Dec. 9th, 2009 08:06 am
adrian_turtle: (Default)
I signed up for Zipcar. It's possible that I will only use it to go to this one job interview (rescheduled for next Monday), and then need to buy a car to commute off the T. In the unlikely event that turns out to be the case, I should have just rented a car from Enterprise for the day, rather than wasting the $75 signup fee for Zipcar. I am uncertain about how long the interview + drive time will take--at least 5 hours, with a cautious estimate being 6 hours, and a very cautious estimate approaching 7 hours--this doesn't look like a trip to show how cheap it is to only rent a car for a few hours.

But I could park a Zipcar on Tuesday and NOT WORRY ABOUT IT if there were a snowstorm on Wednesday. I wouldn't need to pay somebody $15 or $20 to clear the snow off the car, or find a place to park it while the parking place is plowed. If I'm not the first user of the car on Wednesday or Thursday, somebody else will deal with all that.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
I was driving to a job interview this morning, waiting at the traffic jam at route 2 and I-95, when the car behind me hit a patch of black ice. I'm not hurt (for extremely uncomfortable values of "not hurt," which the nice doctor in the emergency room defined as "no broken bones, no internal bleeding, no organ damage.") The car was very badly hurt. I didn't get a good look at the damage, but I think it's the kind of thing that makes them call a 1997 car a total loss.

I talked to the recruiter. She will try to reschedule the interview for a somewhat less appalling morning.
adrian_turtle: (Dracomir)
if I knew what sensible WAS. My apartment building has a parking lot. That's part of why I rent an apartment here. (One is not permitted to park on the street overnight in this town.) It's not a great parking lot--cars have to park perpendicular to a fairly severe slope, and it's pretty crowded--but it's a great deal better than nothing.

Last winter, my car was run over by a snowplow in the parking lot. The car I replaced it with after it was totaled is bigger and older. This makes it harder to park, and less maneuverable in slippery conditions. For my peculiar orthopedic challenges, it's more comfortable to drive than my little blue car, but much more difficult and painful to scrape snow and ice off it. My landlord's response to the accident was to require that cars be removed from the parking lot after snowstorms, so the lot could be plowed. I understand their reasoning, but it still defeats some of my purpose of having a parking lot, as far as I'm concerned. I want to be able to leave my car in place until it stops snowing. It's problematic for me to clear off my car and drive in light snow, and in seriously bad conditions it's quite dangerous.

The first snow of the season fell last night. Half an inch, followed by a bright clear morning. It should melt this afternoon. When I was at the party last night, the forecast was for 2-4", turning to freezing rain. That...would have been bad. When I set out in the afternoon, I was all set to get myself home safely on the T (though some nice people in Cambridge ended up giving me a ride.) I wasn't thinking about how to take care of my CAR, and I'm not sure how I should have. I can't afford to have another car totaled.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
I want a good way to clear snow off my car and the surrounding pavement without hurting myself.

1. I have considered the traditional strategy of waiting for spring, or at least for the kind of good thaw we see every week or so around here. But these days I have a babysitting job one or two afternoons a week. It's not a big deal for me to walk the 1.5 miles from the child's preschool to her home, but it would be a very big deal for her. I'm fairly confident those short legs could NOT do it in significant snow. So that strategy is out.

1a. The people who own my apartment building recently sent out flyers announcing that all tenants must remove their cars from the parking lot when it snows, so they can have the lot plowed. Insofar as they want the cars to be safe from snowplows, I understand...but if it's snowing and the plows have not been out, moving my car is difficult and painful and scary, and I don't wanna.

2. If I lived in a house with a driveway, I would hire somebody to shovel the driveway and clear the snow off my car. I don't have a driveway. My building has a parking lot with 40 places. The lot gets plowed, and the walkways get shoveled, but I'm responsible for clearing the snow and ice off my own car. Is it possible to hire somebody just to do that?

3. I've done some shoveling in emergency situations, since the hand pain got really bad. Most shoveling jobs are so big, so difficult, so brutally painful, that it's really pretty easy for me to make the decision about doing it. No. Don't do it. Not unless it would save a life. (In practice, I am pretty easy to manipulate when people I love need help getting to hospitals or staying out of prison. And I do any number of things I probably shouldn't, when I think it will help me keep my job.) It's still relatively easy to see I should not be shoveling, that spending the extra money for this apartment with the plowed lot was a good idea.

