Saturday, November 3, 2012

Greetings from Dog Hair City

     After spending all week trying to determine exactly what's been wrong with me, I've finally figured it out. I've been living in that special hell known as Dog Hair City. A massive sucking vortex of domestic unpleasantry and inconvenience--specially designed for mothers and wives--Dog Hair City bitch slaps you, grabs you by the hair, and pulls you kicking and screaming into a parallel universe where chaos flows like a squeeze bottle of pancake syrup in the grubby hands of a toddler, everywhere but on top of your waffles.
     It all started last Sunday when Spartacus came running breathlessly into the house while I was making us some lunch. "Man, I've just been watching this chick who's been sleeping in that car that was parked out front all night. She gets out of the car, throws on a backpack, and leaves a giant sword on the roof with a blade THIS long, like the kind for lopping people's heads off! Then, she disappeared down the street!" I got so caught up in his excitement that I forgot it was the weekend before Halloween. He pointed at the window by the kitchen sink, where I was washing dishes, "Look! You can see it from here!" Indeed, there was a sword sitting on the roof of her car, eliciting strange looks from passersby walking their dogs. "All right," I said, "I'm gonna go have a look. We better take some pictures." Armed with my camera, I threw on a sweater, and ventured outside to survey the chick's abandoned car. Once I made sure there was no sign of her anywhere, I gingerly approached the vehicle and snapped a few pictures. "Wait a darn minute! Is that thing even real?!," I queried, finally having come to my senses. Motioning to Spartacus, who was standing a few feet away as if the car might explode at any second, I grimace-whispered, "Come over here and see if it's real!" It took him several agonizing seconds to actually make contact with that damn sword, during which I fretted, "Now, his fingerprints are gonna be all over it!," envisioning our mug shots after a fracas with the police. "It's plastic," he reported. And, that's when the vortex sucked me in.
     The rest of the week was an ongoing parade of irritations, the least of which was the self-perpetuating collection of rinsed dirty dishes, left sitting in the sink. Apparently, having two X chromosomes is a prerequisite for  placing such items into the dishwasher, as is returning them to their respective areas of storage once they are clean. I've also discovered a syndrome called Clean Dish Neglect, in which a dishwasher full of hot, freshly washed plates, glasses, and silverware fails to trigger an intrinsic mechanism for detecting obviously scoured and sanitized surfaces, paradoxically prompting sufferers of this condition to initiate the otherwise unheard of dishwasher loading procedure, e.g. placing one's used coffee cup amidst those that are quite visibly pristine.
     The simplest observations seem to elude XYs. It's ironic that "Gee, look at those brown streaks. This toilet needs scrubbing!" or "There's a fine layer of dog hair covering every square inch of this house; it's time to dust and vacuum!," are such foreign concepts that they evoke absolutely no reaction, yet "Damn! There's a smudge on my rear bumper!" prompts an immediate visit to the car wash. Replenishing household necessities, such as toilet paper or milk, also tends to be an afterthought, much in the same manner as handwashing, hanging up wet towels, or putting the seat back down.
     For about two weeks now, I've become increasingly more aggravated over the racket known as emissions testing. The tag renewals on the three vehicles I own are due on my birthday, which is November 7, and because I've moved from a city which doesn't require emissions testing to one that does, I can't just complete these registrations online: they have to be recalculated and prorated. I have to go in person to the tag office with proof of residence, and both my sons' cars have to pass emissions inspection. My son, Nick, is driving my old 2005 Honda Civic hybrid, a car which now has 94,000 miles on it and runs perfectly. When I asked him to get his inspection done a couple of weeks ago, he told me that for some time now, both the "check engine" and "IMA" (integrated motor assist--the hybrid battery) lights have been on, but that he'd googled the diagnostic codes he'd obtained at Auto Zone, and determined that this was some type of non-emergent problem. Needless to say, I was annoyed that he didn't mention this problem to me before now. He showed me a youtube video of a guy who'd cleared those same codes by installing a new 12 volt battery and air filter. It seemed like a legitimate solution; his car was running well, and the IMA battery was staying fully charged. Why not give it a try? Since I'd recently received a notice from Honda about the hybrid needing an emissions-related software update, we decided to take the car in to the dealership after replacing the battery as the video suggested.
     Long story short (and $120 later), the new battery idea didn't work, and neither did the software update: those pesky lights stayed on. It's hard to imagine how a hybrid battery could affect emissions testing, but I'm told it does, and there isn't an inspection site that will run the test with a "check engine" light on anyway. If you're stopped while driving a car with expired tags, it's easily a $200 fine. Time was running out, and unfortunately in this city with its half-assed public transportation, you've got to have a car to get around. To make matters worse, the dealership found a transmission-mount problem--a $366 repair--as well as only 2 mm of brake pads left on the front axle. Yes, in Dog Hair City, you can't win for losing...it's always something.
