One of the bad things about procrastination is that it can sometimes turn aspects of my life into vicious downward spirals of despair and hopelessness.

I refer in this case to the care of my car. I drive a Honda Element, which I bought (and am still paying for) instead of leasing because I knew that it was a car that I would want to drive for a long time. In fact, my goal is to put a few hundred thousand miles on it. It’s a great car that I’m still very happy with. Anyway, Honda plug aside, I have been neglecting my car for the past several months. More than several. Fine, for almost 9,000 miles.

I vowed when I bought this car that I would not get hung up on the silly, vain attention I once paid to the two-seater I used to own BB (“before baby”). I refused to become a slave to a spotless exterior or fly into a panic if door dings and bumper scuffs began to appear. I live in a city. Things happen when people parallel park. I adopted a very eastern attitude about the whole thing and decided to simply let go of my desperate and hopeless attempts at controlling my car’s perfection. I would park in tight spots and let the valets do their work without lecturing them about keeping it safe. I would ignore the layer of fine sediment that begins to appear minutes after a carwash in LA. In fact, I would not waste any more money on the futile act of having my car washed and waxed. After all, I spend almost all of my time inside the car so who cares what the outside looks like?

The problem is, I took my attitude a little too far. Over the past 8 or 10 months, that fine layer of smog dust got to the point where I could barely see out my windows. My “car washes” boiled down to the squeegees at gas stations. The poor thing hadn’t had an oil change in 9,000 miles and the inside of it looked like a twister touched down for a second and then took off because it was too messy to even mess up. Someone or something grazed my rear right tail light and popped it out of its housing (leaving a nice hole in the red plastic shell) and finally, the straw that broke this procrastinators back, the “Maint Req’d” light came on.

My poor car was begging me to care at least a little about it, so I finally pulled myself out of my procrastinatory hole of neglect and brought the Element to the Honda dealer to have its much needed scheduled maintenance done. The upside to the 3 hour wait was that it gave me plenty of time to read the latest Potter book. The downside was that as I plied myself with vending machine coffee and fought for all three hours to find a comfortable position in the standard car dealership service waiting room chairs, Cops and Montel provided distracting background noise throughout, making reading difficult.

Finally, after 6 or 8 chapters of the book, Jaime came over to me like a doctor to an expectant father and told me, “Your car is ready.” I held my breath as I walked over to the nursery…wait, I mean car pick-up area. Part of the joy of a standard 21,000 mile maintenance at this particular Honda dealer is that in addition to checking the fluids and the joints and changing the oil and such, they WASH YOUR CAR. I didn’t let on that I almost would have paid the 89 bucks just for that. Instead, I peered out at my car, which now looked almost brand new again (curse you, hit and run tail light breaker) and couldn’t wait to drive it again.

Is it just me, or does a freshly cleaned car just seem more fun to drive? Now for cleaning the inside. Unfortunately, that’s not part of the scheduled maintenance. I did manage to pop the tail light housing back in (hole and all).

Dear car,

I promise to never neglect you so badly again. Please continue to operate and I will continue to maintain you. Let us celebrate our arrangement by the adding of chocolate to milk.


9 thoughts on “elementary”

  1. You wouldn’t have had to wait so long if you’d taken your car to the dealership in Strongbadia. I hear their prices on tires are especially good.

  2. I feel ya. Once I took my car to LaBrea Chevrolet and saw the estimate on repairs on a clipboard that someone was reading off to me. The note said “cost of repairs exceeds value of car. hahahahaa!” I tried to snatch it out of his hands to hang in cubicle…but to no avail. He then tried to sell me a used 10 year old Geo Metro…dude, I’m not THAT ghetto.

  3. I went to Miller Honda in Culver City one time to have an oil change. When I got home, I noticed a some red fluid dripping from underneath the car. I took it back to Miller, and they diagnosed the car with a cracked radiator casing ($800 fix). I took it to another place for a second opinion. The second place told me that whoever had changed the oil in the car had left a plug loose. They plugged it back in for free and the drip was gone.

    I’ll never take my car back to Miller Honda.

  4. I had a similar experience at Miller. They tried to tell me my Toyota needed a new power steering pump immediately for $1200. I took it someplace else and found out it just needed fluid. Miller is bad news.

  5. Feel. The. Guilt.

    My Cr-V hasn’t had an oil change in I-don’t-know-how-long, and I haven’t washed it in longer…

    Crap, I better do something about it. As for the tornado decor–oh yeah, I’m there, too. I WILL make it to the friggin’ vacuum machines one of these days…

  6. I’m lucky to have a father who won’t LET me go 9 months without an oil change. He will, however let me go 6 months without a carwash. He was nice enough to eventually wash it (and detail), but I think that was just because he knew I was stressed out with finals. It also helps out that my dad used to work in service at a dealership and still has connections at local dealerships so I can get discounts.

  7. Yeah, if you have a relatively new, low mileage car you should really be using Synthetic Oil (really Synthetic fluids everywhere: transmission, differentials, transfer case, power steering, brake lines). If its an older car, say over 80k miles, you are risking gasket leak when you use synthetics. However, I started using synthetic motor oil on a Jeep Wrangler with 70k miles with no problems (and that’s a crusty American vehicle!)

    The synthetic stuff lasts forever and is really only corrupted by exposure to particulates and pollution. Tests of been done on BMWs that ran a million miles non-stop at over 100mph using synthetic oil (of course this was done on a dyno in a test facility, not outside with dust and pollution).

    Using synthetics, you only have to change your oil every 20,000 miles and your engine will essentially last forever; the stuff is like 3x the price of regular oil, but worth it. I prefer to DIY with Mobil 1 or Castrol Syntec; I am a little shy about trusting a lube shop to do the job with their “synthetics;” you pay a lot more, but you’re not certain of what you are getting.

    Use synthetic and maintenance type service (oil/filter change) generally turns in to a once a year deal. which kind of sounds like what Shane is looking for.

  8. I love you more now that I know you drive an Element! I WANT THAT CAR!!!!! (so designed for west coast, dog owner living)

    now, if you tell me it’s the organge one …..

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