Monthly Archives: May 2015

More Than I Bargained For…

If you’ve read any of my other posts, you’ll know I bought a new car last year.

I hate it more and more every day.

Right now I hope it bursts into flames, gets crushed by a collapsing skyscraper, then has the remnants stolen by scavengers preferably while still smoldering.

I don’t want to deter anyone from buying a Mazda3 but I’ll now share a little bit of how a perfectly amazing car could be so despised that I hope and pray the children of the designers all become unhappy and disgruntled little brats with a complete lack of toilet training

First, it’s not a stick shift. Personally, I believe that if you’re not capable of pressing a clutch pedal with your left foot, shifting gears with one of your hands, and using your brain power to help you maximize the forward momentum of your motorized object, you should be forced to take public transportation where you’ll be happier at your ability to stay completely glued to your smart phone. The car I purchased did not even have a manual transmission available, a further sign that corporate marketing and development teams for modestly priced automobiles steer products toward the lowest common denominator.  Now that the 2015 version has an available manual, at least I know the manufacturer has changed a bit and is willing to build one now, as an insult to those of us who decided that it might be time to just suck it up and deal with no longer shifting for ourselves. I’d rather employ someone with at least one arm to follow me around and wipe my mouth every time I eat something.

To add injury to that insult, and I mean a sharp thrust-kick to the knee type of injury, most dealerships will never have an actual manual transmission car on the lot even if the company builds them. Or they’ll have one, that’s gets test driven to death so that when you buy a “new car” you’re getting one with a couple hundred miles of abuse on the clock.

Secondly, in my rant against this new car, I find the infotainment system on the Mazda3 poor at best, and outright abysmal on most days. I forget what I’ve typed about it before, but after four or five trips in to a dealership to have the system updates installed (or re-installed in my case,) I still have a stereo system that simply fails to deliver what it promised. The Mazda3 has a genius design– instead of an iPod cable sticking out from the dash, it has two USB ports for connection of just about any audio device. It’s vague as to which ones are actually compatible, but I assumed my Apple iPod would work. Sure enough, it did.

Here’s where it goes from pushing me past “annoyed” straight on to “get the straitjacket.” When the iPod is connected, it automatically plays the first song alpha-numerically that’s on the device. For me it was the single song I had from the band AFI, called ‘Miss Murder.’ While once an acceptable track, hearing it start over EVERY SINGLE TIME the car was started got old after about 15 minutes of car ownership. It didn’t matter that I’d just stopped to fill the gas tank, or that I had previously selected something else. It went right back to the start of the AFI tune. Well, that wasn’t going to stop me. I recorded a track of complete silence in my studio and called it 00000001 AAAAAAAAaaaa. Seriously. That way, at least my stereo started out with NOTHING and gave me a few moments of silence in which I could select another track. Then the iPod died. It sustained a complete hard drive failure.

Now repeat that exact same paragraph only with a newer iPod. Again, a completely failed hard drive.  Coincidence? Most likely yes, but two in a row? I’m good that way.

Fast forward several months. I had wised up and loaded my entire music library onto a USB flash drive. Of course, I deleted the AFI song out of everything. It’s gone forever. I hate it so much now I hope AFI turns into BFE or something. The biggest difference is that it takes a lot longer for anything to start playing, as in about 90 seconds.

When it does start, guess what song plays maybe 85% of the time? If you said Frank Sinatra’s “Luck Be a Lady,” you’d be wrong. It plays that blasted AFI track.

Now I’ve had the OS reinstalled or updated on that car at least 3 times since the iPods died, and they have completely failed to remove that track from the system cache. The scary thing is that now it really is completely random. Some days, the USB drive might remember where I left off. Most of the time, it does not.

Here’s where it goes from straitjacket territory onto something that would make Jack Nicholson’s character in The Shining look like a viable candidate for a preschool teacher. This infotainment system has no power button. When it fails, (did I mention which is every single day I drive the car?) you have to just let it go or hit the mute button until you can stop, shut off the engine and restart it. Once on I-75 between Lexington and Cincinnati, I actually had to exit the freeway, stop the car, restart it then wait for it all to start up again after it froze up. I have since found a 3-button combination I can hold down for 10 whole seconds in order to relaunch the system. That’s wonderful, in a modern car that wants so much for me to keep my hands on the wheel and eyes on the road.

