Always Get a Second Opinion

Apparently Not…

Today is one of those days that I can’t believe happened. My ability to question someone and their expertise was on full test mode and when it comes to money we always have to make sure we get what we pay for. When it comes to cars and taking care of them, special care has to be made or the likelihood of getting ripped of increases.

Let’s make one thing clear, I love my car. It is symbol of my personal freedom to come and go as I please. I can control how long I stay somewhere because I do not have to wait for anyone. I have had my 2007 Hundai Elantra for 6 years and it has given me very few problems. One thing about owning a car is the annoyance of finding the time to get it inspected every year. This is very necessary because safety trumps everything else. However, being that I can be swamped with working events and money is an issue, it can be difficult to find time to get the inspection done.
So this week, I told myself that I am going to just get it done. I set an appointment for this morning at 8am and dropped off my car at Pepboys. I have been a loyal customer over the years with oil changes and inspections in the past, so today should be no different. I was nervous though, because last year I barely past inspection and I knew I had to get my brakes fixed. I got lucky because last October Cole Muffler had an unbelievable sale on brakes and brake pads. It was one of those things that I knew I could not pass up and since I had the money, I went with it. I ended up replacing all 4 brakes and the pads, plus all 4 routers, and got 2 new set of tires for $900. A lot of money…but for all the work that was done, it was a bargain.
Fast forward to today. I was praying that I passed this inspection. I know my car runs well, but some times you just never know. So I get the phone call from Pepboys telling me that I failed…badly. I am dumbfounded and pissed. The guy tells me that there are several concerns (which I wrote down). He tells me that my tie rods are bad. I have no idea what these are but they effect my allignment. Not all of them are bad but when one goes then they all have to be replaced because it also means I need a realignment. Then he proceeds to me about my BRAKES. The back set is stuck to the router and according to him, it is a safety issue. The best route, in his opinion, is to replace them although he could just clean them too. Then he tells me that my serpentine belt has a crack and there is problem with my sway bar that may have to rectified.
I am just quiet. I asked how much. He quotes me Ten Sixty Seven plus tax. I say…”you mean like, a thousand sixty seven???” I told him that will not work. So I begin to look at my options. The brakes and the tie rods will cost me more than $700. I keep repeating that I would rather the brakes be cleaned and not replaced because I just had those fuckers installed less than a year ago. So then I decide to just say fuck it, let them just do my oil change and I will figure it out. I was late to do my inspection which means they are taking the sticker off.
So I talk to my friend Casey (aka @panthbro) and he reminds me that I did get these brakes done by Cole Muffler. If they did do a horrible job then they have to fix it for free. He was right because I called them and this guy tells me that there is a lifetime warranty. AHA! My day was looking up already. I head over to Pepboys to get my car, pay for the oil change and drive it down the road to Cole. I explained the situation and he (Nick) was already looking at me like something isn’t right. He assures me that we will look at it right away and then tells me that more than likely I was almost ripped off. 
Cole saved the Day!
I leave to go back to work and 10 minutes later…Nick calls me. “Sir…there is nothing wrong with your car. The brakes do have to be cleaned and we can do that here. By the way, your tie rods do not even give one inch.” I almost did a cartwheel. He quotes me a price of $81 for labor and the inspection fee (which is $21). Before he hangs up, Nick says to me that I should report Pepboys to the BBB. If you don’t know, by law, no one can make a false inspection on your car. The fact that Cole can give me my inspection sticker shows that they put their name on the line when it comes to the customer’s safety.
So I pick up my car before they close and Nick is there telling me that this isn’t the first time that he has heard Pepboys doing such a thing. He seemed like a cool everyday guy and I remember not getting that cool feeling from anyone at the other place. It was more like drop off your car and wait kinda deal. It turns out that Nick charged me even less than he quoted because the brakes were not that dirty and it didn’t take that long to clean so he charged me half the labor. My total was $51. 
Which bring me to my point. Question everything! Get a second opinion! You never know what may happen.  I was freaked out and thinking about how I was gonna get the money to pay this. Cars are something that people depend on and because of that it makes us easy prey for those trying to make a quick dollar. 

La Bomba

Right now, I have several stories in my head about this week that I am not sure where to begin. I will talk about this drink that I was given to settle my stomach called “La Bomba”. But, before I get there and say why I need the drink in the first place, what needs to be understood is that what people really do not talk about when taking trips to places such The Dominican Republic is that our American bodies are not prepared for whatever bacteria or micro-organisms we may encounter. So I am here to say that one can get very sick when drinking the water.

As I mentioned, we were in a resort so they do have bottled water and tap water that the bars serve you that is said to be “filtered”. There is even a sign in the bathroom of the hotel room that says to no drink the water. So, being that I have been to Cancun before and have gotten sick, I was sooo not going to drink the water. Here is the problem…most of the drinks are made with ice. Now, when I say I drank everyday…I am not kidding. I now have people who will no longer drink with me because I got them way too drunk.

