next to the flatbed.) So, when the dealer asks the last time I drove it, I can just say, “Today.”

On the Walk of Shame back from the car, my flip-flop strap broke. Yes, I blew out my flip-flop, without even stepping on a pop-top. Broken Flip-Flop

So, now I can’t walk or drive.

At least, there’s Uber.

*** Update ***

The “rodent” chewed through the windshield washer fluid reservoir. It is called a “reservoir” because you can’t, in good faith, charge $337 for a plastic jug. Rodent damage is not covered by the warranty.

Worse news? Apparently, the squirrel in question needs braces.

The investigation continues. For $74. So, if they’re charging, you know they’ll be finding. More updates as available.

*** Update #2 ***

He chewed through the coolant reservoir, as well. So, we’re past $700 now, but at least if I see a stoned squirrel, I will have the suspect.

Inaugural Crossing

I must have been on a different ship than the people complaining about the Norwegian Breakaway Transatlantic crossing. I suppose part of the issue is the level of expectations.

Technically, she wasn’t even the Norwegian Breakaway until yesterday when she was christened (I know, it’s a real technicality, but nonetheless.)

The inaugural crossing was not even the “first cruise” (which I found hilarious when I discovered this.) The “first cruise” is the first trip from New York City to Bermuda with paying passengers, even though there have been two cruises with paying passengers previously.

I did not realize when I convinced my wife to switch from a Panama crossing to the Transatlantic crossing, but the inaugural cruise is a 3400-mile test drive. They knew she floats and she survived the overnight from Rotterdam to Southampton, but the Atlantic crossing was the first “real” test.

I think she passed. The staff was wonderful, after a couple of days, the weather almost cooperated and everything (for the most part) seemed functional.

It’s difficult to enjoy all the outdoor activities and amenities when it’s cold. This would have required a bit of pre-planning. It’s the North Atlantic. In April. It’s not going to be Caribbean weather. So, there were a lot of people indoors. (I went on the deck, just because I don’t mind the weather much.)

I didn’t visit the Garden Cafe because I’m too lazy to get my own food (especially when it’s probably food some other passenger picked up, sniffed and put back.) So, can’t review the buffet, but the restaurants were good.

We ate at almost all of the speciality restaurants, so many will consider us elitist. I just happen to like Le Bistro, my wife loves Italian and who could pass up Ocean Blue? It’s from an Iron Chef, who answers his Tweets.

The food service was slow, but this was the first time the staff was trying to produce the quantity of food required for a 3/4 full ship. Expectations, people.

I do think a lot of people take inaugural cruises just so they can bitch about everything that isn’t working yet (see the Norwegian Epic on her crossing or the Carnival <whatever> that had her first sailing this week.)

My wife and I were on this cruise because we wanted to cross the Atlantic like our ancestors did (well, my Grandfather didn’t have a balcony, but still.) When we saw the ship was arriving at 8am, we assumed we would be in port much earlier – based on earlier cruises. We were correct. We sailed under the Verrazano at about 3am. We were on the deck, taking photos. It was cold, the photos are a bit blurry, but it was an experience.

When we saw the level of hoopla scheduled for NYC after arrival, we assumed we wouldn’t be considered “the first” even though we were the first ones on the ship. Expectations, people.

She’s a beautiful ship. The staff was amazing. You can actually go outside on any number of decks – unlike the Norwegian Epic, which we sailed last Christmas.

Kevin Sheehan, Norwegian’s CEO,  is a very nice person (we kept running into him), and one of the better speakers I’ve heard.

We made more friends on this journey than on any of our other cruises (this was number five.) All the people we met seemed to understand the concept of “inaugural.” Maybe we were just lucky.

I was concerned about the number of staff it was going to take to pull my wife off the ship, but she was sleepy, so it wasn’t as difficult as feared.

I would take another Transatlantic crossing any time. I don’t think I can make the Getaway since we’re going on the Jewel just before Christmas, otherwise, I would have booked by now.

We will be going to Bermuda at some point, just to get back on the Breakaway.