Coffee heat rising

Yow! The Car of My Dreams!!

Holeeee mackerel, if you haven’t seen the latest Toyota pickup, you surely should! <3 <3 <3

I’m sitting at the Toyota dealership waiting for the crew to finish working on my car. Wait and wait and wait and… Ohhhhh well…what else have I got to do, eh?

At any rate, while I’m loafing in the showroom, I find myself sitting near a specimen of these new pickups. Boyoboy! To have a business that would allow one to write this thing off one’s taxes…  😀

LOL! Bop on over to the Toyota website and you discover these things sell in the vicinity of 60 grand. What a bargain, eh?

Oh well.

Twenty-First Century as Gigantic Rip-off

Those of us who are decrepit enough to remember life in the late 1900s can surely attest that there were plenty of ripoffs on the float, back then in the “good” ole days. But jeez…

Every which way from Sunday, here’s somebody trying to siphon your money out of your wallet. I swear ta gawd!

Today I had to register the Dog Chariot. Every year or two (depending on how much you’re willing to pay at any one time), you have to trot your car into a state facility to get an emissions test, for which you have to pay about 20 bucks.

Once you pay, they give you a sheet of paper that you have to use to re-register your car. This year: the tab is $227 and change. In other words, it’s going to cost almost $250 to register a nine-year-old car. For one year.

I find this passing infuriating. Yes, I know: we need to pay to maintain the roads and hire highway patrolmen. But we already pay an exorbitant state income tax. And stiff sales taxes on everything that passes a cash register.

But evidently there’s nothing one can do about it.

For a change, though, this year’s ritual was not the unpleasant production of the past. Used to be, you’d drive in and find a dozen lanes, any one of them with ten or fifteen cars ahead of you. So you get in line and you wait and you wait and you wait and you wait and you wait and you…

…and you don’t have much choice of which line you get into. And this is August. The hottest month of the year in Arizona. (Understand: it was 112 here today…and that was actually a fairly balmy day.)

To my surprise, this time there were not very many cars and trucks ahead of me.

A worker motioned me to a line that had only one vehicle, and it was already inside the drive-thru.

So, incredibly, I didn’t have to wait long at all — only a few minutes.

Get in there…and usually they make you get out of the car and wait inside an uncomfortable booth: hot, stuffy, and claustrophobic.

This year, though, they seem to have done away with those. He didn’t even make me get out of the car!

And…it only took him a few minutes to do the job — not a quarter-hour or more. Forthwith he came back, handed me the paperwork, and said I was good to go!

Hallelujah, brothers and sisters! No hassles??????


Then you look at the paperwork.

The fee to register that nine-year-old vehicle is $227.77.

Can you imagine?

Two hundred and thirty bucks to drive a car I should have traded in four years ago?

Dayum. What do you suppose it costs to register a brand-new Venza? If they even still make them….

I don’t drive that car much. Now that I don’t have to schlep to jobs in Tempe or in Glendale, I rarely have any reason to bucket around the roads. Yeah: I drive to the grocery store, the Costco, and the occasional doctor’s or veterinarian’s office, but that’s about it.

If we had decent public transit here, I probably wouldn’t even own a car.

But we don’t, so I do.

There’s good reason not to feel safe on the city’s buses and trains. Mainly, the transients ride them for free (partly because on the train, no one is taking tickets, and partly because various organizations hand out free bus passes. And o’course, because they’re air-conditioned). Most of those folks are harmless. But some are…not. Many are ex-convicts. Most are drug users. Some are out of their heads with mental illness or the effects of street drugs. So…no. They’re not strangers you want to spend a lot of time with, in elbow-to-elbow seating. Or standing.

And that’s specifically why I don’t ride lovely Phoenix’s buses and vaunted trains.

So here we are in a city — and a state — where public transit is neither very practical nor very pleasant, and those of us who have to drive (that includes almost everyone) gets gouged for the privilege of putting our cars on the road. Don’t forget: this is not the only tax we pay. Gasoline is taxed liberally. Most retail products are taxed at the checkout counter (and points along the way thereto…). Power is taxed. Water is taxed. On and on it goes.

Not that one doesn’t want to support government and public services. But maybe the funds should be used intelligently?

Lordie! One extreme idea after another!


Hee! Do the Days from Hell NEVER Stop?

Today — here in late April — the weather is supposed to hit 100 degrees, for the first time this year. Yep: first Weather Day from Hell of the year. First, you may be assured, of many.

