If It Ain’t Broke…

So, we’re preparing for a road trip in the imminent future to see Mom and Dad in Illinois. I’m incredibly excited to go see them, but recent focus has been put toward the 800 mile trip that lies before us.

Andy ordered sun shades for the back seat and a pair of headphones for Graham (so he can listen to the iPad). He even installed an iPod jack in my car so I can listen to my playlists now (whee!).

All I have been able to pay attention to, lately, is the persistent squealing of my brakes. I’ve been knowing that I need to get the car in, but… guys, it’s just never a good time. When you have two full-time jobs, a husband who works an hour away, and one car seat total… it’s NEVER a good time.  Responsibility won over convenience this time, and I made an appointment to have my brakes checked. While they were at it, I asked, would they please check the car over for other needed maintenance?

The day of maintenance was such a pain. Andy and I met at the auto shop the night before the day of my appointment to drop the car off. We switched the carseat into the Jeep, and the next morning at 6:30 sharp, the three of us were driving together to Graham’s daycare to drop him off.  Then Andy drove me to work, and drove to work himself. Kind of a pain, I’ll say – especially for Andy.

Guess what the auto shop found? The brakes were fine – but the tires were worn all the way down. Awesome. I mean, to the point where I wouldn’t pass state inspection. Well, now, I can’t very well pack my precious boys into a car and drive them across the country – twice – with bald tires, can I?

Andy called around to all the tire places and came to find that my car, OF COURSE, has odd-sized tires (and two different sizes – one for the front and one for the back – to boot). GoodYear came to the rescue because they had a local warehouse in DFW and could get these crazy tires to a shop in short order. Phew.

That evening’s commute home was a comedy of errs. I won’t go into it all, but we passed two GoodYear stores before arriving at the one we’d actually ordered tires from, which was pretty far from home. After all was said and done, Graham had spent an hour in the car, me – an hour and a half, and Andy –  two and a half hours. We arrived home tired and cranky. Andy was our chauffeur for a second day, and now, I’m happy to report, the car is road ready for our trek across the Midwest!

 

Fixed

When last we left our hero…

I’d been so impressed by the zippy new car and the promise of a $100 fix that I stopped bugging Josh at Sewell.  He’d made it right, in my eyes, and now all I had to do was drive an awesome car until he called me.

Well, he didn’t take the pressure off. Every day – sometimes multiple times a day – I got a call with a status update. I was informed that the dealer had received a box Friday evening. With a part.  The correct part: “Driver Side Belt Buckle”. The technician went out immediately to install it…

Turned out to be  a passenger side belt buckle.

The next morning – Saturday – I got a call from Josh.  He was sending my car over to the Cadillac dealer (these people were Mini dealers, but were – by far – the closest of the Sewell dealerships).  He acknowledged that my car wasn’t under warranty, but they decided to fix it as if it were.

Done.  It took the Caddy dealer a couple of days, but – by midweek – Josh was calling me again.

Except, he sounded sheepish.  What now?

Turned out, when he was inspecting the car for the final time, he notice drops of coolant underneath the car. He called me, and explained that, under full disclosure, the car was now safe to drive but… “Mrs. F – do you want us to take a look at this?”

Yep, I did. If he had concern enough that I might just wind right back up in the shop, I wanted it all done now.

It was a broken water pump. They fixed that too – under ‘warranty’ :P.  So back it went to the Caddy dealer, Saturday afternoon I got a call from my man Josh telling me everything was fixed. And yesterday, I drove down to swap cars.

I traded car keys with Sewell, didn’t pay a dime, commiserated with Josh a bit then I was on my way. I told him that he’d made it right. Made it so that all of the sudden, I didn’t care so much what was going on with The Fix That Shall Last Forever.  (Which is really saying something, because I can border on obsessive when I feel something should be going a certain way and its not.)

Stop laughing, Andy – that was at least a half a confession!!

So, Sewell, you got it right. Okay –  maybe that’s going too far, but you definitely made lemons into lemonade.

(And sorry about all the crushed up Cheerios in your loaner cars!)

ETA: (If you want a total count: that’s 17 days in the shop for a belt buckle and a water pump fix!)

Totally Redeemed

For the past few hours, Andy and I have both had the following line in our heads: Watch here because YouTube is annoying and disabled embedding of this particular clip!

