Zen in Car Wash

There was once a time when finding time to wash the car leisurely was no big deal. I can do it anytime, I can do it even every day. But that was then for this activity has taken a backseat among other priorities. When I do get time to do it though, thoughts about the past with it would seem to come by. It’s like there is Zen in squeezing the sponge and applying bubbly car shampoo solution on the car’s cold silver gray surface.

Our car turned eight this year and everything has remained stock just the way I prefer it to be. Last year I was lucky to receive a dashboard cam which is the only significant change that has happened to our Honda City so far. And this month, exactly on its anniversary, we gave it an RFID toll sticker—one that has already helped us breeze through toll gates during our weekly trips to Batangas. Take note, weekly. We have been that busy.

RFID transaction took less than 15 min.

It will be two months since I have been driving almost daily, weekends included. And there have been lots of instances when driving was stressful and judgment fails despite best effort to stay focused. Like recently, a motorcycle rear-ended our car after I tried to overtake a slow moving jeepney. The car had a very minor scratch, the motorcycle rider had a nervous escape, and I had nothing to blame but my sleepy and reckless self. Sometimes bad karma could happen that fast.

I have been wishing to be on a long road trip to break the boring routine trips to the malls, more so, to and from work. This last weekend, that road trip finally happened. The trip to Kamay ni Hesus was nostalgic, the last time I was behind the wheel to Lucena was more than 10 years ago. Not much has changed though except for some completed road improvement as well as perpetual road repairs which give the hint of an incoming election period not to mention the substandard materials that our dear government officials and their contractors love to use.

It was a road trip around Mount Banahaw.

The drive back home was more interesting as we took a different way plus the fact that it was my first time to pass through what drivers refer to as little Baguio or bituka ng manok route.  Named for its undulating and twisty road that resembles the curves of a chicken’s intestine, the route was challenging as expected and every now and then it was tempting to push my driving skill to the limit. It took us almost an hour of twists and turns before we see straight road again. We got out of it intact, no dizzy wifey, Marcus and his cousins didn’t require barf bags.

The last time I washed the car was before New Year and it was also when I had it polished and waxed. I could be that detailed when time and resource allow it. Yesterday, I had the energy to pick up the sponge and bucket once again, thanks to a graveyard shift cut short by two hours, but just to realize that I have ran out of Turtle Wax car shampoo. So for the very first time in my entire life as a car owner I bit the bullet and used a Dove body wash just so our dusty car could have its much deserved break. The bright side? It was the most fragrant car wash it ever had.

Works for humans and cars.

Come to think of it, a car could remind us of how life is. That life will never be perfect, it is never perfect, and if it seems to appear like so, we must accept that it won’t remain perfect forever. There is no point in fretting over minor dents and scratches. As long as the car’s engine keeps running, then so be it. Same goes with life.

***

Mood: 3/10 Honks! (Home earlier than yesterday. If I go offline tonight any longer, I might as well work at LTO.)

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Dealing with a seven-year old

Our seven-year old is acting up lately. The past week has been a struggle especially for me as there were so many issues that I have to deal with. It is some sort of tantrums, or as my wife puts it, ‘a sign that it is seeking attention.’ Whatever the reasons are, it is becoming obvious that this one has seen better days. Nope, it’s not our son but our Honda City.

On hump day morning right out of work as I happily imagine a hearty breakfast at home I found a screw—a screw stuck deeply into my left rear tire. Needless to say, I had to change the flat tire while tired and sleepy and hungry. Good thing I was able to summon my inner pit stop crew skill and I was out of Nuvali after less than 15 minutes which is not bad given my then present condition. (The vulcanizing shop guy was able to pull out a four-inch screw which he said must have fallen from a motorcycle brake adjuster.)

But, just like that overused TV shopping line, wait there’s more. That night, I had to deal with several rude drivers on my way to work. Oncoming vehicles flashed their headlights; some even had the nerve to honk as I get near them. Just rude, inconsiderate at the very least, right? Well, it was midway of my trip when I realized I was at fault—I was running with one headlight on the passenger side only. It would have been cool if I were in the music video of that Wallflowers’ song but in real life it’s really not. Anyway, I made it through the dark stretch that I regularly take and I even had the time to drop by True Value Solenad to grab a replacement which I was able to install the next day. Another problem solved, comes the next.

When it rains, it pours—in my car’s case, it leaks. The recent rainy days have exposed a leak on the driver side.  I thought at first that it is coming from under, that there could be a hole, that whenever I pass by this flooded part of my trip water comes in. The good news, I discovered, is that there isn’t one right below but the bad news is that it is coming from a breach either in the gasket where the wires and hood cable from the engine side go through or from an unknown location. So yesterday I had all my tools out—hydraulic jack, jack stand, hand tools, and a caulk. The front of the house was a repair shop for hours while I am trying to beat the hot rising sun.