4. Clearing snow off the car itself is not as painful as shoveling snow from the ground.* There's less snow involved, and a person doesn't have to lift it. When the snow is very light, I clear a lot of it by hand (well, with my big waterproof mitten), so I don't have to grip anything. I can't reach nearly as close to the middle of the Boat of Gold as I could with the little blue car. So there is a lot more gripping of tools (hand strain) and reaching up and across (shoulder strain). There is some pain when I'm doing it, and more pain afterwards...probably aggravated by the fact that I clear the snow off the car and then get right in the car and go for a stressful drive on snowy roads.

5. I took the car to the new occupational therapist (who seems not to be a complete idiot), and asked her advice about clearing snow off it with minimal pain and damage. She recommended using a stepstool to reach the top of the car without raising my arm above shoulder height, adjusting my grip on the tools to keep my wrists in line with my arms, and moving snow in small increments. I hope this will help. I haven't tried it yet. It seems like it would make the job take much longer, and I don't know the relative value of "fewer movements straining the joint" vs "each movement putting less strain on the joint."

6. I selected my snow-clearing tools for their light weight, and for being able to move snow from the center of my little blue car without my needing to apply much lateral force. I did NOT go looking for handles that would make it easy to keep one's wrists in line with one's arms.
My current favorite snow-clearing tool is a red plastic toy snow shovel that looks just like the one I had when I was 6, right down to the little triangular handle.
If I'm not wearing gloves or mittens, I can (just barely) fit my fingers into the triangle of the handle. This lets me hold the shovel more or less horizontal, to push snow off the hood or trunk, using my fingers and palms, without engaging my bad thumb or twisting either wrist sideways. All as the OT advised, except that spending an hour or two with bare hands in the snow would probably counter any positive effects. In practice, I usually end up grabbing the stick part.
My brush/scraper thingee looks approximately like this:
Only it doesn't extend. It's about 30" long, with a foam-padded straight handle. The OT watched me hold it in one hand, and both, reaching over the car. She pointed out how I was twisting my wrists, and I experimented with various grips. The least bad seems to be with both thumbs up, and thumbs aligned with the handle...but that's not *good*. It's just hard for me to keep a good grip and maintain control of a linear tool, especially if it's long.

7. Can any of you recommend implements for clearing snow off a car that have some kind of crosspiece on the handle, making it easier to push and pull? Overall lightness is still useful. With this car, I think a long handle, or an extensible handle, would be good.

*Because clearing off the car is so much less painful than shoveling, it's actually more difficult to decide whether I should be doing it. When. How much. It hurts a lot. I can push through the pain, but there is a substantial physical cost I have to pay for days (sometimes weeks.) The work needs to be done--not in the sense of saving a life, but in the more usual way of work needing to be done.
adrian_turtle: (Default)
The original plan was so well organized. We would go to the RMV together, with two sets of license plates, title to the car, a checkbook, and a toolbox. I would buy the car and transfer my registration. She would return her old plates, and put my plates on the car. This would leave all of Tuesday for transferring the insurance and buying new tires. Hah!

It turned out the insurance needed to be transferred before I could register the car. (Direct quote from RMV clerk: "Oh, don't listen to insurance people. They don't know anything about this." Perhaps not, but Dan the friendly insurance agent did set up the paperwork and wait until we got there from the RMV, well after their usual office closing time.) The same RMV clerk said we didn't need to re-attach the license plates, but could drive with them displayed on the deck.

So I went back on Tuesday, with my proof of insurance in hand, and tried to do it all myself. Title transfer, check. New registration, check. Return old license plates, check. Thus, my old license plates were legally attached to the vehicle, but not *physically* attached to it. I'm willing to use my hands in ways I know are seriously damaging, but I have to think it's worth it, or it has to be an emergency. This didn't come close. I went to Sears Auto Service to buy tires and ask them to attach the license plates. I had no idea this would exceed their capacity, but they didn't have the right equipment. So, after getting the tires, I went to a nearby Ford dealership. They were able to attach the plates, and do the state inspection required within 7 days of registering a vehicle. It was a near thing, but I managed to acquire my permit for the apartment parking lot, give the RMV receipts for the old plates to the sellers (so they could cancel their insurance, proving they no longer own the car), and get home before dark.

