Sunday, April 13, 2014

The potholes and me

Chicago is a city with a well-publicized hard winter.  Detroit, Cleveland, St. Louis, Kansas City, New York, Boston, Minneapolis-St. Paul also have well-publicized hard winters and Detroit does it without much salt and almost no snow removal to speak of.  Chicago likes to whine about it but the freeze and thaw (or freeze and freeze or freeze and salt into watery submission and then that whole mess freezes) situation creates some giant potholes.  Some neighborhoods are worse than others and mine might be one of them.

On North Milwaukee in northwest Chicago, there are at least three potholes I know of in a three-block stretch that are about six inches deep, eight inches long, and six inches wide.  The dimensions are stunning and if you hit one at the right angle, it can screw up your tires, the rims, and all that lies-below stuff that's underneath the car that you mostly don't want to think about.  Links, ball joints, your gas tank -- that stuff.

This year I've had $450 work of damage thanks to sunken manhole covers and potholes.  I have to work a long stinking time to earn that sort of money.  Both times I knew something was wrong.  The first time I didn't realize I had to go to the police and say, "give me a report, I am pretty sure this sunken manhole cover effed up my car."  When I found out how effed my car was, it was too late.  The second time was a pothole where you could see flames licking up from the bowels of hell.  I thought oh, it's probably okay.  I should have said -- out loud as there is no real harm in saying something out loud to yourself -- "Feck me!  I am going to the police station with this," and then gotten a police report for just in case.  I did not.  I was seriously effed on both occasions.

Yesterday, I went to my own mechanic for an oil change.  I have an honest mechanic and when he gives me an oil change, I ask him to look around for anything that looked wrong.  I gave him the heads up that I hit a pothole and didn't tell him which side.  When I drop the car off with him, I walk around or have a Starbuck's coffee and he calls me.  "Did you hit the pothole on the right side?"he asked.  "Yes," I said glumly.  And he gave me the bad news (plus the added terrible news that a gasket was blown and dripping oil).  He knocked off some dough for being a good customer and it's a 16-year-old car so gaskets will be blown but the pothole damage is not the cost of regular maintenance.

Now I slalom the streets of Chicago.  If I get to a street with many potholes that can't be avoided, I take my foot off the accelerator and let momentum move me along.  This works best on side streets.  I try to be alert for potholes but there are simply too many and I know another one is in my unfortunate driving future, waiting for me to be distracted by a kitty cat or thoughts of what I am going to have for dinner.

If you come to Chicago on a visit in your own car, take care!  If you drive in from the burbs to have lunch or maybe visit a museum, beware!  If  you come here and rent a car, you have been warned!  And for heaven's sake, if you hit a pothole, jot down the street address where it happened, go to the police and fill out a report.  If there's damage, make a claim against the city on the city's website.

Fore warned is fore armed.  Better safe than sorry.  Consider yourself advised.

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