Thursday, December 10, 2009

Happy Holidays

It was only a matter of time before my car decided enough was enough. I have continued to drive it, ignoring the somewhat violent shake, knowing full well that soon I would have to face the obvious- I can't afford my mortgage.

Earlier this year I applied for a loan modification, and I probably had too much wine late one night and chronicled the results of that fruitless effort. I'm too lazy to go back and read my previous entries, so I will refresh our memories. The mortgage company didn't lower my payment. In fact, it actually increased because somehow, even though the value of my home is only about 30% of what I am paying, my taxes went up! The result of my purchase two years ago of this roof over my head (the shingles of which regularly make an appearance on my lawn and driveway) has been a marked decrease in attention to other costs, like car maintenance.

I bought my car new. It was the first new car I had ever owned, and clearly I have not learned much since then, because I paid too much for that as well. I never missed a payment for FIVE YEARS. I paid STICKER PRICE. I was an idiot, but what did I do? YEARS LATER I bought this house which needed all sorts of work which I don't have the first clue about, plus it was out of my price range. None of it makes any sense. I look back at my poor decisions and I wonder why I did this to myself. I can't explain it, except I simply didn't know at the time that it was a poor decision.

I really did think that my car would retain worth! I really thought that my house would gain worth! I thought that if I took care of the car, like all the stories I hear about people who get their oil changed every three thousand miles, it would last for at LEAST ten years. I thought that I'd get a promotion because I was so close to it at the time, but I didn't. Then they started laying off people and now I'm one of the few left of my kind and my position is being eliminated AND I honestly don't know from one day to the next if I will have a job. The job market scares the living crap out of me. But I have kept on scraping along because I don't want to lose my home. I love it and I don't want its windows broken out or graffiti on the side of the garage or the copper plumbing stolen after the walls are kicked through. It doesn't deserve that. But then who suffers? My car, that's who. And when the car suffers, I suffer.

Last week the car loudly protested its current situation. I was in a fender bender a few months ago and yeah I got a really good deal on a quick body work fix, but apparently that wasn't all that had happened. Oh well, what's a noise or two here and there, I thought. I mean, the car is 9 years old, it has almost 80,000 miles on it and it IS a FORD. What do I expect? Dum de dum. Drove the car everywhere I wanted to go, used its noises as an excuse for NOT going where I DIDN'T want to go, and then one day I smelled antifreeze and my world fell apart.

You ever hear those anecdotes about how families are one paycheck away from the street? Well that's were me and kitty and Minchie are. This week was horrible, and I know it feels much worse than it sounds, especially since I am not as young as I used to be, and I get nervous and hysterical more easily. After depositing my car at the mechanic's shop, I borrowed my brother's beater car, which he keeps parked at my mom's house...which is 25 miles from me. Late the night of the breakdown, I pulled the little Beater into my driveway, breathed a grateful sigh of relief, and forgot about the whole mess. Early the next morning, I had to work. My job is not one of those jobs you can call in sick for. There is nobody around to do it, and many people expect me to be there to do it. If I am not there, it can have some very serious results to the detriment of those who depend on me, and who are in no position to have their time wasted in such a way. Plus it's unprofessional blaaaah blaaaah blah.

I had to walk. Actually I had to run. I was still late, but at least I made it. After the essentials were completed, I RAN back home and called my brother. He told me to go buy all sorts of crap at the car parts place. I did. I ran back home and then sat there wondering what the fuck I was going to do with all of this shit? I don't know the first thing about any car workings and even if I did, I am hard-pressed to scrounge up a pair of scissors, much less some car tools. I called AAA. They sent some cracked out tow truck driver who actually did help get the Beater started, but then he asked me for money. I knew he probably deserved it since the car didn't get towed and he DID spend two hours messing around with the car freezing his ass off too, plus he didn't have time to smoke any crack for at least two hours, right? So I gave him the sixty bucks. I sort of kicked myself because UM that's why I pay for AAA right? But you know, when you are a single woman STRANDED at home, and you have this guy knowing where you live, you just give him the sixty bucks, smile and thank him kindly for "everything."

I heaved another sigh of relief. Ok. He got the car started. It's ok now. I had to take a half day off work but tomorrow I won't be late again and everything will be alright. Next morning I awoke with an uneasy feeling somewhere. It wasn't in my heart and it wasn't in my stomach, it was somewhere in between those two. I hurried my butt up and zoomed around the house, getting a backpack stuffed full of everything a bag lady needs to survive on the street. I got in the car, PRAYING that it would do the same thing for me as it did for the crackdriver. But it didn't. It didn't start. I ran to work.

I ran home. It was raining, but at least it was above freezing temperature. I called my brother. He told me how it could be this or that or this or that. But just replace the battery and see if that works. I wanted to fucking kill him at this point, but of course it wasn't his fault and he couldn't do much to help me any more than he already was.
But having already spent $200 on the car, I didn't WANT to buy a battery. But I did it anyway. Who knew batteries are so heavy? I am sure anyone watching me lugging that fucker home would have gotten a huge laugh out of it. I tried many different positions, but by far I have to say that the easiest way to transport a battery is to roll it by gently kicking pushing. Yes, it does take forEVER, but if you can't carry something you have to be inventive.

That worked. Actually, I had the car parts store guy tell me EXACTLY what TOOLS I will need for this job. And I paid retail for THEM, TOO. But I got the battery in the car and it did run for the next two days until today when I dropped THAT off at the mechanic and picked my car up. After I paid over a thousand dollars, I went to the ATM to see how much money was in my bank account. I had enough, with ten dollars to spare.

That means I have a car that runs, so if I don't get laid off this year I will at least be able to make it to work. I hope. That means I have exactly 5 days to come up with $1300. That means I am looking at this computer screen wondering where the fuck I am going to get $1300. Which is probably why I keep on typing, not saying much.

It's all my fault, I know it. I was irresponsible or stupid. I did not purchase any luxuries except an occasional bottle of $6 wine and I live a frugal life. I would have been just fine if I would have stayed in that old apartment but my problem was that I just HAD to buy a HOUSE. It is something that I don't know if I will ever be able to explain, even to myself. The need was so strong, perhaps it represented to me exactly the opposite of what it really was: stability.

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