Friday, March 31, 2006

Evaluating Options

What a week this has been.

I've written here before about numerous problems I've had with my car over the past couple of years. I'm most displeased to report that it's at it yet again. It's actually been acting mildly funny for a couple of weeks, but this week it has really gotten serious about it. It struggles to accelerate on takeoff, a problem that seems to be exacerbated if I happen to be making a left turn, and it occasionally sounds like something is rattling around in the front end. I'm not a car guy by any means, so I have only the vaguest idea of what these symptoms might mean. So my beloved Neon is spending the day in the shop, hooked up to diagnostic computers and hopefully, at some point, being repaired.

Actually, having it repaired is not necessarily a foregone conclusion. Depending on the severity of the problem (and, more importantly, the severity of the expense), it's not outside the realm of possibility that I may opt to take more drastic action. I've been thinking about getting a new car for a while now, and the time for that to become a reality is rapidly approaching. The Neon is a 2000 model, so it really isn't all that old, but I've had it for 6½ years and put over 130,000 miles on it. It definitely qualifies as a "high-mileage" vehicle, and with the increasing frequency of issues it seems to be having, it's making less and less sense to continue sinking money into it to keep it running when that money could be better served as payment for something new.

It so happened this week that a local dealership was running a heck of an offer. It featured high value for a trade-in, low down payment (I'm assuming the number they quoted would be for tax, tag, title, license fees, etc.), and low monthly payments. Knowing about this offer, I was highly tempted to just take my car up there this week and wash my hands of it. What stopped me is the fact that I haven't done any car shopping just yet, and I don't want to rush into getting a car I don't know for sure that I want.

Instead, I took the Neon to get looked at today. Fortunately for me, Brandi doesn't have class or work on Fridays, so I was able to drive her car to work (fuzzy steering wheel cover and all). I'm anxiously awaiting the call that will advise me of how much repairs will cost, and when that call comes, I'll have a decision to make. If the Neon can be fixed relatively inexpensively (say, for less than $500), then I'll get it fixed. If not, then I may spend this weekend doing some frantic shopping for a hell of a deal on a new car. I just can't see the sense in spending a bunch of money to keep the Neon running just long enough to replace it, especially with no guarantee that something else won't go wrong with it soon thereafter.

If I do decide to get it fixed, this will be the last major service I have performed on it. At this point, I need to get very serious about replacing it. My goal is to have something new by the end of August, which is when my heavy driving season starts (high school football season, baby). Sooner if possible, obviously, but definitely by then at the latest. I think that's a realistic goal. That also gives me plenty of time to do some comparison shopping and decide exactly what I want, as well as to figure out exactly how I'm going to pay for it. Other than that part, I'm fairly excited about the prospect of getting something new.

That's not all that's been going on this week, though.

Okay, a little background first. For nearly the first full year I spent at my current job, the department in which I work was headed by two people: a director, who was responsible for the creative vision of the department; and a manager, who handled the day-to-day details. I never felt totally comfortable with either of them. They were nice enough, I suppose, but they never really got involved with what I do except to upbraid me if I screwed something up--and if said screw-ups turned out to be not my fault, as happened on a couple of occasions, they never acknowledged it to me. I never had any problems with either of them per se, I just didn't especially like dealing with them or working under them.

A few months ago, as my one-year date was approaching, the director left our department to head up a new company division, and so a new director was hired from outside the company. Although I didn't especially like working under the previous director, this made me a little nervous. At the very least, I did know that the manager and previous director thought I was good at my job. Now someone new was coming in that may or may not be any better to work for and would be evaluating me with at least somewhat different criteria than what I had gotten used to. As it turned out, I was worried for no reason. I liked the new director as soon as I met her. As she eased her way into our department, she took an interest in what I was doing--not to the point where she was supervising me directly, which would have annoyed me greatly, but at least to the point where she would talk to me, find out how things were going, and ask questions if she had them. Basically, she tried to keep everyone in the loop as to what was going on, which was new. Also, she really wanted to shake things up and take the department--and the company--in some new directions. I really enjoyed working for her.

On Wednesday of this week, our company president came into our department office and called everyone together to announce that he and our department director had disagreed on something, and that therefore our department director was no longer with the company. I was absolutely stunned. In the time I've been here, I've never known anyone to either quit or get fired so suddenly, and from what I understand, it just doesn't happen. I have no idea what happened, nor, so far as I can tell, does anyone else other than the company president, who obviously isn't talking about it. I'd love to know, though.

I get the impression that not too many people were sorry to see her go. I could be wrong about that--I base it only on a couple of minor disparaging comments I've heard in the meantime. I did get the feeling while she was here that she rubbed some of the long-tenured members of our department the wrong way because she came in as an outsider and immediately started making changes. I also think the department manager got used to running the whole show in the span of time between the previous director's reassignment and the new one coming in. I know they clashed on occasion, and I have to wonder if perhaps that wasn't the root of this.

I spent the day trying to figure out exactly what was going on. The company president in our impromptu meeting said he hadn't decided what he was going to do as far as hiring a new director. I had a bad feeling that the previous director was going to re-emerge...after she gets back from her month-long vacation, that is. Needless to say, I wasn't thrilled about that possibility. I found myself wondering how I might get in touch with our recently departed director to ask her to keep me in mind when she finally lands somewhere.

Again, it turned out that I was worried for no reason, at least to a point. Our company president made up his mind quickly on what he wanted to do about the newly opened position. Yesterday afternoon he called us together again to introduce our new director, a lady who will be coming into our department from elsewhere in the company. I'm not entirely sure how I feel about this because I don't know the lady in question very well. I've been assured by a co-worker/friend whose opinion I value, however, that she is very cool. He liked our recently departed director as well as I did, but he's nonetheless excited about the upcoming change. I think the rest of the people in our department will react better to this new director since it's someone they already know and, I assume, like.

So we'll see how this goes. The new director will be in our department starting Monday, so we won't have long to wait. Still, I wouldn't be adverse to getting in touch with the lady who just left, just to see if any opportunities arise from that. It never hurts to have options.

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