Thursday, November 29, 2007

Preparing for Winter

The song says "It never rains in Southern California..." and based on the past couple of years, I'd almost believe it. The key word being almost. I've lived here during El Nino years when it rained an inch an hour and was freezing cold to boot. But for the past several years, we've experienced drought.

Last year my car's windshield wipers started to fray. "I should get them replaced." I thought, while doing nothing. Inertia often overtakes me when dealing with matters of car. That's why I've let the very loud rhythmic squeek from the left front of the vehicle go undiagnosed for a long, long time too.

Because there was virtually no need to actually replace the wipers - the only minor drizzle happening in my area overnight - I never got 'round to it. Forgot all about them. And was actually surprised when we had a mild rain a few weeks ago which resulted in the rubber of the blades coming off in strips and the horrific sound of metal scraping against windshield resulting in a coat of greasy mud that only can be because I don't get my car washed regularly and live about 100 feet away from a major freeway.

So I decided at that moment that it was probably time to get the issue addressed, but dawdled for a few more weeks. In that time, there had been several predictions of rain, but none came true. Nothing pressing to get me to build momentum and prepare.

This morning, as I was letting my dogs inside from their morning outing, I surveyed my garden. Roses in bloom, basil blooming too. Lemons - all three of them - starting to ripen on my tree. My spices are growing like crazy and I will need to start using them regularly. I reflected on what I hear from friends living in other parts of the country. About frost and gasp! snow on the ground already. About bundling up and doggie water bowl warmers and tomato season being over. And appreciated what I have by luck of geography. Come January, I will need to cut the roses back to the stem because that's what you do in California to keep them from running wild and also make them healthier the next year. But my plants - save the mint that goes dormant - will continue to grow and thrive all winter long.

As I was thinking these thoughts, it suddenly occured to me that I'm cold. It's not cold by the standards of other parts of the country, but it was in the 60s and that's good enough for me. Yesterday, I actually got to wear one of my hand-knit vests. It's all what you're used to, I guess. Then I looked up at the sky.

GASP! There are CLOUDS up there. We don't get clouds where I live. It gets much colder than downtown Los Angeles in the winter, and is much hotter in the summer. But unless we're having a rainstorm, we never see clouds. We never have fog here either, or frost although we do get occasional winter freezes. And at the moment I surveyed Cosmos's sky behaving in a way that I find unacceptable, I knew... knew beyond all doubt. It was time. I really needed to get my windshield wipers replaced.

I headed over to Reseda Discount Tire where they could give me an oil change as well as address the wiper issue. They were very kind, even though the bathroom was absolutely disgusting with dirt and the waiting area was not much better. They've helped me in the past with rapid tire purchases and replacements, enabling me to not miss my exercise class even though I only discovered the flat as I was about to leave. So I figured I'd ask them about the squeek too,and held my breath imagining what they were going to come back with. $400 repair to fix it? $500? $600? They also announced that they would check my brakes as a courtesy. My inner me screamed "nooooo" because I knew that they were going to find something and my number was going to be up. And 20 minutes later, they called me to the desk.

"The oil is changed." announced Al. "We have also replaced your wiper blades and your air filter. Your brakes are fine." I started to relax, and then he said, "Now, about that squeek."

I tensed, expecting the worst. "It's the central cap." he said.

'Huh? What's a central cap?' I thought, and asked him.

"Your hub cap is loose. Left front tire. You could replace it, but why do it? It's not hurting anything and to get a new one will be a lot of money. Just leave it alone." And because I must have looked absolutely insane with disbelief and relief, he took me to my car and demonstrated.

"Another car repair place might have come up with all sorts of reasons for the squeek and charged you a lot of money for nothing. But we are honest here. We would like you to come back again." And I will. I have made two transactions with them... one for tires and one for basic maintenance. They are in my neighborhood and are very accomodating. And they have done well by me.

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