Sunday, November 4, 2012

The Stormtrooper

Before I got to Palau I bought a pretty inexpensive yet supposedly durable vehicle from a person who was leaving the island. It seemed risky at the time to make a big purchase over the Internet from someone I had never met for a vehicle I had never seen in a country I had never visited. But so did moving to that country without even being able to point it out on the map, so "risk" evidently wasn't much of a deterrent during those times.

The vehicle I purchased, lovingly known as "The Stormtrooper," is a 1997 Suzuki that I'm pretty sure somehow fought in World War II. Note, I did not say it was used in WWII. I mean, it actually fought in the war. This thing is tough. And each of its coconut-inflicted battle wounds looks like it has a story to tell.

I know it doesn't make sense that a 1997 vehicle could fight in a war from the 1940s, but since when do you come here to read about things that make sense?

The Stormtrooper was initially really terrifying to drive. This is mostly because the steering wheel is on the wrong side of the car. You guys! The WRONG side of the car! Unless you're from England, or some such place, in which case the steering wheel is totally on the correct side. Also, Americans are the worst and think they're right about everything. (Wink wink to the Americans. I just said that so the British people would feel welcome. British people are actually the worst. (Unless you're British and still reading. I just said that in case the Americans were still reading. (Unless you're--oh my gosh look the Queen of Colors!))).

I'm actually pretty cool with the steering wheel being on any old side, but the problem with driving The Stormtrooper in Palau is that we still drive on the right side of the road just like in America. I'm all like, "what am I? A mailman?!" And by the way, if I was, I would totally open people's mail and read it before delivering.

Anyway, what this means is that since I am driving on the side of the car that is closest to the edge of the road, and since there are often not painted lines on said edge, it is surprisingly difficult to keep the car from going over the center line. The true terror of this problem is only obvious when you're in the passenger's seat and can see first-hand how often the car narrowly escapes head-on collisions.

The other terrifying aspect of driving the Stormtrooper is its turn radius, or lack thereof. We quickly discovered on our first day in Palau that what should be a simple U-turn is actually more like a 14-point turn. This is a lesson one should only have to learn once. But you would be surprised how deeply ingrained in your mind the standard turning radius in a vehicle is. As a result, we make this 14-point turn almost every single time we drive the car and it's always on the busiest road during the busiest time of day.

To drive this car I had to get a Palaun driver's licence by taking the Palaun driver's test. The test consisted of 50 questions that delved deep into my knowledge of Palaun driving laws such as, "It is not permitted for anyone to have a driver's licence who has been previously adjudged to be an idiot" and "It is not permitted for more than three people to ride in the front seat of a vehicle at a time, unless one of those people is a child under the age of 7." These are real rules. And I knew them like a champ for my driver's test.

Combine the steering wheel on the wrong other side of the car situation with the child in the front seat rule and you can imagine how many times a day I gasp in horror at the sight of a 4-year-old kid sitting in what I still automatically see as the driver's seat screeching down the streets of Palau.

While the Stormtrooper generally seems to drive just fine, besides a loud screaming-cat-like noise it makes every time I go downhill, there are a number of problems with it. For one, there is no air. I'm not simply complaining about the lack of AC. I mean, no air travels through the vents at all. This would be fine if it wasn't for the fact that 2 of the 4 windows wouldn't roll down when I got to Palau and now the driver's window has also stopped working. We are one not-working window away from total suffocation.

Daniel took the Stormtrooper to a mechanic on Friday who told him that nothing could be done about the window situation. Daniel is considering going back in this week dressed in a tux and snobishly saying to the mechanic, "You work on commission, right? Big mistake. Huge."

I've never actually seen "Pretty Woman" but I feel relatively familiar with it as Daniel considers imitating the famous scene every time he is dissatisfied with the level of service he has received anywhere. He also considered doing this at the post office just this morning. The problem that he doesn't seem to consider when making these plans is that none of the people he's hoping to pull this on actually work on commission. Also, the reason he got bad service in the first place usually isn't because he's dressed like a 1980s prostitute. No, he has much more recently updated his wardrobe than that.

So, unless I can get a mechanic with the special training and skill to fix malfunctioning windows, I am one broken window away from dying in that car.

Thank heavens I was trained as a child to withstand thousand degree temperatures inside a shut vehicle while Cathie was in the fabric store. And before you start judging Bob and Cathie for being neglectful parents, let me remind you that this was in the 1980s when it was standard practice to leave kids in the car. As a result, mine is the final generation that is tough enough to survive hardship. In fact, I don't think it was even just standard practice. I remember PSAs and after-school specials encouraging this.

