Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Long post, mostly complaining: enjoy!

Problems with the "new" car

Well, that didn't last long. My partners and I were given a shiny new Ford Crown Victoria two weeks ago. It was pristine by the standards of our cab company -- new paint, no dings, scratches, or dents, a clean interior, and everything worked. It even has cruise control, which is rare (most of our cabs are police interceptors which tend to lack cruise).

Two weeks into the new car, two of the windows have malfunctioned. The driver side window is one of the dead ones, and it jiggles down as I drive, which causes a 1-inch gap of loud air to jetstream directly into my left ear. I had to manually pull it up and tape it into place. That's a nice touch, letting customers see that your taxi is literally taped together. Besides the two dead windows, one of the switches for the remaining good windows stopped working. I can control it, but customers can't. I get to apologize and explain the window situation at least three times each day.

And there's more: I found the car two quarts down on oil one morning. It had been a busy morning shift for one of my partners, but still, we were hoping for a car that doesn't drink oil as bad as the old Falcon did. This one is much better, but 2qts in 200 miles is not a good sign.

The transmission is nearing the end of its life. It shudders violently up hills, and makes numerous (and unnecessary) up and down shifts. When the Falcon's tranny exhibited the same problems, it was six months before it grinded to a halt.

And the dash lights don't work. I can see the dim outline of the needle on the speedo, but can't read any of the numbers. From driving in daylight I know what my speed is based on the angle of the needle, but it's kind of a hassle. Straight up is 65, the freeway speed limit. The temp and oil pressure gauges are in total darkness. More than once I saved the Falcon's engine by watching those gauges move. The engine in the new car will blow if I lose a water pump at night.

The car looks good and rides well, but for the first time in its 12-year, 200k mile life, it is being driven at least 1200 miles per week. I'm afraid it's going to be all down hill from here.

HQ has been notified of most of the problems, and we're patiently waiting a call back to get some of them (or all, one can hope) fixed.

Problems with my Sprint internet service

I'm about to cancel my Sprint cellular (EVDO) internet account. It will cost me $150 to kill the contract before it expires, but it's almost worth it. Part of the reason is I can't use the computer in the car any longer, and that was the motivation to get the service in the first place. My new taxi has a split bench seat, which is not conducive to mounting a laptop. Also, the cab company owner expressed a desire that no permanent mount be made. He's a Luddite, pure and simple. I have so many tools that make the service better for customers, it's absurd: mapping software with GPS, internet for finding things, etc. When our drivers can't find places, they call me on the radio so I can look it up for them. Somehow that's not a good thing, according to the company owner.

Also, I've been having technical problems with the internet connection. It disconnects frequently, and there's no great way to reset it. If I click "disconnect", it hangs permanently and I have to reboot not only to reconnect, but to kill the connection management application. That's completely unacceptable in 2007. The internet has been around since 1969, and the web since 1993 or so. This stuff should be figured out by now, even with relatively new cellular connections.

Also, since I updated to the Rev. A system (broadband speed) modem, I've been trying to update the software and firmware. There's an Update Software section in the Sprint connection software, and I've tried updating several times. It tells me there's a new version available, and then spends 10 minutes downloading, and just when it's almost complete, it hangs forever. I went to the site of the modem manufacturer and found a link to download the same update. Sure enough, that link doesn't work, either. I think that's called "a confederacy of dunces".

Tonight, for the first time, I was able to successfully download the update from Sprint. After the download, I told it to install, and while it was "updating hardware", it hung for one hour, 35 minutes. I couldn't get online at all. It was an ungodly hassle to fix it. Hunter S. Thompson might have called it a "colossal fuckaround". I spent at least two hours trying to get back online, cursing like a drunken sailor the entire time. In the end I had to use Vista's rollback feature. That works great, if little else from Microsoft does. I finally got everything updated and it's finally working now. We shall see if the hanging problem is fixed. Those sons of bitches.

After all this nonsense, for the not-cheap price of $60/mo, I'm about ready to quit. I might go back to cable and WiFi. That's only about $35/mo, and it always works. And it's fast.

Even some problems with an anonymous bastard at the library

With no laptop in the car, I've been reading novels to pass the down time. I'm still moving through Griffin's Brotherhood of War series. It's about seven books long, and I have been trying to get book 4 from the library for a few weeks now. It's a pain to interrupt a series to wait for somebody else to return a book. There's only one set at the library in my taxi zone, and I've determined that one other person is moving through the same series, one book ahead of me, at a slower pace.

So I'm trying to turn the tables on him (I'm assuming it's a man who is reading a war series). I checked out the next book, the one after the one I need. He'll need that one next. I'm going to hang onto it and make him wait for it. Meanwhile he'll return the book I need, and I'm going to read it and the one I'm hanging onto. I'll pay any late fines just to show the bastard. I'm going to beat this guy, whatever it takes. The ne'er do well can wait for me for a change. I might even leave a note in his next book to taunt him. (Can you tell I've put too much thought into this?)


Paradise Driver said...

RE: Window controls.

Someone has let moisture drip onto the door panel. Those switches should be hermetically sealed but they aren't and they short out very easily. On my second cab, a Merc Gran Marquis, I couldn't control any windows and the passenger lockout switch had also failed, so the passengers couldn't control from their end either.

The nice thing about ex-interceptors and the Heavy Duty Industrial (HDI) [what is used in NYC for cabs] is that they have heavy duty everything.

Ted Martin said...

Good point about the interceptors. My last one was an interceptor, and other than failed motors, I didn't have failures (no switch failures).

We actually farm out our motor failures. It costs $100 each ($60 for the part, and $40 for labor). Electric motors are very simple to rebuild, so I've been thinking about learning how to do it. I'll bet I could do one in a half hour or less, and I'd charge the cab company $50. We lose at least two per week.

june in florida said...

Sometimes the motors just jam up. My solution after a tip from a mechanic was to hit the inside door panel hard about the area of the motor while your pushing the switch. If that doesn't work give it to the mechanic.Enjoy your blog very much.

matt said...

The Griffin series kicks ass. But I think tends to slow down over the series, still worth reading though.

Ted Martin said...

Thanks, June. I appreciate hearing from you.

Matt -- have you tried the other Griffin books? The ones about the cops and the intelligence service? I'm going to try those after I finish Brotherhood of War. I actually started the police series, but I'm putting it down for awhile, now that I've defeated the other guy who's reading them.