Wednesday, January 20, 2016

Something Personal

Apart from my health and welfare, there aren't many things I "have" which are irreplaceable.  Of course every thing is replaceable.  But it might require money.  And I, like most people, prefer not to spend money to replace something.  What stirs me in this matter is that there are very few things I still own which are of any particular importance to me, not because what remains has lost its appeal but because what remains of value is limited. In the past several years I have unloaded almost everything of value I ever owned.  There was nothing spiritual about the divestment.  The motivation was - to use a suitably lofty phrase - strictly economic.  After a lifetime of profligacy I awoke to a choice between money and things if I were to enter upon a new career - specifically retirement. I am actually proud to say that the transition from extravagance to moderation has been not only painless but also welcome. Nonetheless I never completely abandoned my appetite for certain things, things which historically have always captured my attention - cars and jewellery.

The car-thing was easy to accommodate. Once one has moved into the ownership of a certain "class" of car it is a slippery slope downwards to compromise that level of ownership. Basically, if you trick yourself into thinking you'll somehow beat the car manufacturers at their game by "trading down" it is only a matter of time before you run yourself off the edge of the map. The better decision in my opinion is a horizontal move or "trading across". Of course a reasonable expense is required and obviously there has to be some resource to do that. I cushion the strength of this financial hit by reasoning that it is only money and I have made choices.  Even my parsimonious father - who notoriously "fixed" any number of damaged goods and kept them going long after their expiry date with duct tape - told me the story of his choice between cigarettes/booze and cars.  He chose cars.  When he was a but a young (and likely then unmarried) man he owned a Studebaker automobile which was both stylish and sporty and was even aligned with the venerable Packard Motor Car Company. Supposedly my father inherited this predilection for automobiles from his own father (who coincidentally drove 7-passenger Packard limousines complete with chandelier). I have thus been infected congenitally.

As for the jewellery factor I cannot purport to invest that bias with anything hereditary (though my mother - like most women I suspect - enjoys her jewellery). The decision I made on this particular point was to unload a carpetbag of the stuff, retaining only an 18K yellow gold signet ring (with engraved family crest).  It also mattered that my full name was engraved on the inside of the band and that alone mitigated against surrendering it to the consignment pile.  Eventually I succumbed to a bit of back pedalling on the jewellery when I commissioned a jeweller to build a custom-made pinky ring for me. The design was modelled on a piece I had commissioned years before and it embraced all the exact qualities and modifications I had ever wanted in that style of ring.  Unfortunately it turns out that the sizing was marginally wrong and I soon discovered that I was in constant fear of the ring falling off my finger, perhaps unnoticed.  I attempted to remedy the dilemma by hunting down and purchasing small plastic hoops which can be fitted to the shank.  The makeshift remedy worked for a while but yesterday I tired of the adjustment.  I took the ring to a local jeweller and, after a lengthy discussion about preserving the integrity of the ring and not damaging the Moissanite stone by heating, I have reluctantly left the ring there for sizing (a mere half size reduction).

Oddly enough upon my return drive home from the jeweller's, I noticed the driver's window of my car was not operating correctly.  Specifically, the automatic UP function was sporadic. Although it eventually began working properly I decided to call the local Cadillac dealership to arrange to have it looked at.  The appointment is tomorrow afternoon at 3:30 p.m.

In the result I am now under attack from two flanks.  Both of my cherished items are in the throes of foreign tactile analysis. These attacks qualify as invasive encroachments upon my privacy and I consider them nothing short of indelicate. I have of course often remarked that the material world is tainted by perpetual amortization but this does nothing more than appease me philosophically.  Once removed from that ethereal abstract world, the critical material offensiveness of the experience continues unabated.

I will say however that I am relieved to anticipate donning my ring without the annoyance of that plastic contrivance.  Aside from being too close for comfort to the duct tape model, the plastic makeshift remedy physically annoyed me.  The outer edges of the plastic regularly abutted other parts of my flesh and were reminiscent of a stone in one's shoe and just as impossible to ignore. Equally importantly my accommodation of the sizing problem virtually meant a transformation of the ring to a brooch or a key-ring. This disturbed state of affairs meant relentless aggravation and constant attempts at expedient compromise. How willing we are to qualify almost any irritation! Eventually however we must submit to go to the hospital to see the doctor!

