Zen and the Art of Crappy Car Maintenance

Monday, April 29, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

The perks of small town living are almost identical to the corresponding downsides of small town living.  While knowing your neighbor leads to a more intimate and community-based lifestyle, it also often means everyone knows everything about everyone.  Often, you end up knowing things about your fellow townspeople that you would have never even wanted to know.  Nevertheless, like an information compactor, the closer everyone is to each other, the more everyone’s life becomes an open book.

I chose to see this closeness as a good thing.  Admittedly, it becomes much easier to ignore the gossip and rumor mill now that I’m happily settled into my life with a wife. (rhyme time!).  Additionally, 98% of the embarrassing details of my life I end up writing about at length, so the number of secrets I have left is rapidly dwindling. 

Here’s a quick story of the benefits of small town livin.

I bought my car locally.  The place I bought it came highly recommended by a few of the higher ups in my then graduate department.  The business itself only sold Volvos, and I wanted a Volvo.  It was a match made in heaven and I quickly became the owner of a slightly used, low-mileage, 2004 Mattmobile II.   I named him Brutus. 

The other wonderful quality about this dealership was that they had a service department connected to their business that specialized (obviously) in Volvos.  And the only thing better than buying a car from a place you trust is having a trustworthy place to bring it for repairs and service.   And for the next 5 to 6 years everything was moving along quite swimmingly.  When I needed the occasional oil-change or repair, the service guys, whose names I knew, identified the problem and repaired it for a reasonable rate. 

Then two years ago, one of the large local Subaru dealerships (which my wife bought her car from incidentally) struck up a deal that involved the merger of the Volvo and Subaru dealerships.   My wife and I thought that this would be the best of both worlds; A consolidation of our automotive destinations.  

Both businesses involved in this merger had healthy track records of both honesty during sales and reliability in repairs.  This would seem obvious, as these are the two qualities paramount to having repeat customers.  Somewhere in the stitching together of the two companies, however, they seem to have added 3 or 4 parts intestines and left out most of the brains.  Which is to say that the newly merged car dealership is almost completely shit.

Last time my wife went to Steve Smith Subaru (close but not the actual name) for an oil change they rotated and balanced her tires without asking.  Considering that her tires had been put on elsewhere the previous week, this added expense was not appreciated.   When she contested the addition service, they apologized, promised to send her a refund and to give her a free oil change next visit.  Two weeks later, she had to call them back to ask for the refund to be mailed, which they apologized for “forgetting”.

My wife’s previous visit to Steve Smith Subaru had been to purchase and change over to new snow tires.  She made and appointment and when she arrived they informed her that they didn’t have snow tires to fit her car (which, again, they sold her).  Considering she had called to confirm her appointment to put these very tires on her car, she was understanbly pissed to waste her weekend afternoon.  She has since taken her business elsewhere for her tire needs.  

When I showed up for my recent oil change, I had low expectations.  Besides the elongated wait, with my oil change Steve’s Subaru showed me a bill totally over $3,000 in necessary repairs.  I was crestfallen.  I got that nauseous gas acid feeling in my belly.  Three grand is a truckload of moolah and this woman was casually explaining how important they are and then asking when I want to set up an appointment to repair all of these issues.  I told her I would call to make an appointment. 

I guess the people at the new dealership don’t realize that the internet exists.  Or perhaps, they realize that most people will take the easy option (fixing their car at the dealership) over doing any leg work at all about prices.  Hell, if you can repair my car for anywhere near a reasonable amount, I too would probably go the easy way.  But somewhere way before “$3,000” I do a quick internet search to see what the ball-park price is for similar repair jobs. 

This Subaru (and ex-Volvo) dealership is so far out of the ball-park, they are playing cricket.  What on the internet (same make and model and repair) was listed as a few hundred dollars was written down on my repair sheet as 2,000?!?!  All up, the repairs seemed as if they should be closer to one grand rather than three (still no small sum, granted). 

To Facebook I went.  Needed: Trustworthy local mechanic/auto-repair shop

An hour later, a number in hand, I called my friend's “go to guys.”  My friend has lived in the area for well over a decade, and if she gives a place her stamp of approval, I automatically trust them.   This friend does not suffer fools. 

