Friday, October 30, 2009

I've waited hours for this and I've made myself so sick

My quest for a car continues. I hate being up against the clock on things like this. Newspaper deadlines and other deadlines at work I can handle easily — I usually complete tasks ahead of schedule and faster than many people's expectations. It's one of few things about myself of which I'm especially proud. But when I have to rely on others to get things done for me, and when I'm grasping blindly in the dark, unfamiliar with the process and not getting too many answers along the way, it's difficult to do things in a fashion timely enough for my own expectations, which I tend to set pretty high.

Such is the case with looking for a car. Perhaps my downfall is an innate character flaw I've possessed since childhood: Once I have my mind set on something, I'm locked in on it, and the blinders come up to block out any other options besides those that will get me closer to attaining my goal. If something comes along to make that goal unattainable, it's extremely difficult for me to change how I feel about it and to form new goals. It leaves me with a frustrated, disappointed feeling that my time before was wasted, and now I have to start all over and sometimes even do extra work to make up for this seemingly wasted time.

So now that I've got my sights locked on this one particular car, I can foresee it being very difficult if it turns out there's some innate, irreparable flaw in it that forces me to have to begin my search all over again. Starting a new search could take so long that I'd run out of coverage on my rental car, which ends next Friday, Nov. 7. Then I'd really be screwed. Without a car and without many options, I don't know what I'd do.

A coworker and friend of Darren's used to be a mechanic, and he graciously agreed to go with Darren to the dealership where this particular car is at 11 a.m. today to inspect the car for any potential underlying issues we didn't find when we test-drove and inspected the exterior of the car last week. The dealership is letting them use their service station to put the car on a lift and get a good look at it. Darren will then let me know how that goes, I'll make a decision, and we'll go back to the dealership when it opens Saturday morning to begin the negotiation process — should everything check out, of course. I've been approved for a great deal on a loan from AAA, but before I can close on it, the dealership needs to fax over a couple forms that can only be filled out after I've technically purchased the car, which brings up more unknowns and issues I'm not sure how to resolve, mostly because of my unfamiliarity with the whole process. I figure everything will work out. There must be people out there who have just as little an idea of how these things work as me, and yet they drive away with halfway decent (or better) pre-owned cars all the time — so why can't I?

Maybe I'm thinking about all this way too deeply, but I like to have a plan B (or C or D or even E) for every possible outcome, and usually the worst possible outcomes are the most difficult to invent solutions for, so I think about them constantly. I know, I know, you're going to tell me, "Liz, chill out already!" and you're right. I really need to learn to just chill out more, but every time I try to do that, I feel like I'm not thinking about something I should be or coming up with a solution to a problem still hanging out there. If I chill out, I might miss something important that needs to be addressed immediately, and I'd run into even more problems if I decide to try relaxing and not solve them right then and there.

By now you're probably convinced I'm just one big ball of stress, though I'd say that's only partially true. Deep within me somewhere, if I dig down enough, I can find a glimmer of hope that tells me everything will work out OK and soon this will all be over with and I can go back to normalcy. After all, things tend to work out for me in the long run anyway ... right?

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Monday, October 26, 2009

You're hurt but you don't know why

Sit and listen, my friends, to a horrid tale of frustration, hurt, anger and loss, all culminating in mixed feelings of yearning for what once was, yet looking forward to what will be.

Of course, this really has nothing to do with the tale I promised of my trip to Annapolis, which I'll quickly go over now. It's too bad that my other story trumps this one, as this trip was supposed to be a highlight of at least this month, if not this year, but circumstances have changed. Anyway, the trip was exciting and went well. It was great to see the exhibitry and videos I wrote scripts for in action at the Naval Academy -- I even got a couple photos taken by my Jim Lovell leadership video kiosk, which you can see below:

I'm actually pretty happy with how everything turned out. I got some great experience with being on the road and helping out during filming, and I think my boss was pleased with how I took copious, detailed notes and was always ready with whatever he needed when he needed it. Things went mostly according to plan, and I say mostly because there are always things that come up last-minute when you're on a shoot. It's just the way of the industry.

