Look Behind You

Behind You [365portraits: 148]Have you ever gotten the feeling that someone is out to get you?

Last night, while driving down Route 123 on my way home, I was stopped in traffic, and the line of cars behind me was starting to grow. There was a piece on NPR I was listening too, nothing too exciting. And then I heard a boom, boom, boom, boom. And with each boom, it got louder. And suddenly I realized that the boom noises were a chain of cars each rear-ending the next like a row of dominos. Last car to get hit? The one behind me. Eek. I almost wanted to get out and thank that driver for not being up on my bumper and thus smashing into me.

(Everyone pulled over and started exchanging information, thankfully.)

And then, this morning, on the GW Parkway (heading back into work) I saw one car ahead of me slam on its breaks and even do a little side-to-side skid action to barely stop. I had plenty of room between that car and me, so I slowed down gradually.

Only to see, about 15 seconds later (as I’m at a complete stop) an SUV getting awfully big in my rear-view mirror, awfully fast. There was some screeching of tires but it managed to stop, barely. (And of course, there was nowhere for me to go; more cars on the left, a bridge railing on the right.)

Is the world trying to tell me something? Perhaps to watch my back? Hmmmm.

Public Transit

Twice in the past two weeks I’ve ended up taking the bus to and from work, because of car repairs/appointments. I’m not a big fan of the bus for the simple reason that on the way home, it doesn’t matter which line I take—it is always late. In the spring or the fall, this isn’t too bad; in the winter (which is when I had to take the bus back in 2005 while I was without a vehicle for about a month) it meant shivering as the freezing wind blows, and in the summer it potentially means sweltering in the lack of shade.

The 38BThe other thing I’m not a big fan of is the amount of time spent to take the bus to work. To get to my office in McLean, I need to hop the 38B to either Rosslyn or Ballston, then transfer to either the 15K (Rosslyn) or 23A (Ballston) to get to work. (I could take the metro from Court House to those stations, but the cost jumps up a great deal. And if it’s a really nice day I can snip the 38B out and walk, but that’s not going to change the amount of time spent for the better.) When I drive to or from work, barring accidents on the road my transit time is in the 15-20 minute range. With the bus, it’s a solid hour if the bus is on time.

But I do like the chance it gives me to read while going to work; between the bus home last night and to work this morning, plus a little bit of time at the car dealership, I read all of Octavia E. Butler’s Parable of the Sower, which has sat on my shelves for eight years waiting for this moment. (It was worth the wait. I’m looking forward to read Parable of the Talents in what will certainly be a less than an eight year wait.) And, perhaps most crucially, once someone suggested that I take the 38B over to my second bus of the morning (instead of the metro), it meant that the cost of the bus ride is now less than the cost of gas used to drive to work.

Yeah, that was an eye-opener. If I assume I’m getting 30mpg, it costs $1.53 to get to work, versus the $1.25 spent when I use my SmarTrip card, thanks to free bus-to-bus transfers. So now I’m considering the idea of trying to designate one day a week to take the bus to work. It’s certainly less convenient (no errands as part of the work transit) and it means I really need to make sure I’m out the door by a certain time in the morning or it’s another 20-30 minutes before I can get to the office. But I really like the idea of getting that reading time added to my day, and while the monetary savings are hardly a lot, it would also be good in general for the environment, right? So we’ll see.

A Nagging Problem, Solved

Back in January, I was driving home from a friend’s birthday party in Alexandria when a massive crack appeared across my windshield. I’d had a small ding in the windshield from when a rock hit it, but (at the time having not realized it was something easily and inexpensively fixed) had done nothing about it. All the snow coming down had meant that the shift in temperature brought the imperfection to a head, and suddenly my car was “smiling” at me.

In the spring, I used birthday money to get the windshield replaced, and that was the end of the saga. Or so I thought. Soon afterwards I noticed that I could hear air getting in through one of the corners of the windshield, although only if I drove over 45mph. Was it my imagination, paranoid from the swapping out of windshields? After debating for a couple of weeks, I made Julie and Laura get in the car to verify or deny what I was hearing. Sure enough, they heard it too.

Well, twice Albert from the auto glass company came out to try and squirt a little more sealant into that corner, to see if that would do the trick. And, twice, it didn’t seem to do much. Even Albert didn’t seem convinced that it would do the trick the second time, but recommended waiting to let it fully set and see if that was that.

Windshield Now OptionalLast Friday, Albert and his assistant came out and pulled the windshield off entirely to see if the fault was the glass itself (they’d brought another one just in case) or not. As soon as they pulled it off, Albert saw where the seal was off by about 1/32nd of an inch. “Not much,” he said, “but that’s all it really takes.”

So, his assistant (who as it turned out used to live in my apartment complex) cleaned off the glass while Albert scraped off the old seal in its entirety. And I must say, it’s very odd to look at your car and there to be no windshield there whatsoever. They put a new seal down, put the glass back on, and lo and behold the problem was finally fixed. (The irony? The next day I drove down to see the friend whose birthday party I was leaving back in January when the windshield cracked in the first place. And no, it did not break again.)

The funny thing about it is that I hadn’t really realized just how much this was bothering me until I was driving around afterwards and felt a huge weight lifted off my shoulders. That quiet whistling, whooshing noise was finally gone. Driving had actually become painful while it was there, a constant reminder that something wasn’t right. It being gone is one of the best feelings out there, that there’s finally some sort of pleasure in driving my car again. I wish I’d gotten this fixed much faster, but if nothing else it’s given me a greater appreciation for the job now being done properly.

I may not have an hour (or longer) commute like many in the area, but even the 40 minutes (total) that I have to spend in the car each work day? They’ve suddenly gotten that much better.