There are buttons on the steering wheel that I don’t use because the same ones are only 14 inches away from my leg. There’s a HUD so I can see my speed without looking down at something so cumbersome and awkward as a speedometer. I have a nice big tachometer that is useless because the car shifts when it wants to, not when I want it to. The mirrors light up and blink at me if I use my signal and a car might be in the blind spot. Never mind that I know how to look quickly over my shoulder first. There is a camera in the back that lets me see what I’m about to back into when in reverse, rendering my ability to actually look behind me with my eyes as inconvenient for once. Actually, that reverse camera is kind of cool.

In the end, this rant is about a car that is about 97% perfect in every drivable way. The sad thing is that that last 3% are the very things that are most important to me in a new car. You never can tell straight off the dealer’s lot. You need a few months with a car to really get to know it’s flair. So a good internet deal ended up being more than I bargained for. Every review raved about this car. All the magazines said it was great. No one noticed the lack of the power button on the infotainment system. (I even ran that past the rep at the Detroit Auto Show in January)

Couple all that with the fact that this car was dinged in a fender bender after one week of ownership, and you can see why I just want to start over. Yes, that first month where you really start to learn your new set of wheels, the thing was in a shop having the entire rear suspension replaced. It’s factory brand new and in perfect specs, but the Carfax seekers won’t care about that.

I think the time has come to embrace the fact that I’ve been screwed, jump ship and buy something that just screws you in the repair & maintenance dept.  You can at least prepare for that and you know ahead of time how much a timing belt replacement costs.

I hope people from Mazda read this, and I hope they all are forced to drive Reliant Robins for the rest of their lives. That’ll show ’em why you pay attention to details to the nth degree!

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Attitude of Gratitude

Life is good.

Even when times are bad, life is good.

In February, I started martial arts training with an old friend. Not having any prior skill, I was a bit taken aback that he’d want my help, but he asked me to bring my educational classroom management skills in and work to help him start growing his business.  My task is to manage the training floor, keeping things moving and assisting the higher level instructors who are doing the actual training. This program is closely related to traditional Shaolin Kung Fu, and as such it focuses equally on personal development of the mind and spirit in addition to the physical training. As such, I’ve learned to constantly work to improve my attitude, which is the essential element for success.

It’s no secret on this blog that for the past three years I have struggled with unemployment, and the subsequent underemployment that comes from maintaining several part-time jobs. One of those was my return to the elementary music classroom for a half-week schedule in August of 2013. Now, near the end of the second school year as such, I am faced with a new change.

I have been informed that I will be offered to return to full time status with this public school district. This is great news on the one hand because I will finally be able to return to the stability and certainty of full time work, with a modest salary that will enable me to pay my bills and maintain an average savings.

The workload will be a bit of a challenge. Instead of working in one school, I’ll have two. That’s double everything, students, coworkers, principals, etc. It will cut into my available time I have for doing other things such as all the percussion instruction and even the martial arts school. My private lesson schedule will have to be seriously altered. You get the picture.

So I should be elated, overjoyed, ecstatic, yeah yeah yeah. I’m not.

Instead, I’m quietly thankful that for the first time in a long time, I have the option to move back into that realm of certainty.

Quietly thankful, and reserved. I am still not convinced that this is what I want anymore. Certainty is one of the basic human needs, and I do not believe my need for it is as significant as it once was.

Hence the attitude of gratitude. I am thankful for everything I have. I do not want to give up things I love in order to do other things I love. I’m slowly realizing that even though working in a school is tiring, stressful, and at times infuriating, I am at a position where I can finally say that whichever way I go will be a win-win. Ever done one of those Ben Franklin-esque pro/con lists? I did, and because it exists, I am driven to be thankful.

So the goal in February was to become a full-time martial arts instructor. For all I know, that may still happen only at a different time. Maybe sooner. Who knows what tomorrow will bring? As for today, things look as if they’re starting to take a different direction. So despite the fog that remains in the distance, I am thankful that it’s no longer going in the same straight line.

Friends and family, I will inform you all once a definite outcome has occurred. Nothing is set in stone and this could just be the eye of a hurricane. If that turns out to be the case, I’m equipped to fly over the other side instead of through it.

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