So on to my tale of endless frustration that's plagued me since Oct. 9, 2009. It was on that evening, a Friday, that Darren and I were heading to my parents' house in Central New York for our trip to the Fly Creek Cider Mill near Cooperstown. It was dark and drizzly, and I was driving my nice little red 2002 Ford Focus (with racing stripes on either side). The story behind how I came across that car is actually interesting as a side note. I bought the car from my father a couple years ago when I knew I'd be needing one for my internship at The Standard-Times in New Bedford, Mass., a little more than two years ago. We had looked around Herkimer for a couple weeks for a car within my budget (at that time, only $4,000), which didn't turn up anything that wouldn't require tons of maintenance and repair costs down the road. My father turned to Skinner & Damulis, a Ford dealer my grandfather had worked for and from whom my father always buys his cars. They had recently received a Saturn as a trade-in that they were willing to sell for exactly $4,000, but unfortunately for me, it had a manual transmission. We borrowed the car for awhile and I tried to learn stick but gave up after a week or two. At the end, I ended up buying that car for my father, who gave me his Focus, which he had bought from Skinner's a couple years before. At the time, it had about 75,000 miles on it, which was fine for me. It had been taken excellent care of, and I in turn did the same. I absolutely loved the car, despite it not having any bells and whistles. I was so proud of how well it ran despite its age and how many miles I was putting on it.

By the night of Oct. 9, 2009, the car had 111,456 miles on it, and I was certain it would last much longer if I continued to take good care of it. Traffic on I-95 and the Mass Pike from Dedham to near Worcester had been stop-and-go and all-out horrific. It had taken us about an hour and a half to go 30 miles. Around 8 p.m., near Exit 11 going westbound, we got going pretty good until traffic came to a complete stop up ahead. All the cars around me, including myself, slammed on our breaks to avoid hitting anyone in front of us. I was in the fast lane and turned slightly to the left to avoid hitting the Jeep Liberty in front of me. Luckily, I stopped in time, though I was deathly afraid I wouldn't make it. A couple split-seconds later, I heard screeching tires behind me, and a Honda Accord slammed into my passenger-side rear, jerking Darren and I forward in our seats and sending the car into the rear of the Liberty in front of us. The next thing I remember was the driver of the Accord pulling up beside us and mouthing, "Are you OK?" over to me. I nodded and pulled my poor, surely damaged car over to the left shoulder. The Liberty and the Accord did the same.

Long story short, a state trooper arrived and surveyed the damage. Most of the Accord's front was completely smashed in; the car would surely be totaled. As for the Liberty, I'd given them a small dent on the rear driver's side bumper, so they were able to drive off without anything further. My car, on the other hand, was completely smashed in on the rear passenger side, and the impact had caused shards of my car's body to puncture and pop my rear passenger-side tire. Strangely enough, the front of my car was completely undamaged, despite the small dent it had put in the Liberty. A tow truck came and took both my Focus and the Accord to a salvage lot. No one seemed to think the damage to my car would be enough to total it.

Understandably, this whole incident completely shocked and jolted me. It was the first time I'd been in an accident, so I was somewhat unprepared to deal with the rush of feelings and logistics to comb through that accompanied this whole ordeal. Miraculously, no one was injured -- I didn't even feel any whiplash the next day. Since all the rental-car places were closed by this point, Darren and I were forced to take a taxi from the salvage lot to a hotel, where we stayed the night. We got a rental car first thing the next morning and continued our trip to New York. I have the rental car even now, a 2009 Kia Optima.

