Tag Archives: Cars

Of Cars and Critters

The House speaker, Paul Ryan, recently lamented how his personal SUV parked back in his Wisconsin hometown had been “eaten by animals.”

He said woodchucks chewed the wiring out from his Chevrolet Suburban. “And so my car was eaten by animals, and it’s just dead,” he said, according to a story in The New York Times.

Well, Mr. Speaker, you ain’t got nothin’ on AMR’s Richard Rodriguez who has his own tales (tails?) of woe involving critters and cars.

Fasten your safety belt and read Rich’s stories: 

Being born in raised in the Bronx, I had little opportunity for encounters with wildlife.

My wife and I moved out to rural Sussex County, N.J., and it was culture shock.

It was pitch black dark at night, and so quiet I couldn’t sleep. I missed being lulled to sleep by Cross Bronx Expressway traffic.

Over the years we have had numerous encounters with animals and our vehicles.

On a snowy evening, I was following my wife driving home when a deer ran out in front of her car and she hit the brakes but she slid and hit it.

The deer slammed down on the hood and bounced off onto the roadway.  I pulled over and checked on the deer and it was alive but surely had broken legs.

I had no idea what to do.

A truck pulled up behind us and a guy got out and said he could take care of this.

I thought he had a knife and would be able to put this poor animal out of its misery.

Then he went back to his truck and came back with a small sledge hammer and to our horror he proceeded to beat the poor animal’s head in.

Unfortunately, the first hit did not do the job and he continued to slam the hammer down until I finally heard the skull give way and the deer was finally done.

I then helped him pick up and throw it to the side of the road.

We were in shock as to what we just participated in, pristine clean white snow now marred with blood and brains.

Welcome to Sussex County.

This was just the beginning of our vehicle encounters with animals.

My wife proceeded to hit a number of deer in the years to follow, including a scary high-speed encounter on the way to work one morning.

The front of the van was smashed but only the top of the radiator cracked and she was able to drive back home.  It was close to being totaled but the insurance company fixed it.

This van became the Red Baron of the road.  I should have placed stamps on the side to represent all of its kills over the years.

I hit a deer with it, or actually the deer ran into me, almost came through the driver’s side window.

I also ran over a poor cat with all the kids in the van as I brought them home from daycare. Nice job, Dad. Now I was known as the cat-killer to my kids.

Last year the car I used for commuting to work started smelling like a small animal nest.

I checked under the hood by the air intake, and inside the car where the air comes through the vents.  Nothing there but some leaves and debris.

Not a good sign.

I hoped a mouse was not using my car as a nest.

The nest smell turned into the smell of death and decay and I was still unable to locate the culprit.

I used car fresheners that I attached to all the vents and it only masked the smell as the underlying stench still came through.

No one wanted to drive in my car with me.

I started to use my truck to avoid dealing with the dead animal smell.

I wondered how long it would take for it to decompose to nothing so it would stop stinking up my vehicle.

Winter came and I think whatever was in there froze and provided some olfactory relief.

I am now happy to report that after almost a year I am able to drive around without death in the air.

Glad I did not have to set the car on fire.

When a Man Can’t Fix It

We at About Men Radio always talk about doing it yourself but I came across two things recently that I couldn’t easily do alone.

The first: My brother called me last month that he got the dreaded “Blue Screen of Death” on his computer.

I thought, OK not a tough fix.

He was already on the phone with his IT people at work, who told him to just get a new computer.

He was a concerned about getting his files off the old computer though.

I told him that I had the device for the job and it shouldn’t be a problem.

Well I brought out my USB 2.0 IDE transfer cable and when I took off the cover knew that I needed a SATA Cable adapter instead.

Not a biggie, but Staples and Best Buy didn’t have one, so I took the computer home with me and stopped off at Micro Center for the adapter.  Yeah Micro Center!

I did notice something about how the hard drive was mounted in the computer.

The screws are situated to the left of the memory slots and to get a typical screwdriver or ratchet set in there you would need to pull the memory out.

Not wanting to do that and knowing that I had a screwdriver for the job, I just plugged the adapter into the mount instead.

I plugged it into my computer and voila! I was able to see all the files except “My Documents,” which came up blank.

I ran a properties search which yielded about 15GB, so there are files there, but I can’t see them.

I figured that there was a password feature that kept them hidden, so with a few magical keystrokes I was able to copy the files.

I think I’ll just plug in a new HD and reconfigure my new computer as a server.  Sweet!

A few weeks ago Pedro and I were coming back from Pennsylvania after seeing the Howard Jones concert when he noticed that my car’s daylight was out.

The headlights and high beams were working OK.

The bulb cost about $22. I drove to Advance Auto Parts and figured that I would unscrew the old one and bring it in with me just to make sure that it was the right type and size.

When I lifted the hood, I grabbed the light housing and noticed that I didn’t have enough space to get the light out.

My nephew is always going on YouTube so I figured that I would do the same.

I was floored.

You need to take off the front fender to access the light housing. Needless to say that I brought it into the dealer.

So much for doing it yourself. I’m batting .500 which in baseball terms is actually pretty good.


MacGyver and Other Tales of Improvised Engineering


This S*** Just Got Real

Under the heading of “Did that just happen?” comes this development:

Our youngest son (Dan, 16) aced his road test and got his driver’s license.

As a dad, I was aware that he was taking the road test but put it on my mental backburner in the hopes it might fall behind the stove.

