Category Archives: Transportation

Tales of a DUI: The worst is still to come

If you follow my blog, you know that last month I had three glasses of wine, waited three hours, thought I was ok to drive, drove one block from a parking garage and pulled over realizing I wasn’t ok to drive, and managed to pull over across the street from five cop cars waiting, patiently, to catch anyone leaving the bars that might be remotely intoxicated. I didn’t even get pulled over, the cop knocked on my window after I parked.

You can read my earlier post of the details, but the short of the story is that I made a mistake, and now I have to pay for it. Thank goodness I’m not in debt, that I’m single, and that my financial responsibilities are too myself. Still, the whole procedures of having a giant DUI stamp on your head are, rightfully so, a giant pain. Hopefully you’ll never have to experience this in person, but so far I’ve spent $3,000 on a lawyer, expect to spend $2,000 on a fine, and who knows how much more in car insurance once I’m found guilty or take a plea bargain. Then there’s also the cost of the drunk driving classes, the cost of missing work for court and DMV hearings, and the cost of any interest you need to pay on loans to cover all of those fees.

Beyond the dollars lost, getting a DUI is, I hear, another 10 years of headaches. Again, I take getting a DUI seriously, and have learned my lesson and then some. That doesn’t change how frustrating the whole experience is, once you get in trouble the first time. This is probably true for any criminal occurrences, but I find it odd that you’re arrested, go to jail, let go in a few hours, and then you’re in this waiting period of freedom for a month or more before they have time to hear your case. It wasn’t clear at all how much I should pay for a lawyer, or if a lawyer is really going to make a difference in the result of my case. I was so frustrated by the situation that I didn’t want to “shop around” or negotiate like I normally would. One of my friends had a DUI a few years ago, so I asked her what to do, she recommended this lawyer, and I just said OK. I was incredibly ashamed and embarrassed and didn’t want to think about it or talk about it any more than necessary.

After getting a DUI, you have 10 days to request a temporary license from the DMV (at least in California.) Then you have another DMV meeting about a month after that. There’s another hearing, in court, to set the date of your pre-trial arraignment. Apparently the first DMV hearing can be attended by your lawyer, and you don’t have to be there. Same thing goes for the first court hearing. Then you don’t have to go to the second DMV hearing, but you can, and it may help. And you’re required to go to the pre-trial arraignment in court. After that, I think how it works is that you can take a plea bargain. I assume this will come with the big fine, requirement to attend what I like to call “I’m a dumbass” courses, weekender work (free orange vests and sun!), and likely a license suspension for a month plus five months of a limited license that lets me drive only to work and back. Plus, for 10 years I have this on my record, which really isn’t too bad unless you get a second DUI (which I won’t), but it apparently means you can’t travel to Canada and if you ever apply for a job that asks if you have a record, you have to put this on your application, which will probably hold you back from some opportunities. For 10 years. Until I’m 37, I’m fucked.

That is, unless my lawyer can somehow prove that I was unlawfully arrested. There’s a small possibility there — I wasn’t pulled over — the only reason the cop bothered me at all is because someone apparently called 911 on a car leaving the parking garage around the same time I left. I don’t know what detail they have on the car leaving the garage, but from what I overheard while at the jail, the report said the car was a different make and model than the one I drive. As I was parked at the time when the cop walked up to my car, knocked on my door, which I then opened, and he asked me to step out of the car, and things went downhill from there.

There definitely are some laws (albeit minimal ones) to protect people from being unlawfully arrested. I’m not sure exactly what happens if they prove you were breaking the law after you were arrested — the fact of the matter is that I had .11 BAC and I shouldn’t have left the parking garage to begin with. A huge part of me wanted to just plead guilty, but the way the law works you are screwed if you do that, and you’re much better off trying to fight it, even if that means you end up with a plea bargain for wet reckless or a slightly smaller fine. I hate that I can’t just own up to my error and call it a day. Instead, this is a nightmare. And a month after I was arrested, the nightmare is only beginning.

When to Buy a New Car?

I’ll never claim to be a frugal person, but in regards to large purchases, that’s where my frugality shines. And by shines, I mean “has scratches.” My Toyota Solara (1999), which I purchased used off of a man selling it on Craigslist in 2005 with 130k miles on it for $7,000, is showing signs of “time to get rid of me.” I’m trying to figure out exactly when I do get rid of her… which, if it’s up to me, will be the day she stops running and no one can fix her for less than 1/2 her current value.

What’s wrong with her? Let me count the ways.

– front bumper on left side is ripped off (from “no fault” accident (it was his fault))
– air conditioning is broken
– left window won’t ¬†open
– radio is broken
– back tires need to be replaced

She has 190k miles on her, which for a Toyota might not be a death sentence yet, but still influences my decision whether or not to fix her up or sell her for pennies on the dollar, and buy a new (used) car.

This is the first car I’ve ever owned, so I’m unsure when I should make the plunge and start shopping for a new car. In theory, I’ve been able to save $3k per month so buying a new (used) car that is similar in quality and value to my current car (when I bought it) would only eat up 2.5 months of savings. Then again, maybe I’d want to buy a slightly nicer car. I really want a (used) Prius. What do you think?

