Sunday, January 23, 2011

No Alternative But an Alternator

At first, I thought it was just the battery. A week ago, when this cold snap on the northeast began, all six cells were low, with ice crystals in half of them. It shouldn't have happened since I'd just gotten the battery at Wal-Mart (I know, I know, but I've been on a low budget for two years now) last summer.

So I filled up the cells with warm water, got a jump start from a neighbor and I was golden... for about three or four days.

Until today, I needed a jump start from one person or another and very quickly my neighbors started getting tired of my asking them for jumps or to move their cars so the guy jumping me could park alongside me. At 11:30 last night, a 5 degree night, I had a friend come by after work to jump me. That worked last night and by this morning the battery was again deader than Ronald Reagan's political career.

I brought him back today, he got it started again and he told me about a local mechanic who is actually open on Sundays. I took the car to him, he hooked it up to a diagnostic machine and it proved that the alternator, not the battery, was at fault. I told him to change it out, knowing it would be over well over $200. Right now, the car's running better than ever and the battery's holding a charge.

It was over $275. Now I won't come close to making the rent on the 1st or most of my bills. So why did I have this done?

Well, just on general principle, everyone ought to have a car. We scrimped, saved and battled to buy ours, to get it on the road and keep it on the road. But there was another, more specific and urgent motivation for authorizing this work to be done.

Since the week before last, I've had three phone screenings with a company that for now shall remain nameless but they're in northwestern MA. They're looking for a quality assurance guy and they responded to my resume. Then they called back the next day and, after that screening, they said they might or might not be in touch within 20 days to set up an interview.

About four or five days later, the HR Director called me up and scheduled an interview to talk to their most senior Quality Assurance people on Tuesday afternoon. You see where I'm going with this, right?

My interview's in a day and a half and this company seems to treat its employees as well as they treat their customers. Optional pension and non-matching 401(k) plan, 11 paid holidays, two weeks paid vacation, 5% bonus based on your annual income, free health and dental insurance (making me responsible for just the co-pays) and a starting wage that's far more than anything I've ever made.

It's a ways out and it would be 3rd shift (they call it "7th shift") but it's an opportunity I simply cannot afford to turn down and I need to get to this place the day after tomorrow (in fact, until the battery started fucking up, I've been meaning to make a dry run to this place so I'd know the way better on the actual day of my interview).

But paying this garage nearly $300 when my bills are due in a week put us so far behind I'm too scared shitless to even look at my bank balance online.

It was a crappy decision I was forced to make and the alternative would've been unthinkable. I simply would not have been able to turn the car over again once I'd turned it off.

I don't want to jinx myself but I think I have a better than decent chance of getting this job. They seem high enough on me thus far to call me 15-16 days earlier than expected to line up an interview with their top QC people and at least one of their executives. If I get the job, we'll be golden and I'll never have to make another public appeal for money ever again.

Yeah, I know, I've told the same story before. "I got a great job lined up and I need help just this one more time." But none of those companies (some of them were temp agencies) have showed the level of enthusiasm this one has. These guys, a 100+ year-old company, are Old School and seem to take care of their people the way companies used to before the shit hit the fan.

I didn't ask for this to happen to us and I was forced to make an unpalatable decision, the lesser of two evils. It wasn't as if I blew what little money we had on coke and hookers. I need to get to this interview. Even Job finally got a break and I think this is mine.

I need about $300 to barely stay solvent and now that I've provided myself with the means to drive to northwestern MA to get to this job interview, we need a bit of a cushion until I get hired to pay for the alternator work. Anything you can kick in will be deeply, greatly and incredibly appreciated and, whether I get this job or not, this will be the absolutely last public appeal I'll ever make. I know a lot of you are also hurting and those aren't the people to whom I'm appealing. But I am appealing to those of you who are a little luckier than most.

It's a miracle, perhaps a miracle of friendship and spirit of giving and an unshakable belief in the efficacy of random acts of kindness that's the reason we still do not owe anyone. But we have an $84 gas heating bill that's due in days, $650 in rent that's due in a week plus other bills and little food in the house. That's a lot of expenses for a household that's bringing in just $272 a week. Plus, there are no shelters in the area to which we can go even if we do get evicted and no place to store our belongings.

What donations you can voluntarily continue to make will of course be, as always, personally appreciated. Yet, come what may, this will be the last public appeal I'll ever make for help. So whatever you can do will make a difference, trust us. I really am working my ass off toward self-sufficiency even to the point of interviewing for a job 40 minutes away and for third shift. Thank you in advance.

In fact, I'll do this: As a token of my appreciation, if you can help us out to any degree, I'll offer to send you a file attachment containing either the full manuscript versions of either my comedy/drama American Zen or my new hostage negotiation thriller, The Toy Cop.


At January 23, 2011 at 5:08 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'll kept my fingers crossed that you get the job.

At January 23, 2011 at 10:33 PM, Blogger sixdollarman said...

Many of us are just a downsize or outsource away from being in the same boat, and angry as hell about being bled dry by the New American Corporatocracy. I'm a semi-regular visitor of WBTP, and while I don't agree in every case with your conclusions, I appreciate and enjoy your writing and no-punches-pulled style.

Personally? While by no means "well-to-do," I am happy to have experienced a (recent) run of (mildly) good fortune. Call it kharma, juju, serendipity, whatever... it's about time some of us regular folk get a lucky break!

I can help you get part of the way there; see PayPal.

Best of luck with your job prospects!


At January 25, 2011 at 12:04 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

If you replace the alternator, replace that old battery. They will both last longer.
Just the fact that you have a battery to which "water" can be added means it's way, way too old.
Sure, the battery seems to be "holding a charge", but it's probably killing the alternator to keep it charged.

At January 25, 2011 at 12:06 PM, Blogger jurassicpork said...

Thanks for the advice and you make a good point. For now, though, the battery starts up even in the coldest weather and it is just 5-6 months old. But thanks. I'll make sure to keep an eye on it.


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