When the guy picked up the phone he was friendly and helpful and asked what the problem seemed to be.  I told him I had a number of problems that needed to be checked out, and that I wasn’t sure what the severity of any of the issues might be.  Feeling cryptic, I continued that my dealership had identified a number of expensive problems and I was fairly certain that they were trying to screw me over. 

He replied without pause, “Steve Smith Subaru?”

“Yes,” I said, a bit shocked and laughing into the phone.  “They really are that bad, aren’t they?”

“We’ll take a look at it and see what’s what,” is all he said.  Very professional, but telling at the same time.  “How bout Tuesday?”

I can’t wait for tomorrow.  

The Top Five Things I Forgot to Take on Vacation

Saturday, April 13, 2013 | 0 Comment(s)

No one is ever meant to feel bad for me while I'm on vacation.  That would be cruel and unusual punishment for all you readers grumpily dealing with mid-April snow showers in the USA.  What you should have no problem with, however, is laughing at my own personal pain while ON vacation.  If you are too nice to be able to laugh at me, it is currently 80 degrees and sunny, and I'm writing this post while lounging on a cliff by the Caribbean Sea.  So yah, now you should be able to hate on me just fine.

Along with each specific item I forgot, I will also provide a rating (between 1-5 'oh shits') describing the severity of consequences that I incurred as a result.

1.  My anti-anxiety medication.  (oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit.)
I'm a big friggin dummy.  One of the downsides of packing at 2 am before leaving at 5:45 am, is that no matter how organized you lay out all of your items, you still have to remember to grab them all on 3 hours of sleep.  The world is blurry at that hour.  I set up all the necessary pins for this trip, and yet somehow forgot to knock any of them down.  These meds help me sleep at night.  When the demons from Ghost seep into the bedroom, and thoughts of my mortality and future job prospects start churning in my brain, these pills help me fight the power and get to bed.

Forgetting these pills was a super bad move.  I had to call wifey back home, admit how stupid I am, and have her rush their delivery.  Sorry hon.  You married a stupid.

2. My anti-OCD meds.  (oh shit, oh shit)
I figure I should keep the meds section together.  It isn't as bad that I forgot these pills, only because they have a less immediate effect on me, as they are playing the long game.  There pills were also left by the sink at home, and they didn't get mailed.  I'm hoping I don't arrive home hairless.  Or if I do, i hope it was a result of drunken hot waxing and not me individually plucking every last hair.

3. My computer cord.  (oh shit, oh shit, oh shit, oh shit)
If I needed the computer cord in order to go to sleep at night, this would have warranted a 5th oh shit.  Thankfully, I have enough porn downloaded on my personal hard drive (that's my brain ya'll) that I can still get to sleep without electrical power.

What I can't do without electric power is write on my blogs, my book, or freelance writing with a word processor.  I mean, I distinctly remember finding my Mac cord hidden in the bedroom where my wife had last been using it, bringing that cord downstairs, and placing it just next to my computer bag.  How I forgot to slip that thing inside the front pocket of the bag come morning eludes me.  It is lost in a mixture of blurry dogs, a sleepy wife, and an impending early morning drive to the airport.  In true me fashion, I didn't realize this packing omission until late after my arrival, after I had drained the computer battery to dangerously low levels.  If my compadre didn't bring his Mac cord down to the island 2 days later, you wouldn't be reading this right now.

4. Lactaid pills. (oh shit)
I can't eat dairy without these suckers.  I especially can't eat dairy if I hope to go snorkeling within 24-hours of said lactose intake.  Snorkeling becomes a non-issue when quarantined to the bathroom.  The reason that this omission only registers 1 oh shit is because there are two easy workarounds to this problem.  A) don't eat dairy.  Just avoid it.  Like a grown-up.  B) Since we know how grand I am at "grown-uping", I can thank the field of genetics for allowing me to inherit a bunch of these biological deficiencies, and therefore my mother keeps a solid stash of Lactaid pills down here at the house.  Apparently she is prone to forgetting these dairy-devouring suckers as well.

