The Blog @ TJBrown.com Rotating Header Image

Cars are a pain in the ass

The Party’s Over

In better days...

In better days...

Sometime over the next seven days, General Motors will most likely declare bankruptcy.

Think about that.

General Motors. Bankrupt. Granted, it might have been predicted when GM and Chrysler went in and grabbed $17 Billion in government “loans.”  Thanks, taxpayers, but you won’t see that repaid.

The last 30 years haven’t been GM’s best, but could you have predicted this 10 years ago? Five years ago?  Maybe. After all, GM has become a benefits provider more than it’s a carmaker.

The company has failed to innovate when the market has demanded better cars, sure. But above all, GM (as well as Chrysler and Ford) got in over its head with retirees’ pension and health benefits.

Moral of the story: defined benefits beat the hell out of defined contributions, for both employer and employee.  After bankruptcy, where will all the UAW workers be then?

Another moral: “too big to fail” is a bunch of crap, the type of phrase that should be restricted to Orwellian and Randian novels. GM was going to fail no matter how much cash the government gave it. As soon as bankruptcy occurs, the profitable parts of the company will survive (and become more efficient), and the money-sucking parts of the company will die. We’ll get better products and the companies that come out of this will be stronger.

Finally, no company is indestructible, ever. Wal-Mart, take note.  You too, Microsoft. (It says here that both companies will be sucking wind in five years, anyways.)  As the environment changes — and it always changes — the business model must adapt. GM’s didn’t.

Before completely skewering GM, let’s look at Roger Smith, the General Motors CEO in the 1980s and early 1990s. He cut waste and red tape, he ushered in a new brand (Saturn), and he modernized GM’s manufacturing processes.

Unfortunately, he also closed an obsolete plant in Flint, and earned the scorn of Michael Moore. Moore filmed a documentary on the plight of Flint. Problem is, the documentary was filled with half-truths and fabrications. It villanized Roger Smith.

And it helped make unemployed left-wing magazine editor Moore a prominent filmmaker.

Now GM is ready for Bankruptcy proceedings. Former GM CEO Charlie Wilson once said, “What is good for General Motors is good for America, and vice versa?” Like it or not, he’s right.

Rating the alternates

 

The good ol days...

We are not quite halfway through the Fall session of IDOT’s Edens Expressway project. I won’t speculate on whether or not this project was necessary (remember, in this state, necessity is subjective), but I have obviously had to experiment with alternate routes on my way home from Loyola two nights a week, plus any other time I have to drive home from Chicago. The verdict? There is no good alternate. To wit:

Alternate No. 1: Take Kennedy beyond the junction to Central Ave. Central to Milwaukee Ave., to Waukegan Road in Niles. Waukegan Rd. home.

Result: I took this route on the Sunday afternoon after the project started on my way home from a wedding in Fort Wayne. It took only another four minutes to get to Central from the junction, but after that, a backup on the left-hand turn lane at Milwaukee Ave. caused me to opt for Elston a couple of blocks north. Elston ends at Milwaukee Ave. just south of Devon. All told, it took about 30 minutes to get home from Central and the Expressway.

Alternate No. 2: Take Kennedy past the junction to Harlem Ave. Take Harlem north into Glenview, where it becomes Lehigh.

Result: The idea of this route was to bypass the stoplights on Milwaukee (or Elston), and to avoid the construction on Caldwell and Waukegan Rd. The problem was that you drive through residential areas with more stop signs, lower speed limits, etc. Also, the intersection of Glenview Rd. and Lehigh was a little rough because of an arriving Metra train. Timing’s everything.

Alternate No. 3: Take Lake Shore Drive to Hollywood, to Ridge and then to Peterson, which becomes Caldwell, which spills onto Waukegan Rd.

Result: Lake Shore Drive to Peterson isn’t an awful idea, but you’ll hit more than 20 stoplights between Hollywood and the Peterson entrance ramp of the Edens. After that, I have 20-plus more lights before I get home. If the stoplights are aligned, great. If not, not great.

Alternate No. 4: Lake Shore Drive to Sheridan, to Isabella, to Green Bay Road, to Wilmette Rd., to Illinois Rd., to Hibbard Rd., to Winnetka Rd., to Sunset Ridge Rd., to Willow Rd.

