July 2002

Mea culpa

Oh, the shame, the shame of it all. Mea culpa and all that.

I used the air conditioner.

Look. I was getting all sweaty and sticky with fruit juices at the Justin Herman Plaza Farmers Market and tried to get some sympathy about the scorching weather from the folks at the Frog Hollow booth since it was 84 degrees out there today. Alas, they came right back at me that they were real happy to be in San Francisco because it was supposed to be hitting 110 in Brentwood today.

Rebuffed, I slunk back toward the car, noticing en route that the sidewalks were covered with the fallen from heat exhaustion, either that or the hot weather had caused a new spate of evictions and it was just more basking homeless.

Having been closed up in the sun, the car was just roasting. So yes, I turned the AC on for the first part of the return home. Not the MAX-AC, which the manual warns is an awful energy gobbler, but just to the Regular. I must say, it was quite nice in there almost immediately. So nice, in fact, that even though the most casual glance at the readouts revealed that I was sure not generating much energy, I left it on for the entire trip home.

Oh, and I can now report the first mechanical problem: I have been driving for three days now and the fuel gauge has not budged. Then again, I may be misinterpreting this since the window sticker did list as one of the features, “Full tank of gas.”

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Under the Hood

Well, I did it.

I finally got to the part in the owner’s manual about opening the hood, so I followed the simple instructions and immediately found myself standing there holding the hood up by hand while searching for the little prop.

Actually, the first thing I noticed during this search was that this was certainly by far the fullest engine compartment I’ve ever seen. Not a cubic inch wasted. The second thing I noticed was that at least half of the objects in there had Don’t Touch Me Here signs ranging from the mildly alarming to the seriously frightening.

This will perhaps explain my reluctance to go tugging around on likely-looking things in hopes of finding something that I could use to prop the hood open. It was only when I was about to give up that I finally saw that instead of positioning the hood prop at the edge of the engine compartment where God and Soichiro Honda intended, Toyota had cleverly hidden it on underside of the hood itself.

With the hood finally propped open, I was free to perform a leisurely examination. In the left part of the compartment is a large object that I would guess to be the engine, basing this supposition upon seeing what looks very much like a dipstick ring at one edge of it, not that I wasabout to stick my finger in it until I have got some industrial-thickness rubber gloves to guard against electrocution.

I had expected the motor to look something like a giant alternator or like the generators that were found in cars back when the hoods were held open by springs on the hinges. Nothing there looks at all like this, but since I could see only the top layer of stuff, there was still plenty of room underneath for the motor. At any rate, I apparently don’t have to worry my little head about the motor and can close the hood on this chapter for now.

But since the manual has made it clear that I am expected to check the oil level at every fill-up, I’ll need to buy the rubber gloves and confirm that that thing really is the dipstick before I need gas in a few weeks.

Actually, that event may occur sooner, as I’ll be driving a couple hundred miles north weekend after next and will probably not be able to resist going ahead and topping the tank off while I’m out of town since gas is so much cheaper elsewhere.

And finally, on a somewhat related issue, I drove the car this afternoon for the first time since parking it Saturday afternoon, and I can share with you two observations. First, while I was test driving the car on Saturday I noticed that the acceleration was a little wimpy but realized that at this point in my life I am probably better off without quite so much acceleration. What struck me today was that the Prius is so quiet that you don’t realize how fast you’re being moved. The engine is quite small and has excellent sonic isolation…and motors are nearly soundless to begin with. This is especially striking if you’ve been driving a Saturn, which are notoriously noisy.

My second observation this afternoon was that driving habits in The City have deteriorated enormously in the past couple of days. The streets are now full of folks zooming around in the most reckless and aggressive manner, endangering the vehicles of others. I shall have to write a strong letter to the Chronicle.

Of course, while I’m writing letters, I’ll have to dash one off to Toyota pointing out that since they do not make this vehicle with manual windows, the very least they could do to compensate for this egregious waste of power is to provide a bicycle pedal arrangement in the floor in front of the passengers’ seats so they could make themselves useful by generating some electricity.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment


This has been an eventful day: a raid on the Ferry Plaza Farmers Market, where in addition to spectacular nectarines, cherries, dead-ripe Brandywines, some fine chèvre, and other delicious items, I picked up a really lovely arrangement of five different species of Lithopsmooning me from an oval pot, one of which is thrusting forth something I’m hoping will be a blossom; the posting of improved text and new pics taken by Al for the “Italian Butter Beans” and “The Pie” recipes; and the acquisition of a bluish-gray Toyota Prius. It was either that or that new Cadillac pickup truck, which I just noticed that they’re marketing as an SUT (sic). That thing sure does fire my imagination, but I couldn’t write a check for it like I could the Prius and would have been too embarrassed to go crawling to USAA for money so soon.

Note: I’m afraid to assume that everyone understands that I’m being ironic in that last sentence. Yes, I did put almost everything into a trust for Becky; but no, I find that SUT disgusting on several levels simultaneously.

And now, some vehicular observations:

After an evening curled up with the owner’s manual, it occurred to me that this fourth vehicle I’ve ever bought is the first vehicle I’ve had that would just as soon electrocute me on the spot were I so foolish as to 1) open the hood and 2) actually touch anything inside there. I am hoping, though, to risk number 1 above to see whether I’ll be able to distinguish the engine from the motor. I mean, the last time I looked under a hood, cars had carburetors.

And speaking of electricity, it is so much fun to roll downhill and watch the little readout to see how much electricity I’m generating although I can easily see that since this is far more entertaining than television, it presents an obvious hazard to persons and objects in my path.

I also found myself sitting there at a red light and so enraptured, marveling at the engine’s cleverness in turning itself off since it was not being used, that I failed to press the accelerator when the light turned green, presenting an obvious hazard to myself from the vehicles in whose path I sat.

This morning, I took a quick look to see whether my new car was still sitting at the curb, since I did not know whether I had accidentally set the theft-prevention system when I parked the car yesterday afternoon. Of course, I’m being an alarmist, but I’m also concerned whether the vehicle will start today, as, according to the owner’s manual there are abundant opportunities to run down the BATTERY (as opposed to that wimpy little 12 volt lowercase battery still found in so many vehicles) by leaving various switches and stuff in the wrong position.

Finally, seeking guilt, I just realized that I can rightly be accused of conspicuous non-consumption. And that if I wish to remain alive very long at all, I must make absolutely certain that when, generating electricity with my motor, I glide smoothly to a stop at a red light beside a gigantic, throbbing Escalade and my cute little engine primly shuts itself off for the duration of the stop, I must make every effort to arrange my features into an expression of admiration tinged with envy if I even glance at the obscenity at my side. And most particularly, I must never ever allow my gaze to linger, however briefly, on its enormous exhaust pipe.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment