~ Ishie the ion ~

In the saddest sad news ever, sadly, my beloved Saturn was smooshed and eventually "totaled" (by Travelers Insurance) on November 18, 2017 when a woman unyielded to me when I had the right of way - and a green light - and forced me into driving right into her SUV. Saturns are designed to crumple ("safety?") and her car was barely scratched. My car wasn't horribly damaged, but it was 10+ years old and had over 140K miles. I bought that baby with barely 100 miles on it. It wasn't running perfectly, but that was my girl. We'd been through a lot. That gassy smell from way back in 2010? Fuel pump. Free replacement. Over 4th of July one summer, 2014ish? - I was at the in-laws' and tried to turn the car off and the key came out... but the engine did not turn off! Uh... what? Couldn't figure it out. Ended up driving it to the dealer (not open, holiday!) in early evening and leaving it there, running. The shop called the next morning, car was STILL running (and I left the AC on, so it was crispy). Eesh. They fixed it, and re-keyed the locks. Annoying. A couple years later, got a thing in the mail about free-of-charge ignition fixes, and put in a claim for that previous bill, and they paid it!! The CD player was not covered by my warranty and never was fixed and I was running a Discman through it for almost 8 years. Occasionally it would work for periods of days or weeks, and then not, for months or years. Weird. Had it parked in a public parking lot near our apartment (and right near a large storm drain) when it rained hard and long, and evidently flooded the lot after the drain backed up, and in turn, water got inside my car. I never noticed... I had a stack of vinyl records on the floor of my non-driver seats, and didn't notice the water underneath them that had leaked in, until DAYS later. It started to really smell. Ruined a bunch of those records (mostly the covers/sleeves) and also damaged my fuel line underneath the car, which I had to have replaced. I still miss MY car - I was the only owner! I miss not having a car payment. I was fully thinking of getting a new car - in a couple years, maybe. Totally threw off my financial planning. And I miss the car phone... it helped me stave off owning a cell phone until 2017!!


I got myself a sweet little Saturn on the evening of August 16, 2006. Her name is Ishie. She's a 2007 ION 2, 4-door, 4-speed automatic sedan. I picked her up with a scant 104 miles. She's deep blue with gray interior.

Day Two : Ain't she purty in the light?

Profile. Sleek.

Check out that sweet silver pinstriping.

I actually thought I was getting alloy wheels, standard. But nope, those are very sneaky wheel covers. Damnit.

I used to conserve Oberlins...

But now I represent! Boilers in the house!


9.20.10 - Still same weird intermittent ignition problems, and constant gassy odor. It's not leaking gas. Constantly flooded? No idea. Some very slight engine rumblings when it does give trouble starting, generally not running rough at all. Planning to take it to a Chevy dealer for complimentary oil change/tire rotation (since Saturn no longer exists) and have the problem investigated, though I'm dreading that possible bill. E-mailed the dealer about CD player problems and they said it might be covered in my warranty and that they would forward my message to their service department and I did not hear back. Plan to have alignment checked by local shop.

8.30.10 - At some point in late July I had a weird thing happen while starting the car... I let go of the key after I what I thought was enough time to start the car, and the engine kept attempting to turn, eventually starting. Around the same general time I noticed a gassy smell eminating from the car. The weird key/ignition thing happened a couple times, only on a cold start, though I started to hold on to the key a smidge longer. It persisted enough that I took it in to the shop to get checked out, but they found nothing wrong with it that they could identify. Initially the guy said it may just be a battery, and that I flooded the car (gassy smell). After having it for 3 days they told me they couldn't charge me for anything and that was that. Then of course when I asked them to do the inspection, they told me I needed 2 new tires (which I kind of expected). I bought 2 new last year at inspection - the ones that came with the car were supposedly 80,000 mile tires. I have barely 50K and all 4 are now off the car. I did not replace with the same tire, which was ridiculously expensive (I laughed at him when he suggested replacing all 4 with same tire, it was close to $1000). I think I have an alignment problem. But since this most recent new tire purchase I haven't noticed the wobble I mentioned back in March. I do think I probably notice a slight scratch in the brakes, though. Great.

