A Week of Retirement

October 17, 2023 was my last day at work.  Following the end of the normal workday, I was honored with a dinner by my local colleagues (and was presented with gift cards for $500 at Guitar Center!).  And then my retired life began.

It’s now been a week.  There are many books and tales of how people adjust to retirement.  Perhaps the most apparent to me is the ease of not having to adhere to a daily schedule.  Oh, for sure there are places and times that I must still conform to, such as helping pack food for students, church services and activities, and the recovery meetings I attend.  But each morning as I open my eyes, the first thing my eyes alight on is the clock, and my first thought is, “I don’t have to get up just yet.”  I do anyway, because I’m now awake, but there is no pressure to do so.

I must learn to concern myself less with financial issues.  One of the first tasks I undertook without needing to care about the time was to take my Mercedes in for what I thought was going to be a simple five minute fastener replacement.  Nope.  It turns out the loose fastener is due to my front bumper coming loose.  I need a new front bumper.  Sigh.  So now almost immediately I’m faced with an unexpected expense (Mercedeses aren’t cheap to maintain).  The two sides of my mind say, “Oh, boy, this is gonna hurt.” and “You’ve got the money.  Be glad it happened now and not ten years into your retirement.”  These are new thoughts, brought on by the knowledge I do not have a regular paycheck to refill my bank account.

Health coverage is another new facet to my retired life.  My employer paid 100% of my health coverage and now I have to navigate the confusing waters of Medicare and its multiple “parts.”  I have already confirmed my enrollment in Medicare Part A, but I’ve had to request a “replacement” card since I don’t recall ever receiving the original.  And I need that in order to apply for Part B.  The government says I should receive it within the month.  A month!

Still, I have a long-anticipated trip to Peru looming.  I paid for it while I still was earning a paycheck, so I’m not fretting the payment, and simply looking forward to my first adventure without having to set an out-of-office auto-reply on my email.

Finally, I’m making sure I still get my exercise.  The weather recently made it easy to just sit on the couch reading, but my upcoming trip will be physically taxing, and I’m so used to moving my body that I am resuming walking and running.  I went for a nice three mile walk yesterday, once again cognizant that I didn’t have to be anywhere (home) at any specific time.  The weather was early Autumn wonderful, so I explored some new paths in my continuing knowledge of the community in which I live.  I love that we have trails and paths.  One day perhaps, I’ll have walked, run or biked them all!

The Lost Art of Automobile Design

Lately as I’ve been driving it’s occurred to me that most vehicles on the road today are indistinguishable from one another. This is particularly true in the “sport utility vehicle” (SUV) class. If this were a super-popular blog site, I suspect many would accuse me of either posting “click bait,” or of having lost my sense of taste, if not my mind.

But honestly, I have noticed in traffic the outline of a vehicle and thought to myself, “I wonder what make that is?” I suppose the need often influences the design, so when a multi-passenger vehicle with lots of storage room is needed, things like lift gates and such are automatic. Yet, it seems to me that often the only distinguishing feature on a vehicle is its grill or front-end look.

Some brands have iconic grills. BMW, for example, has the “double-kidney” grill.

BMW’s iconic grill design

Mercedes-Benz is recognizable by its three-pointed star, which sometimes makes it to the grill, but is almost always present on the hood of the car.

The Mercedes-Benz star

But the rest of the automotive world is an ever-changing jumble of looks and frills, most of which are forgettable the moment they’re introduced.

Some makers provoke in me a “what were they thinking?” response. Audi, for example, went the way of what I’ve referred to as an “Ox Collar” look.

Audi’s now familiar, but ungainly grill

In personal disclaimer mode, I will confess that nearly every car I’ve purchased has had some type of “distinctive” look to it. My two present cars straddle that line a bit. My yellow smart fortwo electric drive is easy to pick out in any parking lot. My Mercedes-Benz coupe not so much.

My 2015 smart fortwo electric drive (ED)

Sure, it’s opinionated. But this is my blog, where the subtitle is, “Everybody’s entitled to my opinion!” 🙂

smart? Or not?

The wheels were already turning as I made ready to move into my new home.  I had previously noted the existence of an electric vehicle charging station

Electric Car Charging Station

and I knew instinctively that I was going to have to find a way to put it to use.  After all, despite the resistance to (and I freely admit my participation) new forms of fuel, there is a part of me that believes electric vehicles are the wave of the future (at least until fusion power becomes the norm).

I did some research. I went to CarMax and looked at a used Nissan Leaf.  I went to a Chevy dealer and checked out Motor Trend’s 2017 Car of the Year, the Bolt. I read about BMW’s i3 (and oh-so-sexy i8!).  But YIKES, the cost of these cars — even used!

But one car came across my browser page:  The smart fortwo electric coupe.  Designed and sold by Mercedes-Benz (the name is actually an acronym: “Swatch, Mercedes ART”), this little two-seater has a quirky appeal (to me, at least).  I don’t need a new car; my 2014 Mercedes-Benz E350C4 with only 19,000 miles on it is just a doggone fun — and attractive — car.  And I’m going to keep it!

I found several smart electrics (or “ED” as they are unfortunately named) in the area.  I went and looked at one in a lot, and kept coming back to one I saw online.  I called the dealer, an independent used car seller, and said I wanted to check it out.

And check it out I did.  In fact, I wrote a check and drove it out (away)!

It’s a 2015 and had 17,400 miles on it.  I put $1,800 of tires, brakes and service into it to bring it to manufacturer’s spec, and now it’s my “local runabout.”  It has a range of about 90 miles, and a top speed of about 76 mph.  A/C AM/FM with AUX and USB inputs, a charging plug (for my phone) and surprisingly roomy!

I’m not sure where this is going to lead me.  I’ve been saying this is my way of dipping my toes into the EV pond.  Time will tell.