I had my Focus towed to a body shop I'd received two positive, independent recommendations for. I went through the whole process of filling out an accident report, filing a claim with both my insurance company and the insurance of the person who hit me, and got the ball rolling on getting an adjuster out to assess the damage to my car. Unfortunately, much of this had to be done while I was on the road and on the job, which made me feel pretty bad, because I wished I could have devoted myself 100 percent to what I had to do there. (I don't think anyone noticed or complained, though.) Several phone calls later, an adjuster deemed my car a total loss. You can imagine the immense sadness and shock I felt upon hearing this news. I hadn't expected this result at all; I was counting the days until I would be able to drive my beloved car again. To me, it felt like losing a pet. That probably says a lot about how attached I can be to material things, but I think a lot of other people feel that way about their cars, too. To us, they're not just material objects -- they're friends, companions with whom we've spent times both good and bad and seen each other at our best and worst. We know our cars well: what makes them tick, how to maneuver and manipulate them just right, how hard to step on the gas or the brake. We feel they know us as drivers: how we react to others on the road, how hard we brake and accelerate, even what kind of music we prefer. So to me, it's natural to undergo at least some form of the grieving process when you find out the car you love is destined for the scrap heap. Even now, it's hard for me to imagine my car's body being crushed to a thin layer of metal and the parts (especially the nearly brand-new struts) being sold to the highest bidder -- that car, the first one I ever owned, the one I drove for more than 40,000 miles and which I was sure would run for much longer ... now it's gone.

The insurance company paid me much more than I thought I'd get for my car -- I got nearly as much as I originally paid for it. The title has been signed over to a salvage company, and I'm leaving work early today to go drop it off at the body shop, where it's still being held. The salvage company should come pick it up tomorrow. I'll get to see it one last time today, when I take everything that's left to take out of it, including my plates. It's kind of pathetic, but it brings tears to my eyes knowing that this will be the last time I'll get to see it, the last chance I get to say goodbye.

The insurance company is covering my rental car until Nov. 7 -- enough time for me to find, finance and purchase a new pre-owned car. From the start, I was set on a Honda Civic. Darren has a '98 Civic he bought new and has had ever since. It's had its share of problems now and then, but it still drives and rides like new. I want something reliable that looks nice and will last me a long time, and a Civic matches all those requirements. Darren and I spent all day Saturday test-driving and shopping around the greater Boston area for 2006-and-newer used Civics, and we found some pretty good ones. We'll be looking at one tonight as well, and after that, I think I'll be able to make my decision.

It's exciting to think about getting a car and looking toward the future, but it's also sad to know that my poor little Focus, which I loved so dearly and which would have gone on for so much longer had I not been rear-ended so badly, will no longer be there sitting in my driveway, waiting for the next ride.

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Friday, October 02, 2009

The headlights are beacons on the highway

It seems my future has taken a turn for the better. I've never felt as if I've ever been in control of my future -- it always hangs upon the whims and decisions of highers-up or of nature itself -- whether in my career, schooling, upbringing or anything else. But sometimes those decisions in which I have no say are ones I wouldn't have decided anyway, and they turn out to better my life in boundless, inexplicable ways. It may be an odd twist of fate or the planned-out thoughts of someone with my best interests at heart. Whichever it may be, it's the one time I'm most thankful for losing control of my life.

And so, for the first time I'll be going on a multiday business trip. From Oct. 13 to 15, I'll be in Annapolis, Md., for a shoot at the U.S. Naval Academy for a 10-minute-or-so film. We'll be interviewing midshipmen, teachers and filming around the campus. I'm really glad my first trip out in the field is to the Naval Academy: I really took ownership of that project -- if only in my own mind -- while I was working on it; and I especially took ownership of it from the time she left the project to the time Matt took the reins. Because of that project, I'm where I am today. Because of decisions made on my behalf, I associate-produced the project and gained the necessary experience to move up in the world and tackle even bigger undertakings.

I'm majorly glad it's Friday. On Mondays it always seems like the weekend is so far away, but it's never long before another one comes along. Fridays are always a welcome respite, as the weekend still holds so much potential, and you have that anticipation of what's to come and that yearning to finally get there already. Saturday's forecast predicts high 60s and thunderstorms, so I'm thinking that'll be a "stay in and knit" day. Those days are relaxing and can be fun (and Darren got a couple new games -- "Boom Blox" for Wii and "Gears of War 2" on Xbox 360 -- that he wants us to try out together), but I end up yearning for stuff to do outside. Luckily, there's Sunday, which is supposed to be nicer. Today's probably the best last day for Darren to take his motorcycle for a spin before tucking it in for the season, running anti-seize goop through its system and taking out the battery and hooking it up to the charger in our basement for the winter. It's the perfect day for him to put the lining back on the motorcycle jacket I got him and take "Ezzie" for one last spin.

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