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April 2005

Best Month Evar
April 19 2005 02:35 AM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

So... the past month. If you haven't received an email or a phone call from me in a while, don't worry, it's not just you.

I'll start by scrolling back a few weeks.

During the last week of March, I started placing orders for computer parts. Yes, you read that correctly, I finally scraped together enough cash to acquire a new computer. Eric somehow convinced me that I was capable of building my own, and I somehow decided to give it a shot.

By the first of April, all of the parts had arrived. I set up a table in my bedroom to start assembling this monstrocity.

Strangely, the assembly part went pretty quickly. You cannot imagine the joy and relief when I got the processor installed (translated: I didn't destroy a $200 part) and everything booted for the first time.

Well, "pretty quickly", that is, ignoring the three hours I spent trying (and failing) to install Windows 98 (as a backup), having not done the homework to find out that the motherboard didn't support it. Yay.

Frankly, I don't really remember much about the next several days. Installing XP, installing software, tinkering with the blazing speed of a computer that was built more recently than 1997, etc. All I know is that I didn't boot up my then-current computer during any of that period. Given that all of my "current" work was on the then-current computer, a lot of things slid. Yikes.

Once I finally got XP to properly manage my wireless adapter (apparently, Microsoft has unilaterally decided that all wireless routers should be set to channel 6, and has ten layers of retarded crap that interferes with any other implementation), things really started moving. I'd wanted to download the Muse Glastonbury DVD last year, and thought I'd completely missed my chance. But, by sheer luck, the torrent was still being seeded, and, twenty-four hours later, it was mine.

I woke up the morning of the 6th in a state of sheer euphoria. Okay, so the system was occasionally hanging for no apparent reason (which I eventually traced to a memory issue caused by me following the installation manual to the letter... yeesh), but it was otherwise working perfectly. I was sitting at my computer, enjoying a couple of DVDs that I own - until now, I didn't personally own a DVD player - was watching the Muse show, and just entirely fucking elated.

I knew there was one last step to make the computer complete. When I was buying parts, I kept in mind the intention of using it to record music. (For example, the motherboard came with an integrated soundcard, but I bought a separate one that would be more compatible with multi-track software.) What I recorded in my tests sounded amazing, and way better than the analog four-track that I've been using for the last eight years. Just that little bit of tinkering made me feel unbelievably motivated to record some music.

At this point the system was all ready, save for one item: music recording software. That night, rather than zipping over to the usual Wednesday night Ultimate pick-up night, I decided to head over to Guitar Center to pick it up.

I get to one street to make a left, and the turn arrow turns red ahead of me. Having worked in that area years ago, I've discovered that it's usually faster to head to the next street, make a left, then make a right onto that street. So, I head that direction.

When I get near the light, the turn arrow goes yellow. A car and a big white box truck are turning left. The intersection looks clear, so I follow them through the light as it turns red.

About five feet into turning, I can't help but notice that there's a car coming towards me head-on at a high rate of speed. I stomp the brakes, and ponder to myself, "What else can I do now?"

The car tries to avoid me, but he's going too fast and doesn't have time to steer out of the way. Fortunately, he turns enough that he (mostly) clears. What ensues is that classic sound of two cars colliding.

And so ends the best month evar.

Worst Month Evar
April 20 2005 03:08 AM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

You know, it's funny. I was originally planning to spend the first week of April dialoguing about the same week of April in 1994. The calendar of 1994 and 2005 match those days, and they were memorable enough to me that I figured it'd be worth talking about. Long and short: best concert of my life Sunday, April 3rd, 1994, seeing Pearl Jam at the Fox in Atlanta, a hallmark show of their career; one of the worst days of my life Friday, April 8th, 1994, finding out that Kurt Cobain was dead.

Instead, the same week of 2005 turns out to be better and worse. Go figure.

