Friday, September 12, 2008

Bumper Cars and a Lesson Learned, Warranty Work and Paying it Forward

I was out on the mower this afternoon when Rachel got my attention to tell me that she was going to the mall with Katrina (in separate cars) and that she would leave for her dad's house from there. She gave me a hug and I asked her to text me when she got to her dad's 40 miles north.

A little past 8:00 pm and we hadn't heard from her so I texted her to see if she was there yet. No response. An hour later she called and I could tell right away that something wasn't right. Her voice was shaking and she was crying. She'd been in an accident; a small one. She said she was leaving the Burnsville mall and looking at her GPS when the car in front of her suddenly stopped and she rear-ended it. She said she was fine and so was the driver of the car she hit; in fact, there was no damage to the other person's car. The other driver went so far as to say it wasn't necessary to exchange insurance information because they didn't see any damage to their car. I think I may have handled it differently had I been the other driver and I'll talk to Rachel about that but I'm not complaining.

As the photo shows, Rachel's car sustained very minor damage as well. I'm thankful that the incident rattled her as much as it did and that she wasn't trying to down-play it. I told her that the difference between what happened with her and something much more serious was very small in terms of reaction time. She agreed.

I want to believe that Rachel is telling us the truth, that her GPS distracted her (not that that's okay) but I can't help but have thoughts that it was really her cellphone which caused the problem. Either reading a text message or replying to one. Her phone is constantly beeping with incoming messages. Tammy agreed.

We've both talked to her a number of times about being distracted behind the wheel and how quickly things can go wrong. After hanging up with her the first thing out of our mouths was that this was a good lesson for her. We're relieved as it could have been so much worse. What will be sad is if she doesn't learn from this.

I think we can all recall situations we were in when we were new drivers where we were either in accidents or had close calls which resulted in us becoming more cautious. I know I had a couple of experiences which shook and woke me up to the idea that this was serious stuff.

Just this past week I was contemplating the coming snow season and wondering how Rachel will adapt to slippery conditions. I hope tonight's experience will check her (my perception) over-confidence behind the wheel enough to make a difference.

I don't typically buy extended warranties but when I'm buying a newer technology item I do. Such was the case four years ago when we were finishing our basement. We bought a 60" Sony HDTV to serve as the centerpiece for our entertainment center.

Within six months we had to have it serviced because of two fluorescent green spots about 2" in diameter we were seeing on the screen when the picture was very dark. They weren't obvious but they were there. The warranty company sent some techs out and they diagnosed the problem as 'dirt on the optical engine'. They took care of it with a can of compressed air. Another spot appeared last year but there was just the one spot and it wasn't as big as the others had been so we lived with it.

Our warranty is due to expire in another month so I called the company back to see if they felt the spot needed servicing. They sent a tech out (Tom) to look at it and he said that a more serious problem was that we had some 'burning in' issues with the sides of the screen from too many hours of not using the full screen mode. I hadn't even noticed that. He said he's seen this happen a few other times but for the most part it's not very common. Most of the main network stations are better viewed in other than wide screen mode so that would be the reason for our problem. Too many hours of Big Brother, Amazing Race and Survivor. We really do have lives but we also have some guilty pleasures.

Anyway, Tom came back out on Thursday to install a new optical unit which would both eliminate the green spot and the dark stripes on each side of the set. The work took about an hour to complete.

He commented that the set fit perfectly in the entertainment center and I told him that my brother has a cabinet shop in Farmington and that he did the work for us. "Oh, who's your brother?" he asked. "Keith Gilmore" I told him and with that a big smile came across his face. He actually works out of Keith's shop part time repairing vintage arcade games for a guy who rents space from Keith.

He was helpful to us in another way too. He told me that we could improve the sound we were getting from our system by routing the audio from our DVR directly to the receiver rather than through the TV which is where the guy from Charter Cable had run it. We weren't getting true surround sound the way it was set up.

He wrapped up his work and told us that we made a good investment with the extended warranty as the fix he performed would have cost us $1100. That was one extended warranty I felt good about having.

After he left I got busy rewiring the sound the way he suggested and re-balancing the speaker levels throughout the room with the sound optimizer that came with our Yamaha receiver. It's a cool little gizmo which you place where you usually view the TV from and it takes in an array of sounds from the various speakers at differing decibels and then adjusts the speakers accordingly.

I got an email a few days ago from one of the drivers in this year's demolition derby at the Dakota County Fair. He'd seen the videos I shot and uploaded to my YouTube account and wondered if he could get a copy of them. He drove car #20 in the 4th heat and won the overall Saturday night but I didn't video that final race. I burned for him 45 minutes worth of action on a DVD which will be much better than the compressed files online. I'm always glad to be able to pay it forward in this sort of way. I love that about the internet.

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