7.2.10 - FIFTY LARGE. 50,000. 50K. On Route 1 on the way back from the beach in Delaware. In almost exactly 4 years.

3.26.10 - Rolled over 45 thousand miles somewhere in the middle of Ohio on the way to see the folks in Hoosierland. That little squeaky wobble is still there (from 10.09). Possibly idling somewhat loudly. Still no CD player (I'm plugging in my discman).

11.16.09 - I was literally 3 blocks from work when I was driving by one of the zoo parking lots and saw somebody parked smack in the middle of it (with tons of empty spots surrounding) and I glanced over, curiously, like "what's that dude doing?" Then I noticed the car in front of me had stopped (it was morning rush, sort of approaching a stoplight) and I failed to notice in enough time to fully stop. I rear ended the dude. Totally my fault, didn't hit him that super hard, but hard enough to do a little bit o' damage to both cars. (pictures below!) He called the cops before I even had a chance to talk to him. Ah well. First time ever in an accident that was my fault where police were called (2 minor previous fender benders FIFTEEN YEARS AGO); I got rear ended once a few years ago (and then again a couple months after this!) The po-po didn't take all that long, thankfully, and I was only 15 minutes late to work. I guess the paperwork is easy when you completely admit fault without provocation. My grill is bent in a bit, my hood is slightly lipped up and my headlight was knocked askew and down (some of the plastic parts that hold it in place were broken, but the light was not damaged). I totally jerry-rigged the light back in place (with some electrical tape and a piece of foam padding; MacGyver=me) and have no plans to fix the rest. The other dude's trunk was dented in and the lid itself was bent inside the frame of the trunk. Currently waiting on the bill. My deductible is $500. Joy. Of course this was in west Philly and the guy I hit is from Drexel Hill.

click for more damage!

10.5.09 - Continuing with the theme, I hit 40K somewhere on I-95 on the way to see Ben Folds in Wilmington, DE. I'm hearing a small little wobble that I only really notice when slowing to a stop. Hmmm. (different from the previous "shimmy").

6.24.09 - 35 thou, sometime around going to or from the fabulous GABE DIXON BAND concert downtown. GREAT fucking show. Car is sounding good... very small shimmy starting to show in the wheel. Not enough for a check up yet. CD player hasn't worked in months. Grr.

12.21.08 - 30 large. 30 grand. 30K. Thirty Thousand Miles, on 476 heading home after picking up Tristan. I didn't see it happen.

08.12.08 - One quarter of a century (in thousands of miles) is done, though I don't really know where - I missed it. Probably somewhere close to arriving or leaving work. Just before seeing Matt Duke play from about 2 feet away at a Barnes & Noble. Almost exactly 2 years after getting the car.

04.06.08 - Hit the 20,000 mile mark on the ol' odometer today, on the way to work in the morning, probably somewhere on Parkside Ave in the park.

01.31.08 - At the car wash, yeah! Not my usual spot, though (it was out of order). I could have waited but Tristan had never been through a car wash before and was beyond excited about it, so I drove around for a half hour and found another one - not as good. I had to do a lot of touching up myself, but it's awful shiny now! I think that was my 4th official wash.

01.18.08 - So I'd been hearing a noise coming from my right rear tire for a few weeks, and gradually it got louder. I looked a few times and finally figured out just recently that the cable/brake line to that wheel had somehow come to be flush against the tire; it was knocking into a metal bracket/plate on the inside of the wheel well as the tire rotated. I took it into the shop today (wanted to wait until the after tire rotation below to see if that might take care of it) and they told me it probably wasn't an alignment problem (thankfully) and indeed, all it had done was fall out of the bracket that holds it away from the tire. The dude put it back in the bracket, and then also zip-tied it to the frame. Guess what my bill was? $50 bucks! The zip-tie alone was $3.60 and total labor was $45!! Geezus, take two.

01.11.08 - Oil change IV, tire rotation, and new air filter. I inadvertantly agreed to the new air filter unintentionally - my response was something like "yeah, it's ok" which meant to me "no, I don't need one" but I guess I was OK'ing the new filter. I realized this shortly after I said it, but let it slide mainly because I was lazy and didn't want to look stupid - I figured a new one wouldn't hurt and shouldn't cost too much. Then I got the bill. Who knew air filters were $30?! Not I! Jimminy Christmas.

