Tuesday, November 13, 2007

The next two cars

(Continued from previous post)
The police and the ambulance arrived.

A policeman shook his head and gave me the ticket for running through the stop sign.

Even though we three girls only had mild whiplash, the ambulance EMTs insisted we go to the hospital for check-ups in case. Our friends who waited at the restaurant somehow got a message from someone what was happening and met us at the hospital.

I kept trying telling the nurse I was fine, she was adamant that I stay overnight along with the other girls. The next morning, we all three were lying in one room, waiting and waiting for hours for the doctor who did not bother to check on us after the initial check-up.

Meanwhile, Cindy, one of the girls, commented she noticed that of all three machines that were attached to our arms, my heart rate seemed the calmest. I was surprised at myself.

After arguing with the nurse, the nurse finally brought us the TTY to call family/friends. I called a friend, who I was supposedly dating at that time, to see if he could pick and drop us home. When I told him what happened, all he said was, "I have to go to the meeting." That was the end of the dating game with him.

Cindy managed to ask one of her friends at Gallaudet who had a car (I did not know any friends that time who had a car as most of my friends were still Gallaudet students for another year or two).

My mother came the next day. Taking few days off from work, I went to N.C. with her to look for another used car. Almost of my savings were gone but I managed to scrape some and bought a 1986 Toyota Celica, also stick-shift.

Unfortunately, this car had so many problems that would give one a headache and ulcer. I was still living with my sister and my job was about an hour drive. This time, for the last repair, I had dropped off the car for repairs near my work and rode with a co-worker to work and did some office work for the time being instead of traveling to sites.

In the evening, my co-worker dropped me off at the repair shop to pick up my car. It was the third time that this unforsaken car was being repaired. I proceeded to give my credit card, with a big sigh.

The staff beckoned to me and replied that my credit had reached the limit. I did not know what to do. I had no other means of payment.

I was an hour away from my sister's place and she was still out of town on business. I did not know anyone who lived nearby who could drive me home.

I silently sat down, feeling helpless. I prayed, with tears slowly flowing from my eyes.

To make matters worse, I did not have a car insurance as my company was in Maryland while my sister's place was in Virginia. My company, a non-profit private enterprise, did not accept out of state insurance.

After ten minutes, of all sudden, the staff again beckoned me. She said that my credit card company called back and decided to extend my credit limit. Vastly relieved, I took the car home.

Finally, after some decision a month later, this car was hauled to junkyard and I leased a 1995 Mazda Protege, again stick-shift. It was my first time having a brand-new car.

To be continued....

Sunday, November 11, 2007

My Fourth Car

The third car, 1981 white Chrysler, that my dad surprised me lasted for six years. It was the longest of all 10 cars that I ever kept.

Two years after I attended Gallaudet, the car eventually deteriorated to the point that it was no longer good for long-distance driving. So I sold it to my mother's neighbor who was a mechanic. He fixed, repainted the car, and re-sold it for his profit.

After graduation from Gallaudet, with my saved money from my previous job prior to attending Gallaudet, I bought an used 1987 Toyota Tercel.

Unlike my other three cars, this one was a stick-shift. I did not know how to drive stick, yet I bought one and had a friend drive it home for me. I thought it would be exciting to drive stick.

During summer-time, while staying at my mother's as I was looking for a permanent job, I had a friend teach me how to drive stick. Within two months, I managed to drive stick successfully.

One month later, I finally obtained a job out of state. My sister let me stay at her place for free for few months until I got some money saved up to get my own place. She traveled frequently almost every week so it felt like I was living on my own.

My new job required traveling to sites, so a car was needed. Soon enough, my old car started to accumulate mileage. One month, after obtaining my job, my friends wanted to take me out to dinner for my birthday.

After work, I picked up my two girlfriends from Gallaudet and proceeded to a restaurant to meet other friends who were waiting for us.

Bubbling with enthusiasm, we all chatted amicably
while I drove, occasionally looking in the rearview mirror at my friend signing. I was not driving fast, but at a comfortable pace, still paying attention to the road.

Suddenly, my friend screamed at me to stop. Somehow, I had overlooked a stop sign at an intersection that was recently put there.

Before I could blink my eye and react, a car passed across the intersection from the adjacent side at the same time!

I quickly swerved, however hit the edge of the car. But instead of coming to a stop on a shoulder, I saw a lamp post looming over me.

There was absolutely no time to do anything.

I slammed my eyes shut, knowing the inevitable was going to happen.

C - R - A - S - H !!!!!

My girlfriends and I were fortunately not injured at all except for a mild whiplash.

My car was totaled. I only had it for three months.

To be continued...

Saturday, November 10, 2007

My second car

During 24 years after my first car at 16, I've had about total of 10 cars. Each one has a story. But for now, here's my story on the second car. (Please refer to my previous post on my first car).