The search for perfection is inherently flawed.  Nobody seriously believes that anything is perfect. I accept that proposition on an intellectual level.  But it doesn't stop me pursuing perfection. The conflict arises most often when seeking to find someone to perfect the imperfection.  I have sadly learned from experience that both with respect to cars and jewellery, not all people are to be trusted to make it right.  Once for example a body repair shop re-painted a damaged front quarter panel of my Buick Riviera. In the bright sunshine the difference in colour between that part and the rest of the car was startling!  I sold the car within months.  Another time I had a jeweller size a pinky ring for me.  It was inescapable where the cut had been made in the shank and I could never live with it.  Gone!  I have learned that it is naive to assume that anybody - tradesman or professional - will do their job perfectly.  At a minimum supervision of the finished product is required.  The best defence is naturally to satisfy oneself that the tradesman or professional knows what they're doing, not always an easy task.  There are however certain trademark hints which should make one wary.  For example, anything which involves a discount or "cheaper than" service is to be avoided.

We interrupt this programme to bring you the following news flash!

At four o'clock this afternoon I collected a telephone message on the condominium phone left by a clerk to the jeweller to whom I had entrusted my gold ring yesterday afternoon for sizing.  The message was: "Your watch is ready".  As you might expect, the message surprised me for several reasons:  1) I had not given any watch to the jeweller for repair; 2) even assuming the clerk made a slip of the tongue by saying "watch" instead of "ring" it seemed implausible that the ring would have been repaired in less than 24 hours; and, 3) the original arrangement with the jeweller was that the ring would be cut then tested for size before being finally soldered.  All considered, I had more than a doubt about the intent and meaning of the message. When however I connected with the clerk who had left the message she confirmed she had intended to say "ring" not "watch" and yes, indeed, the ring was ready (and so was the bill) from which we both concluded that the jeweller had finalized his magic. I made arrangements to attend upon the jeweller immediately.

Not fifteen minutes later I was standing at a display counter in the jeweller's shop.  The jeweller, who clearly recognized the importance of his mission and my re-attendance, conducted himself with some preliminary ceremony.  My anticipation was palpable!  He approached me from the clerk's office carrying what was obviously the ring wrapped in white tissue.  That fact alone succeeded to dispel any reservation I had about whether the repair had been completed. I contained myself with some effort. Once the jeweller and I stood shoulder-to-shoulder at the display counter he proceeded carefully to unfold the tissue to reveal the ring. It shone!  It required but a cursory look at the shank to determine that there was no evidence of the ring having been cut.  The jeweller quietly interjected, "You won't find anything".

To this point the unfolding drama was one-for-one. But of course the indisputable test was the fit.  With no further delay - having satisfied myself as to the integrity of the ring - I put the ring onto my finger. Perfect fit!  Absolutely perfect! Perfect!  If it had been any smaller it would have been too tight; any larger it would have been too loose. There was no doubt whatsoever that even the most animated wave of my hand would not dislodge the ring from my finger.  I was euphoric!  And to add to my over-the-top delight the jeweller had not damaged or impinged upon the original engraved manufacturer's emblem and the 18K stamp. There was absolutely no compromise of the original setting! The jeweller further assured me that the extraordinary thickness of the bezel ensured that there was no contamination of the gem setting.

The repercussion of this much-delayed modification has been thoroughly relieving. Recall if you will how important this item was initially.  It similarly depressed me that I had been obliged to pander to an intrinsic fault of the ring; namely, it didn't fit properly.  So anxious was I to preserve the ring from possible contamination that I opted instead to tolerate continued deference to the ring's obvious inadequacy. All that has now been wiped aside! I can at last enjoy the ring as a ring and not merely as an artistic expression.

We now return to our network programme already in progress...

Tomorrow is my next little test.  I have less trepidation about repairing an automobile than sizing a gold ring. If nothing else a 4,000-pound car is less diaphanous than a one-ounce ring. This doesn't however mean it's a guaranteed shoe-in.  Part of the problem is that the problem itself is not consistent; rather, it is an on-again, off-again trouble. Whether the technicians can identify a problem which may not exist at the moment of inspection is of some concern to me.  While one might trivialize the operation of a car window, as a practical matter, the issue is not without its gravity.  Not having a private underground parking space means that if the window were to become stuck in the down-position it would accelerate the problem considerably.  And I hardly want the issue to arise at an inconvenient time like when passing through a car wash or driving in a rain storm.  No, the problem is a problem and it needs to be addressed. From my point of view, tomorrow is "Car Day".  Mock if you will! To me it's personal, and until the problem is arrested, it's still an issue!

Sequel Primus

I dutifully appeared at the Cadillac dealership on Fording Island Road in Bluffton, SC yesterday at 3:30 p.m. After addressing myself to the Service Writer, who then sat in the car for a few moments and "tweaked" the automatic window button, I was back on the road within all of six minutes.  The problem is, when I subsequently arrived at Harris Teeter to do some grocery shopping, I discovered that the window malfunctioned again.  This of course necessitated a repeat call to the Service Department.  Again the agent advised me of the purported gimmick to "reset" the window command which frankly worked for a while.  That is, it worked until first thing this morning when it promptly relapsed.

