22 May 2009

My Car is Cursed (2 of 2)

To recap, the day I bought my car I had an accident and the instrument panel was be-lit, the next day I had to get a new catalytic converter, and I quickly started missing the cool things that I'd wanted - like a fin, a sunroof, a stereo with an MP3 jack and a display that told you what song was playing, and cruise control.

The brakes squeak, though. It's a high pitched squeak, starting when the pedal is depressed about one quarter of the way and increasing in volume and high pitchiness through about the halfway point. Pumping the pedal doesn't really seem to do it. It's declined a lot since the first few months, but wow, it was loud.

So ten days later, I was in Los Angeles with my still-new - squeaky-new - car. Because the 405 South through the South Bay was FUBAR'ed, as usual, I was thinking of alternate routes to get to the 24 Hr Fitness downtown Long Beach. Western south to Anaheim or Lomita, I figured, would save time and take me through my old stomping grounds from when I lived in LB ten years ago.

Traffic on Western can go at a pretty good clip, and I drive along with traffic, but up ahead of me the light turns yellow. And it's pretty far up ahead of me. I stop. The car behind me doesn't even slow down. WHAM! The driver of a Honda Civic plowed right into me, pretty much at full speed. Christine lurches ahead but not fully into the intersection, thankfully, and when the light changes I point to the curb and the Civic dutifully follows me over. I get out, and so does he.

Civic: "I thought you were going to go!"

Me: "Nope. Nope, I didn't."

Civic: "Sorry man."

We look at the trunk, and despite the fact that I am now driving a "Pontia" with no "c" and the bumper is scratched, there doesn't look like there's anything wrong with it. I pop the trunk from inside and that works, and both of my tail lights work.

Me: "Looks alright. No blood, no foul." He thanked me and we both drive away. I continued heading down Western, and at the first corner he turned left and disappeared. That's why they call them bumpers, right? My neck did hurt from a few days as I got a good snap from the impact, but nothing a little stretching and yoga couldn't cure, I figured.

Two accidents, less than a month, but both were pretty small potatoes as far as accidents go. I thought perhaps Christine was just getting her bad luck out of the way. No reason for me to have thought this, I just do. It's completely irrational, but we humans like to abscribe meaning to random events to make us feel better about the world in which we find ourselves.

But that's another blog entry.

So - the latest?

I met a friend for dinner at Lucky Baldwin's, a nice pub in Sierra Madre on a nice, Thursday evening. We meet, I have two beers with dinner because I know that's the legal limit given my weight, and a few hours later we walked out into the lovely SoCal night. The streets are more or less empty - it's Sierra Madre and it's after 9:00 p.m. - and my buddy's car is a block up. I over to give him a ride to his car. We're talking, get in, belt up, drive maybe 15 yards up to the four way stop, stop, signal for the left turn, turn left, and get descended on my five black-and-white patrol cars. Five. (Have I mentioned that my buddy who I met for dinner is a former boss, and kind of a big deal in the profession in which I work?)

I only see two cop cars at first, and I immediately pull over and think "Ho-lee CRAP I'm gonna get busted for a DUI!" I am very responsible about drinking if I have to drive - I have the chart on my bulletin board at home that shows weight, time, and how much you can drink before you're legally impared.

My next thought is "I didn't do anything... are they really pulling me over?" There was a woman sitting on the curb, at the intersection, and the cop immediately behind me was yelling instructions to her. I speculate with my dinner buddy - had I done anything? I thought maybe they were after her. So I eased - eased, just the tiniest bit - forward. Well, they weren't after her.

In what could only be described as a cop-who-is-not-messing-around kind of voice, cop 1 yells: "Driver! FREEZE!"

I freeze.

"Driver, put the car in park!"

I put the car in park.

"Driver, drop the keys outside of the car!"

I take the keys out and drop them and my lanyard in the street.

"Driver get out of the car! Hands up! HIGHER!"

I get out of the car, and think "I thought I was putting them up higher?" as I put my hands up higher. I am also soiling myself. Guns are drawn and pointed right at me.

"Driver, walk backwards! SLOWLY!"

I do so, despite the fact that I am in slippers (flip-flops), had two beers with dinner, and have guns drawn on me. In retrospect it might have been the most coordinated I've ever been.

"Driver, take three steps left!"

I do so, wondering what in the hell my colleague and friend in the passenger seat must be thinking. Wondering what the hell I could have possibly done. Wondering what the hell Christine, my troublesome Pontiac, could possibly have done. I don't have too much time right then to reflect on it as I'm cuffed, guns on me the whole time, and put in the back of a squad car. That's when I saw the other squad cars. I haven't said anything. Very conscious of the beer that might still be on my breath despite the shepherd's pie, I ask the cop in the front seat: "May I ask what's going on here?"

"We'll explain it to you later."

I was surprised that the backseat of the Sierra Madre cop cars are form plastic, and those handcuffs hurt, and, I can admit this, I was scared, in pain, and very subdued. From where I was sitting, I could see the cops gingerly approach the vehicle, open the trunk, look around, and then go around to the passenger door. I can also hear on the cop radio them calling in my friend's driver licence information. So add embarrassed onto the emotions going through my head.

In my glovebox I have all the paper work for the vehicle, including the bill of sale from the dealer, all insurance cards, everything. Good thing.

After I have no idea how long, a cop comes and lets me out of the backseat, removes the cuffs, and starts explaining to me what has happened. It seems that Christine, my new car that I bought from the dealer, was stolen at one point in her life. And recovered in Mexico. And while it was returned to the good ol' U.S. of A., the plates were never cleared off "the stolen car licence plates" list by the State of California DMV.

So Christine's great luck didn't start with me. And what's more, the officer explaining this to me said that he called the original owner, who had been paid by his insurance company for the stolen car, but he was never paid by his dealer with whom he had gap insurance, beacuse the dealership went bankrupt. So that guy, the original owner? He was out $4000 on her from the original theft!

But there I was, standing on the sidewalk, with my friend, being thanked by Sierra Madre's finest for being "cooperative," rubbing my wrists, so my empahty for the dude who was the original victim of Christine's particular brand of unluckiness was at an ebb.

There have been other things - the plate of food smeared, not spilled or dropped, but smeared, on her windshield Thanksgiving night; the University of Hawai'i "H" magnet stolen from off my trunk - but surely kneeling on Sierra Madre Blvd and getting tossed into a squad car because of stolen plates is the worst of it. Surely. Right?

How did a car dealer sell me a car with plates that hadn't cleared the DMV as being stolen? How was it that when I was pulled over by the CHP for having expired tags (I had the new sticker in my glovebox and had neglected to put it on) they didn't mention the stolen tags? What info does the Sierra Madre police force have that the CHP doesn't?

In any case, Christine and I are in it for the long haul. I'm not the kinda guy who bails due to a string of bad luck. If there were to be great deals on new Pontiacs now that the brand is being eliminated, well... 0% interest does make things more affordable. Just don't tell her - I hate to think how she's take it out on me!

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