In 1986, after my first car's demise, my uncle gave me a 1970 Ford Maverick. It was quite old but it had a new engine though. However, the muffler was broken so it was really loud whenever I turned on the ignition. The car was neon green, to my discernment.

I used to work at a Taco Bell, mostly working night shifts during the week and day shifts on weekends.

One month after I had just gotten the job, my parents announced they and my sister were going out of state to visit my uncle and his family for the weekend. At first, they were adamant that I join them but I insisted I did not want to jeopardize my job and was not merely interested in going anyway.

In spite of the fact that I was 19, they still were quite protective of me. They insisted that even though I could do whatever I wanted during daytime, I still would have to spend the night at their friend's house, which was about 10 minutes drive.

That weekend, my schedule temporarily changed to night shift. After my parents left, I stopped by their friend's house just to ensure they saw I was alright.

When they realized I would not arrive at their home till about 2 am, I was given a duplicate key so I would not have to wake them up. I merely nodded and smiled.

I absolutely had no intention of staying there overnight; I did not want to be "babied" anymore. I did not care of the consequences; I thought of a plan that could take care of it.

After cleaning up and closing Taco Bell, I proceeded to drive to my home and slept there overnight. The next morning, I got dressed and drove to the friend's house.

When they opened the door, they immediately asked if I was alright. They wondered why I never showed up and drove by Taco Bell around 3 am but it was dark. Also, they even stopped by my home but realized could not knock as I did not have any doorbell light then, nor a phone light either. (The relay system for deaf people in my state was not set up until in 1990).

I fibbed that when I got home from Taco Bell to pack up some clothes to take with me, my car would not start. I could not call so I had no choice but to sleep at home. The next morning, I decided to give it a try and the car just happened to start.

They said they almost called my parents but decided not to spoil their weekend. I quickly interjected I would explain to my parents myself. They merely nodded.

Whew, I thought I had everything in control.

Was I ever wrong.

On Sunday evening my parents came home with a surprise. My cousin decided to join them back to spend a week with me and my sister. (It was during summer time).

On Monday evening, I noticed my parents all dressed up. "Where are you going"? I asked, puzzled.

"To that friend's house for dinner. They wanted to talk to us."

I panicked. For two hours, I paced nervously, squirmed in my seat while watching TV, all in the while frequently glancing out the window for my parents' return.

When they finally walked in the door from the garage, I pretended to sit on the sofa calmly. I casually asked, "Hi..how was dinner?"

My father was in a sour mood. I did not dare approach him.

I decided to bid them good night and go straight to bed when my father interrupted me.

"Tomorrow morning, I would like you to get dressed and be ready by 9 AM, SHARP!"

"What for??", I asked, puzzled. He stated not to ask any questions.

Imaginations ran wild in my mind.

The next day, to my surprise, everyone was dressed as well to join me and my father.

After some 20 minutes drive, we stopped by someone's house that I did not recognize. Everyone got out except me. From the backseat, I watched my father talk to some man on the driveway.

I could not figure out what was going on and what my father was up to.

Looking around, he noticed I was still in the car. Annoyed, he motioned me to get out.

Nervously, I slowly approached him.

"Nita, what do you think of that car?", he pointed to a white car, a 1981 Chrysler.

I merely glanced and said it was fine. Puzzled, I asked what that was for.

My mother smiled
and replied, "Surprise! Your father's buying you a car".

Friday, November 9, 2007

My first car

When my father first moved to U.S.A from India in 1976., he bought an used 1975 brown station wagon, AMC Hornet. The reason he chose the station wagon instead of a compact car or a sedan was so my mother could accommodate her sitar (Indian type of guitar) case in the back. My mother was and still is a sitar player. Over the years, she had performed in front of audiences.

The station wagon stayed with us over the years until I turned 16. By the time, the 11-year old car was starting to develop few problems but nothing that could not be fixed though.

My father tried selling it but he was not satisfied with the recommended selling price. My mother then suggested giving the car to me since I was of driving age. He eventually agreed and bought a new station wagon.

Hence, I had my first car at 16. However, I was not allowed to drive whenever I wanted; I had to ask my father permission. Few times, he would let me drive to school only if I had to stay after school to attend club meetings. Other times, I was asked to go on errands for my parents or drop off my sister somewhere.

During summertime after my high school graduation, my father got a telegram from his brother saying that his father was gravely ill, possibly due to die anytime soon.

My parents flew to India immediately, leaving me and my sister alone at home. However, even though we were allowed to do whatever we wanted during daytimes, they would not let us sleep in a big house overnights by ourselves, in spite of my being 18 and my sister, 14.