5. Anything to read. (oh shit)
Another personal peculiarity of mine is that I pretty much only read for pleasure on vacation.  I am not promoting this approach by any means, but I only seem to devour literature when I have sequential days to dig right in.  You can imagine with a reading approach like this that while I have a number of books in my queue, they aren't favorably located inside the house in a way that would promote remembering to bring them along.  I didn't even grab the kindle, which was admittedly really dumb.  I is stooped.  Thankfully, with my computer (pre-cord missing), there is plenty of words on the internet to keep me reading far into the week ahead.  And when my battery died, which it did, my family has amassed a medium-sized collection of vacation books that have been read and left at the house for future readers.  I am now a future reader.  Very meta.

Other than all of that, I have everything.  Didn't forget a thing.   It really is difficult being perfect.

Two Moments of Pride

Monday, April 8, 2013 | 3 Comment(s)

Two moments of pride.  Of proudness.  Prouditude.  Prouditivity.

If I may . . .

1.  For those of you who are regular followers of this blog, you know that one my New Year's Resolutions is/was to finally end the 2 years plus process of closing my bank accounts with Bank of America.  They're horrible.  I've known it for awhile now.  When they started playing with the value of money worldwide, i really knew it.  But there was direct deposit, automatic bill pay, and so many other  small but effective reasons to not completely delete that account.

I did it.  Currently, Bank of America keeps and protects zero dollars and zero cents of my money.  This number more accurately reflects the amount of respect, trust, and admiration I have for the company.  Being out of that bank's corrupt clutches actually feels good.

Me: "Excuse me, I need assistance closing my account?"

BOA Woman: "Oh, are you moving out of town."

Me: "No, I'm local."

*Awkward pause.*

To her credit, she didn't ask me why.  I kinda wish she had. I think we all know I had a thorough explanation.   Extremely thorough.

The only really weird part of the experience is that the "personal banker" who helped me close the account -- middle-aged white dude, balding, barrel chest -- kept calling me "my friend".  That will be no problem my friend.   Would you like that as cash or a check my friend.  My first reaction to this was that it had to do with my difficult to pronounce first name.  I told the guy, "my name's Matt.  You can call me Matt."  

But, he still went on with his "my friend"this and "my friend" that crap.  Like I was visiting some weirdo-cult and this guy was programmed to call me friend as many times as possible before I left the building, so that my lasting impression of this corrupt, grotesque, cheating institution would be one of everlasting friendship.  MY FRIENDS CALL ME BY MY NAME SHITHEAD!!!

2.  I am now, officially, blogging for profit and well as because I have a debilitating disease which requires me to over-share the hilarities of my life with the general public.   I am the new Entertainment Editor over at!!!   I'm unabashedly excited about this opportunity to broaden my audience as well as share my thoughts, feelings, and expertise regarding such topics as:  Love/Dating, T.V. & Movies, Food & Drink, and all other things entertainingly cool.  You can check out my first piece, The 5 Most Unintentionally Offensive Movies of All Time, here.

Rest assured loyal blog readers.  This move will not reduce the amount of mattitiyahu you receive (you probably will end up getting more all up), but it will simply multiply the portals through which you can access my particular peculiar perspective.

If Men Had Miscarriages

Tuesday, April 2, 2013 | 1 Comment(s)

Disclaimer: For those who have gone through the trials of losing a pregnancy, and I know that may be many of you, some of the content of this post may be difficult to read (though, i assure you, it is dealt with sensitively).  Please be forewarned.

In all honesty, I have been thinking about writing this post for a good long while.  Years even.  I have always been tripped up because I have an inner dissonance when writing about the subject matter of women's bodies.  I feel, on the whole, that I am under qualified to about half the population when it comes to the real in's and out's of having female reproductive organs.  And I'm right on this.

Unfortunately, more and more recently, old and not-so-old white guy politicians who apparently do not share my inner turmoil on this subject matter have begun making increasingly ridiculous and offensive claims regarding rape and reproduction.  In all honesty, it's as if guys like these (I'm looking at you Todd Akin, Richard Mourdock, Roger Rivard,  John Koster, Joe Walsh,  and Steve King -- why is this such a long list!) were just faking it til they made it in their home polling districts, and now that they are there, when asked to speak on a real subject, we all realize they failed 7th grade biology.  They all make me sick with their stupidity and entitlement.

