Category Archives: automobiles

We have squirrels! Well, we hope so anyway.

It may just be time to declare war on squirrels around the Poolman house. As cute as the little demons are, they are starting to get under our skin.

Earlier this year, I had a leak in my car’s windshield washer system. Everytime I refilled the reservoir, the fluid would just come pouring out. I thought maybe I had a broken tube or lose connection. No, said the mechanic. I had squirrels. The suckers had chewed through the plastic tubing.

Did someone say "party?"

Did someone say “party?”

This past Saturday, Mrs. Poolman and I went up to the attic to bring down the Christmas decorations. She noticed right away that there was ample evidence of rodents having partied there. (I don’t need to discuss the evidence. It was not pleasant.) Mrs. Poolman immediately began having visions or giant wharf rats taking over her house and sneaking up on her in her sleep to gnaw off her toes. I suggested our problem was probably not rats, but one of their smaller cousins. I have never seen a field mouse, let alone a wharf rat around our hour house or yard. On the other hand, our and the surrounding yards are a paradise for squirrels. There are millions of them out there. I strongly suspect our B&E culprits go by the nickname “Rocky.”

Sid

Sid

Penny

Penny

Mrs. Poolman began to make disparaging comments about our “lazy cats” not earning their keep, and threatening to take them up to the attic and leave them there. Sid and Penny were not impressed, and went back to sleep. In defense of our cats, they don’t have access to the attic where the squirrels are.  Our daughter, Writer Princes, works for an exterminating company. She will send someone out this week to take care of the unauthorized entry point and whatever party animals have been left behind.

An Amish Centerfold

A friend of mine sent me this TV commercial. I laughed so hard my stomach hurt. Enjoy.

Avoiding road rage

I think I’m beginning to understand road rage. That’s not good. I actually yelled at someone yesterday and they heard me. That was just the first encounter on my drive home. It’s time to back down.

Most of the island on which I work is occupied with a 4,000-home gated golf community. Golf carts are a very common means of non-golfing transportation. The residents drive them on the roads and cart paths alongside the public roads, even outside of the gates. It has been a pet peeve of mine for some time that the golf cart “drivers” don’t seem to believe that traffic laws apply to them. There I one traffic light I pass through at least twice a day where two four-lane roads intersect. Nearly every time I pass through this intersection, especially in the afternoon, I see golf carts zipping across the intersection without regard to the traffic signal.

A few days ago, I stopped for a red light at the intersection and signaled to make a right turn on red. A golf cart pulled up on the golf cart beside me. As I began to move into my turn, the golf cart driver “floored it” and drove across the street against the red light. (I had the right to make a right hand turn. He did not have the right to continue straight.) I slammed on the brakes and laid on the horn. He turned around and gave me a look as if he were Robert DeNiro saying “Ya talkin’ to me?”

Yesterday, a woman on a golf cart zipped across the intersection in front of me against the light. I rolled down my window and called “Hey, that was a red light.” She looked at me as if I were an alien from outer space and gave me a one-arm shoulder shrug, as if to say “And your point is?”

My second encounter of the afternoon drive involved another long-standing annoyance that occurs when a two-lane road narrows to one lane for construction, an accident, or whatever. Traffic lines up in the open lane. However, there are always some people who think they are too special to wait in line and drive past the line of waiting cars, and then try to bully themselves into the head of the line. Usually, I am one of the most courteous drivers you will ever meet. In most situations, I will gladly give way and allow someone to pull in front of me – but not in this case. I will attach my car to the rear bumper of the car ahead to keep one of those jerks from cutting in. They can just turn around and go back to the end of the line as far as I am concerned. Unfortunately, the guy behind me usually isn’t as strong, so they let them in.

No solidarity. Too bad. Sigh.

An “attaboy” to AAA!

Hats off the the folks at AAA. They deserve props for help I received yesterday.

I had an off-campus lunch meeting. When I tried to start my car after lunch, it chirped a little and died. I looked at my headlight switch. Nope! I hadn’t left my lights on. I could have begged someone for a jump start, but I suspected there was something more wrong than just a drained battery.

