Saturday, May 05, 2007

The Long and Short of Our Brief Charge of A Road Monolith

Friday was a kind of bizarre day for me. First, I discovered that the license plate, which was supposedly bolted tight, has vanished from its usual spot at the back of our minivan. In all fairness, it just might have dropped off on its own, precipitated by the constant rattling motion transmitted from the wheel in contact with the rough road surface, not to mention going over speed bumps, rendering the fastening loose.

Yu Huei’s friend has a even more bizarre experience. Somebody switched his car’s license plate with a faked one, and he did not even know it until he was pulled over by a traffic cop. And he had to appear in court to vouch that he knew nothing about the “sleight of hand”.

To be on the safe side rather than sorry, I made a police report, no doubt nudged along by the fact (from surfing the Department of Motor Vehicles website) that a replacement decal would cost nothing if it is reported lost with an official police case number.

Since we have been “immobilized” (I don’t think one can drive an automobile without a license plate around town without being noticed, nor it is legally pardonable to do so, notwithstanding that it is lost/stolen. Its absence, I mean the license plate, from the back of an automobile is actually quite conspicuous, come to think of it.

Then I realize that there is such a thing called jurisdiction even in police matters. Not knowing better, Yu Huei first ferried us to the Tampa City Police Department located on the south side of Fowler Ave because that’s the one she remembers around her neighborhood. When the lady officer manning the counter found out that we actually live on the north side of Fowler, she politely steered us to the Hillsborough Sheriff Department whose jurisdiction it is. And she gave us the Sheriff Department number to call.

The lady officer who answered (there must be something about a lady’s voice why invariably it’s the voice of the fairer sex one hears when calling on official matters, the ability to calm a frayed nerve I suppose for who else would have called an emergency number except those whose nerves have been jarred), after taking down my particulars, informed that a deputy would get back to us. It seems that reporting a loss of a license plate can be made through phone. And the deputy called back within half an hour. After verifying my particulars and that I’m the rightful owner of the said vehicle (I have a feeling the various law enforcement and emergency agencies must have shared their respective databases, electronically, for cross-checking), the deputy gave me the case number, his name, and his tag number. That’s it. All in a jiffy. And I don’t even have to be interviewed in person.

That changed our plan to pick up our S from UF at the start of his summer break, which was today. And he had to check out from the dorm, leaving nothing behind. That means some cargo space, which my minivan is eminently suited for. Then its involuntary grounding.

So last night, I spent some time surfing for the cheapest car, or rather minivan, rental rate. We needed it only for the day trip, not willing to spend unnecessary expenses on non-essential items. Enterprise, Avis, Budget, National. Enterprise had its minivan sold out. And National only delivers from the Tampa International Airport (TIA), and Avis’s rate is higher. So Budget it is, a Ford WindStar. For 8am in the morning.

So this morning, we dutifully reported to the Budget rental place near our home, courtesy of Yu Huei again. The lady told me that the minivan was being delivered from their distribution center at downtown (or was it the TIA?) and was on its way. On further interaction, she didn’t seem so sure about the delivery time, which I have reserved, and duly acknowledged, for 8am (our S has to check out at 11am).

She first offered me a replacement, a SUV, seeing my fidgeting in the office, from the ready stock of rented cars in the premises. It’s a Jeep, but the headroom in the cargo compartment (i.e., the back of the car, trunk would be less appropriate as part of it is for seating too, the third row) seems too small to accommodate some furniture pieces, actually only one book shelf with doors and I don’t think it needed to come to the stage of dismantling it into its original components for ease of transport).

So I went back to fidgeting in the reception area. Then her male colleague, who actually wanted to start me on the paperwork while waiting for the promised minivan to arrive, realized that there is a full-size SUV available there and then. It’s a Ford Expedition, a huge road monolith, even taller than our Toyota Sienna. And he offered that to us at the same rate. After judging the headroom (it’s bigger than the Jeep’s) to be adequate, we gladly took charge of it, our decision made easier by the casual remark by the man that the minivan, even after its arrival, might still need to be cleaned, which meant more fidgeting.

The Ford SUV is a very enjoyable drive along the Interstate, with lots of headroom, legroom, elbowroom, buttroom, etc. The only problem seems to be getting into and out of the vehicle because of the height of the seat, and for the fact that we missed the step panel below the doors. Even with the step, one needs to know which leg to put on it first, otherwise the body will be awkwardly launched, for want of a better word, into the vehicle. The same with getting out, the body seems to slide down from the seat, the calf abrading, or is it being abraded by, the step panel.

Anyway, we arrived at Gainesville on time, and the Ford SUV was just big enough for the entire transient possessions of our S as seen from the images below. And S has his first look of his new room, and his reaction would be the fodder for another blog.

This is not the final arrangement as yet, not with the glass bowl unsecured, the bed sheet piled high and blocking the back view, and more stuff to emanate from Our S's dorm room. Trust me, by the time it's done, it's fully packed, nary an unfilled space to spare and with an unobstructed view through the back. Even the center seat on the second row was filled to the brim. Well done, troops! My wife remarked that our stuff is nowhere near that of a girl student, from Lakeland, whose father my wife interacted while he was loading her daughter's stuff on to a minivan.

This is the front of the full-size SUV, which dwarfs our minivan (that was discovered upon our return to our home when parked next to our minivan). Today, being the last day to check out, there was a long line of vehicles parked along the bicycle lane (?) which is usually off-parking. All manners of parents were seen (ourselves included) lugging and lurching their children's prized possessions into the over-matched vehicles. One parent remaked to me, "It had to be a hot day". I responded with two thumbs up, silently saying to myself that beats a rainy day any time.


Kitty Girl said...

Heh, heh OoooOo oh big ol' SUV, eh? Has driving that whetted your taste for a bigger, meaner vehicle? Although with rising gasoline prices, I'm guessing not, lol. Hopefully the matter of the missing license plate will be resolved soon. I think I will try to take more notice of my own plates as well, since I never look at them. Hmm...

Say Lee said...

That thing is a guzzler. It's less than 20 miles/gallon on the highway. I think the gas tank can fill $100/= worth of gas at these gas prices. Definitely not for the faint-hearted like me.

Just sent in the minivan for a service at the dealer. At about 30,000 miles, they recommended power steering fluid flushing, brake replacement, wheel alighment etc. and at the end of that I'm $300/= short. But I did compensate for that by stretching the service interval at 3000 miles to about 4000 miles and close to 5 months.