Archive for the 'Cars' Category

Driving to the Gym

Monday, April 28th, 2014

Is there a sillier first world problem than not being able to find any parking at the gym?

I’m stoked that Ravenswood, my home for the last 7 years, finally has a grocery store and a gym, but let’s take a look at how LA Fitness is situated here:


This is the back of the building. The parking lot. This is where the entrance is.


This is the front of the building along Lawrence Avenue. All this prime street-access real estate and yet there is no entrance to LA Fitness. It’s all windows and no doors.

In a city where the streets are notoriously congested, in a neighborhood with a ton of foot-traffic, on a major street that is easily accessible, we’ve built a gym that is easier to drive to than walk to.


Gravity + Downhill = Great Mileage

Tuesday, August 16th, 2011

Shama and I took a day to drive through Pisgah National Forest, stopping at Lookingglass Falls and Sliding Rock before getting on the Blue Ridge Parkway.  You know what’s not on the Blue Ridge Parkway?  Gas stations.  You know what else isn’t on the Blue Ridge Parkway?  AT&T service.

So we were a bit freaked when all of a sudden Shama said, “Oh no, the gas light’s on!”  I had remembered seeing a while back that it was 16 miles to the next exit from the Parkway and our car’s handly onboard computer told us that we had 9 miles of cruising range before we ran out of gas.  Ruh-roh.

Shama drove like a pro, coasting down the mountain as much as possible, breaking as little as possible, flying off sheer rock cliffs as little as possible.  As we came into town we may or may not have gone through an interminable red light before making it to a gas station.  The result: 16 miles with 2 miles worth of gas to spare!

Bad Car-ma

Thursday, June 18th, 2009

My neighbor was out of the country for a few weeks and asked me to move his cars when the streets were being cleaned to keep him from getting a ticket.


Today, for some reason, I decided to check on the cars to make sure they were okay.  They were not okay.  They were gone.  Panic.  I started calculating the cost if they were towed.  What is it, $100/day?  10 days?  2 cars?  Oy.  Well, maybe they were stolen.  Is that better?

I called 311 (useless), the impound lot (mostly useless) and my alderman’s office (very helpful!) before finally realizing I needed to e-mail my neighbor, tell him the bad news, and get the license plate numbers so I could figure out what actually happened.  My e-mail began, “I hope your trip was going well because I’m going to ruin it…”

A few minutes later I received a response.

I am sooo sorry.  We got home Sun. and I found the cars safe and sound.  I’ve been using them and completely forgot to give you a huge thank you.  I’m sorry to have put you through the last few hours of misery.  I owe you big time.

Phew.  Problem solved.

Oh wait.  Not yet.  First I need to make an awkward call to the alderman’s office and explain the situation to the nice man who was gonna “help me out of my pickle.”

There.  Now problem solved.

Clown Car

Monday, March 23rd, 2009

We spent the last four days driving around Ireland in a Mitsubishi Colt.  This is one of those cars that they don’t sell in the US due to tininess.  Still, me, Shama, my brother, Shama’s friend Maureen, and two of her friends all managed to pile into the Colt and tour the countryside.  The most comfortable seat, I’m told, was in the hatchback.  

I wouldn’t know, however, since I got to sit in the front the whole time. Why?  Turns out I was the only one who knew how to drive stick.  That, combined with a lack of directions, the Irish insistence that people drive on the left side of the street, pint-sized lanes, and my general poor driving skills seemed to be a recipe for disaster.  Oddly, however, I felt a lot more comfortable driving here than in the US.  I think I’m a natural left-side driver, which might explain why I have so much trouble back home.

On the way to the Cliffs of Moher, we passed the Aussie Super Circus and Shama said we had to stop.  The show wouldn’t start for another 5 hours, but any passers-by would have been treated to an unadvertised clown car as we all piled out to look at the wallabies and emus.


Teach A Man To Fish And He’ll Fix Cars For A Lifetime

Monday, December 15th, 2008

I’ve been having lots of car troubles lately.  Nothing big (i.e. nothing covered by the warranty) just a new battery, a tire, oil change, broken window, coolant sensor, and what not.

So when my windshield wiper broke over the weekend I was kinda put-out.  Another $100?  Really?  

As I tried to drive home in the rain last night I realized that windshield wipers are pretty useful, so this morning I took the car in… again.  I decided to try a new place that’s right near where I work and explained the problem.  

Mechanic: Let’s go take a look.

I showed him the problem.

Mechanic: Do you have tools?
Evan: Tools?
Mechanic: Yeah, a socket wrench or crescent wrench?
Evan: Yeah.
Mechanic: Honestly, we’ll need to charge you $50 to fix this, but there’s a nut holding the windshield wiper on and it’s probably just loose.  Try tightening that before you bring it in.

He then pried off the cover on the nut and showed me where to tighten it.

So I tightened it… and it worked.  I charged myself $50 and I’m gonna get myself some more tools, yo!

Gonna Drive It All Around This World

Tuesday, August 26th, 2008

After 10 months without a car, I finally caved and re-entered the automotive community.  Here are some things I learned over the last 10 months.