10.14.07 - The border has been breached. I have finally opened the hood for the first time on a car I have owned for 14 months. My coolant level was indeed below the "fill" line, though not by a whole lot. I added some and have not seen the return of the word COOLANT on the dash.

10.07.07 - Another Mileage Milestone (tm) - 15,000 miles on 422 on the way to pick up Tristan. We spend a lot of time on 422 (see previous MMs). I continue to have not looked under the hood, but the word COOLANT has appeared briefly on my dashboard a couple of times. It's not explicitly stated in my manual as to why; I assume it's getting low, but I'll have to check when it's not pouring down rain.

8.23.07 - Oil change #3. Mileage : 13,630. I still have not yet looked under the hood.

8.16.07 - Ishie turns one year old! We celebrate by letting birds unleash liters of poo upon her.

7.25.07 - Put on the new plate! Awww yeah. Dig it:

7.21.07 - Finally remembered my camera - and remembered to actually use it - to get this awesome Mileage Milestone: 12345 miles. On 422 just before the I-76 South exit ramp, on the way to see Matt Duke (via dropping off Tristan), photo by Steph.

7.17.07 - Got the first annual vehicle/emissions inspection (passed with flying colors, of course) and also received my new Purdue plate the following day. Righteous. Pictures to follow. I have had this car almost a full year and have still yet to actually look under the hood.

6.07.07 - I broke out the paint pens for the scratch (see below) and because they were really dried out, it took a lot of effort to sorta fill it in. But it's actually very unnoticeable from a reasonable distance. I may have to give it some more coats. I made some before & after photos, of course. Click for larger versions.

6.03.07 - Because I am dumb, I rubbed the right-rear corner of my car up against a cinder-block wall at the back of our house, trying to park it (it was also raining). It wasn't a direct hit, and not very hard, but I got it pretty good and left a very wide scratch-path from near the bumper to the inner side of the wheel well. Nice. It's kinda deep in a few spots. Hey, thankfully I still have paint pens!

5.23.07 - Ten thousand miles. I saw it at 9998 but missed the "rollover" (it's digital). Sweetness. On the way home from work/picking up Tristan at school.

2.21.07 - Hit 7,000 miles last night somewhere on 422. Today I got my first official car wash and another oil change, plus a tire rotation. I'm on the ball. I have not looked under the hood. I've had this car 6 months now.

1.18.07 - Just finished the first round-trip to NYC, intact. Dealt with snow, sleet, rain, aggressive cabbies, a bridge and a tunnel, and way too many overly-bold pedestrians. Covered Manhattan and the Bronx in 278 miles. And also passed 6,000 total miles on the drive up.

12.19.06 - Passed the 5,000 mile mark, somewhere on 476 near Villanova, I think. I still have yet to wash my car or look under the hood. I've had it over 4 months.

12.6.06 - Tried to make a quick-merge into street traffic and didn't see the very large "Pedestrian Crossing" sign in the middle of the road (it was dark, another car was partially blocking my view of it, and another excuse) and I ran it right the fuck over. It popped right back up (it's made that way) but it sure put a nice scratch/ding in the bottom of my front bumper. Hey, I still have factory-matched paint! I'm lucky that's all it did.

11.24.06 - Finally settled on the final name choice! Say hi to Ishie.

11.9.06 - First oil change/new oil filter (Jiffy Lube). Mileage : 3,730

10.27.06 - Bought more minutes for my car phone since the free ones were almost gone and almost expired. They were $14.99 but I got charged $18.34 with no explanation as to the extra charges, save for a footnote that said "sales taxes, surcharges and other fees may apply". I wrote OnStar a lengthy email discussing why it would be good for them to be fully forthcoming with information to their customers (indeed the only reason I knew the total amount was because my bank had listed the charge online), and two days later - someone from OnStar called me to personally explain the fees!