I knew last evening after the events of today that the so-called "repair" was precarious at best.  Perhaps because I am by nature binary, I despised the ambivalence of the work, this off-again, on-again business.  It required little motivation for me to verify the system early this morning; and I discovered to my chagrin that it wasn't working properly.  I have called the Service Writer once again but I am still awaiting his return call. This situation is uncomfortably reminiscent of the joke about a tailor who, when asking a customer to try on a new suit, asked that the customer walk in an odd way to accommodate the imperfections of the fit. I am done with these temporary tweaks and failing adaptations! It is reflective of the automotive industry generally that the first line of attack on these issues is to reboot the computer.  The modern car is now a collection of computers or modules.  There is however always an initial reluctance to replace the computer or module but it is only the persistence of the annoyed customer which succeeds to effect the repair ultimately.  The so-called technicians apparently revel in tweaking and rebooting since of course they seemingly have no way of assessing whether the module is defective. It becomes a balance of probabilities at the expense of the customer, all of which reinforces my view that there is a gulf between the front-line workers and the back-room techies. It hardly distinguishes the modern mechanic that he need only know where to plug in the replacement module and that the diagnosis must effectively be made by the customer.

Sequel Secundus

The Service Technician telephoned several days ago to arrange my re-attendance to install the new module which he had ordered on the heels of my latest call.  When he asked when I would like to come in I naturally chose the earliest date and time possible, eight o'clock on Thursday morning.  As a result on the appointed day I was up at 5:30 a.m. to prepare myself for the much anticipated convention. I arrived at the dealership slightly before eight o'clock.  There were already five other cars ahead of me in the two service bays.  When I l presented myself at the desk I was told it would be about one and a half hours before the car would be ready.  I retired to the Cadillac waiting lounge, gathered two magazines and settled in with two other people before the large television screen on which the morning Bloomberg financial analysis was unfolding.

Forty-five minutes later the Service Technician reappeared and called my name.  He told me the wrong part had been delivered.  He thought I might hear from them again tomorrow and was quick to add that he could send someone to pick up my car.

Sequel Tertius

Here is a transcript of my latest email to the Service Technician at the Cadillac dealership:

Hello for the fourth time, Vance!

Today is Sunday, January 31, 2016.  I have driven the car for the past couple of hours.  Today and for the past several days there has been an escalating level of malfunction.  I have been attempting to isolate the problems by resetting the factory settings, re-loading all personal preferences, trying alternate personal preferences and using different RKEs (key fobs).  Any speculation I may have harboured about the source(s) of the problem(s) is/are entirely without foundation.  The following malfunctions occur/stop/reoccur randomly:

.  the front driver’s side window malfunctions;

.  the front passenger’s side window malfunctions;

.  the indicator sound does/does not work;

.  the automatic memory recall for the driver’s seat does/does not work;

.  the automatic driver’s set exit does/does not work;

.  after the engine is turned off and the driver’s door opened, the CUE system continues/ceases to work (when it is still running I must re-attend at the car 15 minutes later to ensure the power has finally terminated);

.  the automatic (passive) door locks do/do not work;

.  the horn sounds occasionally to advise the RKE is in the car (when I am about to drive the car and seated inside);  occasionally a message appears that the key fob cannot be found even though I have it with me inside the car.

I called OnStar on Sunday afternoon to ask them to run a “diagnostics” and they found nothing wrong with the systems they checked.

There are therefore pervasive mercurial computer (mal)functions.  It is impossible to predict when the system will/will not work properly.

I have given up trying to identify the problem(s).


Sequel Quartus

It is but fair and appropriate that I report that yesterday's attendance at the dealership appears to have resolved this burgeoning dilemma.  As might be expected when I made my early morning call to the Service Writer, the theatrics of my complaint were completely lost on him; he blankly observed, "We can talk about it all day but maybe you should just bring it in for us to look at", which of course is what I did. While I have no objection to that indisputably sound observation, what irked me was that he hadn't even noticed that I had sent him a flurry of emails throughout the weekend.  When I ultimately landed at the dealership on the heels of his admonishment he noted that he had printed my emails and given a copy to the Technician.  Perhaps it is the test of our professional association that, upon my departure about an hour later, the Service Writer shook hands with me.  I interpret that as a sign of conciliation.  For someone as obsessive as I, it is not uncommon for me to feel the heightened level of nuisance which I visit upon people in the service industry generally.  I like to think I haven't the rudeness of some people who loudly "insist on their rights" but I acknowledge that my personal strain of compulsiveness is equally tormenting.

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