I’ve been without my mommy-mobile for over a week now. As I mentioned in my last post, I took it in last week for an appointment on Friday afternoon, after the “service air bag” warning had been illuminated for a good two weeks or so. (It’s really something else to drive around in your car imagining that the air bag is going to spontaneously explode in your face at any moment.)

In contrast to everything I’ve been taught by my father and husband, I took the car to the dealer to get fixed. YES, they’re annoying. YES, they’re more expensive, but YES they have courtesy loaners to make my life a little bit easier in the interim.

So, as I’ve mentioned, I got this beaut:

A white barebones Pontiac G6. Not a bad car at all, just not my car. And a little annoying that I had to manually unlock the car and remember to hit the lock button as I left, but I dealt, because it was a free car, right?

What I didn’t appreciate was the double-edged-swordness of this ‘courtesy car’ deal. Since I had a car and was minimally inconvenienced, the dealer immediately informed me they might not get to see my car on the afternoon of my appointment. And the week went on like this…

Friday afternoon call from the Dealer: “Yes ma’am, we didn’t get to your car as expected, and Saturdays are kind of crazy around here… how bad would it be if we didn’t get to it until Monday?” [My response: Ooookay, but I at least want a diagnosis Saturday, so you can order parts if need be.]

Saturday afternoon call from the Dealer: “Yes ma’am, you have a bad seat belt buckle… [insert thorough description of why this is a serious safety hazard]… we’ve ordered the part, since it’s Saturday, it likely won’t be here until Tuesday.

Tuesday call from Dealer: “Yes ma’am, the part didn’t arrive on the truck as expected. All we can do is wait until tomorrow and hope it gets here.”

Wednesday… Dealer’s response after I called them: “I’m so sorry ma’am, but we’ve ordered the part. It comes from GM in Michigan. It hasn’t come in. All we can do is wait.”

Thursday… Dealer’s response after I called them: “I am so, so, so sorry for all of this. I know it’s been a long time. I don’t know why they sent an entire seat belt yesterday… [“They sent a seatbelt yesterday?!”] Yes ma’am, but that’s not what we need, we need a buckle. They’ve assured me it’s on its way, but they’ve said that before…”

Here’s where I told them that I want to get a call from them every day until the issue gets resolved, even if they have nothing to tell me. That after my car having been tied up for a week, I shouldn’t be the one chasing them down for answers, that they should be calling me and reassuring me that they have their eye on this issue and are doing everything they can to resolve it.

Call from Dealer at 11:30 am this morning, voicemail: [chipper voice] “Yes, Mrs. F, we are excited to tell you that we’ve confirmed that the part is coming in today, and we will have your car ready for pickup today no later than 4:00!”

Call from Dealer at 2:30 pm, voicemail: [not-so-chipper voice] “Mrs. F, please give us a call. We have more information about your car.”

Here’s where it gets really good. No seriously, this is the awesome part we’ve all been waiting for.

Josh (the service guy, we’re on a first name basis now) profusely apologized (again), but this time he said he wanted to make things right, and please tell him what he could do. “Get me a different car.” No problem, he said. He described what was on the lot. I chose my car. He then said that he would have someone drive up to my home – if that was indeed the most convenient place to do the exchange, and it was – to deliver it and swap out my G6.

Furthermore, he’d checked my service history and noted that this was my first time with them. He said, “I don’t have a second chance to make a first impression, and this isn’t [us]. So, your service will cost no more than $100.”

Aaaand awesome. That’s a $350 discount folks. And I get to drive this baby all weekend.

It’s a 2011 Mini Cooper Countryman S. Their newest wagon. Very fun. Probably something I’d never own in my lifetime, but I’m enjoying driving it for now. :)

I’ve had customer service comebacks before, but never ever like this. They essentially pulled off the impossible, and now I kinda want the fix to take a little longer.

Kinda.

Before Baby

You know, they say that having a baby changes your life. When you’re in your cranky third trimester of pregnancy and are hearing that on a daily basis, the snarky responses, which start at “Duh” and get more vulgar from there, flood your brain so quickly that you literally can’t pick just one and end up giving the well-intentioned person a dead-eyed glare.

