On the Road, Interrupted.

Maureen
Somewhere in New Jersey. April 2017                                    ©2017 Aviva Russel. All rights reserved.

The Waiting Room Project is open to anyone. I have posted several photos here taken by other people. Some were sent to me, and some I have discovered. I was cruising my Facebook page the other day and came across this one. It is a friend’s family caught in automotive waiting room hell. Here’s the story:

“Hi Ed, so here are the details. We were driving (from New York City) to Maryland with our daughters to spend the 2nd Seder with My Brother and his Family. We had Tupperware bowls filled with homemade chopped liver, egg noodles and tons of deserts ( hard for my Bro to get in MD). My SUV started making strange noises so we found a mechanic and waited 2 1/2 hrs for car repair. We did not make it to Maryland but went out to dinner with the girls and after a martini and fries we felt a little better but still very disappointed that our Seder Plans got waylaid.”

I expect from the look of these folks, this photo is somewhere around hour 2. It perfectly captures the resigned desperation of uncertainty. How much longer will they be there? No one knows. Thank you, M. for letting me share this.

If you have a photo you want to share, please use the contact form, and I’ll be delighted to do so. That’s what makes this Project everyone’s.

I don’t know what happened to the chopped liver and the egg noodles, but knowing how delicious they must have been, you can only guess.

Advertisements

Car Shopping

 

waiting3star-231
Volkswagon Santa Monica, Santa Monica CA. April 2016

What is that car doing in the waiting room? Oh, wait, it’s the showroom for Santa Monica VW. This is the beautifully appointed part of the dealership where they actually sell you the car. You wait here for your sales associate to come out of the depths of the building to introduce you to your new set of wheels. They ply you with beverages and snacks, take you on the test drive, negotiate the deal, and have you wait while the finance department prepares your paperwork. Once you have agreed to buy the car, they usher you into a small, bleak, airless cubicle where the 3-foot long contract comes spitting out of the antique daisy wheel printer, along with the opportunity to add a myriad of options, protection plans, upgrades, and service contracts. An hour later, and several more hundreds of dollars poorer, you emerge with the keys to your new car.

I was here with my Mom shopping for a new station wagon for her. She has driven station wagons, and only station wagons, for as long as I can remember. In the 60’s it was a brilliant blue Chrysler behemoth bigger than a Hummer. I learned to drive in that gigantic thing. In the 70’s she drove a metallic pink Toyota. For the last 13 years a metallic green VW Passat with orange flames on the fenders and rear panel. We found her new car, a lovely dark silver VW loaded with all the latest technology. More like a computer on wheels.

The last new car I bought was my ’93 Jeep Grand Cherokee. Full-time four-wheel-drive and automatic everything. What a great car. It took me to work in Burbank through epic floods. It took us to the snowy summits without having to get out and grovel in the snow putting on chains. It took us on many a memorable camping trip from the majestic Sierra Nevada mountains to the blazing deserts of Death Valley and Joshua Tree. I currently drive a 15-year-old Lexus that I inherited from my Dad. It hums along, quiet as a top, and rarely needs any service beyond routine maintenance. I expect I won’t be seeing the inside of a car dealership waiting room for several years.

 

Parking Violations Bureau

 

Waiting_select_398
Parking Violations Bureau, West Los Angeles. February 2016

I met a friend in Century City to pick up a camera I was borrowing from him. With my car idling at the curb outside the Fox Studios parking structure, a very unpleasant Parking Enforcement dude gave me a ticket for parking in a red zone. I went to this office to contest the ticket as by definition I wasn’t parking, but standing, because 1.) the car was still running, and 2.) I was actively loading the equipment into the trunk of my car. I got an affidavit from my friend to this effect, went online to research the exact wording of the ordinances, and showed up with my sheaf of paperwork and supreme confidence I could convince the judge to reverse the citation.

Through that door are the offices of the examiners. They aren’t judges, but civil employees who interpret the law. Mine was very friendly, listened to my plea politely, and collected my evidence. About two weeks later, I got the letter that denied my claim on the grounds that even though the car was running and I was present, the fact that I had waited for him to walk from the structure to my car constituted parking, and I had to pay the fine.

If I had said he was waiting for me, and I pulled over to pick up the camera, I probably would have beat the ticket.

Oil Change

Right next to the WLA carwash is a Jiffy Lube. I had a coupon for both so I dedicated the afternoon to car care. Located on Sepulveda Blvd., this is outside my normal rounds. I think I was out and about doing errands and decided to pull in for a wash and a change.