Result: This is probably the most direct route in terms of mileage, and it really is a great route to take to or from the lake while bicycling, but let’s count the problems with this route:

  1. Stoplights and left-turns on Sheridan all the way up to the Evanston line are exasperating.
  2. Navigating the curves of Sheridan Rd. through Evanston is scenic, but not quick.
  3. The pedestrian and bicycle traffic around Northwestern will slow you down.
  4. Too many residential streets.

Despite all that, it was only a 45-minute drive home.

Alternate No. 5: Kennedy beyond the Junction to the Tri-State, north to Willow Rd., and back east.

Result: Of course, this is a good way to view some more construction. As luck would have it, there was nighttime construction on the Kennedy that night anyway (so what was I bypassing?), and then I forgot all about the construction on the Tri-State to convert to Touhy Toll Plaza into an “open road” toll plaza. That slowed me down, as did the construction at the Willow Rd. overpass. This route takes me about five or six miles out of my way, as well.

Alternate No. 6: Suck it up and take the Edens.

Result: So far, I’ve lived a charmed life doing this. The inbound construction is pretty much done when I get on at Caldwell, and the outbound construction seems minimal — at least at 9:30 p.m. The sad fact is that no route gets me home more quickly or more efficiently — not even mass transit.

Travelers Insurance is on My List

This car was as good as new when I dropped it off at Bredemann Ford.OK, so you might have read about the accident my car dealer’s service department had while road-testing my Explorer following routine service.

At any rate, these are pictures of my 2004 Explorer hours after the Friday afternoon collision. As I said, my dealer-issued loaner was a 2007 Ford Edge, metallic orange (or copper, as they officially call it). I made fun of the color, but the car itself was terrific. Rode like a dream, handled great, seemed to give aOuch! vibe of “I’ll save Detroit by myself if I have to.” It didn’t hurt that it was loaded: satellite radio, GPS navigation system, etc. It was a fun car to play with, even if my insistence on playing with all the toys drove my wife crazy.

At any rate, the facts of the crash came in, and they were as follows: Ford Explorer was traveling south on Waukegan Road in the left lane. The right lane was backed up at the stoplight at Chestnut. One car left space at a driveway for cars to turn in This is why 21-year-old women shouldn’t pull out onto Waukegan Road.and turn out. That same driver waved a 1997 Toyota Camry, driven by a 21-year-old woman from Highland Park, to turn left onto northbound Waukegan Road. The driver of the Toyota didn’t think about the left lane not being backed up and pulled out in front of my Ford Explorer.

The Toyota driver’s insurance is Travelers. Travelers agreed that they should accept 100 percent liability, so I had the car towed to  the Maaco in Wheeling on Milwaukee and Hintz.Yes, the front door won’t open! The frame better not be bent!

That’s when I had to bring back the service loaner and go to Enterprise Rent-a-Car where the car Travelers has rented for me awaited. I will be without my Explorer for three weeks. During this time, I plan to:

  • Take a trip to New Buffalo, MI
  • Pick up some lumber and other odds and ends up at Lowe’s or Home Depot with my father in law
  • Pick up a heavy and large piece of furniture in Downers Grove.
  • Take that heavy and large piece of furniture elsewhere.
  • Possibly go up to Beloit and take delivery of surplus bus parts.

All the above would work well in an Explorer or similar vehicle. Many of the above will be impossible with my rental, a Ford Focus. My desk chair with wheels might have more pickup than my Focus.

I called Travelers and suggested that they could do better than this. They suggested I upgrade with Enterprise and pay out-of-pocket for any cost of an upgrade. That’s all fine and dandy except:

I paid out of pocket for my Explorer when I bought it!!!!!!!!!!

Maybe Illinois law states the insurance company should only pay for basic transportation. But if I wanted basic transportation, maybe I would have bought a basic car. I can’t even get a medium-sized sedan for the two-to-three weeks my car is out of commission.

And let’s remember the key point:

Their client hit MY car.

According to the Travelers’ adjuster, it was my fault that I gave Bredemann permission to road test my vehicle. God, do they suck.