"Your child needs time away from his mother. And you need time away from your child. Leave him in the car the next time you go into the fabric store on a hot summer day and threaten him with his life if he even thinks about opening a car door, or, so help me, honking the horn to get you to hurry up. The more you know."

I'm pretty sure Cathie saw that one, anyway. It came on right after the one about "this is your brain on drugs."

As a side note, My dream job when I was 8 was to be the person in those "brain on drugs" commercials. I used to practice this in the bathroom in front of the mirror by holding up a piece of paper and saying, "this is your brain." And then while tearing it and walking away with a tone of seriousness and attitude, "this is your brain on drugs!" This continued for the better part of a year until my older sister, Krisanda, overheard me one day and teased me so much that the mention of any illicit drugs today still makes me crumble in fear.

Come to think of it, maybe they should have had her do those commercials.

Any other great PSA or after-school special memories out there?

~It Just Gets Stranger

P.S. Here are a few new pictures from Palau for your viewing pleasure and to prove that I really am there.

Me heading out to scuba dive.

Our view every evening while reading on the beach.

Great friends on the boat with us heading out to explore the rock islands.

Swimming between rock islands at the end of a long, long day. Also, I have boobs in this picture.

The courthouse in Palau. My home away from home. Away from home.

26 comments:

  1. So...I'm having a crappy crap day full of drama filled, ridiculous roommates who for some reason think that one shouldn't attempt to date another's ex. Whatevs. Anyway, your blog post managed to cheer me up and make me smile! Thanks a million.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. yeah, you really shouldn't

      Delete
  2. Did you check your cabin air filter? It might be blocked up with goodies from WWII. Clean it out and air may pass through those vents. :-)

    ReplyDelete
  3. It's probably a good thing you are not a mailman, because you wouldn't last long committing a federal offense six days of the week. :) My dad, however, has been a letter-carrier for nearly 30 years and worked as a driving instructor for the post office, so he could easily help you become a pro at driving on the right side of the road with the steering wheel on the right side of the vehicle.

    Also, leaving kids in the car was still standard practice into the 1990s. I remember my grandpa picking me up from Kindergarten, then leaving me in the van while he went into the grocery store to buy groceries for his mom. This was the early '90s. My parents also often let my brother and me sit in the car; it was usually a choice for us. My mom once left me in the car at the bank, and I needed to ask her something, so I got out of the car, locked the door, and went into the bank to find my mom. Turned out she had left the key in the car with me, so I had effectively locked us both out of the car. We had to wait for my dad to come rescue us with the spare key. And this had to be arranged without cell phones! (Oh, the early/mid 90s...)

    ReplyDelete
  4. I know what's wrong with your windows. Suzukis and Jeeps from the late 90's/early 00's have just about the worst windows of all time and they commonly break. In all honesty, I know almost nothing about cars, but I had a home teaching companion last year who knew all about them and this problem particularly when a girl we home taught had her windows break on her Jeep. My companion and I fixed it (or rather, he fixed it while I stood there smiling him and handing him the wrench when he asked, like a good nurse in a cheesy movie). There is a part we had to order that is a really terribly made piece of equipment and often breaks in all of these cars. I don't remember what it is called, but it looks like a sewage-cleaner snake in some plastic round thing and it is really hard to find. I'll bet they don't have any lying around in Palau, which is why the guy can't fix your car. So, sad to tell you all this just get flatten your hopes of repair, but at least that's my theory as to why your windows are broken.

    Sincerely,

    A guy who knows almost nothing about cars except this one problem, and was thus excited to be able to chip in some sort of car expertise when he saw the opportunity, only to realize that it might have made him look even more inept about vehicles than he already is. Incidentally, I also met you the first time you spoke at "The Porch" in Provo. My friend and I came wearing Snuggies.

    P.S. And maybe this is more helpful, it IS possible without being able to necessarily FIX the windows to be able to get them stuck in a slightly DOWN position rather than all the way up, if that would make life more tolerable. The repair guy SHOULD be able to do at least that. Of course, this would greatly decrease the security of your vehicle.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Hey Ken. I remember you from the Porch. Thanks for the comment. I'm helpless with all things vehicle, too. The problem we have with the slightly down option is that it rains here very often and VERY hard so with the windows down at all, the car will flood. Sort of stuck here.

