Stretch, Reach, and Replace

Some replacements that’ve needed to happen for a long time are now happening at once. It’s unsettling.

First is my laptop. It’s old, it’s busted. It has developed a habit of shutting off at random. After some testing, I determined it was either a) that my installation of Windows XP somehow got pooched or b) the power circuitry, cdrom, or battery is intermittently killing it. So, I uninstalled everything, backed up my important stuff to my desktop machine, and reinstalled Windows.

Reinstallation is, for some of us who live on our computers, a debasing ordeal; all your customizations are lost, all the hacks, programs, and shortcuts you take for granted to get your stuff done are completely undone. You realize what it is about the default configurations that drive you to make those changes. And now I’m going back through all that.

So far, everything is fine. The power did zap off during the install so I had to restart, which makes me wonder if it’s actually the hardware instead. If it is, and if I can’t get this thing to run confidently, then I’m essentially without a laptop again and I’ll need to replace it, which is a pricy possibility.

Second, yet foremost on my mind, is The Dragonfly, my 1993 Mitsubishi Mirage. It’s thirteen years old, smokes like a train, fails emissions tests, and is falling apart. So, after eight and a half years of faithful, everloving service, I have to give it away.

In that regard, it’s time to replace it with another car. After very little looking around, I’ve found the car I want: a green 1999 Honda Civic LX. Four doors, five speeds. I test drove it yesterday, and it does well. I put a deposit on it to hold it, and the dealer offered $200 on a trade-in of my Mirage; basically giving it away (with a car that old, I’m pretty sure, the wholesalers will sell it for parts).

What I’m worried about most is this: money. The car, after all taxes, title, license, and dealer fees, will be $9321. I can swing that through financing. And I have $1000 available in my bank account to go towards down payment. But the dealer, it seems, wants $1500. I’m trying my bank’s financing to see what they can offer. A $500 difference won’t make much of a change in the monthly payment amount, but it’ll affect my interest rate. I guess if I can borrow out of my 401(k) plan at work, I can make it all work out, but everything will have to wait until Tuesday when the work week picks back up.

I know that I want this car, and that it’ll treat me well for years, but I am completely full of trepidation. There’s this feeling I get when it comes to dealing with large amounts of money, like I’m in trouble with my superiors or something. I felt it twice every semester back when I was in college: once at the beginning when I signed my promisory notes for student loans, and once at the end when I was signing another loan to round out my account for finals. I felt it when I signed the financing for my Mirage. And I’m feeling it now.

Am I making a $9321 mistake? Did I make a $200 mistake on the non-refundable deposit? Am I outstretching my reach by affixing my signature to the dotted line without more research, more digging, more financial wisdom? I hope not.

Supplication and the Start from One

Ah, so much better. Payday. All last week I was kind of sweating things, trying to live on the cheap (and half-way succeeding), trying to make $50 stretch all week. So when I got paid on Friday, yeah, I was much relieved. Nothing quite like trying to float debit-card charges, hoping they stay in electronic limbo until help arrives. Thanks to Johnny Paycheck, rent is paid, food is in my belly (but none in my pantry yet), and I have clean clothes and sheets. It’s a good thing I got paid on Friday: my landlord wasted no time in depositing the rent check I turned in on Thursday. Yikes.

While I was at the laundromat yesterday, I figured that while I was a captive audience, instead of dragging my laptop out and doing a little bit of nothing, I went out to my car, got the hooked needle and nylon thread out, and began stitching up another ripped seam on my passenger seat. Two runs down, about 5 runs to go. I can’t believe I let it go for so long. Believe me, kids, when I say that I now fully understand the true meaning of the saying, “A stitch in time saves nine.” I’m probably looking at 2000 stitches. Ugh. But it’s got to be done.

And can you believe somebody actually suggested I get some of those gawd-awful seat covers for my car? I may have white-trash tendencies, but I’m not that white-trash. Jeez.

I finally got my replacement battery for my laptop from Dell on Thursday. I called them around the beginning of March to get a new battery, seeing that my old battery was subject to a safety recall (something about overcharging, smoking, catching fire — that kind of stuff). They took my information and said I’d get a replacement some time within 5 to 15 business days. That kind of confused me because Dell is based in Austin. Well, I was fine with that, until 20 business days out, when I was like “Um, it should’ve been here by now.” So I call them up again last Tuesday.

The tech on this call told me something went wrong on the first order, so she took my battery serial number again, checked it, and said it wasn’t subject to recall. Huh? I know the first tech said it was, the Dell website said it was, so I went back to the Dell site, completely filled out the form, clicked “submit”, after which it replied with “Please return battery to Dell immediately.” Hmm. Ok. Told the tech what it said. “Huh, ok.” Two days later I come home from work and find a package, shipped by Airborne Express (yes, shipped across town by airborn), sitting on my chair. Yay!

I installed the battery, put the old battery in the cdrom bay, and went out and played for 4 hours without the usage of a power outlet. Was niiiice. I shipped the old battery back the next day. Hopefully they’ll send me the extra battery they promised sometime soon. That was nice, not needing to recharge.

Ok, so how did the time change affect everybody, eh? Me? I slept ’til 4pm today, which we all know is really just 3pm. I stayed up extra extra late last night because, well, that extra non-existent hour made a difference. I was making jokes about going home around 2:30am, which got a giggle out of some of my buddies because, well, that hour didn’t exist. I guess, at the least, that with this time change we’ll have an extra hour of sunlight after we get home from work. That’ll be nice.

With the extra sunlight, though, comes heat. And let me tell you, it is heating up here. Got up to 88F here today, partly cloudy. Wow. To be honest, I welcome the heat (I’m a reptile, y’know). Of course I won’t be too happy about it when I get into my car after work. Nossireebob. Something’s telling me I should’ve worked on my A/C this past winter. :sigh: Ah well. I think I’ll be fine, so long as I can sweat and get some airflow going (heh, yeah, that’s that “440 A/C” we white-trash are so proud of…y’roll down 4 windows and go 40mph down the road). Haven’t quite got my “first sweat” in yet, but once that happens, and my pores are cleared out, I’ll be fine.

Ah, yes. More info than you need to know. :)