R2-D2 and Me

It was 14 degrees below zero at my house this morning. Well, technically, outside my house.

The radio was saying 23 below zero if you count the "wind chill," but there was no wind, so I'm not sure what the ruling is on that. Inside, it was a balmy 51 degrees. It was 51 because it got so goddamned cold last night, my woodstove burned itself out in only 6 hours trying to warm the first floor enough to keep the cats alive. At 4:30 am, when I walked downstairs, it was stone cold, like it had never had a fire in it. I hate this kind of weather. Especially on a work day.

After I turned up the heat and got the fire going again, I showered, dressed, and decided that while I was waiting for the coffee to brew, I would go out and start my car so it would have a chance to warm up. I have a Nissan Sentra that I bought new in 2002, and it just turned 70K. That two hour drive every day eats up cars. I like this car for the most part -- it has never left me stranded anywhere, and it was pretty cheap. It's got enough power to get out of its own way, handles nicely, and it can carry a couple of backpacks and a canoe with no problem.

In the cold, however, it has a few idiosyncrasies. About half the time, the driver's side door doesn't like to open if it's below 32 degrees. Oh, the handle moves up and down, but that's just to annoy you. There's no resistance behind it, so you usually end up slipping right off the damn thing. After you're done tearing your fingernails off your hand, it takes a little pounding on the door frame to crack the nut. Once you're in, then it won't close. You slam the door, it bounces off the frame, and your arm goes numb to the elbow, like you took a swing at a bridge abutment with an aluminum baseball bat. If you poke at the latch, it'll work again, but you feel pretty stupid at the gas station when everyone turns to look at you because your door just bounced off the pump.

Also, there's this clicking noise in the dashboard that it had since it was new. Again, only when the temp is below 40 or so. I had it back to the dealer about 3 times, and after the third time I just fixed it myself. Jammed a folded hunk of paper plate between the dash and the driver's-side roof brace. When that doesn't work, I turn the stereo up. You'd be amazed what kind of car problems a good Zeppelin tune can fix.

So anyway, I run outside to start my car. My hair, which is still wet, instantly starts to freeze. Damn, it's cold! I get in, slam the door (it actually opens and closes on the first try) and jam the key in the ignition and turn it. The car grinds for second like it's not going to start, then catches. But something isn't right. It sounds terrible, like that noise garbage trucks make when they crush stuff. There's this high pitched whining sound, like the engine has no oil in it, which I guess makes a certain amount of sense. It's so damn cold the oil is most likely solidified in the pan, and chunks of it are probably being chipped off by the crankshaft.

As soon as the car starts, my radar detector goes batshit. It sounds like R2D2, which is the closest thing I can think of to describe the sound it makes when it supposedly detects laser activity. It's blasting the "I see lasers" noise over and over -- I look around carefully, don't actually see any lasers, so I assume the cold is fucking with it. I pull it off the windshield, and I've got it cupped in my hands like some sort of wounded bird -- I'm blowing on it, trying to thaw it out -- it's running through its entire litany of beeping sounds. About the same time I stick it in my armpit to warm it up, I realize that it's probably time to get a new radar detector. I got this one (a Cobra) with a 30 dollar amazon.com gift certificate, so I'm sure the quality is right up there.

I don't know why I've kept it this long. It has no sensitivity at all. If it senses a cop's radar anywhere in the general vicinity, it goes off right about the time he starts writing me the ticket. Thinking about it, it's not so much a radar detector as it is a ticket detector, because if I'm speeding, and this thing goes off, the only way I'm not getting a ticket is if the cop is too lazy to chase me down. The other thing that pisses me off about this detector is that the sound for X-band is about 4 million times louder than the sound for Ka-Band, and every supermarket door, security system and traffic signal sensor emits X band....which means this thing is pretty much beeping at me non-stop. Like I said, time for a new one.

So, I'm sitting in the car freezing my ass off. I finally give up on the radar detector, and yank the cord. I crank the heat, jump out and slam the door. This time, it decides not to close, and thunks off the frame. I try to slam it again, start to lose my balance on the icy driveway, and grab onto the door. Big mistake.

I don't wash my car in the winter. If you live in the great northeast, you know what wonderful stuff road salt is. I'm pretty sure my car is actually a little bigger right now than it is in the summer, because the road salt has started to form a crunchy shell around the entire vehicle. There's a quarter-inch-thick coating of white shit over everything. Predictably, I am now covered head to toe in road salt. So back in the house to change my pants and grab a different coat.

After the coffee is done, I grab a cup and head out the door. Of course, it's so cold out that my car isn't even close to being warmed up, but I figure it'll warm up before I hit the highway. By the way, have you ever driven on the highway with studded snow tires? Conversation is almost impossible. Right around 40 miles an hour, this hum starts. It starts in your ears, but pretty soon it's in your teeth, then it's burrowing directly into your brain stem.

I've found the only thing that drives it out is some incessant X-band beeping, combined with The Immigrant Song.

Tommorrow is supposed to be just as cold. I can't wait.


  1. Dude, I just figured out who you are! The R2D2 reference tipped me off. Then I remembered your great neighbors. Hey, did you ever find that pager you lost shoveling that 8-mile driveway of yours?

  2. Yeah, I found it in the woods in the spring, covered in Ariens Orange paint....

  3. The greatest thing about having a house, ever, is the garage. We can get both of our cars in ours and it will stay that way...i'm not piling up shit like the Scummersons in my garage so i can't park there. And if i ever think it's cold in the garage, i just go outside and realize THAT'S cold

  4. Hey we must go to the same mechanic! I turn up my radio when I hear a funny noise on my car, too! Currently it's making a noise as if the body of the car is about to just slide off of the tires and onto the street. Which on one hand would be absolutely horrible, and on the other would be kind of funny to see.

  5. I can only imagine that single women in your neck of the woods hibernate through the winter, because if I had to get a stove and a car started in that nonsense, I'd just freeze in my bed. (The other three seasons make it worth it to you, though, I'm sure.)