Friday, January 9, 2009

New Car Adventures, or, Don't Forget To Eat Your Black Eyed Peas For New Year's (Reprise)

I told you previously about buying my first-ever brand new car, Lady Too. Today I'd like to tell you about my adventures in 2008 with Lady Too, in an effort to save you from the terrible mistake I made.

And no, the mistake was not in buying the car. The Chrysler 300 is a very nice car.

My mistake was that, tragically, last New Year’s Day, I forgot to eat my black eyed peas to ensure luck and prosperity. It is now clear to me that I must never forget this important task again. I remembered and ate them on January 2, 2008, but that was obviously too late to prevent all of the bad luck in 2008.

To refresh your memories: On January 13, 2008, I purchased my very first new car ever, a shiny brand-new Chrysler 300, promptly named Lady Too.

On January 21, 2008, Lady Too was stolen. That’s right, folks, stolen! She was parked directly in front of my house when I went to bed that night, but when we awoke on January 22, she was gone. Vanished. Just an empty spot where my car had been. Can you imagine?

So much for the alarm system that not only was supposed to make noise and alert me if someone broke into the car, but also was supposed to keep the engine from starting. Impressive thieves, I guess, although I don't remember being impressed so much as annoyed and very sad when I first discovered their talent on that January morning.

I went through the whole grief routine: denial (looked out the window 38 times just to confirm she was really gone), anger ("Those horrible awful terrible f-ing no-good crooks!!!"); bargaining ("please please please let my car come back -- I'll never drive like a maniac again, really!"); despair ("Now what will I do? I just bought that car! I can't afford to go buy another one! There probably isn't another white 2007 with a sun roof in town anyway...."); resignation/acceptance ("I guess it could be worse; at least they didn't break into the house and hurt my kids; my insurance will cover it; it will be ok eventually..."). Ack, how melodramatic could I be, anyway?

Those thieves must have eaten their black-eyed peas on New Year's Day, though. In looking for the registration papers to provide to the police, I soon realized that I had accidentally left them, along with the spare key, in the glove box, in the little pouch that came with the owner's manual. I had brought the manual in its little pouch with me on my errands the previous day so that I could check what kind of gas to buy when I filled the tank for the first time. I still don't know how the thieves got into the car to begin with -- it was locked and the alarm was set -- but they had to be pretty darned happy when they discovered that they would not need to hot wire it because some fool had left the key in the glove box of this new car with fewer than 300 miles on it. And even happier when they discovered a full tank of gas!

So now they had the car and the key and the registration papers -- not to mention the full tank of gas -- and I knew I would never see Lady Too again.

And – even more bad luck for me – I had just given away my little green Lady on January 20, so now I was without any car at all. I couldn't exactly call up my friend and say "Hey my new car got stolen, can I have the old one back?" since he had just spent several hundred dollars for new tires and brakes. It just didn't seem right somehow....

On the bright side, my kids and I have bikes so they had no excuse to miss school. And my insurance company provided a rental car for me the next day, so I wasn't without transportation for long.

My emergency black-eyed pea consumption on January 2 must have paid off at least a little because -- amazing things do happen! -- after a couple of weeks the police found Lady Too. The thieves had simply driven her until she ran out of gas and then abandoned her on a freeway entrance ramp. Too bad I hadn't procrastinated that gas purchase a day longer.

The police took a week or so to "process" the vehicle – dusted it for prints and looked for other evidence, I guess. So a few weeks after she was stolen, Lady Too was returned to me.

Even more amazing was the fact that the hoodlums who stole my Lady Too didn’t wreck her or tear her apart at a chop shop. They didn't spill anything inside or shred the leather seats or rip out the stereo. Heck, they didn’t even re-program my radio stations, although they did manually change the setting to a different station. And when they abandoned her, they left the key in the ignition. There were just a couple of scratches on the bumper, my kids' booster seats and a few other little things were missing, and there was a footprint on the ceiling liner, but overall, Lady Too was only slightly the worse for her adventures.

So avoid it if you can, of course, but if you absolutely must have your car stolen, I highly recommend having it stolen by these apparently professional and reasonably courteous thieves.

My insurance covered the cleaning and touch-up paint, and a mechanical inspection showed there was no damage to the engine. By the end of February, I was driving Lady Too again. I was thrilled! I was amazed! I was a little shocked, too, really, since I had not expected to see her ever again. In any event, I figured my luck was changing, and the emergency January 2 black-eyed peas had done their job.

But then, on the way home from returning the rental car, some idiot who failed to look before quickly changing lanes nearly side-swiped my husband's car. My husband swerved to avoid the other car and dented his rim on the curb. A costly repair. Ok, that happens sometimes, I thought. It's not about the peas.

And then a few weeks later, while driving Lady Too on the freeway, a rock hit the windshield and I had to have it replaced. Ok, that happens sometimes, I thought. We can't blame that on the peas, can we?

And then the price of gas skyrocketed to $4.00-plus per gallon, causing me to seriously question the wisdom of trading in my green Lady (which got 27 mpg on average) for Lady Too (which gets 20 mpg on a good day). What was I thinking? Still, though, this just *couldn't* be about those darn peas, could it? Surely I can blame this on George Bush instead, right?

And then while I was out of town for a week or so over the summer and the car was parked in front of my house, someone hit the back passenger side bumper and damaged the bumper and taillight, requiring another repair. Aaaaagghh! I had to admit it. I just should have eaten those darn peas!

And then one day I took my daughter to her piano lesson, and when we got in the car to leave at 6:15 p.m., the transmission would not move from "Park" to "Drive." It’s under warranty, so I called the dealer's repair shop, but it was closed already. I called AAA and waited for the tow truck driver to tow us home. He said this is a common occurrence with 300's. There is some weak link in the transmission which they fix and then there is no problem after that. (If they know this is a problem, why don’t they fix them before they sell them?!?) Meanwhile, he had to crawl under the car and disconnect something in the drive shaft so he could pull the car up onto the back of the tow truck, quite a lengthy process. The dealer picked up the car the next day and fixed it for free, so that wasn’t too bad, in the end.... still though.... those peas were haunting me.

And then on Halloween, some hoodlums hit my windshield with a rock or bat or something and shattered it and dented the frame around the windshield, so I had to have the windshield replaced and the frame repaired. Aaargghh... the peas....

And then Chrysler announced huge financial and labor difficulties, leading to speculation that it might not exist a whole lot longer. So much for my 10 year bumper-to-bumper warranty.... and all for the lack of a few black eyed peas!

And then, thankfully, 2009 dawned, and I remembered to eat my black eyed peas first thing on New Year’s Day.

And then on January 4, I received a notice in the mail: They caught the evil hoodlum who stole my car last year. I have to say I’m amazed. I had assumed that would never happen.

And gas is down to $1.50 per gallon.

And Chrysler might survive at least a few more years to honor my warranty.

Perhaps this year Lady Too will suffer no further damages, and Chrysler will recover from its economic difficulties, and gas will stay in the $1-$2 range, and I will happily drive my beautiful, fully repaired, no-longer-new Lady Too.

Life is glorious again! I ate my black eyed peas this year!


That damn expat said...

Damn! You should have told me about this pea thing 10 days ago!

Great story though. I hope all your car troubles are over!

LegalMist said...

I did -- if you had read my New Year's Eve post, I warned everyone to eat them first thing New Year's Day!

I am sure there is an exception for people who are getting married on New Year's Eve, though. Those bridal traditions surely must take precedence.... and I'm sure you complied with all of those, right?


Alice said...

I'm screwed no peas for me....

Green said...

I no longer own a car, and don't care much about cars, but this was a great story. Thank you.