  • I read a LOT more when I take the train everywhere.  If I had a car, I probably wouldn’t have made it through all those pirate books.
  • I never get sick of walking.
  • I’m not really into biking.  Despite my best efforts, I just don’t enjoy it all that much.
  • iGo is a great idea, but I barely ever used it.  When I did, it took me 20 minutes to figure out how to turn the stinking Prius on.
  • Without a car, I saw less of my friends who live along the blue line (or along no line.)
  • Buses aren’t as bad as I thought.  They can get you where you want to go.
  • The freedom of having a car is no joke.  I’m totally going to Home Depot today.
  • I can’t think of anything I enjoy less than the process of buying a car.

Oh man, I just went on You Tube to see if they had a clip of John Prine singing “Automobile” and found this great clip of him on Soundstage.  It kills me that they fade it out at the end.

Thick Skulls Come In Handy Sometimes

Thursday, August 7th, 2008

You want more overloaded minivan stories?  Here’s one from college — actually right before college.  I went on one of those wilderness orientation programs lots of schools offer to incoming freshman.  I have a vague memory that one of the trails or peaks was named after Mickey Dolenz, but that’s about all I remember.

After the trip, two minivans were supposed to pick us up and take us down the mountain, but only one came.  We decided all 11 of us (and our backpacks) would just cram into the car.  After all, it was only a half-hour drive.

There were three of us in the passenger seat.  I was positioned in such a way that my head was actually leaning on the windshield.  As we twisted and turned down the mountain road, a voice from the bottom of our passenger-seat pile said, “I don’t like this,” and managed to jimmy-rig the seatbelt around (at least parts) of all of us.

Seconds later we made a particularly sharp cuve and the next thing I knew the car was plowed into a tree.  There we shouts of, “Is everyone okay,” amidst the smoke.  Remarkably, everyone was.  It turns out there was so much weight in the car, one of the rear tires actually fell off of the wheel.

I remember three things from after the accident:

  1. As the last person stumbled out of the van, we heard a poof.  The airbag finally went off.
  2. As I stood in a daze in front of the car, someone pointed at the windshield and said, “Evan, did your head do that?”  The windshield had shattered right where my head was.  I didn’t have a scratch on me.  I have a strong head.
  3. A woman ran out of the only nearby house.  “Everyone crashes into that tree,” she said.  Then she invited us in and served us lemonade.

Not To Exceed 2000 Lbs.

Tuesday, August 5th, 2008

On the way home from Michigan the minivan in front of our car had a tire blowout at 70 mph.  It scared the crap out of me.  I pulled over to make sure they were all okay and offer a ride into town.  As I approached the still-smoking wheel, a large woman in a bright yellow dress stepped out of the car, followed by a large man in a yellow suit.  One by one, large, yellow-clad folk stepped out of the door until they were all standing around the shredded remains of their tire.  It turns out they were a gospel choir on their way to a show.  As the choir director retrieved the jack and spare tire, the bassist surveyed the damage.

BASSIST: We just had too much weight in this car.

They thanked me profusely for stopping — “There are still nice people in this world.” — and said they’d be fine getting into town.  That little doughnut spare tire has my sympathy.

Express Train To Idiotville

Friday, December 21st, 2007

I’m a bad driver.  My problem is that I’m easily distracted and prone to the occasional space out.  It’s probably a good thing I don’t have a car right now.

Unfortunately my spacing-outing is not limited to driving.  I’m also a bad train rider.  I was riding what I thought was the Brown Line when the doors closed at Belmont and I heard the following announcement:

ANNOUNCER: This is a Purple Line express to Howard.  Next stop, Howard.

My ensuing spastic dance was both embarrassing and fruitless.  The doors were closed and closed they would stay as the train rumbled 7 miles north to Evanston.

The Car Is Dead! Long Live… My Feet

Friday, September 28th, 2007

My old Saturn finally bit it, and it did so in dramatic fashion. I wasn’t there for the accident, but when I went to clean out the car I was impressed by the wallop it took. State Farm decided that the cost of the repairs far exceeded the worth of a 12-year-old economy wagon and gave me a check. Two notes here: 1. everyone involved in the accident is fine. 2. I’m not a big recommender, but if you’re looking for an insurance company, I have had really good experiences with State Farm. It’s like they’re a neighbor who’s really there for you. A good neighbor, even.


So now I’m carless. At some point I’ll probably get another car (any recommendations? I like small station wagons) but in the meantime I’m just gonna hoof it… and take public transportation… and get rides from people.

It’s been going okay for the most part. There haven’t been too many times I’ve wished I had a car, but today is one of them. I already took a bus and a train to get to work. After work I’ll hop on the Halsted bus down to UIC for our Engineers Without Borders Regional Workshop. After that I need to get to Evanston somehow to meet up with a friend who’s in from out of town. Finally, I need to get back home to Lincoln Square. Yabba Dabba Doo!

Is That A Spot?

Wednesday, September 19th, 2007

Shama: Who does this guy think he is?

No, Really, How’s it Going?

Friday, September 14th, 2007

I never know what to do when I’m asked, “How’s it going?” Like many, I usually offer a cursory, “fine” in response, regardless of how “it” is actually going. Sometimes the inaccuracy of that response is a little too obvious. I recently ran into my neighbors in the stairwell of our building.

Neighbor: How’s it going?
Me: Fine
Neighbor (Noticing that I’m holding a parking ticket): You got a ticket? That sucks.
Me: Yeah
Neighbor (Noticing that I’m also holding jumper cables): And jumper cables?
Me: Well, maybe “fine” wasn’t the best response.

My neighbors were nice enough to give my brother’s car a jump — the car I borrowed just long enough to break and get two parking tickets.