Wednesday, July 28, 2010


It has been a few months since I got my car - my 1st one ever, and I've already clocked 4K+ miles with it (courtesy my frequent Chicago trips which is just 2.5 hrs away one way..YAY!!) Dark forest green is definitely not a car color of my choice (or otherwise), neither did I ever dream of buying a Mitsubishi, but given all the circumstances few months ago, I bought a 2001 Mirage (I refer to it fondly as my baby now!) from a private owner.
Everyone till date has told me that it was a great find for the mileage, maintenance, price, etc. except for one new face in town, who recently sat in my car and told me that he felt it didn't function that smoothly on curves. He compared it to his new Swift back home in India.. Anyway, I'm done forming my opinion about this new guy thanks to this remark of his! =)

Flashback to end of 2009: I was caged in this place. This country totally sucks when it comes to being self-sufficient sans a vehicle. Thanks to the 1st ever snow-filled winter I was experiencing, I didn't dare to even think about getting my license done, forget buying a car. Desperation eventually drove me to it. I was helpless when it came to going anywhere and though my colleagues / neighbors were a god-send for ferrying me around to work, for groceries, etc, I just didn't want to burden them anymore. I got my learner's permit done in March and within a week's time (and after only TWO half-hour driving sessions in my colleagues' cars) I passed the test and got my WI driver's license! I owe this feat to passing a similar but more rigorous test back in Abu Dhabi in 2006 (I flunked twice and managed to succeed in my 3rd try), and to all those 'pathani' instructors I had who kept on going with their "Gardhan hilao, Mirror dekho, Signal/indicator daalo" pointers. Soon after, I started scanning the car sale ads in craiglist, but could never manage to find anything Japanese (all desis go for Jap make cars here) within my budget, in my area.

To just get a feel of the roads especially the express ways, I got myself a rental for a weekend. It was a lovely 2009 Pontiac Vibe, almost as big as an SUV. I felt so tiny and initially a bit intimidated behind the wheel, and even contemplated sitting on a cushion to get some extra height.. LOL! My 1st goof up was to try driving the car with the hand brake engaged! The car kept beeping a warning and I just didn't know what was wrong. It took me a good 10 mins parked behind the gas station to figure out what the issue was. I did the same thing to a colleague's car couple of months ago. He just bought a used Nissan Altima and wanted me to drive it from work to home during our lunch break to check his (new) car out. Not being a person who engages the hand brake typically, I just started on my way home with him following close behind in my car. All the while he kept wondering, worried as to why there's so much of smoke coming from the back of his car. I realized my folly just as I entered the driveway. Thankfully my work is just 1.5 miles away so I hoped that the damage done was extremely minimal, if not any.

Few weeks into April, I took yet another rental (which was a super lame Hyundai Accent compared to the Pontiac) and was quite determined to buy a car that weekend one way or the other. I woke up that Saturday morning at about 7 am, and saw the listing for my Mirage posted fresh on craiglist. I immediately rang up the owner and setup an appointment to see the car. Along with a colleague, we checked this car and another car out, and decided to get the Mirage. The guy did sell it to me for a fair price I thought and the car seemed to be in very decent condition. After signing off on the purchase, we set off for FDL - my colleague was driving my rental and I was following him closely behind. We barely passed a green light when my colleague braked because of some commotion in front of him. On impulse, I pressed on the brake medal of my (new) car, only to find that it went all the way down without engaging - "BRAKE FAILURE! SHITTT!!!", I thought. My poor driving skills and lack of better judgement made me swerve to the left lane to avoid ramming into my rental, right into the path of speeding traffic (we're lefties here remember?) Thankfully the driver on that lane was a veteran at avoiding such imbeciles on the road, and braked on time. He cursed (I don't blame him) and went off on his way. I managed to come to a halt the 2nd time I braked in that lane, put my hands up in the air and breathed out deeply - I was pretty shaken. My colleague not realizing what happened continued driving. I caught up with him, got to a deserted parking lot, and then let him drive to check the brakes out. He too found the brakes acting funny but then figured out that it needed 2 kicks to engage. It was very gracious and brave of him to offer to drive my car back to FDL (almost 50 miles away) while I drove my rental. The following Monday I took my car to the mechanic over here and he couldn't find anything wrong with the brakes (how strange is that huh?) TBTG, till date, there's been no repeat of this incident.

Another weird thing that happened to my car was during 'our' 1st trip to Chicago. Some of us were driving back to my friend's place in my car, and after parking we noticed that the right rear tire was flat. It was a Sunday evening and I was supposed to drive back to FDL early Monday morning to work. Being a Sunday, nothing was open for me to get the tire checked out. I left a message for my manager saying that I'd have to WFH because of the situation, and on Monday afternoon during my lunch break, we took the car to a mechanic close by. Few hours later, he gives me the news that nothing is wrong with the damn tire or tube!! He filled it with air, let it stand for a couple of hours and made 2 guys run soap washes over it to find the leak...Zilch! His conclusion: It could have been a prankster at the park we were at on Saturday who could have let the air out! Hmmmmm .. pray tell me why now!? I drove back to FDL that evening, the slowest I've ever driven back home, and the tire was still doing great! It still is to date. Phew!

I've grown with this car. I absolutely love being on the road now (except for that patchy under construction stretch from MKE to Racine en route to CHI - Where's all our tax money going WI?!?!) I'd be lying if I said that I've been a safe driver all this while. I blame my exceeding speed limits on the freeway to having no cruise control in my car hehehe! Just few weeks ago, I almost missed ramming into a car in front of me when I was checking out my right blind spot to change lanes. What scared and later pissed me off was that my friends were with me. I should have been more responsible and not taken any sort of risk or chance, specially not with how traffic congests towards downtown Chicago. That very same night, I got caught on camera breaking a red light! :( I'm yet to receive a notice in my mail (I'm praying that the cops or whoever does the processing takes pity looking at my surprised, innocent face behind the wheel, and not send me the notice...ha! wishful thinking! Hope that cam was a hi-tech one that got my face in the first place, not just my car registration number) If there were a cop physically monitoring that signal and if he had to pull me over, I would have to kiss my license and car good bye with a DUI penalty! I was pretty much in my senses by then but the breath analyzer always knows better..hmmmm... That night was definitely crazy. Before this red light fiasco, I skipped some road tolls yet again (Tolls are the one thing I don't like about CHI - come on, why would you wanna pay to use roads that are jammed with traffic almost all the time totally beats me!) I eventually did pay them off within time. Anyway!!

I know this has been a pretty long read (not sure if you've lasted till this line) but I couldn't stop myself. This is just the start to my adventures on the road with my current car (and the cars to come). My next 3 weekends are super booked - a Bon Jovi concert this weekend, ATV-ing and Dells the following weekend, and the B.E.P concert on Aug 14th! YEAAA BABYYY!! In my mental bucket list, I've made a note to rent (if not buy) a cute convertible, drive around with the top down of course, and listen to some fun music. To hell with all the tangles and tanning!! I'm surely gonna try to get this done by next month (nice way to bring in my 26th year I think!)

If you're not already driving or riding a 2 wheeler, you MUST learn and do so!! OK, I wouldn't recommend Indian roads, simply because I'm such a coward over there in the first place =). Wherever you are, do take the chance to get behind the wheel if ever the opportunity arises. You will so not regret it! :) The rush is simply amazing...

Drive safely peeps!