Six in the morning, I roll out of the sack after the usual Old Lady Insomniac night. Not too bad in that department, actually. Though the internal alarm did go off at 3 a.m. sharp, for reasons unknown I somehow got back to sleep. Usually that doesn’t happen — the getting back to sleep part, I mean.

Stumble into the bathroom by way of preparing to take Ruby on our 1- to 2-mile stroll through the’Hood, do my thing, and…and…yeah. Wouldn’tcha know it: the damn toilet clogs!

Haul the plunger in. Plunge plunge plunge plunge plunge plunge… Nothing. Doesn’t work.

It’s freakin’ SATURDAY! No chance of getting a plumber over here for another two days.

Fortunately, the house has two bathrooms. And fortunately, the head in the back bathroom is still functioning. Otherwise, I’d be doing my bidness out in the backyard with the dog.


Holeee mackerel!

So I call the plumber — Maloney’s Plumbing, for those of you who live in lovely Phoenix — figuring that if anyone answered the phone (which surely they would not, right?) maybe I could arrange to be first in line for a service call on Monday morning.


Incredibly, not only did someone answer the phone, but they sent a guy right over! He was in the house and out the door by 9:30! And he was an extremely nice gentleman.

So. Yeah.

I guess Days from Hell do stop!

It’s a miracle!


And speaking of adventures in Days from Hell, I’m sitting here, 20 minutes to 5 on this Saturday afternoon, next-to-last day of the month, when a random thought wafts into my sweaty little brain…

Ohhhh holeee shee-ut!
I forgot to renew my driver’s license!!!!!!

You can do this online here nowadays. But I completely blew it off.

Run out to the garage, dig the piece of plastic out of the car, look at it to see what and where to do what and and when, and see…good grief! It doesn’t have to be renewed until 2025!

Who knew?

Last time I renewed this thing was three years ago. And to do so, all I had to do was go to a random desk in a random privately run post-boxes office and fill out a form.

This means that people who are driving on the Arizona road do not get tested or asked any significant questions for periods approaching a decade.

Explains a lot, doesn’t it?

Why are American products in the can?

Because nothing better is on offer, at least not for what most people can afford?

American consumers tend to look for the best they can afford. When they find there’s nothing any better than what’s on offer, they take what’s on offer. Eventually manufacturers realize that if they keep their production standards low so as to keep (at least some) prices low, people will buy products built to a lower standard: cheaper to produce than the older, better-quality products were, and easier to sell lots more units.

Car manufacturers have been forced, by government regulation, to produce vehicles that have at least some safety features that we didn’t have back in the “good” old days. Fine: cars have shoulder harnesses and effective brakes and at least something more than a layer of plastic between you and the oncoming. It would be hard to argue that automobiles are not better than the ones we had in the 1950s. Lots better.

But now look at appliances:

Stoves that have no real burners: just sheets of glass with hot spots. Fewer details to have to clean: true. But problematic when it comes to popping corn, to any kind of preparation that requires rapid changes of heat, to creams and sauces that require accurate temperature control.

Refrigerators that clank and clonk and grind and roar but work no more effectively than your mother’s did…maybe less so.

Ovens that reside in a kitchen cabinet….very handy. And they’re self-cleaning, also exceptionally handy. But the heat emitted by an oven set to “self-clean”…what does that do to the wooden cabinetry around it? Nothing, maybe…or maybe we don’t wanna know.

Microwaves are extremely…uhm, kewl. We didn’t have those in the good ole’ days. Cooking the breakfast bacon left you with a pan holding a puddle of grease to clean up, and there was no such thing as heating a bowl of soup or a dish of leftover spaghetti in 60 seconds.

Sometimes I think — maybe le mot juste is “know” — that the sense that newer ain’t necessarily better is a function of old age. Yep: I’m getting crankier. I’m getting more and more reluctant to have to learn new devices and new procedures to do tasks that have always been simple and inexpensive to accomplish. This Brave New World of ours ain’t for the faint of heart.

Or for anyone who’s sot in her ways… 😀

Have to drive down to the dentist’s this morning. Don’t wanna.

But not because I don’t want to visit the excellent dentist, but because I just don’t want to drive to 16th Street and Maryland right this minute.

It’s not very far. No. But…the roads will likely be blocked with construction and certainly clogged with lunatic nitwit drivers. People around here seem to lose touch with common sense when they get behind a steering wheel. They jerk around. They run signals. They ride the center lane. They drive 25 mph in a 35 mph zone. They refuse to get out into the intersection when preparing to turn left. They refuse to turn right on red, nevvermind that no traffic is coming. They tailgate. They get into the fast lane and drive so slow they invite their fellow homicidal drivers to tailgate.