9.10.06 - a) First roadtrip to Indiana is complete (in record time). b) She hit the 2000 mile mark. c) We've confirmed that she can go 100 mph, for purely scientific reasons, of course.

9.7.06 - Received expensive, factory-matched paint and attempted to touch-up scratch on driver side door. Sort of.

9.6.06 - I received the first car/phone call (it was Steph), much to my surprise!

8.26.06 - Someone fucking scratched my car. It's small (well - not long, but harsh), and right by the keyhole on the driver side and very obvious against the dark paint. No, I didn't key my own car - not even accidentally. It happened while it was parked at work. It's 10 days old!

8.23.06 - Received my first OnStar diagnostic email (they come monthly!). Everything checks out, my oil life is 96%. They assigned my car its own phone number! Call me.

8.16.06 - Picked up this beautiful machine from the dealer. It has 104 miles.


I had been driving my faithful Neon for over 6 years when she started having some more problems than the usual gradual oil leak and random speedometer dearth. Then a tire/alignment thing went way off (I bought 4 new tires). Then the AC went kaput (I paid for more freon). Then the radio stopped working completely. Sort of. It would come back on for brief periods, just magically coming on when I started the car about once a week. A couple times it came to life in the middle of driving. Just like LL said, "I can't live without my radio!" I started to get worried. Then the engine started knocking a little more than usual. It seemed like the oil leak was getting worse (or perhaps I just didn't see the oil light come on as often because it stopped working, too). The last straw was the brakes. I got a whole set of new brakes a few years ago, and they aren't cheap. There was a bit of a slight whistling sound going on there for a week or two, and then BAM! One Sunday morning they just started grinding like a 15 year-old boy at a high school dance. Like stepping on an entire bag of Doritos, repeatedly, for minutes at a time. Throughout all of this, it also appeared that the speedometer was working less and less. The odometer was barely over 90K but I swear the actual miles had to be near 105K or more. Steph had been on me when the radio stopped working to get a new car, but I was fighting her off until the brakes went out. She was secretly ecstatic that day. The week before that, my engine stalled literally about 30 feet from the house when I was severely low on oil. I didn't know it was just oil at the time and I thought I might have to buy a car the next day. I brought her back to life - temporarily - but I figured it was just a matter of time.

I spent some casual time checking out hybrids like the Prius and the Civic. I don't really know why I have such an aversion to foreign cars (I'm all about my Sony products) but I didn't want to buy one if at all possible. I had hoped that by the time I needed a car (which I had fully intended to be another year or more) there would be a decent domestic hybrid out there, but American companies still don't quite get it. But then again, the hybrids that are available aren't cheap. I was very much leaning to the Prius, because that gas mileage is insane, but with a starting price at around $25K and low availability (I was not going to settle for anything less than blue), the price scared me into checking out other conventional economy cars. To my chagrin, the Neon has been discontinued as of this year. But there was the Cobalt (Chevy) and the Focus (Ford). Both not bad, both relatively cheap, both decent gas mileage comparable to Nellie. And then I remembered seeing a Saturn that I thought looked pretty sharp one day while we were driving down Baltimore Pike past a dealership. Steph owns a Saturn. I'm all about no haggle pricing. And it's American. I didn't even know they made cars in that price range, but lo and behold - the one I liked, I could afford! It's little, looks good, cheap, decent mileage, automatic, 4-door, comes in blue, 4-cylinder (I don't like too much power). And I believe the AC and stereo would be in fine working condition.

We went over there about a week after the brakes started to crunch. Our sales guy was on us pretty quickly, but not hawk-quickly. My experience buying the Neon (used, from a dealer) was beyond frustrating. I felt so played, talked down to, worked, bullshitted, fucked around with. It's a long story, but it was probably one of the most disappointing experiences of my life. It ended up working out relatively well, in reality. I was more or less forced to pay it off in 3 years instead of 4 (they screwed me by renegging on the original financing offer) but after the fire I was actually in better finiancial shape and the monthly payment didn't destroy me like it was probably going to had I continued to live in that apartment. So it was really nice not having a car payment after that 3rd year! And I ended up really liking the car, despite its horrid color. Anyway... enough about those fuckers. I was really dreading buying a new car because of that, and going with Saturn made me think it would be a completely different experience, and for the most part, it was exactly that. I already knew a decent amount about the Ion and knew what I wanted, so it was a pretty easy sell for our guy. We took it for a little test drive, and she drove really smoothly. Very comfortable, tons of leg room, really easy. Definitely a possibility. Thought about it a minute and said... find me a blue one!