What struck me about this particular waiting room was the utter bleakness. No frills, just a blank TV and a soda machine. Dimly lit, smelling faintly of used motor oil, it is one of the least attractive places I have waited. The patio wasn’t much better – dusty and reeking of cigarette smoke. I usually go elsewhere for both wash and oil change, but the lure of the coupon was irresistible.

As is often the case, I couldn’t decide which photo to post; which one do you like?

The Auto Club

Waiting_select_092
Auto Club, Santa Monica. August 2013

I love the Auto Club. The people who work there are always pleasant and courteous. They will help plan your trip. They have the coolest maps, and as an inveterate reader of maps, I always take them on my journeys. You can buy Mexican auto insurance. They will bring you a new battery for your car if it dies on the street. They will come and tow your car if it breaks down on the road. You get a swell magazine every month. And most importantly, you can do your Department of Motor Vehicles business there in comfort and convenience. That alone is worth the cost of membership. That doesn’t mean you won’t wait. In fact, you usually have to wait twice. Once in the line to check in and once at your designated area like DMV, Insurance, Travel. etc.

In this photo you can see three distinct waiting areas beginning with the chair in the foreground and stretching back to the check-in line. I was there getting auto insurance for a trip to Ensenada, Mexico. We have been going to Las Rosas, a lovely little resort on the coast just north of that city, for 25 years. Jake accompanied us on many of our trips from an early age on up to teenagehood. He wasn’t coming with us this time, just a little getaway for the two of us. We have never needed the insurance, but always feel better about having it. We haven’t been back to Las Rosas since.

Down to the Car Wash (Bomp-dee-bomp-dee-bomp)

20 years ago, one of my neighbors initiated a campaign to plant street trees in our neighborhood. He chose a variety that spits tiny droplets of sap, dead leaves, and twigs throughout the year, and a multitude of little yellow flowers during the spring. I can usually wait about a month or so before our cars are too disgusting to stand, so it’s down to the car wash. This collage includes 4 different establishments. The one with the two dogs waiting for their car was my go-to when I worked in Santa Monica. I could stop on my way in, get a quick once over and still get there by 9. Now, my regular hookup is Handy J’s at the intersection of Washington Blvd. and Washington Place.

When you bring your car in for cleaning, you fully expect to wait, and these four places have similar but different vibes in their areas. Handy J’s has an outdoor barbecue restaurant on the corner owned by the same folks that run HJ’s. They grill on a large charcoal barbecue and the smell of tri-tip and ribs wafts across the lot, borne on the perpetual on-shore air from the ocean to the west. Santa Monica has free wi-fi, little bistro tables, and if you are hungry, a McDonald’s right across the street. Millennium is one block away and in a pinch I might go there, but HJ’s does a better job and I get coupons. Now that we all have our mobile phones, it doesn’t much matter where we are, we are always in our own little worlds. In years past, you might strike up a conversation with your fellow waiter, but there isn’t much conversation anymore; we are all too busy peering at our 5-inch screens.

Quality Tire and Brake

Finding a good auto mechanic is a blessing. We discovered Isaac at Quality Tire in Culver City through our synagogue, The Marina Shul. He is Israeli, a fast talker and honest. He doesn’t actually do the work, but he has a couple of great mechanics who know their stuff. He has been servicing our autos for more than five years now, and always gives us a fair price and stands by his work. The irony is that he doesn’t sell many tires in spite of the name. Nearby Costco has a better selection and cheaper, and in fact, he usually recommends his customers go there. He’ll do the alignment once your car has its new shoes.

There is a curious bleakness about all automotive service waiting areas, and Isaac’s is no exception. It is unique in that is it an expression of his personality, with posters of Marilyn Monroe, Albert Einstein, Clint Eastwood, and the Beatles adorning the walls, and stacks of National Geographic, Rolling Stone, and Business magazines piled on the credenza. The TV is always tuned to an Israeli news station, an old movie or a soccer game. The couches are vastly uncomfortable, but if I come at lunch time, he will order a Pitfire pizza and a salad for me from across the street. Come on Friday afternoon, and there might be a little shot of tequila or arak on offer. He is within walking distance from my house, and I have made the trip on foot many times, although he will drive me home if I wish. All in all, a very satisfactory place to take our cars to be fixed.