We have had AAA service for several years, and I can only recall calling them on one other occasion. On that occasion, Mrs. Poolman and I had left a hospital in Atlanta where I had undergone a one-day procedure involving general anesthesia. I was still pretty groggy, but we stopped to get something to eat all the same. When we came out of the restaurant (What is it about restaurants?), we saw she had left the lights on and the battery was dead. She was very upset, but I wasn’t. She called AAA for a jump, while I just cranked back the passenger’s seat and went back to sleep. No big deal.

Jump forward to yesterday. I called AAA and they had someone there in a little over a half hour. The guy was fully equipped. He ascertained that my battery was not just drained; it was fully dead and ready for burial. He had a battery in his truck and had me fixed up and ready to go in around 15 minutes.

The price for the battery was a little more than I might have paid at an auto parts store, but not exceptionally so. It was worth a few extra dollars to have it done right there and not have to spend half the afternoon sitting around a repair shop waiting room.

Good job!

Adventures in car rentals

I had an over-night trip to Atlanta earlier this week. All of our institution cars were tied up, so I rented a car. It’s cheaper and better for all concerned than driving my own car and getting paid mileage.

Renting a car can be an adventure. The instrumentation and other gadgets on most cars work pretty much the same way, but there are exceptions.

The first time I got into a rental with a key-less ignition, I had no idea what to do. I had to get the rental attendant to show me how to start the darn thing.

Sometimes figuring out how the CD player works can be a challenge.

Hybrids can be different if you are not familiar with them.

This time, I ended up with a Chevrolet HHR. When I stopped to get gas on the way out of town, I encountered a familiar problem.

“How do I get to the gas cap?”

I looked at the gas cap cover and saw no “finger flap” to open it, so I started searching around the driver’s seat for a release switch. No such luck. It was still very pre-dawn, so I had trouble seeing anything in the dark. After popping the hood and the tailgate in my effort to find a switch, I was starting to get frustrated.

How about the owner’s manual?

No such luck. The rental companies remove them.

Just before pulling out my cell phone and calling the 24-hour emergency number, I took a chance and just pressed on the gas cap cover. Viola! It popped open.

I felt kind-of stupid for not thinking of that first. However, this is the first car I have driven that didn’t either have the little finger flap or a release switch.

Don’t you think it would be a good idea for the rental company to leave the owner’s manual in the car? Who would want to steal an owner’s manual for a car they don’t own?

Stupid question – I’m sure someone would.

On the road again…

I’ve been out of the loop for the past couple of weeks. Sorry ‘bout that. Here are some thoughts that have been bouncing around my head.

Mrs. Poolman and I joined two other couples, including my sister and BIL, from Greenville, SC, on a long road-trip to visit my brother and family, and to visit the Gettysburg battlefield. The idea behind this trip started more than two years ago, when I got into a conversation with my sister’s neighbor, Mac. We discovered we are both history nerds with a focus on the Civil War and World War II. Since my brother lives in Mechanicsburg, about 45 minutes from Gettysburg, the idea of a road trip emerged. It just took us two years to get it all together.

The Gettysburg experience was fantastic. Both Mac and I agreed that while we spent the better part of two days at the battlefield, we definitely left plenty of material for future visits.

The relatively new visitor’s center in the park is fantastic. My brother was a little concerned it might not be worth the $10 admission fee. It was worth that and more. You start off with a movie about the battle. Then you follow it up with the “Cyclorama” which is much cooler than it sounds. You finish up in the museum, which is worth the price of admission all on its own.

The battlefield is very cool. On the second day, we joined a Ranger for one of their walking programs. He was great – informative, funny, entertaining.

On Sunday, brother and SIL treated us to Sunday brunch at the Hershey Hotel. Wow! I’ve been to my share of Sunday brunch buffets before, but this one knocked our socks off. It was so varied and so good, it makes you feel a little guilty for indulging. It was the only meal any of us ate that day. On a scale of one to ten, this was a 20.

The only downside of the trip was the long drive. Mrs. P and I drove to Greenville on Wednesday afternoon and then we all piled into my sister’s Expedition for the nine and a half hour trip to Mechanicsburg. It is interesting how different people experience trips like this. If you put me in a semi-comfortable seat for a long drive, I’m happy as a clam. When I’m not driving, I read; I nap; I look at the scenery. Mrs. P, on the other hand, wants to claw her eyes out. To her credit, she was very good on this trip, even though we took the ride back all in one day. (We left Mechanisburg at 6:30 am and arrived home at Casa Poolman at 8:30 pm.) However, she is not looking forward to getting back into the car for another road trip.

