Monday, January 30, 2017
When the Bear Eats You...
…there are days like that, and today was one of them. So I'm driving to meet Mark Passamaneck for lunch, then we're headed over to the big, spectacular Liberty Firearms Institute to talk about filming my last 2017 season SHOOTING GALLERY episode on pistol caliber carbines there. I am driving my 2015 Mini Cooper, a car I more or less like and that I bought new. I make a left turn at a light…not a screaming, crazed sliding turn, but a slow, as in "I'm in traffic," turn. As I turn the corner, whammo blammo, 4 lug nuts on the right front wheel SHEER OFF (I heard them let go), leaving the wheel hanging on on a single lug nut that partially pulled out.
Think on that…4 lug nuts sheer off…WTF?
I pull to a stop and block the lane, luckily not a bust street, and get out to see what's happened. I see that I am screwed, call Mini Roadside Service and Mark P., then have a seat and wait. Here's my punch line on this…same thing happened last year, except that it was only a couple of the lug nuts that sheered, and the vibration damaged the front end. When I took it into Mini of Loveland for service, I was told that the right front tire had been "miss-installed," so the vaunted Mini warranty didn't apply…natch. So I assumed I had some massive brain fade when I put on the snow tires, ponied up the $800 and resolved to pay more attention changing tires. I put on the snows in December, and I was METICULOUS in checking the tires, especially the right front.
So my Mini gets hauled to the dealer, where I'm informed there's a recall on my car, and they may well have to replace the engine…think on that…replace the engine…and it may take awhile.
Super. At least that's covered under the warranty, along with any damage I might incur while having sex with a buffalo while in the car...
Let's talk about Minis. My Sweetie got her Mini the first year, and it has been a wonderful car. Still runs like a scalded dog, handles like a go-kart and has been amazingly maintenance-free. The dealership that delivered her Mini, Ralph Schomp Mini in Denver, were great over the years, everything you might want a car dealership to be. Since I had a work truck — my aging Honda Element, as close to a bulletproof car as I've ever owned (Honda discontinued it, or I'd have bought another one in a heartbeat) — my Sweetie said, "Buy a Mini of your own."
So I did.
The Mini hasn't aged well. What started out as a quirky, minimalist box-rocket has become a real car, bigger, bulked up, less zippy…but, in fact, still better than most of the options. And let's face it, I'm not really a car guy. I pretty much drive 25,000 miles a year to and from the airport, appreciate a decent sound system and prefer manual transmissions. That's kinda it.
From the beginning of my fizzled love affair with my Mini, it was a bundle of not-particularly-attractive quirks. It is, in fact, an annoying car. It's electronics appear designed by Apple, that is to say, by people who have never actually seen a car and only have the vaguest idea of what a car might be used for. I have studied the controls for heat/cold…they still make no sense…"Auto" isn't auto, "manual" isn't exactly manual; thankfully, the seat heaters work. The turn signals, well, suffice to say they work…sorta. Like many of the other dubious "features" in the car, the concept of "intuitive," like, say, something that might need to be operated in a steel and plastic box hurtling down the highway, seems to have been dismissed. Plus, the electronics don't necessarily work all the time; perhaps they're operating on a shortened British work week, like my old MG's hydraulic system. Switches might turn something on or off, usually exactly the opposite you might expect.
The only electronic feature that I would class as 100% is a bizarre ring of colored lights around the speedometer. The lights flash in rhythm to…something…perhaps Kanye West's blood pressure, or the phase of the moon. I am told that, was I younger, I could be taught to program the lights, personalize them, perhaps to pulse to the soundtrack of "Saturday Night Fever" or Madonna's monthly outrage cycles. I do wonder why the only thing that works 100% is a feature designed to distract the driver! Maybe in the next model year Mini can arrange a cleverly placed, brightly colored squirt gun to blast confetti into the driver's eyes when the speed hits, say, 70. Cheeky!
I won't go into the dealership…yet. My favorite visit was when some brain-dead snowflake who worked there yelled at me about how good their customer service was. Hmmmmmmm. I haven't seen her in a while, Maybe she's stuffed into a trunk on the lot.
Oddly enough, for all the irritation, I still like driving it. I rent lots and lots of cars, and I
'd have to say that most of them suck worse than the Mini. It's pretty good in the snow, and I've trained it to get to the airport virtually by itself. God knows how much it's going to cost me to get it out of hock…no doubt the dealership will find that because I used oatmeal instead of real lug nuts, it's all on me.