Of course it’s true. Of course. But a lot of parents are just so ready and willing to make that step that you really don’t care about the way things used to be. At least we really don’t. But then again, having Graham in our lives is a definite upgrade, no matter how you look at it.

Okay, yes, I was up at 3:00 am this morning. On my birthday. That would, on all counts, be considered a bummer. And it felt like one at first, trust me, but when I heard my son ‘talking’ over the monitor in the wee hours this morning, I had to shut my eyes and giggle to myself. Wondering what was so interesting, I got out of bed and wandered over to his room. I found him, rolled on his side, eyebrows knit together, having some, no doubt, deep philosophical discussions with his hands, which were clasped together an inch from his face. All of the sudden, he saw me standing by his crib, he flopped onto his back again, smiled a wide smile, laughed, said, “GOO,” very definitively, and then commenced to pump his legs up and down to show his excitement that I was there so early in the morning.

That’s the good stuff.

But I do remember how I used to do things. It wasn’t that long ago that we were footloose and fancy free. Take buying a car for instance. Used to be walk in, talk to the salesperson, take a test drive, make a deal, sign the paperwork, and you’re outta there.

For starters, Andy and I drove two separate cars to the dealer, and we test drove the car in question separately, the other person hanging back and walking G around the showroom floor while we waited for the driver to return. That was weird. Also, buying a car is no quick deal, so we had to work feedings and changings into the process. In fact, I changed Graham’s very wet diaper early on in the evening and realized that the clean diaper I changed him into was the only one in the bag.

That, my friends, is known as “foreshadowing.”

Sure enough. I was feeding the baby in the salesguy’s office. He happened to be in there with me (he had been running back and forth to whereversville getting quotes on my car and tenths-of-a-point reductions in APR) when I heard some very familiar noises and felt some very similar sensations which gave me a guess as to what G was working on.

Graham is going to kill me someday for saying this, but he is not a stealthy pooper by any means. No, from the moment I heard the first stirring of the engines, so to speak, I struck up a conversation with the salesman. Loudly. It had to have been so obvious that I was nervously raising my voice to cover something up, but hopefully, if I did it well, he’ll have no clue as to the reason for the abrupt outburst of “How’s the weather?”-type conversation.

Anyway, the salesman eventually left, Graham had finished his bottle and Andy returned from his test drive. “Graham has completely loaded a diaper.” Andy laughed. I said, “No seriously… he’s still going.” Andy immediately took the changing pad out of the diaper bag and laid it across my lap as a barrier between Graham and my pants. “Not only that, he’s wearing his last clean diaper,” I said. Andy looked at me, no doubt to see if I was joking. “Are you SERIOUS?”

I could tell Andy had done the math that I had. We were a good 30 miles away from home and an hour, at least, until we were walking out of the building. “He does have a swim diaper in there,” I offered, motioning toward the diaper bag. Swim diapers are designed not to swell up in water. Meaning they don’t absorb water. Think about that. A diaper that doesn’t absorb water. It’s a problem only if you’re not in the water, which we obviously weren’t.

Sigh. But what choice did we have, really? We used the swim diaper and said every prayer that we knew in desperate hopes that – by some miracle – Graham’s dipe would do the impossible and hold water.

Ultimately, I’m happy to report that prayers were answered. We stayed long enough that we hit, and surpassed, Graham’s bedtime. At one point, he passed out across my lap. Horizontally, facing down, as if he were anticipating a spanking. We got him into the carseat, and he was dead to the world. It was at that point that Andy and I were fully re-engaged into the car-buying process, and it was at that point that we both realized that all we had left to do was sign the paperwork.

Did it used to be easier to buy a car without a baby in tow? Yes, indubitably. But, you know? We did it. And it wasn’t that bad. It’s like the lunch trip with the girls that I went to and survived. Like the plane trip that I’d hyperventilated over for weeks ahead of time that turned out to not be such a big deal. I remember how we did these things before we had a baby, but even given the choice, I’d never go back.

The New Ride

If you would have told me a year ago that my next car was going to be a Cadillac, I would’ve called you a liar to your face. I’ve imagined myself in many vehicles over the years, and I can honestly say that a Caddy was never one of them.

Also, wasn’t it Andy that needed the new car? Uh, yeah. Heh. About that.

