Rod Zapa

This morning as I drove to work on studded snow tires, I realized I never put together that new car post I was promising. So here it is. I’d like to formally introduce you to Rod Zapa.

Rod Zapa on a dark and dreary day

Rod Zapa is my ‘new’ red 1998 Mazda Protege stick shift. I purchased it from Margo, speed skater extraordinaire.

This is my first standard vehicle. It was awhile before I stopped loathing hill starts. Each hill became a delicate game of timing as I tried to crawl towards unforgiving red lights and speed through wavering greens. When I faltered in my timing, my passenger (most often carpool buddy Shaun L.) had to endure excessive revving as I tried to compensate for my shaky clutch work. I sometimes wonder if those cars who stood idly by my side at lights thought it odd I would taunt them with my car’s throaty roar only to piddle and sputter forward once the light changed.

The car has a number of amenities that are novel to me. Most obvious perhaps is the CD player (The future is now!) Rod Zapa also has a sunroof and a temperamental Air Conditioner system (better than my previous ornamental Air Conditioner). Granted, the car runs a little louder than the Nissan and lacks some of the luxurious faux wood paneling in its interior, but its performance has been consistent and I’m pleased with the new ride.

Thanks Margo for the great car!


I had an issue with my online bill pay a few months ago. It stunk. I got late fees added to every single one of my bills because of some weird screw up. In any case, I thought I’d had it all figured out… but just today got a letter in the mail saying that my auto insurance had been canceled because of a missed payment.


I’ve been meaning to check out Geico, so I hit up their website first and, just like that, had car insurance not 25 minutes later. What was especially convenient was that the policy starts tonight at midnight, so I won’t have any time uninsured. Neat.

Thanks Geico!

The Beginning of the End

A few years back Jocelyn sold me her Nissan Altima. What a nice little car! It took some tender appreciation and a fair amount of time in a shop before it could be considered a fully operational battlestation four door sedan, but it got there and it’s been faithful for 60,000 miles.

Sadly, it’s beginning to show its age; the CV joints need replacing and there’s a vague smell of burning when you drive for more than 6 feet. It might not be anything to worry about but I figured I’d throw out the obligatory proclaimation: if you know anyone who’s trying to sell a car for cheap, fire me an e-mail – MikeDiDonato AT gmail D0T com.

Perhaps we can work something out. This little beast won’t last forever, so it’s probably best if I start looking at replacements now.

The other option would, of course, be to buy a smart car. Though it might be tricky to fit a bo staff into a smart car.

The Nissan

I had some mighty plans for Saturday that came to a grinding halt on the off ramp to 691 in Meriden. I was driving to get to the House of Rock after Kung Fu for a quick stop before turning around and heading back to Stoneham to say hello to my folks when the tachometer needle started shaking violently. UP down down UP down down UP down down UP… it shook itself to 0 and the engine stalled.

I was coasting at about 40, hit my emergency lights and touched the brakes to slow to a stop… could I make it across the street to the Shell station? … I gasped! When the car stalled I lost power brakes, but I didn’t make this connection in my head at the time of the engine stall, so when I touched the brakes I got no response. There was a mild freak out, I yanked the emergency brake, swung the wheel, and screeched to a standstill on the grass off of the highway.

I called up Shaun who helped me push the car across the street to that gas station. We tried to start the car again… to no avail. I walked into the Gas Station. There was a young Indian man behind the counter in an orange creamsicle colored shirt.

“Excuse me, my car broke down, is there a service station nearby?”
“yes actually, there’s one right on the other side of the dairy queen,” he responded pointing north “it’s about a 1 minute walk. If it’s closed, come back and I can get a friend who might be able to help you.”

Shaun and I headed over to the service station, but it was indeed closed. We walked back to the gas station and I thanked Shaun for his help and suggested that he head back home. I walked back into the service station.

“Hi, yeah… the place down the street is closed. You said you knew someone who might be able to lend me a hand?”
“Yes,” He said with a smile, “I’ll bring you to his shop. It’s just a ways down the street.”

I followed him to his car. It was a Lexus SUV.

“Wow! Nice car,” I stammered
“Thanks! It’s big, but it does the trick.”
“Do you own this gas station?”
“I do,” he responded “in fact a friend and I own a bunch of properties”
“mostly in this area?”
“actually no. All over. We have some in Michigan and New Jersey…” he went on with the list.
“That’s amazing!”
“yeah, we started about 10 years ago and now it’s about a 15 million dollar business”


He took me over to a little shop in Meriden where I met Jose. Jose promised he’d take a look at the car. I left the keys and my new Indian friend brought me back to the shop. I picked a few things out of the car that I needed and then headed home.

I’m not sure what’s wrong with the car, hopefully nothing too expensive. But this was definitely a unique experience. I’m grateful to have ended up at this particular gas station.