Quick and Angry (part 2 of 2)

(Continued from Part 1)

Nevertheless, Rover’s standard 5-speed pistol grip shifter, framed with the gray plastic cup holders and “random sundries” bin, redefined grace, elegance and functionality for me. (It makes me salivate—and start to sweat just a little—just to reminisce about him.) Alas, I was unfair and abusive to Rover during the course of our relationship. I guess we just stayed together too long, and I gradually began taking him for granted, regularly alternating on him cruel cycles of abuse and neglect. I can see that now, of course—too late.

I customized his gray carpets, mostly on the passenger’s side, with a shade of pink only achievable with an appropriate volume of Sonic Cherry Limeade never properly tended to. And when the inevitably hard highway miles I forced on him began showing chips and flakes across his bow, rather than waste good money on a $99 Earl Scheib paint job, instead I splurged on a couple of 99-cent cans of white Krylon from Walmart, which I applied to his hood like a tagging felon in my own garage.

As Rover began to approach 100,000 miles, the money his life support was costing our family simply became too much of a burden. I had already spent more on him than his blue book value said he was worth, and the auto physicians still refused to offer me any guarantees they could even save him, let alone return him to his glory days. My eye began to wander, and before long it settled on a dark blue Honda Civic with adorable curves. She smelled soooo good. I decided I had to have her. I planned to call her Roxanne.

On the day Roxanne was ready for me, honestly I was a little embarrassed making Rover drive me to the dealership. But not for me—for him. Of course I didn’t tell him we were going there to pick her up—let alone that he would not be coming home with us. To add insult to injury, the last formality of my business transaction with Roxanne’s dealer was when, standing right in front of him, I unceremoniously handed Rover’s keys over to the guy. Rover really was just pathetic that day, disgusting…and I was glad to be rid of him.

Roxanne and I would run errands together all over town. Sometimes we’d go for a drive just to get outside and spend some time together, rolling her windows down and listening to her radio. For a while, when we’d be out on one of our “adventures,” we’d see Rover here and there. He’d try to smile at me, but I’d scowl back, and then he’d just look away, all embarrassed, and scuttle off, pretending like he hadn’t seen us.

After a while, we stopped seeing him altogether. I wouldn’t be surprised if he moved away somewhere. For all I know, he may even be dead. It’s probably a little cruel of me, but I honestly don’t care. I mean, after all, he’s just a car.

Does YOUR car have a name? If so, what is it? Do you think I was too hard on Rover? (Before answering, keep in mind: You didn’t know him.)

Quick and Angry (part 1 of 2)

In 1999,  my friend Blair had a primo white Ford Bronco that was completely paid for. Blair had a strict (and not-at-all insane) policy that all of his vehicles had to have names. His Bronco was “Rog,” a manly label he had borrowed from some science fiction novel.

But Blair had a problem. Blair was a dyed-in-the-wool Ford man, and 1999 was the first year Ford began trying to seduce customers with 0% financing. They piloted the idea with their new Escorts. At first, Blair tried to talk me into one. “It’s like free money!” he more grinned than said. But I was perfectly happy with my Geo Prizm (a GM-rebranded Toyota Corolla)—a car which was also completely paid for.

Now of course I don’t have to tell you the storied history of the famous Ford Escort ZX-2’s from NASCAR. Absolutely everybody has heard tales ad infinitum of their legendary (some might even say notorious) performance dominating the circuit. Let’s just say it was a good thing the ZX-2 had a spoiler on its trunk lid; otherwise, I imagine that tail would start floating once the monster got up to speed. Without that spoiler, it’s highly possible that over 70 MPH, he would have careened into a front flip death cartwheel.

And then sadly—as of course everybody also knows—Dodge dropped their Neon 1/8 of an inch and added a spoiler of their own. And that was all she wrote for the Fords. Mazda would also likely have had a shot, had they been allowed to compete. Once they stopped the foolish practice of calling their car the 323 and went with the simpler “3,” the weight loss and aerodynamic gain they discovered by dropping that “23” off their badging would have given them just the edge they needed to rewrite the history books. Alas, it didn’t happen.

So as you might imagine, when Blair’s little brother bought a ZX-2 and started bragging to him about what a sweet ride it was for the money, Ford’s tractor beam finally caught Blair once and for all.