All the caulking I made under the left fender weren’t successful though. It rained hard in the afternoon—hours after we arrived from buying Marcus’ CoQ10 and Alpha Lipoic Acid at Healthy Options ATC—and this morning I discovered the leak is still there. But I now think that I have found the culprit which is a small gap where the windshield and wiper panel meet. Another caulking session took place while I was all sweaty right out of my workout session from the nearby gym. Fingers now crossed.

I would say that if there were cars during Jean Valjean’s time then ours could be his. I know it’s an exaggeration but such inconveniences had me relate more to Les Miserables which is a story I read while killing time at the parking lot—while in my car, our seven-year old car.

Either I win the lotto or join a networking group to make his last year’s wish a reality. There are other options but would be against the law.

 

***

Wifey bought a DVD of Les Miserables which we watched yesterday while rain poured hard outside, while I was wondering if I was able to fix the leak of the car.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (A part of me wishes for the El Nino to persist.)

Be carpool cool

How to carpool, how to remain accepted in carpool, carpooling in the Philippines, carpool

The ideal car pool faces. (Image from the web.)

 

It starts with an honest invite. “Hey, you live close to where I live, you can ride with me.” Sometimes it’s out of boredom from what’s on the radio or the old CD collection. “Yes, good to talk to someone while I drive.” But soon–play Psycho theme–you realize your supposedly temporary companion has gotten fond of the free ride. He begins to treat your car as his, he appears out of nowhere to just to ride with you. He becomes your nightmare. You begin to pray he’s not around. You begin to escape and evade–often futile. The woes of carpooling.

All is not lost, however. If you are among those who benefit from carpooling and sooner or later feels that your driver are making up alibis to ditch you, I suggest following some courtesy to redeem yourself. (Trust me, drivers like me, will start to like you around again.)

1. Offer to pay for gas every now and then. Yes, do not abuse your driver’s goodwill because at some point he will start to think, “What’s in it for me?” The answer at the very least is: gas.

2. Ask permission. Not all the time that the owner of the car can accommodate you. Just like how he gets bored with radio shows, he also gets bored having someone tagging along. Especially for free. So a short SMS from you and an affirmative answer from him guarantee a guilt-free ride.

3. Be infrequent. So you decide not take part in the gas expenses. Fine. But please make sure that you do not expect to ride along for free on a regular basis. That’s rude. In this case, riding only twice a year is perfect.

4. Be observant. Drivers have moods so be sensitive. If they get chatty, talk. If you receive a short answer for a long question, pipe down or better yet sleep. And if they start turning the car stereo’s volume up, do not compete with it.

5. Do not slam the door. In carpooling, the last impression lasts so how you exit the car matters. Not slamming the door is already like a mutual thank you.

(Drafted this while at a Honda car dealership. I got new brakes. Might use this to encourage seat belt use–of free riders.)

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (It’s been a long time since I took a leave on a Friday. TGIF.)

Keep Your Sanity: Learn How To Drive In Tight Spaces

(Image from Wendell on Flickr CC.)

Anyone who watches TV or listens to the news on the radio cannot help but mostly capture bad news. We crave for inspiring ones yet these news are all over: bad governance, overpriced ‘world-class’ buildings, questionable police integrity, bad celebrity role models, bad this and that, etcetera. Then there’s of course bad traffic jam. The good news is, we can do something about how we drive so as not to contribute to the ever worsening traffic. What we need is to learn how to adapt in tight situations.

Truth to be told, I have been driving for about ten years already but it was only last year when I learned how to drive in tight spots. Thanks to this cake that I had to get from a place with the narrowest streets I have been so far, so narrow that I almost turned back and decided to take public transport instead just to bring home the Ninjago-inspired cake for our son, Marcus.

Idling and weighing my options, with my right hand about to put the stick shift to reverse in surrender, I noticed that despite being tight several cars are parked on one side of the street. Unbelievably, none of those cars seem to have those tell-tale scratches. “How do the other vehicles able to get in and out of the place without sideswiping the others? Do they shrink or do they have soft fenders made just for this place?” I mused.

And then, as if to answer my question I saw one SUV drive out. It was quick, it was without any incident. If it fits, then my sedan can too. There was hope.

After making sure that there are no more vehicles I commit to drive and make my way through. As I have expected, it wasn’t easy. But to cut the story short, I got the cake and made way back. How did I fare? Well, it took me almost 30 minutes to get in and out of the rather short distance.

Driving out was harder because I have to back up and turn around—back to the same narrow street. The 2-point reverse maneuver didn’t work, not even 4-point. Almost static, my hands, feet, and eyes got busy—clutch, shift, gas, mirror, clutch, shift, gas, mirror— just so I can squeeze the car out without leaving any dent on it and the other cars parked nearby. By the way, I had to fold one side mirror just to be sure.

Other than getting out unscathed, that stressful experience improved my depth and width perception.  In fact, I have had fewer encounters of what I once consider near misses. Inner two-way roads have worried me less and have lessened my urge to honk my way through. (Lately, whenever I honk, it’s just force of habit—a bad habit that I hope to correct soon.)