Despite this, I am writing this piece because I have failed to see it elsewhere.  This is not an attempt to redeem my gender or even to be political, but rather to lend a voice on a subject matter that has been left hidden by society as a whole.

Recently, another friend of mine lost her (wanted) pregnancy to miscarriage.  I say another, because the list of women I know personally who have gone through this horrific set of events is a long one.  So long, in fact, that I eventually went online to see if this tragic circumstance was happening to others as much as it seemed to be happening around me.   It is.  Depending on which numbers you believe, between 1 in 4 pregnancies to as many as 1 in 3 pregnancies result in the loss of the child.  And those numbers are excluding any losses that may occur before a pregnancy test has been taken.

THAT IS 33% PEOPLE.  That, to me, says that miscarrying a child is what I would deem "fairly common."  But, when my well-educated, intelligent, deeply loved friends have lost pregnancies in the past, I can tell you that the experience for them was anything but routine.

In my experience, and again, this is the morally tricky part for me, women who lose their  (wanted) pregnancies are subjected to a variety of different physical and emotional assaults.  First, there is the physical.  While I can not speak directly to the level of pain, reports are that the procedures involved are as ghastily unpleasant as they are invasive.

And then there is the bleeding.   The constant reminder of what is no longer there.   And that begins the psychological trauma.   The loss, and even more so the unbelievable shame that gets attached to miscarriages.  And this is where we as a society are doing a horrible job for the reproductive women of the world.

There should be no shame attached to miscarriage.  None.  Zero.  Remember the whole one in four pregnancies result in miscarriage?  That is a shitload of shame.  And we are dumping it right atop women who deserve none of it.  Because miscarriage is common, but we don't talk about it at all.  We hide it in the crying bedrooms of women or couples who all feel they are going through this traumatic cycle alone.  For the first time ever.  Women who were moments ago in the throws of the excitement of bringing a new life into the world are thrust into the impossible position of apologizing to partners and family members for their feelings of letting everyone down.  Not to mention themselves.  But they haven't let anyone down.  Because miscarriage is common.   So very common.

So I ask myself, if miscarriage is so common, and it is, why don't we ever hear about it.  Ever.  Why is the collective understanding regarding pregnancy loss hovering at the level of 'almost zero,' as one in three women walk around with invisible wounds left from keeping a secret that feels dirtier in its covertness.  And the only honest answer to, "Why is this happening?" is because miscarriage only happens to women.

If only men miscarried, this whole situation would look different.  First of all, there would be a department in the hospital solely for helping men recover from such a traumatic experience.  There would be doctors as well as social workers there, assuring these traumatized men that what was happening to them was normal and there was nothing to be ashamed of.  There would also be amazing drugs that help you block out the trauma and most likely a revolutionary new cauterizing procedure (or the invention of a remarkably absorbent pad) to minimize the post-operative bleeding.  No man needs a messy reminder.

There would also be ad campaigns designed specifically to target the 33% of men who go through this.  I'm not sure exactly what the products would be, but they would make men feel better about themselves after such a procedure, pump up their self-confidence, and make them feel safe enough to spend their disposable income on their products.  Maybe some more cool drugs.

If men had miscarriages, they would get paid time off work when it happened.  If 1 in 3 men miscarried, the stigma would be lifted almost immediately.  Which means you could solicit the support of all your friends and co-workers (as opposed to just your very closest family and friends), and they could help bare the burden of your circumstances with well wishes and feelings of good cheer.  There would be "The More You Know" public service messages about being sympathetic to pregnancy loss.

If men had miscarriages, they may still be physically painful, but I assure you the psychological barriers that are born from sweeping the uncomfortable situations of "others" into the margins of what is considered polite societal discourse, would be removed post-haste.  If miscarriages happened to men, I wouldn't have to write about it.

But men don't miscarry.  And the subject of pregnancy loss is tucked away in the back of our cultural basement, where, in the USA, we send one million women a year, to suffer their personal shame alone in silence.  It is unconscionable.

Medical science still is not able to make every pregnancy a successful one, but we certainly have the societal resources and responsibility to protect these unsuspecting women from a stigma that should never have existed in the first place.