This is kind of a personal post, so I'll start it with a picture from the greatest birthday gift I've ever received. Yes, that's my fat head sticking above the roof of a Lamborghini Gallardo:

Whee!

2014 started for me on a down note. In October 2013, I left a job that was killing me. I was having anxiety attacks almost daily and it was just unhealthy for me to stay there - especially at my pay rate. Almost immediately after, I started delivering pizzas and sandwiches and trying to find a full time job. My wife bought a B6 Passat, which could have been a great decision if we had thought it through better. We thought we needed a second car because she was about to start back to work. We ended up overpaying and getting a warranty that didn't work the way we thought. We should have gone to CarMax.

The VW, also known as Weezie the Money Pit

New Year's Eve, 2013, was a big, fat punch in the mouth to end a year that was full of disappointments, poor circumstances, and bad decisions. Because there was a full tank in the Passat, my wife suggested I take it to work. Besides, there was about $175 in the bank account and rent was due. At about 6:30 that evening, on my second delivery of the night, it happened.

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Pulling out of a driveway, after receiving a zero tip and a nasty attitude — a circumstance that was becoming more and more frequent as the job continued — I heard a loud "POP" and then a grind. The wagon started to roll forward. I hit the brakes and put it into park. The car kept rolling. Shit. The driver-side CV axle had decided to break itself in half. I went and knocked on the door of the family that wrote -0- on the tip line of their credit card receipt and snapped at me when I arrived.

Pictured: Not ours, but essentially the same.

The husband answered the door. "Hey man, I'm sorry but I'm stuck in your driveway. I already called AAA but they're about an hour out. The car won't move. Sorry."

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He gave me a WTF look. His wife started to piss and moan about how I shouldn't have parked in their driveway and so on and she was going to call the cops if I wasn't out of there soon.

He shut the door. I heard her yelling at him. He clearly had more problems than a pizza guy with a broken down car in his driveway.

I called my wife and told her the situation. She flipped out a little and when she calmed down, she came to the house and waited with me — an hour or more — for AAA.

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By the time we got the car loaded up and home, and I got back to the shop to cash out, it was nearly 9:30. I made $4.00 that night.

It was time to get home.

We ended the night at 11:30, sober, and falling asleep together.

A few weeks later — Super Bowl Sunday — I delivered to the same guy, at a different house in that neighborhood. He asked if I got my car fixed. I said, "Nah, man. Haven't had the cash. I work for tips," and went back to the car.

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From that point it had to look up. While I was grateful to have a job at all, I was painfully underemployed, and we were barely scraping by. I actually called my mom for help with bills in January, because it's really hard to get a job without a working phone number.

In February, things started to get better. I actually lost the pizza job when I refused to go to work during the one snow storm of the year. My job wasn't important enough for me to take that risk, and the manager was a friend anyway, so it ended up alright. Taxes came back and we got a lot more than we first expected. I was able to get back into school full-time for the last half of the semester, and my wife received a refund from her grants and scholarships so we were able to catch up on bills.

I started classes again at the beginning of March - right after Spring Break - and was to spend the next 8 weeks or so in class, living off our student aid, and looking for a new job. March ended on a good note. On March 21, at the gentle nudging of my beautiful wife, I answered a Craigslist ad for a customer service job.

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Apparently this symbol means something other than "a place to find hookers and cars with no titles"

That was a Friday. My first interview was over the phone that Monday, and lasted just a few minutes. The GM was terse and deliberate in his words that day, but scheduled an in person interview for the 25th. We just shot the shit for 45 minutes. He's really a sales guy and was looking more for a personality to mesh with his team.

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A week later, I received the call that my driving record and drug screen were accepted and that I was part of his team. I was to start that Friday.

Freakin' sweet! I left class at 10 AM, got to work by 10:30, and started my first day by counting and logging that week's inventory The next Monday, I started training on the new order system and began working about 20 hours per week. For about six weeks, I worked part-time and kept things in check while attending 9 hours of half-semester classes - I was in class about 16 hours a week - and began learning the systems and the way things worked.

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It's easily one of the best jobs I've ever had. The hours are great and the environment is just about perfect even though the pay isn't that great and the benefits aren't worth having.

In mid-May, my wife's doctors cleared her to go back to work. Within a month she was back out on medical leave. She lives with mental illness and the stresses of a call center, combined with some petty behavior by her direct supervisor and the work environment, led to her getting sick again and unable to do much of anything. In the meantime, I began working full-time, and overtime, because I enjoy my job enough to make sure I'm there until the job is done.

I use the Kia to run to UPS sometimes, and I frequently get to drive brand-new cars — even if it is just around the block or around the parking lot.

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It's bigger inside.

Finally, to the Car-Related Stuff:

I'm not going to list all the cars I've driven, because a bunch of Accords and Altimas is not exciting. Although I will say a few things about some boring family vehicles:

If I ever have multiple children that need hauling around, I'm going to buy an Odyssey. It's like an Accord that Honda expanded into van form, because if you must drive a minivan, it may as well drive nicely. The only thing I think Honda should change is to add the vacuum option to their LX and EX models. Seriously — the empty-nesters buy a $45,000 minivan. Suburban parents buy the $28,000 base models. And then send them to us for $1500 worth of leather.

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I'm your future. Don't fight it.

So, this year I got to drive several cool cars. Yesterday morning I delivered a Dodge Charger R/T 6.4 and it was ridiculous. It was big, heavy, with 485 horsepower and 245-section tires but oh my the torque was insane.

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A few weeks ago I got to drive a '15 Mustang (around the lot and through the shop)

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But strangely, my favorite car of the eight months that I've worked here has been this:

We did an installation on this Si sedan and it had literally the best shifter I've ever held in my hands. I didn't actually get to drive the S2000 we had in for custom blue leather, but I'm sure the Civic would have rivaled it.

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We replaced the black and red cloth with that. personally, I would have gone with the perforated "dimensions," leather — it has a red layer that shows through the perforations to the black.

Honda definitely makes the best front-wheel-drive manual gearboxes.

And in addition to all of the ordinary cars, my wife got me the Gotham Dream Car Sprint for my birthday. Granted, I had to delay it until October but it was really, really fun. The guys messed up my order so I actually got six laps around the autocross course instead of four.

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Here are a few pictures of my fat, sweaty self defiling cars that cost more than my house:

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The hairnet is there to contain all the sexy

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"Don't let him inside me. I just know he farts a lot." — The F430

So this year was pretty cool when it comes to automotive stuff. 2015 is looking to be even better.

Have a great new year, Oppo, and thanks for reading!