To drive comfortably and confidently in tight spaces is a skill to be had to keep our sanity. Especially with the fast approaching holiday everyone should anticipate worse (or worst) traffic. People, cars, and other types of vehicles will have to be dealt with because tight traffic will become tighter, slow will become slower but with a better driving skill these shouldn’t be a problem. Happy and safe driving everyone!

***

Yesterday, we fell victim to another bad traffic–and bad time management. We were supposed to attend a baptismal celebration just to find out that we took the route where Maynilad have extended their water pipe overlaying project. Wifey and I ended getting a massage in SM Bacoor with Marcus left to play with other kids in a  pay-per-hour playground.

Yes my son, The Ninja Turtles don’t like donuts.

***

Mood: 1/10 Honks! (Had cereals for breakfast. One that Marcus got tired eating.)

Driving Conditions We Have Come To Accept?

Image by Marcus’ dad.

Every day as I drive home I realize that there are conditions that we must have already accepted as the norm. At some point in the past these got so much attention most in the form of promises and grandstanding of politicians, and rants from the general public and the media. But as time passes focus on these issues have gone cold.

For example, dark streets. For more than three years I have been driving through the same dark inner roads and highways. On these roads I have witnessed countless accidents that could have been avoided had these places been well-lit. It bothers me to think that lives and limbs would be wasted soon unless the concerned government agencies start getting their acts together. There are already cheap solar street lighting so it makes me wonder what keeps our officials from installing them.

Then there are also the potholes. Years ago, each time I hear an exposé about substandard road projects I hoped and believed that change will start to happen soon–that roads will stay paved for long. But it was being naive because change was temporary. What appeared to be worthy projects have once again ended in the hands of corrupt contractors. Our roads are back to its sorry state.

Then we have the existence of smoke belchers. These vehicles, usually trucks and jeepneys, continue to pollute and to make driving a lot more difficult. Just imagine the challenge I experience almost daily as I make my way through pitch-black, zigzagged, and potholed road while following a slow-moving truck spewing a screen of thick black smoke. Oh, before I forget, this part of my trip is uphill. Whatever happened to the clean air act?

I don’t know when another campaign to eradicate these problems will kick in once more. Maybe soon but maybe not. Or, maybe when these hazardous road conditions claim the life of someone famous. Until then it looks like these are just things that we must accept and live with.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (My body clock is American, time zone is Asian.)

Down Pothole Lane

I need Tacrine. Only about a couple of weeks of continuous rain brought about by typhoons Jolina, Kiko, and Labuyo, the once paved roads began—expectedly—to break apart. Roads that I have witnessed being layered with asphalt for months wherein every time I get stuck in traffic as a wait my turn to get past the construction team and their heavy equipment have made me wonder if these DPWH projects are now for real. These past few days I got my answer, a rather sad answer.

And yes, now I think that I need Tacrine. Why? What is Tacrine?

On top of recent controversies in the Formula world like secret Pirelli tire testing, an anti-doping body recently exposes that there are F1 drivers they suspect as taking Tacrine. According to them, Tacrine is a performance-enhancing drug that allows the race drivers to have an almost perfect memory of the twist and turns of any circuit.

Anyone who watches Formula One events would know how precise most drivers maneuver their way through race courses. Their ability to maximize apex speed while avoiding smashing—weather, track, tire, and Romain Grosjean—into barrier walls and utilize chicanes is just remarkable. Interestingly, however, other than days spent on track testing and impeccable driving skill, the anti-doping body thinks that Tacrine is also at work. But whether this suspicion is correct or not, I now find that this must be the solution to my problem—remembering the location of all potholes to and from my way to work like the back of my hand.

Now where can I get one? I badly need some to preserve my sanity and my car’s suspension system.

 ***

Mood: 4/10 Honks! (Sweaty, sleepy, annoyed.)

Blindness Falls

Darkness is the absence of light…and blindness is the presence of a oncoming vehicle on high beam.

***

The long wait for the part has come to an end. More than a month after my low beam conked out because of a faulty headlight switch, I got the call from my Honda service advisor informing me about the replacement part’s availability. And with this, the people whom I usually meet while on their way back home from a tiring work day will now be so grateful not to have another blinding encounter. To the tired engineers driving their cars, factory workers riding their underbones, Tagaytay-bound party goers, jeepney drivers, tricycle backseat passengers, village security guards, toll booth workers, and others — pedestrians, street dogs, and stray cats included — whom I have blinded, my sincerest apology. I had no choice but to drive on full high beam. Contact a Honda engineer for more explanation why its part no. 35255-S5A-A12 failed before its fifth year.

***

If it’s any consolation, I saw the light — my low beam light — again on 12/12/12.

***

Mood: 2/10 Honks! (Guilt-free driving again.)