Last night, I shared with you the glossy part of my trip from Eagle’s Nest, Arizona to the Rainbow Shower in Maui. What you got was the “everything is beautiful at the ballet”-version of what happened (the quote is a song from the “Chorus Line” musical).  I had to face and overcome many challenges and unexpected twists of fate. In the end, however, Friday the 13th turned out to be a lucky day for me.  And it ended in the pink. Literally. Check out the pictures of the magical sunset (above).

Now, here’s what really happened, warts and all…

Forget “TSA Precheck”

The line at the TSA security checkpoint at the Phoenix Sky Harbor airport was “a mile long” when I arrived there.  Since I had only about half an hour before the gates closed, I was not sure if I would make it. So I started to look for alternative solutions.

A helpful TSA agent at the back of the line told us about the “TSA Precheck” as a way to avoid long queues like this.  She made it sound like the greatest thing since sliced bread.  What she did not say that there is a catch. There always seems to be when dealing with our kind of government. They want to agree to be fingerprinted first. Like a criminal!  Oh, yeah, one more thing. They also want you to pay them $85. After you stand in line first to get fingerprinted, of course.

So forget the “TSA Precheck” if you value your liberties.  At that moment, another TSA agent walked to the back of the line and started pulling out the passengers who were “premier” mileage program members. I was not sure if I had that status with Hawaiian Air, an airline that we mostly use for inter-island travel.  But in an instant, I became a “premier” customer.

Five minutes later, I was through with the TSA rigmarole and on my way to the gate.

Early Gate Departure, Followed by 40-minute Delay

We pushed off five minutes early. Hawaiian Air seems to have a habit of doing it.  Back in August, we missed our flight to Kauai even though we arrived at the gate 20 minutes before departure time.

After sitting on the tarmac for about 5 minutes, the captain announced that we had some malfunctioning hydraulic pressure gauge light, and would have to return to the gate for repairs.

That’s when I put my book down, and started to talk to the Spirits. I asked them to intervene, if it pleases the Creator, and put these airline geeks out of their techno-misery.

No sooner did we arrive back at the gate, the captain announced that the faulty hydraulic gauge light is now working.

“I don’t know what happened, but everything is looking good now,” he said. “But now that I reported the problem, we will have to have maintenance run tests to make sure everything is okay.”

He added some platitudes about how all this extra bureaucracy was for our safety.  Forty minutes late, we finally left the gate for good and took off for Honolulu.

Early Arrival But Without Baggage

In the end, despite a late departure from Phoenix, we landed in Honolulu on time. Goes show how much the airlines pad their schedules to avoid being called late. Of course, headwinds are also a big factor, especially over the world’s biggest ocean.IMG_0875

After we disembarked in Honolulu, I saw on the airport monitor that there was a flight to Kahului, Maui scheduled to leave in about 15 minutes. If I were able to get on it, it would save me two hours of twiddling my thumbs at the Honolulu airport. So I decided to try going as a standby. I got on. I was even able to text my Maui driver the change of plans before we took off. So he could try to meet me earlier. He did. He was there, greeting me with a big smile and a beautiful lei. He was the one who took this picture at the Kahului airport (right).  I saved the lei for Elizabeth.

Of course, my bag did not make that earlier flight. I did not expect that it would. But I figured, since i have to come back into town to buy some groceries, I could easily stop by the airport to pick it up.  Little did I know what lay ahead…

First of Many Techno-Failures

When we arrived in Maui from Arizona back in June, we discovered that our spa (jacuzzi) was busted. This led to a series of long and annoying repairs, not to mention unexpected expenses.  This time around, trouble started even before I got to the spa.  I could not get into the house. The garage door clicker I took with me was kaput.  Fortunately, we had a backup solution which I used to get in eventually.

My next challenge after opening up the house was to see if our cars would start. I had disconnected the Jeep batter before we left. As for the Nissan Leaf, our electric car, I was told by the dealer to leave the 110V electric charger plugged in. Which would prevent the car automatically turning itself off after a couple of weeks, the service advisor explained.

I tried the Leaf first. I could not even get into it. Everything on that car is electronic, including the keys. In fact, I never even used the key.  I just carried it always in my bag. The car would sense it and respond accordingly. To start the engine, you press a button, just like on airplanes.  You don’t use a key.

So I was faced with the first of many unexpected challenges. How to open a locked car armed with electronic security when the power if completely off?  I decided I had no time to deal with that for the time being. So I moved on to the Jeep. Luckily, our old “El Jeepo” started like a charm as soon as I reconnected the battery poles. Score a point for something old and dependable versus something new and fancy.

El Jeepo is an open air car. No roof.  No doors to speak of.  So it is really a “fair weather” vehicle. Luckily again, yesterday was a beautiful day. It was fun driving back into town and enjoying the views of surfers and waves on Maui’s north shore.

But I first had to go to our local Haiku post office to stop the mail forwarding to Arizona. Over here, the post office closes at 3:30 PM. So there was no way I could have made it on my return trip from the airport.

