The Other Geoff Foxes

I grew up thinking I had this name to myself. Another childhood fantasy gone bust.

I suppose I’m lucky to have as my own. As obscure as my name might seem, there are lots of us Geoff Foxes around. More than I ever realized!

There’s Geoff Fox who’s a newspaper reporter in Florida. Tampa Geoff, you’ll be glad to know, I specifically exclude your byline from my “Geoff Fox” Google search. Otherwise, you’d overwhelm me.

There’s an author named Geoff Fox who lives (or lived) in Brooklyn, NY. He owns Damn! I could have had that too. To say he is a prolific author is an understatement!

Also up there in the impressivosity (not a word, but it should be) Dr. Geoffrey Fox from Indiana University. Dr. Fox is a professor (whereas I am closer to Gilligan) in the Department of Computer Science, School of Informatics. What exactly is informatics?

The most famous Geoff Fox is probably the guy who owns Fox Racing–well known in motocross circles. He could probably buy and sell us all.

This all comes up because my forward searching brought me news of Geoff Fox who did quite well at the Worcestershire UK Golf Club’s Captain’s Day. Good at golf? He’s no relative of mine.

I grew up thinking I had this name to myself. Another childhood fantasy gone bust.

Getting My Car Rebooted

I have two intertwined stories about my car. They both, unfortunately, came to a head today.

A little background. I drive a 1999 Mercedes Benz SLK230 – a little 2-seat convertible. It’s a snazzy car – not as good for impressing women as a puppy on a leash, but impressive none the less.

The SLK sounds pricey, but after driving it for seven years it’s got the same cost basis as a Plymouth Scamp or AMC Pacer.

Friday, I came home from work, pulled the car in the garage and walked in the house. The only thing I didn’t do was turn off the headlights! By Saturday morning the battery was totally dead.

No problem. We have jumper cables. But the weather wasn’t too nice this weekend and I put it off.

As Helaine headed out to the market Monday, she realized my car was still in paperweight mode. I pushed it out of the garage, popped the hood and threw the cables across the battery terminals.

Within a few seconds the Benz was running, but running roughly. It was also throwing off enough white smoke to elect a pope.

I pushed my foot down on the accelerator to rev the engine and – nothing. The pedal went down to the floor but the engine’s speed remained where it was.

Uh oh.

I shifted into Drive and attempted to move. The car ran more smoothly, but it wouldn’t do much more than a few miles per hour, and again the accelerator pedal did nothing.

There was little to do but go to work, leaving Helaine stranded. On my way I called Steve, my friend and mechanic. It’s good to have a mechanic for a friend.

He said he’d drop by on his way home from work. When he did, he found exactly what I’d found and was equally adept at fixing it.

Last night I began to research the problem on the Internet. Having the car go stupid after a battery failure or replacement was commonplace and there was a solution.

With the engine running, turn the steering all the way left, then all the way right, then center it. It seemed too simple… because it was.

I tried it. Nothing.

I called the dealership. It wasn’t long before John came by in his Mercedes SUV holding a computer. He opened my hood, unscrewed what I thought was the opening to refill the oil, and plugged in a cable.

The computer and my car immediately struck up a conversation. I heard little valves and switches click into place. As John looked down, every sensor… every sensor… was marked with an “F” for failure!

It was then that John did something I never expected. He told the computer to reset everything in my car’s onboard computer. My car was being rebooted. Within 30 seconds, the SLK was back to its old self… except for one thing.

And so begins my second car story.

I didn’t notice it until John was gone but both my brake lights were out. There was still the 3rd brake light, a long string of red on the trunk lid, but the conventional tail lights for braking were gone.

This is something I’d been having trouble with for a while. My left brake light had become intermittent. I replaced the bulb and even went into the dealer for service. Five minutes later the problem was back.

I checked the NHTSA website and found a similar recall on cars just like mine. The site said to call Mercedes. I did, but they had no clue what I was talking about, so I called NHTSA.

Oh my God! Here’s my email that followed the call:

To whom it may concern,

My name is Geoffrey Fox, (address). I have just gotten off the phone with one of your representatives concerning my 1999 Mercedes Benz SLK230, vin: (redacted).

I have never, ever, been treated in such a surly manner by any telephone agent for any company or agency.

I called to ask about a recall, which your agency’s website says “is expected to begin in July 2006.” Mercedes Benz claims no knowledge of this recall (using the number you provided on your website). The NHTSA agent said she had no information. So, I asked to file a complaint on the vehicle.

Your agent did everything humanly possible to prevent me from filing this complaint. In fact, she originally refused. Only after I pressed did she grudgingly allow it, demanding the smallest of facts.

As an example, she asked how I knew my brake light wasn’t working! When I said another motorist had signaled me while driving, she said that wasn’t enough. She wasn’t asking for clarification. This was my punishment for wanting to file this report.

Somewhere along the line there is a disconnect between what your agency should be doing and what this particular agent is doing. I hope you’ll reconsider whether this person should have direct dealings with consumers.


Geoffrey Fox

cc: Nicole Nason

Nicole Nason is the person who runs NHTSA. At the close of business today, my email hadn’t been acknowledged, much less answered.

There’s little I can do now other than replace the bad parts which are causing my brake light failure. That’s $300 plus labor for a housing which had gotten ‘bent out of shape’. It was designed for temperatures lower than that produced by a standard brake light!

If there’s a recall, I’ll get the money back. As I found today, there’s really no way to know.

Now you’re caught up with my two car stories.

Election Day 2005

It’s election day. My town is electing a mayor and a few other posts. Before I went to work, I went to vote.

It’s always the same. I walk into the lunchroom at the local elementary school, find the table that matches my street, show my drivers license and get my ‘ticket’. Then I vote on a machine which looks like every voting machine I’ve used since 1971 (Nixon-McGovern at Mallard Creek 2 in Charlotte, NC).

I looked down at the list today as they crossed off my name. Beneath Helaine Fox and Geoffrey Fox was Stefanie Fox. How cool is that, Steffie is a registered voter.

Steffie didn’t vote today and that’s fine. In fact, as far as I’m concerned, she did the right thing by not voting!

Voting is the final step of a long process. Unless you take all the steps – don’t vote. Steffie is at college where it would be impossible for her to know what’s going on locally.

I was passing by VH1 last night while some folks were talking about Paris Hilton’s participation in a “Vote or Die” program in the last election. As it turned out, Paris neither voted nor died.

I worry about get out the vote programs. They concentrate on the wrong part of the equation. You shouldn’t vote because there’s guilt involved. When you vote, it should be because you’ve got an idea what’s going on and an opinion you want heard.

Like I said, voting is the final step of a long process.

One Of The Other Geoff Fox’s

A friend in Madison, WI sent me an article from The Onion. “I Totally Called Yesterday’s Surge in Tech Stocks” is typical for The Onion (irreverent, intelligent and simultaneously filthy) except for the fact that it claims to be written by Geoffrey Fox!

I’m attaching the text (language alert) to the link below. However, the best way to read it is on The Onion’s site.

Continue reading “One Of The Other Geoff Fox’s”