     I was more than a little irate that the dealership had installed the software update and assured Nick that everything was fine, only to receive a text message from him at work the next morning saying, "The lights came back on." WTF?! He took it to a service station and had them run the diagnostic codes for those lights, and although the emissions codes were now cleared, the two most dreaded codes of all, those signaling "premature hybrid battery degeneration" were still present. Anyone who owns a Honda hybrid knows this is a $2500 to $3500 fix. Anyone who owns a 2003-2009 Honda hybrid also knows that there's a huge class action lawsuit regarding fuel economy and IMA battery warranty-related issues on these vehicles. Anyone who knows me knows that as much as I despise conflict and confrontation, I can resort to full-on bitch mode when the situation gets desperate. This situation was about as FUBAR as it gets.
     First, I called the dealership to register a customer service complaint. They should have run the codes after updating the software to confirm that the "check engine" and "IMA" problems were indeed resolved. After leaving a rather long and rambling voice mail rant for the service manager, I looked at the car's original warranty. As I suspected, the IMA battery was only covered up to 80,000 miles. I reviewed the class action lawsuit and did some googling, and learned that Honda had extended the battery warranty to 100,000 miles in states like CA and NY, which presumably contain the highest concentrations of hybrid cars. Although Honda agreed to extend the battery warranty for an additional 12,000 miles as a result of the lawsuit, at 94,000 miles, we were just outside of it. Basically, we were screwed. Unless I could somehow get a 100,000 mile warranty extension or register the car in a county that didn't require emissions testing,  a practice which borders on fraudulence, Nick would be risking a sizable fine if he got stopped after the tag expired.
     I could see where this was going. Either I was gonna pay $3k for a new IMA battery, or we were going to be scrambling to trade Nick's car in for something that'd pass emissions. Because I don't like dealing with middle men, I went straight to the top, and called Honda headquarters. In a recorded conversation, I made what I thought was a good case for them to consider extending my warranty to 100,000 miles, namely the fact that I've been a loyal Honda customer for the last 20 years, and that Honda had already extended the warranty in select states. It was a magnificent waste of time and breath. After a brief "conference" with the powers that be, I was informed by the woman with whom I'd been on hold for 20 minutes that "there is nothing we can do to assist you," as well as "No, there's no one else for you speak with here." Click. Believe me, I was seeing red at the end of that conversation. Just as I was googling Honda's CEO so I could email him a scathing letter of complaint, I received a call from the service manager at the Honda dealership where we'd initially taken Nick's car for the software update. I could tell that he was pleasantly amused by the VM I'd left him because he was laughing good-naturedly. He told me to have Nick bring the car back in to make sure that the correct software update had been installed, and that he would contact Honda's regional manager on my behalf to see about extending the IMA battery warranty. "Believe me, we deal with this issue all day long. I'm confident that Honda will cover all, if not most of the battery replacement." Professional and reassuring, he restored my faith in customer service. Now, all we had to do was wait.
     Because we are short-staffed and busy, I worked extra this week, providing me with welcome diversion from vehicle-related woes. Even so, I was still irritable and short-tempered. Minor nuisances that I'd otherwise overlook, like dog hair on the coffee table and unwashed dishes in the sink, were magnified into mini-disasters of epic proportion, threatening to coalesce into one huge catastrophic meltdown. I tried to remain in the moment, but the moment sucked. Thursday afternoon, as Nick was making himself a smoothie, the Vitamix blender started smoking. It's an expensive high horsepower blender, which fortunately is covered by a seven year full warranty, and both Nick and I use it several times a day. I guess all that frozen fruit overwhelmed its functional capacity. As I started launching into a sanctimonious lecture to Nick about how to correctly layer wet and frozen ingredients so this wouldn't happen again, he got a call from the Honda dealership. "Mom, Honda's going to cover the cost of the battery. All we'll have to do is pay $325 for the labor." Hallelujah, maybe miracles DO happen! Either that, or my persistence paid off.
     As mysteriously as the sword-wielding chick appeared and vanished, so did Dog Hair City. Well almost. I still woke up this morning to a house in dire need of dusting and vacuuming. I dreaded the thought of spending Saturday morning, cleaning. Spartacus must have read my mind because the minute he rolled out of bed, he made himself a coffee, and immediately started vacuuming and taking out the recycling like a mad man. Then, he went out to hit some golf balls, but not before placing his mug into the dishwasher with all the other dirty dishes :-)
That chick's scarily realistic-looking plastic sword.