About half way to the post office, two things occurred to me. None good. First, I had left the hose running, filling the spa. So I would have to return home to turn it off after I get my business done at the post office before going on to the airport. Second, I was driving a car with an expired license plate.  Technically.  El Jeep’s registration renewal falls in November. We were in Arizona at the time. So we had the renewal paperwork mailed to us there. Which was now in my bag. Which I was about to retrieve at the airport, but did not have in my possession as yet.  So I pleaded with the Spirits to keep the cops away from El Jeepo. 🙂

I made it to the airport just in time. My bag was just coming off the carousel when I got to the baggage are. Again, a bit of good luck.

Turning New Leaf with Nissan Leaf

My next visit was to the Nissan dealer. Bad news. The Leaf service advisor told me that the one and technical expert they had had quit. They have not found a replacement as yet. And he, the service advisor, did not really know much about such matters as the Leaf security system or what to do to prevent battery failures during long absences.

He did help me at least by calling his buddy to find out where Nissan had hidden the manual key so I could at least open the car.  When he showed it to me, I just shook my head. What an idiotic design. Trying to hide a key from the owner of a car.  It’s security for the sake of security not for the benefit of a customer.  Sort of reminded me of whoever designed the airport security.

The Nissan advisor suggested I buy a battery charge at a retail store and try charging the 12-volt battery. I did not have a clue what he was talking about. I have never done anything like it. Even figuring out how to attach jumper cables was a challenge for me. I hate dealing with techie things. Which is ironic, I know, since I have made my living advising high tech companies about business strategy. But to me, a car is a means of getting from A to B. It is not an object of joy or adoration or intellectual stimulation which would warrant investing one’s time and energy into such “how to” issues.

Anyway, I followed his advice and bought a Schumacher charger. $45 plus tax.

Battery Charging Nightmare

When I arrived home, and tried to follow the charger instructions, I soon realized it would be a long night. Nothing worked as it was supposed to. Every time I connected the device to the battery, it would be nuts. Beeping in three-beep bursts like an alarm.aaaaaa cap

I called the store where I bought the device. They were about as helpful as a door nail. But before wasting an hour of my time. By that stage, the Nissan dealer was already closed. So I finally had to give up and move on to other things, hoping that the light of dawn would shed some light on this Leaf battery mystery.

I actually woke up at 4:30 AM, got up at 5 AM. Jetlag was a part of it. The Leaf was another. It had been raining overnight. It was still raining when I got up. So the prospects of me being able to use El Jeepo to run my errands were not very good.

Since Schumacher, the maker of the battery charger, is in the Central Time Zone, I called them. After spending about half an hour with a pretty knowledgeable technician, we were able to prove that there was nothing wrong with the charger. It worked fine on El Jeepo’s battery. So it was clearly a Leaf problem.

So I called the Nissan Leaf US national service center. I spent about 15 minutes talking to a Wesley. He sounded nice and friendly. Nissan evidently have a good record keeping system because he saw that I had been buying Infinitis for two decades before getting this Leaf in 2012. He used the opportunity to thank me for that business and loyalty.

And then stunned me when he said, “it’s been nice talking to you. Have a great day.”

“Wait a minute,” I said. “You have not actually DONE anything to help me start the car. All you did was collect the information and engage in small talk. How do I start my car?”

“Oh, I can’t help you with that,” Wesley said calmly. “The battery charger is not a Nissan product.”

I could not believe my ears. “How many loyal customers do you suppose you are going to have with that kind of service?” I said.

Wesley was not happy that a customer actually expected him to solve a problem. He threatened to hang up on me. So I asked to speak to his supervisor. Miffed, I suppose, he put me on perpetual hold. Eventually, I hung up. Which is what I suspect he was hoping would be the final outcome. Except it wasn’t.  It was only a beginning.

The way Nissan passed the buck made only more determined to expose publicly the Leaf customer support for what it is: non-existent.

Dealing with Local Nissan Dealer

After the Nissan dealer’s office opened in Maui, I called them again. I talked to the service advisor, my original salesman, and the CEO office. Jim Falk is the guy who owns most of the car dealerships on this island, including Nissan. His personal assistant called me back within an hour. I told her what had happened. She was very apologetic and said she would make sure Jim Falk hears the story and does something about it.

Meanwhile, my local service advisor said he did not know what was causing those three-beep alarms, nor how to turn them off so that the battery could be charged.

“You may have to get a new battery,” he said.  He named another early Leaf customer who did that when he had a similar problem. “He got the new battery and put it in himself.”

“There is no way that I am going to be removing and installing any batteries,” I said.  “So you’ve got to come up with a better solution. Just out of curiosity, how much is the battery?”

“About a hundred bucks.” He then recommended I call a local towing service.

“A towing service?” I sounded surprise.

“Yes. They can jump-start your battery.”

“I can do that, too, with jumper cables without having to pay for a service call. I can use my Jeep as a source.”

