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The Altima, Part Five: Rock Bottom

October 24, 2011 Leave a comment

After the excitement of Turning Stone  died down, it was time to go to my last two weeks or so of work and go back to school for one last semester. Like before this meant two “solid” weeks of 30 hours over  14 days. Starting on the slide downhill, I was already broke and had to make an agreement with my off-campus landlord to pay as I could to finish my semester’s rent. I did my paperwork to transfer back to working at the Lowe’s in NY again and got ready to head out.

As they had been during the whole Turning Stone trip, the brakes were squeaking, although they were now grinding a bit too. I got to my new place which wasn’t too bad, and got my schedule which was pretty easy, considering I was only taking two classes. I was still broke, so my grocery budget was next to nothing. Conveniently, the $220.00 check i had waited for from my last week of work up home showed up as all of 88 cents, since the HR department fucked me (again) and transferred my paperwork without including my last pay period. I had almost nothing, since my bank account was basically empty and I didn’t start at the Oneonta Lowe’s for another week or so. Paying my bills became almost impossible, as my savings account was closed down, and my checking was reduced to 96 cents after paying my September bill. As I started work, I finally started getting a bit of money as I had guaranteed hours, even if it was only 20 a week. Their HR was able to unfuck my situation and after 5 weeks, I finally saw my last check from NH. On the 25 mile trip each way to work, I noticed that the grinding in the brakes was really starting to pick up. A friend of mine, Steve, who had graduated the previous summer, had moved back with his girlfriend who lived only a mile up the road. He offered to do the brakes once I was able to get the money together. At this point I was barely able to afford the gas to get to work each week, and my food budget was just under 4o dollars for the entire month, since I was no longer on the Delhi school meal plan.

About a week or so into October, the vehicle finally decided it had enough, as the grinding was about as loud as it could get, and as I pulled out of the driveway onto NY Route 10, I hit the brakes, only to have them go right to the floor. I pulled the e-brake in time and kept on my way to work. Over the next few days, I noticed that every time I came to a stop, the right front wheel would have smoke coming out of it. I finished up work for the week, (I had just worked out a schedule that day to work on some free time i had to bring me close to 40 hours per week) got paid for that Friday, picked up some brake pads at Advance Auto (as we figured this to be the problem), and pulled up the Altima into the yard to do the brakes. On first note, I had done my tires the previous winter, and having no torque wrench, I tightened the lugnuts to “my specifications”. This proved to be an issue while taking the tires off, as we could not loosen the lugnuts. Using a pipe for a breaker bar proved to be useless, as we then proceeded to break off 6 of the 8 studs on the wheels. After finally getting the wheels off, we discovered the root of the problem.

After pulling off the right tire, we saw instantly that one of the brake pads had been reduced to nothing but the metal heat shield on the back, and the cause of the brakes hitting the floor was the other pad, which had broken off and was lodged between the rotor and the metal plate behind it. The grinding noise was the brake cylinder dropping into the rotor and grinding every time the wheel spun around. Two hours and $130 later (of which Steve paid [loaned] about half), we were no further and couldn’t get any parts until the next day. Over the rest of the weekend the slide to rock bottom continued as we could get no further and the vehicle was now unmovable. I had no money to tow the vehicle, and my last resort was to take the bus from campus down to the school auto garage where they agreed to take care of the issues. My dad was nice enough to loan the money to have the only car dealership in town tow the car and I would cover the repair expenses. Over the course of this, the week I was supposed to start getting almost 40 hours, I was forced to call out for a week straight, meaning an entire week of no income. After almost a week in the school garage, I was able to finally get the car back. Lucky for me, this entire time I had been somehow been able to go the entire semester without paying a single dollar for a single beer I drank or any weed that I smoked. Work got back to normal, although for a couple days, I was back down to my last dollar to get home on gas.