17 comments:

  1. Time to take a deep breath. :) Sounds like you had quite a week and you're so right about the XX vs. XY chromosome thing. It's got to be the DNA. I'm glad Spartacus came through in the end, though. You definitely needed it!

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    1. Anyone who argues that men and women aren't inherently different hasn't lived with someone of the opposite sex. Hopefully, this week will be anticlimactic.

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  2. Like I said before
    though it was a waste of time and energy, and you probably burnt some nerves with anger. $3000 bucks is worth the trouble.
    An afternoon of no loss
    "...Apparently, having two X chromosomes is a prerequisite for placing such items into the dishwasher.." the best rant I have read in a long long time
    dishes and dog hair the problem that plagues women across the globe

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    1. Yes, Sudarshan, it was worth every ounce of time and energy expended, and to have my faith in good customer service restored! It's reassuring to know that Dog Hair City is a universal problem, and that I'm in the company of more than a few good women.

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  3. Wow! That's pretty much the definition of not having a good week right there. But, I love a happy ending.

    Just one bone of contention. And I quote, "It's ironic that "Gee, look at those brown streaks. This toilet needs scrubbing!" or "There's a fine layer of dog hair covering every square inch of this house; it's time to dust and vacuum!," are such foreign concepts that they evoke absolutely no reaction ..." You make that sound as if it's a bad thing. Why?

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    1. Joel, honestly the only bachelors I know who are concerned with pet hair or brown streaks in the toilet are either OCD or gay. It's not a bad thing for you, I suppose, especially if you live alone, but it's a very, very bad thing if you ever host a female visitor! ;-)

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  4. I've got to say, rather you than me. I think I would have ended up having a mild nervous breakdown long before I got a bit of good news. What a week with costs attached. I think it does pay to be persistent at times, so good for you as it worked out to your advantage.

    The woman with the sword is lucky that the police didn't see her as someone who was armed and dangerous. I know the cops don't muck around in America.

    I had to smile when you said that Spartacus did the vacuuming, recycling and dusting, that's what I call a real nice touch after such a week. :)

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    1. RPD, you should have seen the looks that sword was attracting from people walking by. As cop-laden as this neighborhood is (the precinct is just a few blocks down the street), I'm surprised they didn't notice the sword or the fact that she was sleeping in her car! Yes, Spartacus saved the day yesterday; that was really nice.

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  5. That sword does look real! Very scary indeed! The title of your post made me laugh! Such an eye catcher! =)

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    1. Token, I'm sure your mom has probably entered Dog Hair City at some point...you should ask her ;-)

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    2. Oh definitely! Her car is has tons of lint rollers. I've seen her take a vacuum to her coat before! lol

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  6. Coincidentally, Kris, I dealt with a similar car problem just two weeks ago. My daughter's car was due for inspection and the engine light was on. I tried a number of things to fix it, but nothing worked, so I was forced to bring it to the dealer. The dealership here is notorious for jacking up prices and replacing things that don't need to be replaced. The real problem was a purge valve which cost $26 but they decided to throw in two cooling fans just for the fun of it. Total cost with labor: $900. My policy in such situations is just to pay the money cheerfully, and get on with my life, which is what I did. The car passed inspection, and my daughter and I are both back to being car and carefree.

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    1. Yep, the dealerships are always gonna find a way to nickel and dime you, aren't they? Glad you got your daughter's car situation resolved. For me, it was worth the fight to save $3k.

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  7. That whole thing about being in the moment! It's so profound, so helpful, so true. But when I'm in a particularly hellish or painful moment,I try to switch to another. Past, future, I don't care. I just want a better moment.


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    1. Coming from a therapist, that sounds like the exact right thing to do! :-)

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  8. This does indeed sound like one hell of a week. Sometimes I find that an adult beverage helps to ease the pain :) If the Honda guy doesn't come through with the battery coverage, you should definitely waltz into the office wielding the sword! I'm sure they would be happy to work with you then!!

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    1. OMG, that's perfect, Emily! First, I'll have to track that drunk chick down... :-)

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