“Back in the Day”

Back in the day…

Something about those words makes me cringe with premonitions of stories about how high the snow banks were or how many miles it was to walk to school. Now I am guilty of using it all too frequently as I write. Guess what – EVERYTHING has a back story. EVERYBODY has a back story. That’s what we call it today, if we are kind.  I think the back story is often crucial to understanding things about the present story.

A long time ago, in a land far away (Bradenton, Fl) the husband decided to buy a man toy called an E-Bike. He has always found gadgets intriguing, especially if they were energy saving and had some practical use. This bike was an early exploration into transporting oneself using electricity, much like electric cars are today. It was only available through car dealerships and was the social experiment of the day. It was pretty, shiny blue, feeling of quality and fully decked out with lights, various indicators on the handlebars, locking mechanism, gears, horn, and all kinds of gear bags made to fit. Sweet.

The plan was to ride it the seven miles to work, along a busy highway. I guess there was a bike lane in some places but it was often hazardous with broken glass and other tire-puncturing trash. The traffic went by, close and fast. It was often raining, or hot. The plan didn’t last long. But being the oddity that it was, the bike was pulled out pretty often and demonstrated to curious friends and family. It rarely left the driveway.

My own most vivid memory of using it was when I visited frequently with an elderly lady who lived five or six miles away, mostly through residential areas. I got some exercise, because I could pedal it like a normal bike. But, its real advantage was in the take off moment at intersections. Instead of having to go from my resting/waiting pose to that awkward effort of quickly powering through the crosswalk with dozens of eyes watching, I could just touch the little lever and smoothly zoom away with no effort at all.

The real reason I remember this time had nothing to do with the bike however. It marked the first time I lost a cell phone out of my back pocket and spent hours retracing the the route looking for it.

Years later, the husband gave the bike another chance. The office had moved and was not even two miles away so once again he was riding it to work. One day, there might have been a light rain making things slippery, he rode across a railroad track which crossed the road at an angle. The front tire got caught and he crashed and tumbled. It was a trauma for the husband and for the bike. Neither has ever been the same, although the husband has recovered acceptably.

For the past year or so, I have enjoyed biking frequently for fun and exercise. I would be doing so now except I have lent my $60 pawn shop bike to a friend who had no transportation. Not knowing when I would ever see my bike again, I turned my attention to the E-Bike, sitting forlorn and flat-tired in storage. With the heavy battery removed, and the broken parts held in place with a bungee, it actually rides pretty well. I was pleasantly surprised this week on my first outing with it. The seat had shock absorbers, the handlebars straightened up nicely, it went quietly, and unlike my pawn shop bike, the brakes worked. It’s a go.

It’s still a pretty color due to hardly ever leaving the garage for years.
A few covers missing, a couple bungees holding the empty battery compartment shut. It works.
Some of the clip on instruments are missing but it still has a strangely “techy” look, I think. Looks are so important.

There is a satisfaction in bringing an unused thing back into use.  I also appreciate the back story of the E-Bike and the chance to think about other back stories, and the whole concept of histories and how they might inform the present. Just sayin’, “back in the day” might become a frequent theme.

Now It’s Getting Personal…

I was out of town over Thanksgiving and the first week of December.  My car sat in the garage, shielded from the sun, resting, but evidently not enjoying itself.  I think it misses frequent contact with the road and other cars and of course, when you meditate on what you’re missing you develop an attitude (big time).

A car with an attitude, who knew? This is not a new discovery. My car and its shenanigans have been written about before because it is a thoroughly frustrating problem for me.  It has cost me money and put me in inconvenient circumstances. Usually I’ve been able to work around and tolerate what goes on. I have a high powered battery charger with me always, and my keys are arranged so I can take the fob with me when the key is stuck in the ignition. But now, well, it’s getting personal – a whole new level.

One of my first trips out was to a meeting in Sarasota. I parked and said a little prayer as I turned the key, only to find it stuck in accessory position. Knowing I would have to leave it like that, I turned off all the things that could drain the battery, including the radio.  I got out, shut the door, hit the lock button on the fob, and the radio came on.  It would be kind of fun to have a car that behaved like a naughty child if I didn’t have to depend on it so much.

After a day or two of being docile and compliant, it again surprised me at 6:30 one morning as I woke it up to take me to work.  Lights flashed, things whirred under the hood, lots of clicking, but no starting.  After several tries the flashing and clicking got weaker so I gave up. The husband took me to work. 

The car sat in the garage with the battery charger attached for a day or two with no improvement while I got permission from our mechanic to get it over to his shop. The husband got a tow truck the next morning. Just to make sure we were still dealing with a malfunction, I turned the key and satisfied myself that we were still clicking and flashing with seemingly quite a bit of battery power.  The husband was able to put it in neutral for it to be winched up onto the truck. Off it went.

The husband went ahead to show the tow driver where to take the car and this is the report he came back to me with.  They arrived at the garage and could not get the car out of park to roll it off the truck. There was no response from the battery at all. So they had to use the “shake and jolt” method to slide the car down the ramp.  Jerk, slam, slide, bang, repeat…   After getting to the ground, the husband decided to get in and turn the key and, you guessed it, it started.  He started it half a dozen times with no trouble at all.  Then he paid the tow truck driver $50 and they left. Sob…

I have stopped in at the garage since and talked with the mechanic. Mostly what he said was “you’re in no hurry, are you?” No, I guess not. I noticed he had a charger hooked up to my car.  I can’t imagine why.  I’m just sayin’, I see a trade in my future. Don’t tell the car.