I talked to 4 different people working in the car repair business, asking if anybody there could attach my license plates to the car I'd just bought. They were all shocked that I could have driven there without attaching the plates. The parking lots for the RMV, and Sears, and the Ford dealership, are not completely unfamiliar to me (though I don't drive there much.) I had moments of disorientation in all of them, coming out the door with my keys in my hand, looking around for my little blue car. The little blue car is no more. Now I'm looking for the golden-brown car that turns like a boat. I don't know if it needs a name. I don't really talk to the *car*, exactly ("Can we fit into that parking space? It looks like there might be room. Let's try going backwards and coming around....nope, too small." Speaking of which, that steering wheel is amazingly easy to turn. Still parks like a boat, but wow.)
adrian_turtle: (Default)
I am contemplating a used car with the sort of ridiculously low mileage my old car used to have. This car used to be owned by an old man who only drove it on Sundays, in good weather, when he wasn't in the nursing home. I borrowed it for a few days last year (from his granddaughter), when my car was being repaired, so I know it's relatively easy on my shoulder. And quiet, bless its internal combustion engine! There are so many things about driving I find stressful, but part of what makes it difficult for me is trying to cope with the road noise. Cranking up the stereo so I can hear the words of an audiobook is nothing like so good as actual quiet.

This car spent a lot of time in a garage, safe from snowplows and other hazards. It has summer tires, which really ought to change before I rely on it in bad weather. (It has rear-wheel drive, and I could feel the wheels slipping sideways a bit on hills when I drove it a short distance last week.) The previous owner suggested snow tires, which seem problematic. How do people in small apartments store out-of-season tires? It occurred to me after WAY too much angst that this is likely to be a problem for lots of people, completely unrelated to anyone being tidy or organized or strong or sensible. Are all-season tires as good? Almost as good? Can any of you recommend a particular kind of tires, or a place to buy them? (After last winter, I have some idea of where not to buy them, but that doesn't narrow it down much.)
adrian_turtle: (Default)
The second time I ever bought a car, way back in the summer of 2000, the car dealer asked if I wanted the option package that included full power doors. Oh yes, that would be wonderful! How much extra does it cost? Hardly anything, if I combine it with the ice melting wires in the back window, and the automatic transmission, and the air conditioner.

The only disappointment was when the car arrived and I discovered how limited my car doors' powers were. They did not include the power to open and close the windows. Nor the power to close the doors (or even make them easier to reach when one swung all the way open.) Nor the power to unlock one of the back doors directly, without opening a front door first. The main power of the car doors is that the doors lock automatically, with an annoying loud *click*, when the car begins to move faster than 5mph. This is pretty close to worthless. But by the time I had the car, it would have cost me a couple of thousand dollars and 2-3 months to send it back and get another with power *windows* (and the doors would still not have behaved as I believe proper power doors ought to behave.) So I kept it.

A few days, I was walking down the sidewalk in Cambridge as a driver got into her car in front of me. She used exactly the same technique my occupational therapist had recommended to me, for protecting one's lower back. She sat on the edge of the seat, facing the sidewalk. She scooted back into the car, and then brought her feet in and turned to face the wheel. Then she had to close the door. I had just barely noticed her when I was further behind her car and she was getting in. (I probably wouldn't have paid any attention at all if I hadn't been specifically instructed on the technique, and feeling bad about myself for not being able to do it.) But as I passed the car, I could see how frustrated she was because she couldn't reach the door. She grabbed for it several times, and sometimes even tugged at the handle...but couldn't get enough leverage to actually close it. As I walked past the door, I pushed it gently, 10 or maybe 20 degrees. It came into her hand and she closed it solidly. I don't think she ever noticed me. She had been looking down at her hand on the door, the same way I do when it's not working. The driver of the next car ahead was standing beside his car with the door open, staring at me suspiciously.

Would that be power assist, like with the steering? Or just an advantage of driving in a pedestrian-rich environment?


adrian_turtle: (Default)

March 2016



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