The impact is surprisingly light. I comment to friends later that I've taken way worse hits playing Ultimate. In fact, I took a way worse hit the night before playing Goaltimate. The disc was thrown at a high rate of speed directly at my head, leaving me with a nice thick lump at the contact point that stuck around for a few days.

Immediately after the impact, I'm in my car in a total state of disbelief. I look up, and notice a number of people on the corner to my left staring at the mayhem that has just ensued.

I look to my left, and see the other car, facing me. After the impact, he spun out.

Figuring that I need to clear the intersection, and pleased to find that my car still drives, I pull around, point to the witnesses that I'm not leaving the scene, and pull into the parking lot on the corner. From there, I see the damage in full view: the other car has a nice large canyon running from the driver door back to the gas cap. On the surface, the other car looks driveable, but the left rear tire is blown.

Within seconds, a man in a white pickup stops, pulls a fluorescent yellow jersey with "SHERIFF" written across it out of his truck, and starts redirecting traffic. I spot somebody getting out of the other car on the passenger side, who I eventually identify as the driver.

We chat briefly. He's fine, no injuries. I'm fine, no injuries. I mumble about what he wants to do, and he's easygoing about it, saying that he'd rather leave it to our insurance companies. (Strangely, in all of the commotion, and given that I haven't been involved in an accident in fourteen years, we never get around to exchanging information. I honestly don't know the guy's name.)

I inspect my car, and it doesn't look all that bad. The impact was at a forty-five degree angle to the corner of the car, so the left headlight is munged. The bumper's out of whack, and part of it is split off the car. I took a similar hit (solo) thirteen years earlier in my old car, and it ended up being a $1000 repair, so I'm looking for a silver lining.

An officer arrives, and ask us for our information. A few minutes later, another officer arrives. Turns out the first one just happened to be driving by. He hands the duties off to the second one and leaves. The guy directing traffic turns out to be an officer from another county, who also just happened to be there. Very odd.

After offering our statements, I'm thinking that we're both at fault. Then it hits me: according to the letter of the law, as the person turning, it's my responsibility to make sure the intersection is clear before entering. Even if we both ran the light (possible, though not definite), the accident is entirely my fault. My fears are confirmed when the officer approaches and cites me for failing to yield.

My brain explodes. Seriously, it took me months to slide away enough cash to buy a new computer, and here I am "responsible" for what could be an expensive accident. I start shaking, realizing that all of the plans I've made in the last few days, all of the excitement about the various projects and recording ideas that I was eager to pursue with the new computer are now out the window. I know that I can't justify buying $100 of recording software if I'm going to have to spend one or two thousand on this.

My father arrives to help me out, and we inspect my car before heading home. Some parts are touching the ground, including part of the bumper, which I just tear off and throw in my trunk. On further inspection, the power steering container is touching one of the belts, so Dad pulls a couple of rubber cables out of his trunk that I use to hold it back. As I'm about ready to hop in and drive home, Dad notices that one of the belts at the bottom near the front is touching metal. We agree: this car needs to stay put.

I get up early the next morning and do the necessary: call my insurance company, find a place to take the car, and arrange for pick-up.

Back at the parking lot, it's obvious that the car can't be towed from where it's sitting. When the truck arrives, I hop into the car and drive it out of the space. The scraping noise seems much louder than it did the night before. The tow truck driver opts to drive the car onto the bed of the truck, and I can't help but laugh: the left headlamp is basically nuked, yet the bulb still works. (It actually concerns me slightly - rain from that morning has collected in a nice puddle inside the nuked headlamp, and I'd really not like the electrical system to short out.)

And so begins a nice long weekend of no transportation. My parents go out of town, and offer me the use of Dad's car for me to make my scheduled Spring League game on Saturday, but I'm still too freaked out to go. I eventually run an errand that night, and it's easily one of the most uncomfortable drives I've ever taken. It's not just the discomfort of driving Dad's car (always uncomfortable), but I find myself completely overanalyzing every move I make.