And he did. For a minute. It came with the power options (cruise, power windows, keyless entry) that I deemed unnecessary but that Steph could not believe I didn't want - but it turned out to be a demo car and they couldn't sell it. I was set to buy it, and was supposed to pick it up on a Wednesday night - but he called Tuesday night and said no. And apparently those blue ones were scarce enough that he could only find one other one available, and it didn't have the power options package in it. And Steph didn't like that one bit, and then having cruise control became very important to me. So I was all prepared to tell them we were just gonna wait until they found one with the stuff we needed (and hope it didn't take horribly long). But then he offered adding cruise to the car they found. He checked it out and found it was possible, it wouldn't look bad, and he said "at no cost to you". And the no-power options version of the car was over $1000 cheaper and knocked the monthly payment down $20 or so. Bring it on. Said it would be ready next Tuesday. He of course called on Monday and said um... how about Wednesday? Whatever, dude. OK. But if it's not ready, you're giving it to me free. He said "yes, I will totally hook you up". He was funny and cool like that. During the information gathering process of our negotiation, I found out he also used to own a Fiero, and I shook his hand with an apology and - oh, how we laughed.

The only shady part of the deal came when I picked up the car. I talked with the finance guy first. He tried to push the extra super extended warranty packages on me and seemed annoyed that I didn't want any of them. I chose one item (a la carte) for $200 for tire/rim care (driving through West Philly is rough on the wheels!) and that was it. Even then, the total price I was paying seemed higher than what I was told by my sales guy. They don't itemize charges very well at car dealerships and I didn't know the right question to ask at the time, and since all I had was a promise ("at no cost to you") and nothing in writing, I signed all the stuff and went home. I spent some time going through the contract and thought perhaps they had sold me the cheaper car at the price for the original vehicle with options included. Steph noticed it, too. I also noticed I didn't have any floor mats (they're an option?!) and I also forgot the Purdue Alumni plate on the Neon. I called and talked to the sales guy first, he got the Purdue plate, said he would hook me up with some floor mats (sweet!) for free, and didn't know anything about the price, of course, and referred me back to the other dude. He was busy, but he finally called me back. Even then, he seemed annoyed that I called. I asked him about the final "cash price" which is listed as "sticker price and other accessories, taxes and charges". He noted there was the $200 option I picked up, and there was the cruise control (so much for no cost). But the total power options package is supposed to cost like 1100. I said, so cruise control on its own is 900? And he kinda said "well, basically yeah". He said he couldn't say for sure because he didn't have my "deal in front of" him, so he called me back 15 minutes later. He said the added-on cruise control cost $500 and there was a $398 "dealership fee" that they add on to every single car they sell; it's a service for security reasons, something about a security code you can use to track it down if it gets stolen or some bullshit, yadda yadda - I don't really remember. So if it's supposed to be there, fine, but I said "well that's good to know" meaning it would have been nice to know when I was paying for it instead of after the fact. That wasn't mentioned to me at any previous time. I just found it funny that the sales guy had no idea it was there, and even at first the finance guy couldn't think of it - and it's on "every single car" they sell? Hmmm. Anyway... I went to pick up the plate and floor mats and the sales guy asked if I got my questions answered about the price. I said yeah, more or less, I didn't know about the extra dealership fee and didn't know how much the cruise control cost. I was waiting for him to say "oh that was supposed to be no cost to you" but he just kinda nodded and said "oh right". Whatever.