“No, not those kinds of jumper cables. The heavy duty ones that the truckers use.”

Again, I had no idea what he was talking about. All this automotive techie talk an alien world to me.

“Just call Jamie,” the service advisor said. “He’s done it before. He’ll know what to do.”

“But will it invalidate my warranty” I asked. “After all, this car is under Nissan warranty.”

“No, it won’t,” the advisor said. “Trust me. Jamie is very good.”

I called Jamie. Of course, I only got his voicemail. But he did call me back quickly.

“That would be $105 for the service call,” he said. He added he could be here “within the hour.”

“But what if that doesn’t work?” I wondered. “What if I still have to buy a new battery, plus have the car towed.”

That’s when Jamie asked me to explain what the problem was in more detail.

“That’s easy,” he said. “Because your battery is dead, when the charger is connected, the battery comes to life and wants to know where the key is. So (not having one) is triggering the security alarm.”

“Duh!” I thought to myself as the penny dropped. Of course, that would do it. I did not have the key on me when trying to charge the battery. I had just used it to open the car and then put it away.

“All you need to do is press the key to lock the car when the alarm goes on, and the press it again to unlock it. That will turn off the alarm.”

“And why was I hearing that from a third-party truck towing service and not Nissan?” I thought to myself. I was thinking about all those hours I had spent on the phone with various Nissan people, not to mention tons of frustration.

“Go ahead and try that,” said Jamie. “And then call me if you still want me to come. I am on my way to Paia anyway.”

Back at Nissan Dealer, Looking for Fridge

Jamie’s solution worked like a charm. I then allowed the charger to work for 2-3 hours before attempting to start the car. It started with no problems. But there were some minor issues with electric signals on the dash that needed to be reset by a dealer.

The Nissan shop was very busy when I took the Leaf back to the dealer this afternoon. At first, my service advisor said he could not take the car in until Dec 23. That’s the day the newly-trained techie is supposed to start work. But when he heard how minor the issues are, my advisor said “I can do all that myself.”

Suddenly he was not shy to offer technical support. I could not help but wonder if Jim Falk had already spoken to his staff about the call I made to his office this morning.

“Can you leave the car with me now for about an hour or an hour and a half?” the advisor said.

“I suppose that’s better than coming back another day and waiting an hour and a half then,” I said. “Do you have a fridge?”

“Do I have a what?”

“Does your dealership have a fridge? I have some cheese in the car that I just bought.”

He laughed. “Andy, your salesman, has a fridge in his office.”

I took my cheese there. Andy was nowhere to be seen. I asked a nice receptionist if she would put my cheese for me in Andy’s fridge.

“What do you want me to do?” she repeated, sounded stunned. She evidently did not know that Andy had a secret cool stash in his office.

I explained. Then she laughed and took my cheese to Andy’s fridge.

As I was leaving the dealership, my finger nail broke. Which have me the idea me to spend the hour or so while waiting for my Leaf to be fixed getting a manicure and pedicure. I walked to my nail tech’s office. And along the way, I saw this example of Maui’s navigational pride and joy – a “Boat That Don’t Float.”

IMG_0878 IMG_0879

This vessel has certainly seen its better days. It reminded me of another “Boat That Don’t Float” which was parked off Hana Hwy in 2009-2010 and used by a guy with a fruit and veggie roadside stand.  In fact, he invented that name.

I was amazed to see that a heap of trash like that was allowed to stay on one of Kahului’s major streets. But then, not everything in Maui is green. We have seen many car wrecks just dumped in cane grass fields.

Seeing this wreck, at a time when my day was just starting to get brighter with me Leaf techno-troubles behind me, reminded me once again that the Good and the Bad are close cousins.  And that in the end, “all’s well that ends well.” Even on Friday the 13th. 🙂

And now you know the rest of the story…

Simpler Is Better, Lighter Is Easier

As you know, there are no “good” or “bad” experiences in life, only lessons. So what lessons did I learn from all that transpired in my life in the last 24 hours?

Well, one thing I learned was that the Spirit wanted to remind me to stay away from man-made technologies. The more “sophisticated,” the less reliable.

“Stay close to the land and live a simple life.” That’s the line I heard this evening. It echoes something I have been hearing ever since we went to Arizona back in March of this year. “Simpler is better.”

Another thing I learned was that my guides and teachers were testing both my patience and perseverance. The “old Bob” would have persevered alright. But he would have also left a trail of blood and bruised egos on the way to a solution. The “new Bob,” however, got to the same point with a light touch and a smile.  And by not pushing too hard in any particular direction. Ultimately, the road to the solution opened up and presented itself.

“(Treading) Lighter Is Easier” – I heard another message. Maybe that’s also what the Spirit realm signaled with that magical golden, pink and violet sunset this evening.

Sunset 12-13-13-4

“I’ll be sure to tell Jim Falk that you took care of me this afternoon personally,” I said to my Nissan technical advisor as we parted this afternoon.

“I sure appreciate that, man,” he said. “Have a great weekend.”

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