What used to be fun — driving around town — has evolved into an unpleasant experience. I used to love to drive — in fact, sometimes used to waste gasoline just puttering around exploring the city. No more! If I could never have to get on the road again — private car or public transit — I’d be happy.

And I suspect that sentiment applies to other modernized tasks, like shopping. Yeah…like shopping for a GD refrigerator.

Time to Buy a New Car?

Hmmmm…  The more I think about the kinda mealy-mouthed chatter Toyota’s service guy dispensed yesterday afternoon, the more dubious I become about the Dog Chariot. Using the finest beat-around-the-bush language, what the guy said really was that they couldn’t fix it, because the wiring inside the door is such a mess.

Apparently a previous owner (or their mechanic) dorked around with it, and that’s the source of our problem.

Did I hear the guy right?

If that’s correct, then there’s no functioning airbag on the driver’s side door. And that’s a problem, when you spend most of your driving hours in Phoenix’s homicidal traffic.

So…I’m wondering if maybe it’s time to get a new car.

Financially, this would be an advantageous moment: investments are running amok. There’s plenty of money to pay the difference between a trade-in and a new vehicle in cash.

One of Funny’s perspicacious readers bought a hybrid pickup. He’s beside himself with delight over the thing.

And today’s average gas price here is $5.04 a gallon — down from $5.27. Couple days ago I pumped a third of a tank of gas into the tank and paid $50 for the privilege.

If it’s reasonable to believe these prices will persist — and when have you heard of gasoline prices seriously going down? — then it would make sense to get a hybrid or fully electric vehicle. Soon.

Especially if the one I’m driving has a defect.

The Automotive Jamboree

Dawn cracks (barely), and here we are down at Camelback Toyota, summoned hither by a recall involving nonfunctional airbags.

How could I do without this? Let me count the endless number of ways….

Appointment is 7 a.m. I pulled up to the driveway at about 6:50. There are 16 cars ahead of me – four in each lane – and I expect to be sitting here until the cows come home. And then to sit in the dealership’s waiting room until the cows go back out to pasture.

Sometimes Toyota has drivers who will take you back home. But it’s hard to see how they could manage that, with this mob in the pipeline.

This pisseth me off. The REASON you buy a Toyota instead of a Ford is not to have to deal with the recalls for shoddy construction.

When DXH and I were first married, I had a Ford FairLemon that my father had given me as a graduation gift. We lived in the apartments just to the north of this dealership, which at the time belonged to Ford. Our car was parked at this place more than it was parked in our carport space! So it was convenient that I could walk over here, since I was walking over here all the time.

* * *

And here I yam, already, waiting for a red Hyundai to come pick me up at the side door. Better than sitting in their waiting room for hours and hours, but…I sure as hell could do without it. The wait will be ample anyway, since it’s 7:30…though it must be said that the traffic is minimal for this time of day. I expect the plague is keeping people working at home.

Think o’that: coming up on high rush hour., Friday morning and there’s hardly any traffic on 16th Avenue, a main drag from north Phoenix to the central and southerly business districts. Looks like businesses are not reopening anytime soon…

Matter of fact, my son’s company announced they were not reopening their (expensive!) offices, but that henceforth employees will work from home. He’s not happy, because he would rather be in a more social setting. If it were me, I’d be beside myself with joy: work-from-home is exactly what I wangled for myself by founding ASU’s online courses in English & American Studies. Once I had all my courses online, I rarely had to trudge in to the campus. Which was just fine with me.

* * * *

And NOW here I am, ten minutes to 8:00, and parked – by golly! – in the living room. That Toyota dealership is INCREDIBLY efficient. Rolled in, handed the key over, got picked up by an uber-type jalopy, and delivered back to the house in 20 minutes.

Think o’that.

When we drove up, the garage door was hanging open. Alarming, because I don’t habitually go off and leave the door open. Nor would I have done so: there would have been no reason to walk out into the front yard through the garage as dawn cracked. So either I dorked up and left the door open all night(don’t think so! I’ve been doing laundry in the garage this a.m. and would’ve noticed if the door was hanging open) or someone has a door opener button that works on my garage opener.

So, dammit, I guess I’ll have to call the garage door guys and have them recode that thing.

Jayzus. Never a dull moment.

Well, I expected to spend the whole day sitting in Toyota’s waiting room, so…if you have to be carless in Gaza, better to be carless in your own precinct of Gaza.