Rog got a new little brother of his own: a white Escort ZX-2 with a gray interior. Blair named  him “Rover” because he imagined him being like the little lap dog version of a car. Escort ZX-2’s came in two trim models: “Hot,” which was lighter and sportier with a manual 5-speed transmission, and “Cool,” a little smoother, fatter, more refined—and anemic. Blair opted for Hot, of course. He loved Rover, and he would coddle him the 2 miles it took him to drive to work every day. But after just 13,000 miles, representing one year of being a single man who lived alone and owned 2 vehicles, Blair and little Rover just couldn’t outrun Blair’s sensibilities anymore.

Blair offered to sell Rover to me for what he still owed on him. It was a great deal; Rover was really fun to drive. (And most importantly, Kendra said it was okay.) When I got the papers, my insurance agent tried to convince me I should list Rover as Cool instead of Hot because the parts were essentially the same, but the rates would be cheaper. Rover and I were insulted, and we were having none of it. But honestly, the longer we were together, the more I realized that Rover was more bravado than actual musk. He wasn’t zippy enough to be what you could call “fast”—maybe “quick” on his best day. And he wasn’t mean enough to count as “furious”—more like “angry,” I guess.

Have you ever had a love affair with a car? Do tell! And be sure to come back Monday for the thrilling conclusion. (Okay, maybe not “thrilling.” But you won’t be disappointed. Let’s call it “twisty.”) Do you like NASCAR? If so, what do you think it is that’s wrong with you?

Snuggling Prognosticator

So many things in life require complex decision-making skills. Too often, we take for granted our ability to handle these kinds of things. You know me: I prefer to just keep things simple when I can. For example, deciding whether to get a haircut is pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, sometimes we find ourselves needing to make decisions which involve our relationships with others, and these can quickly become needlessly complex. In such circumstances, I have often found it useful to map out my own thoughts and preferences. Putting them on display for the other parties involved eliminates ambiguity, confusion, and miscommunication. If there’s a chart, you can just refer everyone to it and they know precisely where you stand. (I also encourage the use of a telescoping or laser pointer to focus your audience’s attention during the explanation phase.)

So with that in mind, I present to you the Snuggling Prognosticator. I’d like to apologize in advance if it spills uglily out of its frame in your browser. I think you’ll agree that its usefulness and significance trump any aesthetic inconveniences this may cause.

Feel free to adapt it to suit your own needs. Also, don’t be selfish: If you find it helpful, please make others aware of its existence here. Thanks!

Snuggling Prognosticator

As you well know, of course I strive for accuracy and completeness here at brannongolden.com. Please share your thoughts with the rest of us in the Comments below. What did I miss? What’s YOUR process for working out complicated decisions?

Wireless iDropper

Contrary to what you may have read about me, I’m notoriously cheap. Don’t misunderstand: I’ll splurge on the occasional $15 haircut when circumstances warrant. But I HATE to pay for cell phones. This position of course has historically obligated me to sign up for 2-year commitments so that I could get the “free” phone.

Committing to these contracts is like getting engaged when you don’t really know the person. It’s like walking into the store, shaking hands with the salesperson, telling them I need wireless service, and then hopping on the express train to second base. That doesn’t happen. Except maybe in certain types of movies, I guess. (Not that I would know. People have told me, and there was that one episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler accidentally got a free adult channel on their cable, so they never turned it off. As with everything in life, TV sitcoms are one of my most reliable sources of information and ideas.)

Anyway, the last phone I had was a Nokia 6085. It was quite literally the worst phone I have ever owned. By far. (I only wish I could have a cell phone like the red plastic Porsche 924S phone I had as a teenager. Now THAT was a good phone.) At the time, I had no idea my Nokia phone was so horribly bad. I thought it was just the reception in my house. Finally, a dear friend, a network admin guy, had the courage to step up and tell me that I was dropping literally like, every fifth word. (Amazingly, the information in my spoken sentences is so densely packed that we were still able to communicate.)

These “businesses” who provide such “services” call themselves wireless “carriers.” I suspect they mean that in one sense that Merriam-Webster defines it:

7 a : an electromagnetic wave or alternating current whose modulations are used as communications signals (as in radio, telephonic, or telegraphic transmissions)

b : a telecommunication company.