We had an Indian neighbors who lived three houses away. They agreed to have us sleep there and do our business during daytime.

My sister, although 14, had a volunteer work program at a State University which was 15 minutes away, to work in a lab. Since she could not drive, it was my duty to drop and pick her up at certain times. During my free time, I worked part-time at a grocery store, as a deli clerk.

My parents were quite protective of their new station wagon but on the day they left, my father said he would leave the keys to the new car in case of emergency only.

They went to New York with the other car to fly to India from there. On their way, they stopped overnight at another friends' home in NJ.

One and half days later, as usual, I dropped off my sister in late morning. On the way back, I was about several feet away from turning onto my street from the main road when I noticed some smoke coming from the pedal area.

Not too concerned since I was too close to home, I proceeded to turn when my car suddenly stalled.

More smoke came from the back and my driver's window.

There were some construction workers at the corner of the street. At first glance at my car, they quickly motioned me to get out of the car... fast.

Grabbing my bag, I got out immediately. I saw at the bottom of the car, some sparks were flying.

No less than few seconds later, the car hood was on fire!

Shocked and speechless, I stared and gaped at the car for seemed an eternity.

Fortunately, an Indian neighbor who lived at the corner house saw the whole thing and helped me go inside their house to sit and calm down.

Police and firemen came. They managed to hose down the fire before it entirely engulfed the car. Only the whole front of the car was all burned down.

I did not know what to do. My parents had already left.

When it was close to time to pick up my sister, I took the new station wagon. Good thing my father left the keys as a last minute decision!

When my sister saw me nearing to pick her up, she looked surprised. "Of course, I KNEW you could NOT wait till the minute they left to use this NEW car!!! You're gonna be in big trouble!!!"

I replied, calmly and casually, "That's not true. My car got on fire. That's why".

My sister scoffed and laughed. "Yea, right!"

Upon getting home, my sister asked, puzzled, "Where's your car??"

"I TOLD YOU the car got on fire!!!! ASK that neighbor!"

Stunned, my sister gaped at me.

As if on cue, my parents called from NY airport, prior to their departure, to check how things were going.

I ran to the basement and sat down on the stairs, nervously wringing my hands. I wasn't sure what they would say.

My sister calmly came down. "What did they SAY???", I asked anxiously.

She replied that they only asked if I was okay. They said the car was too old and it was no big deal and that my mother's brother will give me one of his cars which was already older but had a new engine. (He had about four cars).

The reason my car got on fire was due to fuel pipes leak.

Sunday, November 4, 2007

Woman's foe

While growing up, my family often took family trips on vacations, especially during summer times. One of the trips we took when I was 14 was to Minneapolis to visit my aunt and her family. I had a good time playing with my cousins and going out around Minneapolis area.

On the way back home from Minneapolis, we stopped by in Wisconsin to visit old family friend of my parents.

They had a nice house but during the time we visited, their a/c was not working. However, the husband ran a motel business so they let us sleep in a room for free for two nights.

In the mornings, we would go to their house to eat meals and chat during the day. My sister and I played with their two small children.

On the last morning, as usual, my mother woke me up and told me to get ready. I proceeded to go to the bathroom to take a bath.

Enjoying a warm gentle shower, I lingered after finishing lathering myself with soap, feeling the water flowing on my face and to my body. Ten minutes later, I suddenly felt a bit weak.

Puzzled and woozy, I quickly turned off the shower and swaggered to the towel rack. As soon as I took the towel, I felt weaker and collapsed to the floor.

Mustering my strength to get up to open the door, I could barely lift my arms.

With a weak voice, I shouted for my mother. Seconds later, I heard a banging. I then realized I had locked the bathroom door.

Taking a deep breath, I, with all my might, struggled to get up but slipping on the floor and then using the door knob as a support. Finally, when I managed to almost get on my feet, I quickly unlocked the door and collapsed again, out of breath.

My mother rushed in, wrapped me with towel, helped me get up, and put me on the bed. I was sweating profusely.

I never felt SO good to get out of the steamy bathroom into the cool room and bed.

Immediately, I felt sleepy and was about to go to sleep when my father said we have to go. We were going back home after breakfast.

I moaned and groaned, pleading my father for fifteen more minutes of rest.

Feeling snuggly under the bed comforters, I proceeded to sleep well. It felt like just seconds later when my father woke me up, firmly saying I HAD to get up and get ready.

Of all the days, it had to happen TODAY! I muttered.

I miserably endured riding in the car for 14 hours back home, whining and complaining to my dad not to swerve too suddenly and go slowly on the bumps.

I had for the first time, since age 12, developed severe abdominal cramps.

The reason I nearly fainted was because I did not realize that a "steamy"/sauna room or hot shower and the first day of menstrual did not mix, at least for me.