My father used to use “car tune-ups” to get away from his obnoxious wife. He would tell her he was taking his aging Ford down to the dealership to be worked on – and at Ford, an all-day wait was not only likely but inevitable. But what he was doing was sitting in the parking lot smoking. And stinking up the car.

One day she remarked to me, laughing, “He thinks I don’t know he’s smoking in the car.”

I refrained from replying, “He doesn’t give a damn whether you know he’s smoking in the car.”

But the poor woman was so stupid that it was unreasonable to expect that she would figure it out.

Gawdlmighty… Other people’s lives!

Mine, too, I suppose. They certainly made their exploits part of my life.

As soon as my mother died – practically instantaneously – my father packed up the house, donated everything he didn’t absolutely need, and moved himself to what was then called Orangewood, one of the first “life-care communities” to hit Arizona. Dreary place, IMHO…but then I never cared for institutional living – three years in the dorm (plus 11 years in public schools) was as much of that as I ever want to endure . He, having gone to sea all his adult life, was well adapted to communal life. He not only didn’t seem to dislike it; if anything, he enjoyed it. Or he would’ve, if he hadn’t been snabbed by Helen.

All the widows (which meant almost all the women inmates) at Orangewood were on the hunt for men. The instant my father walked in the door, Helen went in for the kill. She grabbed that guy before he could sit down.

Within a few months, she wrangled him into proposing to her, a huge mistake on his part.  She was SUCH a nitwit. And though my father pretended to be stupid – it was part of his working-class macho pose – he was anything but.

However, whatever smarts he had went out the door after my mother died, and so he allowed himself to be maneuvered into marrying her. This was such a disaster that at one point he took to renting a room at another old-folkerie. He would tell her – yep! – that he was taking the car to be serviced, and then repair to his secret flophouse and spend the day watching TV from a Levitz recliner.

What a witch that woman was! But he refused to divorce her because…uh huh…what would everyone think?

Life: William Shakespeare couldn’t come anywhere close to making it up!

Speaking of servicing the car, I let myself be persuaded to have Camelback Toyota change the oil and rotate the tires. That was redundant, since Chuck’s successors recently did that. But offhand I couldn’t remember how long ago that was…and frankly, I wasn’t especially impressed the last couple of times I took the car to Chuck’s.

Pete took over the business, as Chuck had been grooming him to do for years. Very good. But…now that the place is his, there’ve been some changes made….

Chuck ran that shop like a small-town garage. He knew everybody and everybody knew him. If you brought your car in to be serviced early in the morning, Chuck or one of the underlings would drive you home. Later in the day, they’d come pick you up. Now you sit an hour or three in their run-down waiting room listening to the traffic roar by on 7th Street.

Also, that time a tire got a nail in it and I was running nearly flat, Chuck would NEVER have said “we don’t do tires…take it up on Camelback to Discount Tires.” They would have taken the nail out and fixed the flickin’ tire! If a new tire needed to be purchased and they didn’t have one on hand, he would have had one of the underlings go pick one up. Basically Pete just tossed me out.

Sooo….I had already pretty much decided to look elsewhere for routine car service. And this morning I believe I found the “elsewhere.”

Good old Chuck. To my mind, he defined the term “good man” — possibly even “great man.” His wife had debilitating health problems for some years toward the end of her life. He stuck with her and took care of her himself, every inch of the way. Meanwhile, hanging onto the business — kept it thriving.

At any rate… Pete lost a customer over a rusty nail. And Camelback Toyota gained a customer over a recall, a short wait and a ride home.

* * * *

A-a-n- the postscript:

The hour coming on to 3 p.m., I call Camelback Toyota to find out how (or if) they’re doing on the Venza’s airbag issue. They claim it takes 8 hours to replace the side airbags.

Uh huh. Well…izzat so?

Look up the problem on the Great Treasure Chest of Knowledge: the Internet. hmmm…

Quite possibly not so…

It appears that what’s needed is to check the wiring, which may or may not need work. This, we’re told, takes about an hour. And….yeah…judging by this PDF, replacing the side airbags (if it’s necessary, which it isn’t necessarily) could be a time suck.

Hmmm. Looks like you have to be sure they put the thing back together right…

Confirm window, mirror, speaker, and door lock operation
Confirm interior door handle opens.

Confirm initializations have been performed

Better write this stuff down and remember to check those things BEFORE leaving their lot.

It’s 3;30 in the afternoon. The car has been there since 7:30. Yep: that’s 8 hours. Sooo…where is it, fellas?