Monday, October 15, 2012

If black smoke is pouring from your car, something's probably wrong: The perks of being a car owner

'isljg;whe .fkadjzhc  v;aoushdf;h ou!

^^That's me banging my head against the keyboard.^^

 I just can't seem to catch a break with my car. Parking tickets (some legitimate, some not), multiple trips to the DMV (I practically live there now), frantic faxes back and forth between DC and Montana involving power-of-attorney documents, even getting my car towed (FYI, not my fault)...all this makes me wonder why I have a car here in the first place.

Let me share the latest in my saga of woe.

I was driving with some friends. After about 2 minutes, my British pal Felix piped up from the backseat (please envision this with an English accent), "Aftan, is that smoke coming from your air vents?"

After my minor heart attack, I reassured him that nah, it wasn't smoke, it was a trick of the light. Of course. My car canNOT be on fire.  I kept an eye on the vents, but didn't see anything suspicious. The temperature gauge read as normal.

Then we pulled over for some coffee. "Hmmm," I said, sniffing the air. "Does anyone else smell...smoke?"

My other friend got out and made a quick inspection. "Yep," she said, "there's definitely smoke coming from the under-carriage, looks like it's concentrated near the passenger-side door." I peered over the steering wheel and saw small dark plumes wafting lazily from the hood.

My reaction:

Oh of COURSE, I thought. This just WOULD happen, because nothing with this car is ever straightforward or normal.

I sighed and pointed the car back toward home, driving nervously the whole while. I don't know much about cars, and something about smoke coming from the under-carriage makes me think the whole thing must be about to blow up.

I took my poor little beast to an autoshop the next day. They diagnosed a medium-sized, but serious, repair: apparently the rubber boot around the brake clamp had split and spewed hot oil everywhere. The smoke was the oil burning off as I drove. Not a big deal. However, in fixing this they also noticed that my brake discs were about to fail (not the brake pumps, but the discs that the pumps clamped onto...or something). If these had failed while I'd been driving, I "would have been in big would have been bad," as the mechanic said.

So they made the repairs, and I also asked about replacing my radio, which despite four years of life support had finally died. They directed me to Best Buy for the that, which apparently does free installations once you buy the radio. Who knew? the people at Best Buy replaced my radio, but in the process discovered that all FOUR of my speakers had died, too.

No wonder the sound system wasn't working. Another bill later, I have a fully-functional stereo.

So the next time you see a Subaru rolling down the street, all the windows down, most likely blasting country music -- that's me, in a WORKING and SAFE (for now) car with a WORKING sound system. Hoo rah.

No, truly, despite my complaints, having a car is awesome, cuz it lets you go out of town for apple-picking and other fall excursions. But more on those fun things later.

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Pro tips 2.0

This may become an on-going series....

1. It's okay to admit when you're swamped. Young professionals often want to prove that we will do anything to get the work done, or we take on a bajillion and one projects to demonstrate our hyper-involvement and please don't fire us because we're oh-so-valuable-and-whatever-you-do-don't-throw-us-back-into-the-scary-job-market! Instead of wearing yourself down and doing a half-ass job on twelve projects, do a kick-ass job on eight projects.

It's just as professional to say, "Thank you, but I have too much on my plate right now to give that project the full attention it deserves." Learning to hold things in balance is an Adult Skill.

2. Be careful not to be too formal in emails -- sometimes it just comes across as rudeness. Instead of saying "Hi Jane Doe, I need x. Best, Aftan," say things like "Hi Jane, I hope you had a great weekend. If you have some time, I could really use your help with x. I really appreciate it! Let me know if I can provide anything to make this easier. Best, Aftan."

Essentially, take some time to acknowledge that the other person is a human being. And that you're not a heartless ice queen. (For my male readers, ice king? Ice...princeling? Robot? I'll work on this.)

3. Make friends with your Finance & Accounting department. Otherwise your life will be hell.

4. If you have job applications out somewhere, then guess what? Your phone is your new best friend. (Smartphone users, I know this is already reason why I prefer my Dumbphone...) Apologize for your phone's presence at social gatherings, like it's the awkward in-law whom no one wants to talk to. "Sorry guys, I just had to bring him..."

4a. If a number rings you that you don't recognize? Answer the crap out of it. It might be someone calling to request an interview.

4b. Missed the call and got a voicemail instead? Now I know this seems basic, but you should, ya know, call them back. Seriously, I know of someone who just lost an interview because she wouldn't return the job's call.

Really, people? In this economy?