 

Ode to a green Gremlin

I ran across one of those on-line “top ten” lists the other day. This was the top-ten worst automobiles, broken down by time periods. As scanned the list, sure enough, there it was, the 1970 AMC Gremlin.

In the fall of 1970, I was a freshman in college, and living at home. It was time to replace the family car, which up until this time had always been a full size station wagon. With two children driving (my brother and I) and a third coming up shortly, my parents decided rather than getting one large car, they would buy two small ones. I remember us walking into a Ford dealership, and when no one spoke to my father in what he considered a reasonable period of time, turning right around and walking back out the door.

My parents must have seen this ad. Note the back window on the nearest car -- no hinges or release handle. Why are these people so happy?

The next stop was the American Motors/AMC dealership. We had owned a number of “Ramblers” as I was growing up, so this was a brand we were familiar with.  When my father told the salesman we were interested in looking at Gremlins, the salesman replied, “Oh, a Gremlin!” His jaw dropped when my father replied, “No, TWO Gremlins.”

We drove off with two Gremlins. The first was very “stripped down” by today’s standards. It had automatic transmission, but that was pretty much it. No radio, no AC, no carpet, no power anything, etc. However, that Gremlin looked like a luxury car compared to the second one. Painted metallic green, that baby was as spare as you can get. The salesman told us that AMC wanted to be able to advertise a Gremlin for less than $2,000 and so they had one model that was stripped to the bone. It had a black vinyl interior and a “three on the tree” standard transmission with a clutch that took about 50 pounds of force to depress. No radio. “Two-fifty air conditioning” – roll down two windows and go 50.  Here is the real kicker – to cut cost, they eliminated the back seat. There was just this big empty well behind the front seat ands the rear hatch-window did not open.

Imagine it's dark metallic green, with a thin white "racing stripe."

This became my primary car for the rest of my freshman year and when I was home from college in Florida over the following three years. A couple of years later, when I was a senior at Florida and my brother and his girl friend were students at Penn State, the Nittany Lions were in the Orange Bowl. We talked my parents into letting the three of us drive the “stripped down” Gremlin from Pittsburgh to Miami for the game. The idea being they would drop me off at school in Gainesville after the game. That was an interesting trip. With no back seat, we piled our bags in the back. Either my brother or I would sit-lay-sleep on the stack of luggage.

About a year after I graduated, I was working in Jacksonville for a TV station that paid well in experience but almost nothing in wages. I was without a car and got around by bumming rides with friends and roommates, and doing a lot of walking. My parents offered me the stripped-down Gremlin. I jumped at the offer. Within a few months, I moved to a station in Mobile where they did not have news cars. We were expected to drive our own cars and were paid mileage. For more than three years, I drove that Gremlin all over South Alabama and the Florida Panhandle covering news. That black vinyl interior and “250 air conditioning” worked well in the Gulf Coast summers. (Not!)

Mrs. Poolman and I were married by this time and she drove a new Toyota Corolla hatchback.  That was our “nice car.”

Just before we left Mobile, we came across another car and sold the Gremlin to a high school kid.

As I look back on it, that car was a cantankerous beast, but we did spend a lot of time and miles together. I’m glad to see she is now getting the recognition she justly deserves.

Where’s my car, bro?

I read a report a few days ago that the #1 stolen car last year was the 1994 Honda Accord. Second and third place went to a 95 Honda Civic and an 89 Toyota Camry.

Most popular with car thieves?

Most popular with car thieves?

My first reaction was surprise that there were that many 15-20 year old cars still driving around out there that they could be top rated anything.(Writer Princess is driving a 94 Accord, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised.) My second thought was “Why would someone want to steal a 15-20 year old car when there are a lot more newer cars driving up and down the street?”

I guess it says a lot for Honda and Toyota that their old models are in such demand. Apparently, one reason is the demand for spare parts. That presents an interesting business model. The more old Hondas you steal to increase the supply, the fewer cars are left to need the parts. I’ll bet there are some real sharp economists figuring out that supply-demand curve.