Her Middle Class Ass Flying First Class

On my return flight from a recent business trip, a series of events and my “elite” status, for the first time ever, upgraded me to a seat in first class. I was overcome with excitement, as I’d never pay extra for first class even if I had the money, but it was nice to receive the benefits of being a loyalist of the airline I fly all the time.

When my name was called to the desk a few minutes before boarding, I was concerned I was going to be bumped off the flight. Instead, I was handed a new boarding pass — seat 2B.

For a minute, I thought I just got moved. But then it hit me… 2 meant 2nd row, and 2nd row meant first class.

In the brief minutes before boarding, I daydreamed about what it would be like in first class… after all, flying coach hundreds of times, I always assumed first class was an incredible experience worth the extra cost. Weren’t the seats going to be so posh? Was there going to be special entertainment? Would the bathroom be large enough to turn around in and not smell so darned disgusting?

Then, I looked down at my clothes and realized that it was very clear that I was an “upgrader,” a middle class gal flying first class due to my elite mileage status (thanks to so much work travel.) I started to get a bit nervous… more about all those people sitting in economy who would be walking past the first class seats, as I normally did, glancing over the first classers and wondering who these people are and why they are willing to spend so much on a flight from point A to B. I was going to be one of those people.

As a first classer, I boarded early and sat in my seat. It was definitely more cushy and roomier than an economy seat, but I still couldn’t find a comfortable way to sit in the chair. Shortly after boarding the flight attendant took our drink orders for before the flight took off. Apparently, booze is free in first class. I ordered a bloody mary to calm my nerves, and because the man across the aisle also ordered a bloody mary and I wanted to fit in. One thing that hadn’t changed was how the flight attendant came by about two minutes later forcibly collecting the drinks, even if you weren’t finished. I drink slow, so I hid mine and she didn’t bother me.

After takeoff, another drink was offered. Another bloody mary. What the hell, I’m in first class.

The back-of-the-seat televisions were identical to those in economy (on this airline) but I didn’t have to pay $6 extra to watch for the entire flight. Score. I watched American Idol. A very middle class thing to do in first class, but I didn’t care. Others seemed to be watching business news or sports.

I had stuffed myself on airport food before boarding the plane, as I wasn’t aware I was to be upgraded to the fine dining portion of the plane. The only option left, when they got to my seat, was prime rib, or something like that, which sounded fancy but wasn’t something I eat. I had some chicken soup that was very good and some more alcohol. They poured wine for everyone with dinner. I wasn’t about to refuse. That wouldn’t be very posh of me, now would it?

The biggest disappointment, I must say, was the first class bathroom. It was identical to the bathroom in economy, except, of course, less people were using it. But I really wanted it to be some other color at least, something exciting and fancy. It wasn’t.

When I landed, I returned to my regular middle class regime. I certainly didn’t mind flying first class for once in my life, and if I get that “upgrade” call again, I’ll be fast to accept the offer.

170k Miles and 4 Years of Used Car Ownership

In 2006, I bought my first car. While my parents, at the time, had a new car-only buying policy, my financial situation led me straight to the used car salesman. The purchase would be the largest buy I had made in my life, and every second of the process I was nervous and unsure of myself. All I knew was that I wanted to buy a used car, that I wanted to buy a “good” used car, and that I didn’t want to spend more than… $8,000 on my car. Though less would be better.

I spent a lot of time at used car dealerships. I almost bought a lot of cars that I’m glad I didn’t end up with. Certified used vehicles are the biggest waste of my money in my (current) opinion, but maybe that opinion will change after I buy a dud one day. My trip to the Chevrolet store had me sitting in a certified car that I thought I wanted. It was way more than $8k, but it was only one year old… a rental that was ready to be sold. It was shiny and new-ish. It was a red Chevy Aveo. I didn’t really love driving it, but at 22 and getting ready to buy my first car, I figured I’d grow into it. I was literally sitting down at the bargaining table when I started to negotiate terms, and I realized this car was just going to cost me more than I was comfortable spending. I wanted to pay for my car outright, and that wouldn’t be possible with this car (unfortunately I can’t remember its price tag, but I think it was around $13k). I’m very glad I walked out of the dealership that day.

Later in my search, I drove a used Saab that I fell in love with, despite the whole hatchback style not being me at all. I really fell in love with the idea of owning a “luxury” car when the pricetag was comparable to the crappy Aveo I almost bought. In fact, I think the Saab I was looking at was around $9k. But then I read up on Saabs and discovered that despite their top-notch performance in crashes, the cost to repair the beast would be ridiculous. I moved on to the Toyota dealership, when I knew I was closer to what I’d ultimately buy.

At Toyota the certified cars were expensive. I test drove one that was sporty and too low to the ground. Apparently I need a car that’s slightly higher up to feel safe. I test drove a Camry and really liked it but due to the price tag it was a no go. I started to consider if I should buy a more expensive car and just pay per month like most people do. That’s when I turned to Craigslist.

