Go Speed Racer

19 05 2008

Speed RacerMy brother and I used to stay up late playing with our hotwheels. We would line them up on each end of the corridor in our house and race them up and down the hall. We used to have cars that could fly, cars that could go underwater, cars that could jump and tunnel and swerve and roll.

My mom got us each a red plastic container to keep our cars in and we weren’t allowed to keep the cars just lying around the house. The rule in our house was, we were to put them away when we were done playing with them. So, as a result, I still have all my old hotwheels to this day…they are still in that nice red container. In fact, my boys are now getting to play with them again 30 years later. (I only wish I did as good a job of making them put the cars away when they are done!).

This week, the pest control guy picked up one of the cars that my kids had left lying around. He brought it to my wife and said, “You might want to hang on to this one…it could be worth something since there is a new SpeedRacer movie out”.

She showed me the car when I got home and sure enough, it’s a SpeedRacer car from when I was a kid. I had no idea I even had it. To be honest, I never was really even into SpeedRacer as a kid. I think this particular car must have been given to me as a baby because my wife looked it up and it was made in 1976, the same year I was born. She also checked it’s value on ebay and one sold for about $25 (although it was in considerably better condition).

Well, I just happen to have an 8 year old friend who is a huge fan of SpeedRacer. (You can read about his fascination here). He has several SpeedRacer cars from the last few weeks already and I thought this would be an awesome addition to his collection. So, Sunday night, while over at his house, I gave it to him. His eyes lit up like saucers and he came over quickly to inspect it. It wasn’t but a few seconds before he started asking me all kinds of questions about the car. I had to tell him honestly that he already knew more about this car than I ever had and that’s the reason I wanted him to have it! He was ecstatic!

I told him he could keep it as long as he took care of it. I told him I had kept it in decent condition (that might be a stretch) for over 30 years and that if I could do it, so could he! I hope he gets as much use out of it as my brother and I did.

One thing is for sure, it is definitely better to give than to receive. That look on his face and the excitement in his voice as he started to ask me questions about it was worth a million dollars! It was one of those rare moments when I was able to give the perfect gift to the perfect person at the perfect time. That doesn’t really happen very often and I will certainly remember this moment for a long time!


Cars and me just don’t mix

13 05 2008

My wife took our minivan to get detailed today.  This is something that is rare for us, but we have been wanting to do it for a couple months now and today was a good opportunity since we had both child seats out for cleaning anyway.

Tonight she had to go to a meeting, so my job was to get the boys to bed and to re-install the child car seats (a job that I loathe).  Anyway, I got the kids down with only minor headaches (another post for another day will be about the discipline of my children (or lack thereof)).


Then, I moved on to the car seat installation project.  But, I got stuck in my tracks just as soon as I got started because lo and behold, the automatic sliding side doors would not open.  Some electrical problem obviously.

So, after a few minutes of cursing the car detailers and my wife (who of course was totally faultless but I was just cursing anyone even remotely related to the car detail operation), I got out the car manual and began studying the electrical system.  I figured it had to be a blown fuse caused by excessive hand washing or something, so I learned the ins and outs of my minivan’s many fuse boxes.  I opened the one with the fuses to the side doors.  (By the way, by now it was dark outside, so I had to fish out a flashlight from the garage to carry on).  Finding the right fuse, I took it out for a closer examination.  This was recommended by the manual; however, upon inspection, I could not find anything wrong.

More cursing….

With absolutely no idea what else to try, I gave up for the night.  I resigned myself to take it back to the car wash place tomorrow and have them fix it.

On her way home, my wife called and I explained to her the problem I was having.  She assured me it was probably a minor problem and she would look at it when she got home.  The nerve…she will look at it when she gets home.  Yeah, whatever….you go right ahead and look at it, Honey.

She got home and went out to the garage.  Came back in within seconds.  Smiling, I said to her “Believe me, now, that there is a problem??”.  She smiled right back and said, “I told you it wasn’t a big problem, the switch that turns off the automatic doors had been disabled inadvertently by the detailer…I just switched it back on”.

She just switched it back on.  “Oh, good…” I said back.  And, I really am glad that I can cross this one little thing off of my list of things to worry about…but deep down we both knew that this was just one more item that can be added to the lengthy list of things that prove that cars and me just don’t mix.

Why I don’t trust car salesmen

8 05 2008

Car SalesmanWhy is it that I cannot trust Auto repair or auto parts establishments?  It seems like everytime I have to get any work done or buy any new parts for my car, I just get stressed out because of the lack of trust that I have for any of these places.  Nobody has been able to earn trust from me.  And, the irony is, that I would absolutely love to give my trust to someone, anyone, who is willing to do what it takes to earn it.  But, so far, I haven’t found it.

Here in Texas we have to get our cars inpected on a yearly basis to ensure that they are road worthy and do not pose a risk to ourselves or others on the road.  What really aggravates me (and ultimately leads to even more distrust) about having to do this is that most of the places that offer the inspection service are (gasp) auto repair shops.  They are IN THE BUSINESS of finding problems with your car, and they SURVIVE by convincing you to pay them to fix it.

I have found a place called “Inspections Only” that only does inspections (duh).  I love the idea of separating the inspection service from the repair service.  And, in fact, I am willing to drive quite a distance out of my way just to take my car there.  Well, this year, they found a legitimate problem with my vehicle – one of my tires needs to be replaced before they will give me a passing inspection sticker.

So, now, I am forced to shop around and buy a tire within 15 days so I don’t forfeit my inspection fee (and so I don’t get a ticket).  Which brings me back to square one.  I need to find a store that does only tires or I run the risk of “discovering” yet more problems with my car.  So, I am going to Discount Tire because they only do tires/wheels.  Luckily, in this case, there is one right close to my home.  But, contrary to Inspections Only, where the inspection pricing is set by the state, I have the added element of having to make sure they are not price gouging me on tires.  So, I must now undertake hours of research just to be minimally confident enough to go into Discount Tire armed with the knowledge of what tire I think I want and at a price I think is fair.

And, Discount will probably tell me that I need an alignment…which they don’t do.

Anyone else seeing the problem here?  And we wonder why no one trusts a car salesman.  He is just the first person that you have to decide whether or not you can trust in the hopefully long life of that car that he sells you.

I wish that I could find someone who I know I can trust that does it all.  He sells you the car.  He maintains it for you with regular oil changes and new windshield wipers and new tires with frequent rotations.  He repairs what needs repairing (and only what needs repairing when it needs repairing).  He inspects it and licenses it for the road.  And, ultimately, he buys it back from you when you are ready to buy the next one from him.  Oh, and the best part, he does it all for a fair price.  Notice I didn’t say he does it for free.  I would be willing to pay for this as long as I KNEW I could trust him.

That’s the key…TRUST.  And, I don’t know how I can give my trust to any establishment in the automotive industry.  I am sorry.  I know there are decent honest hard-working people out there that are doing fantastic jobs for their customers.  I just don’t know who you are…and deep down, even if I did know you, I wouldn’t truly know for sure if I could really trust you 100%.  Sorry.  Honest, I wish I could.