One funny thing happened in between the part where I signed the contract and when I came back to get the floor mats. Before I could take the car home, I had to have the sales guy help me set up my free OnStar account (for one year!). All you're supposed to do is hit the OnStar button in the car and get to a rep and answer some questions and they activate your car. Well, he couldn't get past the "interactive demo" part - the automated voice kept asking if we wanted english or spanish. We would say "english" and it would loop back and say "welcome to the OnStar interactive demo, would you like english or spanish?" Maybe the microphone wasn't working? So we were both sitting there repeatedly screaming "ENGLISH!" at the rearview mirror (where the mic is) and I'm totally laughing my ass off the whole time. If you hit the button a second time it's supposed to go directly to a real person, and he kept hitting and hitting and hitting the button and it just kept asking us for english or spanish. And he kept yelling it. Good times. He said "it's so not funny" but it was too hilarious. Then he said fuck it, I'm gonna go call them on the phone. So he left. I didn't touch the OnStar button. It kept saying stuff but I just ignored it and talked to Steph & Tristan. Then all of a sudden, some dude gets on and says "thank you for calling OnStar how can I help you?" and I'm like uh... well, I just bought this and my sales guy is trying to activate my account but he couldn't get through so he went in to call you so I guess just hang on until he comes back? And the dude didn't say anything for a minute, and I'm still thinking maybe the microphone doesn't work, so I said "are you there?" and he said "yes, are you still waiting on the dealer?" and I said yep, sorry. No problem. We wait. There's another Saturn dude outside, I flag him down and say go get my sales dude! We got them on the line! And he rushes off but comes back and says "he's on the phone with OnStar now". No kidding. Anyway, after some time and plenty of silence, I'm feeling guilty that perhaps someone is trying to call OnStar in need of genuine help and I'm sitting here with this guy on the line and we're doing nothing. So I said "well, I guess you can just end the call, I don't know when he's coming back and he's talking to you guys on the phone anyway", so he hung up and ended the call. Two minutes later, my dude comes back and I'm like "you just missed the guy, they came on the line" - and he's all "what?! they did? what happened!?" And I said, "I told him to hang up because you were on the phone with them and I didn't want to hold him and I didn't know what the hell to do". He was bummed. Apparently, him talking to OnStar on the phone did no help and we had to do it through the car. So here we go with the hitting of the button and the yelling of the ENGLISH! again. Thankfully it wasn't too long that we broke the cycle and got through, and activated the account. I was not aware that there's a phone line that you can use personally that is attached to the car - and they even give your car its own phone number! With 30 free minutes. Right on. With that, sales dude got the hell out of my new car and I drove it home. With nary a crunch within earshot.

The name was the hardest thing to decide. Given it had to be female, and had to start with I (my own car-naming rules), my possibilites were limited. There was Izzy, which sounds cool, rolls off the tongue, but associated with Grey's Anatomy and a Douc langur - no good. I had Irma, which I like, but is kinda too hard and unpoetic, and doesn't go well with "...the Ion". Ilsa, too German. Iliana, too long. Isha, too Russian. I liked Ione, because of Ione Skye, the girl who played Diane Court opposite John Cusack as Lloyd Dobbler in Say Anything, one of my favorite movies of all time. And the car's not "sky" blue, but blue nonetheless... so there was another plausible connection. But Ione is just Ion with an e added on the end, and that seemed a little redundant. I thought I would just settle for Ione, though - in early November 2006, I even finally updated this page and put it up as Ione The Ion. But then I had an epiphany. I don't know why I never thought of it, even as I had already written off Isha, but Ishie is perfect. Just the word Ish (or perhaps, the sound - is it a word?) is great. I love it. My personal folder on my home computer is called "oB's Ish". If I didn't have the picture of that I-469 exit ramp, this website would probably be called oB's Ish. Ish is kinda slang for shit. So you can say "boy, that's some crazy ish right there!" and not have to actually say shit, if you need to avoid it. Not that I'm saying my car is shit. But my car is MY shit. If you can understand the distinction. I like female names ending in the "ie" or "y" sound. So why not Ishie? (Ishy didn't quite work just because it looks too much like "I shy". Sure, it's not really a name, but at this point I don't really care. Ishie it is. And I'm done with that.

And if you don't like the name? Got a better idea? Call my car and let's talk.

It wasn't easy saying goodbye to Nellie, but it's a new era. And that ride is so smooth. Long live Ishie!