More nervous then ever, I scoured the Craigslist postings for a Honda or Toyota in my price range. I’m not sure when I first saw the older Toyota Solara model, but I fell in love with its sleek design minus the huge pricetag. I never thought I’d buy a two-door car, but I realized that I didn’t know anyone in the area, and chances were I’d basically be schlepping myself around with maybe one other passenger. Four doors just weren’t necessary.

The Solara I found for sale was around $7k. It was a 1999, which seemed old but not necessarily too old… (it was 2005 at the time, so it was 6 years old). The almost dealbreaker was the mileage on the car… 130k miles. Now, maybe it was a mistake to buy the car with that many miles, but I haven’t had any issues yet. The most important thing to me was figuring out WHY the seller was trying to get rid of the car. He had a reasonable story — he had a baby, he loved the car (which was always owned by his family) but needed a four door and planned to buy the four door Camry version of the model.

He agreed to get the car inspected so I brought the car to a guy who was supposedly a Toyota specialist and paid $100 or something to get the car checked out. The guy ran through a few small problems with the car but told me it was in really good operating order for so many miles and the year it was sold. And I was sold. I needed a car and I was tired of looking. I paid $7,000 via check and watched the money wipe from my bank account. But it wasn’t that scary, I still had some savings left, and I really was excited to buy my first car.

Since then, my car has been running fine. Knock on wood. 2006 – 2010 makes my car at least a four year purchase, or about $2,000 per year plus gas and insurance. I’ve had to replace the breaks and tires, but otherwise it’s doing ok.

I’m glad I didn’t spend money on a new or newer car… being as this is my first car, I’ve dinged it up a bit, mostly driving into inanimate objects. I wish I hadn’t, but I’m a better driver now and know how to avoid most scratches (at least ones I cause) if I get a nicer car down the road. I love my car for its sunroof, it’s design, it’s cost (even though I could have gone cheaper.) I love my car for keeping me safe during one accident and somehow not even getting too much damage from it (I didn’t hit anything, I just had a really bad day and was exhausted and spun off the road into a ditch by accident.)

My car now has over 170k miles on it, so I’ve put on about 10k miles per year. I’m not sure if that’s considered a lot. I don’t drive much but I generally take one or two longer road trips per year (longer being like 5-6 hour drives) so that’s adding up and undoubtedly wearing on my car. Since my boyfriend drives a really old clunker which can’t accelerate well, we always take my car. I wish he had a better car so we could trade off car-driving duties, but at least when I use my car I can drive… I doubt he’d let me drive his car if he had one he liked!

Now I’m wondering how long my car will really last me. I’d like it to last to 200k miles, which would be 3 more years, I guess. I don’t know how I could sell the beast, it’s too dinged up to be worth much now, unfortunately. So I plan to run it into the ground, figuratively speaking. I’d love my next car to be a Prius but those things are damned expensive, even used. Heck, I may buy another Solara (though a newer model) because I’ve been happy with Toyota quality and my car. It’s not fancy, it’s not a show car, it’s just a car that’s a little nice to get me where I need to go.

How much did you spend on your current car? How long do you expect it to last you?

Cars are EXPENSIVE

Finally brought my car in to get checked out today. That’s after getting into an accident (a spin-out, I didn’t hit anyone, but figured I should ask a professional why my car has been shaking a bit since) and hitting a deer (broken headlight. would thank the deer for the car alteration, but he’s dead.)

Anyway… it turns out that my car needs about $1500 in repairs. Yikes. This is my first car and I’m not sure what to do about it. At first the mechanic told me that it would be $3000 in repairs and I kind of freaked. But then he figured out the timing belt actually was changed at 108k before I bought the car (some sticker was missing or something) so somehow that made the $1500 repairs seem “cheap.”

Today I got my front breaks fixed. That, including the inspection and an oil change, cost me $598. I still have to get my smog checked and pay my registration fee and insurance. I think that was due 15 days ago. Oops. Should send that check in soon. Late fees love me. Or maybe I secretly deep down love late fees. (No, I don’t think so.)

I can’t believe how much money I’ve been spending lately. — I don’t want to even think about how my mutual fund and Roth IRA are doing right now. Don’t get me wrong, I check every day, and I’m down about $600 (EEK) but I’m trying to sit tight and tell myself if the markets can be this shitty they can also be the opposite. I’m hoping that’s true. Still trying to figure out this whole deal with the subprime mortgage lending stuff that screws over the stock market. Have been reading a bit about it but I’m still a bit confused. I’ll figure it out eventually.

Sitting on the floor of a parking garage; goodbye $165

I have a brilliant talent for making my life miserable. I decided to drive into the city today and park in my free spot by the office, which was a good 30 minute walk from the conference I was attending downtown. That all went fine, and despite being upset about my loafers not being the most comfortable walking shoes, I felt proud of saving the few extra bucks it would have cost to take the train or park closer.

Then what do I do? I manage to lose my car key. Yes, somehow during the course of the day my key fell off of the key chain and well, long story short, I do not have a car key.

There goes $165 (or more) plus three hours of my life that i’ll never get back.

I can deal with the wasted hours. But the $165? So much for my payraise.