      Delete
    2. That sucks. Especially now that your last one went down. Good luck. Don't die.

      Delete
  5. Ahhh the 80s, Or "back in my day". I too had a mother that would frequent the fabric store, which of course I found to be dreadfully boring. My mom would leave me in the car while she ran in "real quick" to get fabric for whatever dress she would be constructing for me that weekend that usually turned out to be some monstrosity with a doily attached to the neck that I would have to wear to the school "concert". Yipe. The last time she ever left me in the car as a small child she came out of the store to find me conversing with a transient through my fully down window from which he could have "easily snatched me from my seat, had (mom) not come out when she did!!" Poor old dolt...that's profiling! If only our car windows had been broken...then my life wouldn't have been at stake.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I remember just laying in the back of the car and sleeping until she came out. But, there few a few times that someone who knock on the window and see if I was alive. It's all good!

      Delete
  6. I just got some pretty mean stares while I was reading this in the computer lab. I tried thinking of that ridiculous Sarah McLachlan commercial about abused animals (you know, the "In the AAARMS of an ANGEELLL" one), and about the possibility that I wont make it home because of the lack of gas in my car (and the lack of money in my wallet to put gas in my car)to keep from laughing out loud. But I couldn't. It was THAT hilarious.

    ReplyDelete
  7. Eli is a hottie. Look at his...well....4 pack.

    The least you could do is put a picture of the beast up. I had a jetta once where all windows & ac broke. We frequently drove with the doors open.

    *ghetto*



    ReplyDelete
  8. If you think the 80's were a time for legal child neglect, you should have lived in the 70's. Not only were we left alone, all windows down, but we would also stand up in the front seat while the parent's drove around town. What seatbelts? Plus there were many a trip with my father smoking and the windows were all up. I take that back, he did a have a two inch crack in the window. And I do think you are right, kids aren't so tough anymore. Your blog is hilarious!

    ReplyDelete
  9. You must not have lived in Brawley, or you wouldn't be here today. Of course, Brawley didn't have any stores back when I was a kid. I say just break the windows all out and have a semi-convertible.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. You mentioned Brawley . . . Do we know each other somehow?

      Delete
  10. I just want to say that your shenannigns make me laugh, and brought me a much needed smile. Also, I can now locate Palau on a map thanks to you!

    ReplyDelete
  11. Your moobs (man boobs), seem somewhat uneven.You might want to look into fixing that, my friend.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Great. Another thing to worry about.

      Delete
  12. This comment has been removed by the author.

    ReplyDelete
  13. I will remember this commercial forever. Even if I am 80 and have Alzheimer's. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Y-Elr5K2Vuo

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. This one is a family favorite. We usually reference it when my parents scold us for swearing.

      Delete
    2. I remember that one!!! And Eli, I used that on my mom too for swearing.

      Delete
  14. Hahahahaha!! This is essentially my car. Even scarier when on icy, winter, Alaskan roads. Also, if my teacher doesn't find me obnoxious already, reading this has definitely put me on the top of his list.

    ReplyDelete
  15. That's funny you think your 1997 vehicle fought in the 40s. I was just thinking the other day how I probably was a starfighter pilot in a previous life but starfighter pilots tend to be in the future so I'm guessing your Suzuki and I were involved in some sort of time travel (although not together; I've never even been in your car). All makes sense now. Have you thought about loading up on some straws in case of emergency? Just leave a really strong one or maybe some sort of long tubing in the window that works when you close it. Cheers!

    ReplyDelete
  16. Hahaha! Sorry to laugh at your plight, man. Even just talking about zero circulation makes me a bit peaky, and I feel for you.

    Although I have to say, the worst part for me (as I read this from the comfort of my living room on a cold November night in Idaho, with a soft, warm blanket curled around me) was when you described your car as making "a loud screaming-cat-like noise...every time I go downhill." Cats make me shudder, and screaming cats?! (I swear, one night during my senior year at USU, I woke up to the sound of a cat being murdered just outside my bedroom window. Most horrifying sound I've ever heard.)

    Your car sounds like it's got all sorts of character, though. So maybe it's like a tribute to your whole Palau adventure, yes?

    Good luck with the car, is what I meant to say.

    ReplyDelete
  17. i am new to stalking your blog, but i must say i wish i was there. with or without windows that roll down... the water alone would be okay for me. :) hope you do get the car windows fixed though.

    ReplyDelete