The two days leading up to the wedding as well as that beautiful day, I was fine. I was knocking them back and I was eating just about anything. Most of the time I was either having Vodka and Cranberry or just Mojitos. The night of the reception was crazy! The place we went to (which the name still escapes me) has mojitos served as a part of the cocktail reception before dinner. So by the end of the night, I think I had about 6 and had 2 shots of Tequila (one of which was a double).  I am feeling very good. We went to a club in which I drank more and then I was hungry of course. We ate at a buffet and then I passed out in my room.

The next morning I wake up. I am fine. I am in my bed and mi prima (cousin) is in hers. I get out of bed and my stomach was like…no puedo. I went to the bathroom and felt better. I go to breakfast and I notice that not only can I not eat…but smell of the food is make me queasy! So I am not like…No..tell me that on my last full day in the Dominican Republic I am going to be sick. I have one pancake and some cafe and I head back to the room.

When I sit down or lay back. I am fine. I feel no pain. When I stand it is like my stomach begins to lose the battle against gravity. I thought about how I can be smart about this. Eventually this will pass. If I lay by the beach I will fine. I can just get some sun and I will still be able to relax. So I do that and I have a nice tan to show for it. I find out that my two cousins are sick too. The one I am rooming with and the brother of the groom…and they are worse off than me.

So after the beach, mi prima  and I head toward the lobby of the resort where we meet up with her sister. She tells us that the brother of the groom had a drink called “La Bomba.” This was something that one of the staff recommended to drink in order to settle our stomachs. That did not sound too bad. I figured we would just take this home remedy and we will be fine. We order it and the bartender knew what it was of course. He makes two. It was a small drink in a small glass and it look RED…like skin of the devil red. It had pieces of herbs floating in it. This was not looking like such a good idea. This was going to taste horrible! So we decide we are going to knock it back and hold the breath while doing it!

The best way I can describe this taste is if you could liquefy a few old pennies and drink them…the taste would be spot on! I never tasted anything so nasty in my entire life. For what it was worth…it seemed to work, but only up until a certain point. As the night went on, I felt somewhat stable but my cousins got worse. Mi prima bought some pepto and we took shots of that. Not even 5 minutes after that she was turning colors. She had to back to the room where she did not do so well. I went to check on her later and she explained how she may have lost some wait because she was hugging the toilet most of the night.

I am scared now. I am hearing stories of other people getting the chills and sick for like a day. I have not gotten any of that. Just stomach cramps! I got up this morning after after barely sleeping because of my bathroom trips and I told myself that I can make it through this flight! I will have to will myself to not use any bathroom until I get home to New York.

Ok…so I am good for most of the morning. We are flying out of Santo Domingo so he have to take shuttle there. It is a 90 minute ride. I make it. We get to the airport and I feel the stomach churning..damn it! So I am plotting on how I can get to the men’s room before the flight leaves. We get all check in. I head to the terminal. One of my other cousins asks if I wanted food. I just give her this scowl and say…”my next meal will be on American soil”. At this point I am eying the bathroom at the terminal. Then I hear my name through the PA. Something in Spanish about I need to see security…wtf!

So the people at the gate are telling me that they cannot identify something in one of the bags I checked. I am thinking about the mini statue I bought that was super wrapped. So, knowing I have no bombs, I wait for them to come get me. My flight is at 12:10 and it is now 11:50 and they have yet to get me. Half the plane has boarded already! I am getting nervous and my stomach is hating me more and more. So this guard comes to get me and two other guys.

I am held in this glass chamber where they bring the bags out. I noticed that the bag they are talking about for me is my small bag that was nothing but shoes in it. I am struggling to remember if I put anything extra in there. They run the bag through the machine and all I see are shoes. They see something different. So they open that shit up and check my shoes! This guy had his fingers all up in the lining of my new shoes! I am looking at him like…really? I gave up my bathroom session so he could finger the soles of my shoes…ugh!

Clearly they found nothing! But I had to board the plane and I did. Plane ride was smooth and my stomach behaved. We get off and go through customs. Delta’s bag claim took forever! I was there for an hour. My brother picks us up. I go to my mom’s where the house is filled with more family! So we had to talk and mingle and eat! All the while I am like…I really need to go.

So I pack the car…and I go to turn it on…that shit is dead! WHY IS MY CAR DEAD? Ugh! So I had to have my bother jump it. Turns out someone left the lights on in the car. I left it at my mom’s all she had to do was move it. I can only guess she left the dome light in the car on.

I finally get my car started…and drive to mi tia’s… She welcomes me and I told her I would love to talk to her…but I need to use the bathroom…