Yeah. No such luck.

He nailed the road test on the first try.

Not only that, but he’s saved up enough money to buy a decent used car and is actively searching for one.

There’s a part of me that’s like: Wow! That’s great, Dan! We’re so proud of you. This is really a milestone achievement and a mark of your growing young adulthood and independence.

And there’s another part of me that’s going: Whoa! This shit just got real! Are you ker-azy?! You’re 16. And yes, legally you can drive, but is this really a good idea?

Well, that question got tested tonight when he asked (begged) if he could drive to the nearby McDonald’s to meet a friend for dinner.

It’s an 8-minute drive. For me, it might as well have been 800 miles.

Disclosure: Full, 1,000 percent credit goes to my wife Meg for taking Dan out practice driving in rain storms, in snow, when she was tired, etc. She instilled in him the confidence and experience he needed to do as well as he did.

Me? I was busy doing something that my nerves could better handle like clearing out wasps’ nest — while naked.

So yes, tonight Dan took his first solo drive. In the dark. To McDonald’s.

When I posted this development on Facebook, Super Dad aka About Men Radio contributor Richard Rodriguez, whose oldest has his own car, wrote from experience:

I wish I can skip this part of my kids growing up.

Thankfully, I took Dan’s first solo outing all in stride. As proof:

As I was making dinner, I put the microwave on for 2.5 minutes. And left the bowl of oatmeal that it was supposed to be cooking on the kitchen counter.

And at the same time, I turned on the Keurig to make coffee. And when it was done, I realized that I had l left the previous coffee pouch in the machine and forgot to install a new one, which meant I had a mug of pale brownish fluid.

No, not nervous at all. Why do you ask?

Meg and I talk all the time about parenting and how it’s all about giving our children roots and wings:

Roots so that they feel secure where they are planted, and wings to give them the independence they desire and need.

In the case of tonight, Dan’s short trip was a test flight – one of many more to come.

I’m Drivin’ in My Car…And Getting Into Trouble!

One night in 1985 while out with my AMR brothers cruising around, we almost all checked out.

An annual Italian heritage block event was held in our neighborhood in the east Bronx.

As was our custom, we would pile into a car and head out. This time it was my car and Zerega Avenue was our destination for the evening.

My car was really my Dad’s car and to call it a land yacht was to downplay its enormity. It was a 1976 Ford LTD. It was truly a land cruise ship. Piling into it was not a problem for just the four of us that night, Pedro, John, Rich and me.

The car was not a beater, but it had seen better days. Most of the dings, scratches and disrepair were courtesy of a teenage me that learned to drive in it and used it more than Dad did by that time.

On that fateful night, it had a burnt out headlight. Being young and broke I did not see the urgency in repairing or replacing parts immediately.

So off we went, with John riding shotgun and Pedro and Rich in the back seat.

We cruised the night a bit and headed in the direction of the festival. I can’t recall if any of us really wanted to attend the festival. We were just planning on cruising, cutting up and having fun.

Traffic was not heavy but we saw police officers directing traffic on the principal roads. I turned down a side street and, approaching a corner on the dark road, I saw a single flashlight motioning forward like an airport runway crewman.

But as my great white land ship got closer to the light, it started to motion to the curb that I should pull over.

I immediately remembered the busted headlight. Damn.

And that I had forgotten my wallet. Double damn!

I pulled to the side and a very young police officer came to my window. He asked me for my license and registration and with the same breath before I could reply to his first request he informed me that I had a headlight out.

From the corner of my eye, I saw his partner, equally young, flashlight in hand, approach the passenger side.

I told the officer that I was driving my Dad’s car and I forgot my wallet. But I did have the registration in the glove compartment, which I pointed to and was about to slowly reach all the way over to retrieve.

And here is where it all could have ended.

John lunged for the glove compartment, simply thinking that he was doing me a solid and getting my documents for me.

The cops didn’t see the nobility of the gesture as they each took a step back and trembling hands went to their holsters. Luckily, John fumbled the turn knob and I was able to calmly push him back in his seat.

I’m not certain what kept me moving calmly that night other than instinctively knowing that one does not make quick movements in the presence of officers on a dark side road in the Bronx.

After pulling out the registration and insurance card, the officer asked me to give him my name and spell it.

He returned the cards to me. His hand — and mine — were less than steady.

I guess he was satisfied that the spelling of my last name matched the one on the registration card. Thank the heavens my name wasn’t simply Smith.

He gave me a warning to drive home, get the headlight fixed and to not forget my wallet in the future. Yes, sir!

I pulled away slowly and started to drive away. Then a steady barrage of smacks and blows, intermingled with chopped unfinished sentences, started to rain down on the back of John’s head coming from the back seat.

“You dumb…” Smack!

“You never lunge when…” Bang!

“You almost got us…” Pow!

All of it was coming from Pedro. Rich didn’t say much the rest of the trip.

Thinking back on it, and without making light of recent events, we got off easy. I can only imagine that the young officers were just as frightened as we were. And we were extremely fortunate the glove box did not open, allowing John to reach in.

The officers stayed level-headed and did not draw, but all the circumstances in the event—four youths with no ID in a large car that is not theirs — could have led to calling in the sidewalk chalk outline artist that night.

I’m grateful that it turned out OK for us. And I don’t think I have ever again forgotten my wallet!