However, I find them to be more like:

5 a : a bearer and transmitter of a causative agent of an infectious disease; especially : one who carries the causative agent of a disease symptomatically but is asymptomatic or immune to it.

You know, like a carrier of contagion.

Aside: Does it bother anyone else that my go-to source of all things definey, M-W online, seems to flagrantly ignore the spacing rules for punctuation, especially colons (:), that have applied to all the rest of us since middle school? I mean, I appreciate a little space around my colon as much as the next guy. Especially after a heavy meal. But if I had turned in a paper with that kind of whacked-out spacing in school, I would have found myself with knuckles reddened by a ruler, sitting on an overturned bucket, alone in the dark storage closet in our English classroom, until I “learned my lesson.” Not that that ever happened to me. What’s the Internet equivalent of that? But I digress…

(Most of) my calls aren’t that particularly hot. Nevertheless, my wireless “carrier” was dropping almost every call as though it were. Hot, I mean.

Anyway, after that ear-opening conversation with my friend, it was time. We went to our wireless carrier’s “store,” and this time I finally shelled out good money for an iPhone. (Well, not my money. I have a wealthy benefactor who sometimes offers me such kindnesses. Occasionally, I take them up on it. As in this case.) By the way, before you mock me for trading “up” to an iPhone, notorious for dropping calls when you touch the antenna on its side, this was not an iPhone 4. It’s the older model. And so far, so good.

And oh, yeah… We signed a 2-year contract.

Do you have any cell phone horror stories? What kind of phone do you have now? Do you love it or hate it? Have you ever told a friend their phone was terrible? What was your favorite phone when you were a teenager?

Nintendo and the Wheel of God (2 of 2)

(continued from Wednesday’s post)

“I…I…I…CAN’T!” It was just too much for Kenny’s little Asperger-trending social fears to overcome. He just didn’t have it in him to go up in front of all those people. I was sad. But I also totally understood.

Our dear friend Allyson was right behind us, and had witnessed our entire exchange. “Send Preston!” she offered. “You’ll go! Won’t you, buddy?”

“YEAH!”

I handed our five-year-old his big brother’s ticket, and he bolted full-tilt for the aisle, waving his treasure over his head. He charged the stage and proudly handed it over. The number was verified, and we were off.

Pastor Scott said, “Come spin the wheel, buddy!”

Like one of those testosterone-high guys spinning The Price Is Right showcase wheel, little Preston cranked that sucker as hard as he could. The crowd of thousands fell so silent, we could actually hear the rapid-fire clack-clack-clack-clack-clack of the snapping pointer from our seats, even though we were probably 200 feet from the stage.

Slower. Slower. Ever slower. Clack…clack…clack….clack….clack……clack……clack………CLACK! And something magic happened: Smack dead-center on the GameCube.

The sound was like a collective gasp, a punch in the stomach, as everyone in the crowd drew in their breath at once, just like when the tide sucks away every drop of water in the instant before the tsunami crashes the beach. A deafening, simultaneous ROAR swept over us all. I screamed perhaps louder than I ever have before. It felt like I had won a Nintendo GameCube!

The moments which followed were a surreal blur. Incredible euphoria. And Kenny felt almost instant despair at his profound loss: “It was supposed to be MEEEEEEE!”

I tried to console him: “Aw, Kenny… Even if you had gone up there, that still doesn’t mean your spin would have landed on the GameCube. Besides, it’s going home with us to our house! It’s not like you’re never going to get to play it.” Astoundingly, my flawless logic seemed to have the opposite of its intended effect.

Meanwhile, Kendra was trying to convince Preston that it just wouldn’t be right for him to keep his prize, since she worked for the church, and people would think for sure it was rigged. But he was having none of it. Besides, Pastor Scott insisted it would be a greater tragedy to take it away from him. We all knew the truth: Preston had won it fair and square.

That GameCube has quite a few miles on it now, but literally every time they take it out of the closet to play it, when I see it, it transports me again to that flashing, brilliant moment, which will probably be one of the happiest memories of Preston’s life, and by extension, mine.

Have you ever won anything? What’s the greatest prize you’ve received? Why does it seem like people always spin those wheels so flippin’ hard?!?

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