A few weeks later, thinking I had climbed out of the hole, I fell right back in. Now living on about $30 a month for food expenses, I would take my dinner to work some nights  including Tuesday and Thursdays which immediately followed the day’s lone class ending at 5:30 (leaving my half hour trip to my work shift which started at 6). Trying to save myself all of 20 seconds on break, I took off all the wrapping off my Ramen Noodles and threw it away. (backstory: from dropping my keys so many times, the already thin top portion of the key broke off, forcing me to carry the single key everywhere I went) Work went as scheduled and as the unload team worked straight through until 10pm, I was usually one of the last 10 or so people to leave every night. This was fine until I reached in my pocket for my key, which of course wasn’t there. This led to searching the front entrance trashcan (where the Ramen Noodle garbage was, no dice) and then a 20 minute climb into the compactor (the sign next to it says not to even climb in the tunnel where you throw your trash, I was jumping around the inside of the compactor itself). I was dead certain I found the bag where the Ramen Noodles were, although I couldnt find the key anywhere. The lone head cashier was nice enough to drive me all the way back, as it was less than 10 minutes out of her way. I was fucked again, as since I only brought the single key, the rest of my keys and the electric lock button were locked inside my car. Once again, I had no way of getting to and from work.

[Rock Bottom]I took the bus the next day from Delhi to the Oneonta station, after notifying my professor of my situation to which I wasn’t going to be able to attend his class and then walked the last 3.75 miles to work for the night. Despite not having any way of  getting home, I still worked thinking I’d find a way home. Apparently, I misunderstood the head cashier when she said she had something going on that night, as I waited until almost everbody had left to find this out. I then looked up the only two taxi companies I could find in Oneonta, and the only one who would even offer to drop me off somewhere in Delhi wanted close to 40 bucks. There was no way I could afford this. So at roughly 1030 pm, I set out hitchhiking in the last week of October on one of the steepest roads in Delaware/Otsego County, NY. With only a backpack and a 99 cent iced tea from the store up the road, it was gonna be rough. Somewhere around 1130, I made it to the other side of the city to start my climb up Route 28 south to Delhi, only a 20 or so mile trek in the dead of night. Every mile or so, I kept hoping somebody would see me and pick me up, as 90% of the traffic on 28 goes to Delhi or further west. About 40 percent of the way to the top, the stomach pains from not eating that night got me, and with no other options I ended up taking a shit in someone’s yard, having to duck down every time a car came up or down the road. Eventually somewhere around 1:30am, just as I’m nearing the top of the hill, some dude pulls over and drives me the last 15 miles or so back out to where I live.

The next day, Wednesday, Steve’s girlfriend agrees to loan me the 50 bucks i need to unlock the car, while I still have to wait until Friday to get paid and buy the new key ($120, as quoted by the Nissan Dealership). That day, I get a blessing, as i get a $140 refund check from the state as my fall loan was over the amount that I needed. Still with no car, and unwilling to hitchhike again, I call in that night. The next day, I get a ride to work courtesy of Steve’s girlfriend and the guy unlocks my car. I work my shift, wait for almost everyone to leave, then head out to my car as if I’m leaving. I make sure no one is looking, I pop the trunk, and then climb in and through to my backseat. There were still a handful of managers working, and I had to wait for them all to leave to be able to sleep without being seen. After a 35 minute or so wait, it was silent and I crawled into the backseat for the night.

The next morning, I woke to the sound of noises in the parking lot. I open my eyes to see that several of the morning shift employees have already arrived. It’s 5am on the dot. Not wanting to be spotted, I throw my shoes on and start my trek to the dealership. Had this been spring 2009, the dealership would have still been just across the street, making this as simple as pushing the car over there. I was now left with an 8 mile round trip there and back to the bus station as I would have to wait at least a day for the key to be made and delivered. I made it to McDonalds somewhere around 615, as I could at least afford to eat breakfast. Every rumor I’ve heard about old people as true, as there were about 15 of them in there, all wide awake, drinking coffee and reading the morning paper. I eat and head back on my way, reaching the Dealership about 7am, just as the first guy shows up to prepare for the day. I’m still outside, about 40 degrees at this point, and its about 8:15 before someone finally offers to let me in. I go to the maintenance department, where the guy recognizes me, they set up to have the key made and my car towed across town. All in all, saving 20 seconds on a 25 cent bowl of Ramen cost me $233 (lesson learned). I ended up getting a call later that day that the key was ready to go, as soon as I could come and pick it up. That night, I ended up going to a party at 18 Clinton, a place I’d partied at maybe 3 times  in 4 and a half semesters at Delhi. I ended up hanging around there the next day and was able to find two dudes who happened to live in Oneonta and were making a trip there that afternoon. I picked up the key and my car, and made it through the rest of my last semester without any relative car issues. December 18th marked my last day as a Delhi student, and the Altima made the last journey up I-87 to route 4 back to Littleton.

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