You see, once Andy decides he wants something, it takes him awhile to evaluate his options. All his options. This is part of the penance. Theory is: if you’ve painstakingly ruminated over all your possible choices, there’s less of a chance that you’ll regret your final decision. So, while Andy was doing all his research and making his decision, I started to get weak.

The itch for a new ride started about a month ago. I ignored it. It kept nagging at me, so I took my car to get detailed, figuring once it was all clean and pretty, I’d fall in love again. Except the techs who detailed the inside broke an air vent, and I discovered later that a cap that read “Jeep” on the rear driver’s side wheel had fallen off during that cleaning too. I was bummed, and my grand plan of rekindling the flame with my Liberty had totally failed. It was then that I started noticing the things about my car that I’d overlooked. Truly nothing earth-shattering, but list was long and still the fact remained: my girl was getting up there in miles.

I started scanning the same car websites that Andy had been frequenting on his own behalf. Then I started crunching some numbers, Andy and I had a discussion pondering what it would actually mean to replace both our cars instead of just his, and finally we both started talking about replacing both our cars as an inevitability.

Now, I’m either really really gifted or really really terrible at The Penance, because I stumbled on my prize pretty quickly. The Penance is tricky when you’re used car shopping. If you find a good deal, you may wantto sit on it, but if it’s truly an amazing deal, then someone else will come along and snap it up before you get the chance. (Ask Andy about the Toyota 4-Runner he tried to snag last weekend.)

I’d been looking at the Nissan Murano pretty closely, thinking that it might just smooth the terrain in that bumpy road that takes me from “SUV” to “minivan.” I even spent my lunch hour at a car dealership earlier that week in a futile attempt to take one for a test drive. Unfortunately, the saleswoman was so intent on talking her script that I had to walk out before I got the chance to get behind the wheel. Being my lunch hour – and given I have the Paulson “MUST EAT OR ELSE” gene – I stopped at a drive thru to pick something up on the way back to work. After I got my food, I tried to roll up my driver’s side window. Nothing happened. I looked down to see if I was pushing the wrong button. I wasn’t. I rolled all the other windows down and up. My driver’s side window never budged. I opened the door and shut it. Turned off the car and turned it back on (Andy nodded his head as I recounted this story later and just said simply, “Reboot.”). Nothing.

So, because I take a tollway to and from work every morning and don’t fancy arriving to work with a veritable bird’s nest atop my head, Andy and I had to drop my car off at the shop to get the stupid window fixed the very next day.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, was the final straw. This… was personal.

In all my searches for used Muranos in the area, I found nothing that met all my criteria for my budget. But I did find this Cadillac SRX.

Sold by a reputable dealer in the area, this model is Cadillac’s crossover vehicle. The word ‘crossover’ just makes my entire upper body leap for joy at the prospect of not having to heft the 30 pounds of my child+carseat practically over my head to get him buckled in the car. This Caddy is a 2006, which was a much older model than we’d originally been considering. But, it’s under 30,000 miles with one owner. Who lived in Arizona. And drove just over 7,000 miles per year. Can you spell ‘r-e-t-i-r-e-e’?

Andy and I did our research. The model gets great reviews. At first blush, it seemed like a pretty stripped down car. And it is… for a Cadillac. Fact of the matter is, though, it has more options than my Jeep did. It also is in immaculate condition for being 4 years old. I’m sure Graham won’t keep it that way, but, you know… you like to make your own messes and not inherit somebody’s elses stains. 😛

Long story shorter: we made the deal. They gave us more than the Jeep was worth in her age and condition, the price on their vehicle was great to begin with, and we were able to haggle an awesome interest rate. Win-win-win. Seems like we made the decision on the car pretty quickly, and we did. But the more and more I thought about it in the dealership, and the more I’ve thought about it since, I know I would have had to search far and wide to come even close to another deal like this again. I came away with a heck of a lot of car for not a lot of money.

And so, here it is. The new ride.

It’s a smoky gray color, if you can’t tell in this light.

Leather seats. Not a must-have. But a really, really want-to-have.

Don’t worry, G has plenty of legroom. And will… for awhile.

Plenty o’ trunk space. Can you believe I can load the stroller wheels in?!

“Look, Ma… no hands!” a.k.a. “One-touch down.” Awwww ye-yeah.

The end. Quite, uh, literally.