Anyway, as the weekend ends, I'm eager to hear how soon my car will be repaired so that I can go on with life.

Little did I realize that this wasn't the end of the worst month evar.

Don't Do This to Your Car
April 21 2005 02:42 AM ET (Permalink) (Comment)

Okay... where was I...

Oh, yeah, worst month evar.

Tuesday (the 12th) rolls around, and I'm surprised that I still haven't heard anything about my car. I'm trying to be optimistic, and I'm assuming the silence is because everything's being taken care of. But I decide I need answers, so I call the body shop.

The receptionist says she's going to forward me to the person in charge of my account, after which I immediately find myself listening to someone's voicemail message. I hang up and call back. Different receptionist, same response, but this time the phone rings before the voicemail message starts. I leave my name, info, and phone number.

About twenty minutes later, the phone rings. I glance at the caller ID, and it's my insurance company. Surprised, I pick up the phone. The woman on the line says that she's calling to give me an update to my car.

Estimate for repair: $4500. Value of policy: a little over five grand. They're not going to repair my car. They're totalling it.

I'm stunned. The accident seemed so minor when it happened. I barely register the rest of the conversation, and just start writing down what she tells me. Sign the back of the title, mail it to them, mmm hmm.

Oh, and I'm supposed to go clear my stuff out of the car within the next 24 to 36 hours.

I hang up the phone and immediately call my father for advice. We discuss the options, including buying the car back from the insurance company and repairing it ourselves. He suggests I call my mother (who's probably, oddly enough, the auto expert of the family). She tells me it's not worth it. But both suggest I call the collision place back to get more details about the damage.

The guy who answers inadvertantly ends up being the right guy to talk to. He runs over the estimate and tells me about what's on it. It starts to sink in. He mentions that they're open until six, so, given my usual busy Wednesday schedule, I arrange with Dad to go grab my stuff immediately. (My previously scheduled game of Goalty sounds a little out of the question at this point.)

We get there, and one of the guys leads us though the maze of vehicles on their lot. He can't find it. Finally, he remembers moving it to the "totalled" section of the lot. And here's what we find:

Strangely, the damage looks a lot worse now than it did the night of the accident or when the tow truck picked it up. I don't mean that in a "they did something to my car" kind of way - the damage is the same. It just looks worse.

(I can't help but notice that the Mercury Sable -looking car parked next to mine in the "totalled" lot has damage to the same area, but less of it. And it's totalled as well.)

It doesn't take long to clear out the rest of my stuff. I insist on removing the cigarette lighter, which actually came out of my first car, and the guy gives me the okay. I'm actually a little bummed out about the fact that I'd only recently gotten the rear speakers replaced, and the stereo finally sounded great. Here I am leaving all of the new equipment behind.

And I can't help but compare this moment to my last car. I drove a beat-up '83 Accord for eleven years. This car lasted me almost exactly three. Just a shame. (I dialogued about getting the car and the shitty stereo contained therein back in 2002 here: Eye Strain and the Misery Threshold.)

And with that, I take one last look, and we leave.

The rest of the evening is a continuing haze. My brother calls to talk about web design stuff, and I'm so out of it that I barely register anything he says.

After a few days reflecting on the situation, I've come up with a couple of silver linings. For starters, the check my insurance company is for more than what we paid for the car in 2002. And, since they totalled the car, I don't have to pay the deductible that I was worried I'd have to fork over. (At least, as far as I know. Here's hoping I don't get a bill.)

But the sad part is that I'd gladly pay the amount of the check to buy that exact car. Unfortunately, my initial search has proved fruitless in finding something comparable. I've never had to go out and look for a car, either, so all of this process is completely new to me.

But, for now, I'm hitching rides with people and enjoying the benefits of public transportation.

Wait, Atlanta has public transportation? Why, yes it does. Kind of. Unfortunately, my area really doesn't. So the last couple of weeks have been an absolute adventure.


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