Saturday, June 14, 2008

Voluntary Zoom Zoom

The Protege was the first new car I had ever owned. The odometer was mostly zeros... I had seen that before, but the non-zero digit was on the other side. However within a week I had a problem. The engine began to randomly go into sag/surge cycles. When this started to happen the vehicle was almost unmanageable. I took it back to the dealer. They looked at it but couldn't reproduce the problem. I drove it away. A couple days later it came back. Again to the dealer again, no idea what caused it... I started talking about yellow fruit. The computer got replaced. It happened again I took it to a different dealer. They drove it and said that they didn't see any problems... It never happened again. I highly suspect that it was something simple that someone overlooked and they fixed it but didn't want to admit the problem. It was under warranty so it cost no money but was very annoying.

Along with that rocky start was another annoyance. About a week after I bought the vehicle, it was a windy day. The wind took the door in a parking lot. I was parked next to an old beat up suburban. WHACK! the door slammed into the wheel well of the suburban. Just a tiny mark on the already bespeckled suburban, but the edge of my door was bent. My nice new car had a big obvious dent. I was so annoyed and frustrated, but there was nothing to be done about it. The paint had not quite broken, and any attempt to fix it would almost certainly inflict further damage.

A week after that I came out from work to find a good sized ding with a smidge of red paint in it in the middle of my door. The area had plenty of parking spaces and they weren't even all that tight. But some bozo had simply been careless (perhaps as I had with the suburban) and now my car had 2 very noticeable dings in 2 weeks of ownership. My Firebird hadn't had any defects as large as either of those that weren't caused by rust.

The Protoge served me well for almost 6 years. It started to get old and require repairs. In the meantime my life had changed quite a bit. I had given up on finding a job in Ecology/Ornithology because none of them paid enough for me to live on. The ones that did pay well required a PhD rather than a masters, and generally had dozens of fully qualified applicants. The sign shop had gone out of business. The .com bubble had burst, but I had found a job as a Curricular Software Developer at F. W. Olin College of Engineering despite the programmer glut. I was cheap and the out of work programmers were used to 6 digit salaries. The grant that paid for that job ran out 2.5 years later. I got hired at a into a commercial setting. I began to appreciate Dilbert in new ways. I got promoted, I was now making twice what I did in the sign shop.

My Protege was not a very cool car. It was economical, but I no longer really needed to drive the cheapest car I could find. It was time for an upgrade. Finally, I was going to get to pick a car from a position of power, rather than a position of need. So I shopped around the internet and decided that given my rock climbing hobby, I needed to still retain some level of practicality. A sporty hatchback seemed like a good option. I decided that 3 cars looked interesting... The Volkswagon GTI, The Subaru Impreza Outback Sport, and the Mazda 3. I was skittish about VW's because I had known people who had repair problems with them. I drove the 3. It was substantially peppier than my Protege. It also cornered better. It had 6 disc CD, moon-roof and it was blue. I wanted a car with color. I had had grey white and fancy beige so far. It had a 2.3L 4 banger with variable vale timing and weighs 3300 lbs.

The Subaru I drove was also blue. It was a turbo charged with a bunch more max horsepower, but it had a 1.8L engine and weighed 3800 lbs. The low end torque was quite insufficient. One had to rev the engine to get the car to move. Once the turbo kicked in, it moved real good, but aside from getting on the highway, the power was not going to be very useful. The car was simply too heavy. Then there was the shifter. I swear, to date it's the only shifter in which I consistently couldn't find 3rd gear. The shifts were stiff and clunky and required a lot of force compared to both my current Protege and the 3. The third time I found myself skipping 3rd gear and going directly to 4th, I knew the sale was off.

I never bothered with the GTI. I liked the 3, and they were offering me 2.89% leasing on it so I bought it. I still own it today, and have been very pleased with it except for one thing. Mazda made a very bad choice with the oil filter. For the first 2 years it was impossible to find an oil filter anywhere but the dealer, and it cost $15 from the dealer. What ever possessed them to make the oil filter a dealer part! Talk about annoying. Obviously they were trying to force me to bring the car back to the dealership. I hate being pushed around like that. I have yet to take the car back to the dealer for service even once, and don't plan to do so if it can be avoided.

Finally, I had a car I really wanted. It wasn't a sports car, but it was a very good driver for a non-sports car. I still remembered driving my dad's Miata. That was fun, but I had moved into a new apartment and my new income was being fully utilized again...

Next... Incoming type 111

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