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A bang-up Thursday is never fun

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POSTED September 8, 2017 1:27 a.m.

Consider this my open letter to Fiat Chrysler America.
You guys made a tremendous automobile in the 2017 Jeep Grand Cherokee.
I mean, top-to-bottom is easily the best vehicle I have ever had the pleasure of driving on a daily basis, and whether it’s a long drive up to fly fish on Hat Creek or a short jaunt down the street to the grocery store, there is never a bad time to be behind the wheel of this car.
But don’t you guys think that it’s maybe a little bit too smooth of a car for somebody who started out driving a 1981 El Camino and has never owned a new car in their life before this purchase?
Allow me to explain.
Earlier this year, on this aforementioned fishing trip, I was pulling in to park with a childhood friend of my father riding shotgun when I pulled up to the parking spot, pressed on the brake, and pulled my phone out of my pocket to check and see if my dad – who was meeting us there – had texted me to tell me where he was.
Thanks to your convenient little feature that kills the motor when traveling once the vehicle comes to a complete stop – almost a necessity considering the abysmal gas mileage this chariot boasts – I forgot after a few seconds that I hadn’t yet put the car in park. So, when I got out of the vehicle, it kept on going – up a rock that scratched up the aerodynamic cover beneath the front bumper.
Considering where I parked that vehicle at on several points during the trip, it could have been much, much worse – like rolling end-over-end down a 1,500-foot embankment down onto rocks below.
I called myself lucky, and then vowed to never to do it again.
So, on Thursday, when I pulled into a parking spot at the Vintage Faire Mall so I could get a watch link taken out, I shifted the vehicle into what I thought was park, folded up my sunglasses and placed them into the convenient little space you so wisely provided, and got out of the vehicle.
But I wasn’t in park – I was in reverse. And unlike the other time this happened to me, there was a car parked in the next stall that I swear leaned over and caught my door as I stood frozen and watched my drivers-side door peel back like a sardine can. The sound was soul-crushing, and I actually leapt headfirst for the pedal to stop the car – a panic move that didn’t do my out of shape body any favors. The door was folded back so far that I had to actually drive it forward to free it, and it took all of my power to work the door beyond the tangled steel so I could attempt to shut it.
Sigh.
I’ve been a pretty safe driver for the better part of the last decade, and save for the girl who hit my parked car two weeks ago – I already have a standing order to get that damage repaired, so at least I had that going for me – my driving record was absolutely spotless.
So maybe when you redesign this magnificent automobile for the 2018 year – if you haven’t already – an idiot buzzer that lets you know when the car isn’t in park would be most helpful even it will only benefit .0000001 percent of your customers.
Until then, I’m thinking about stealing my daughter’s label maker and taping a reminder to the dashboard.

The end of an era
This week Sam Fant pleaded no contest to a felony that wasn’t even among the list of things he was being prosecuted for – I didn’t even know that was possible. And the move marked the beginning of the end of the saga of the 2014 Manteca Unified School Board election that led to three elected officials facing criminal charges.
Both Alexander Bronson and Ashley Drain have yet to be sentenced – Fant will spend the 120 days of county jail time he’s facing serving the community instead, and will be on felony probation for at least three years – and the tumult that used to be a staple of board meetings fraught with tension seems to be mostly absent.
And even though we might not see the last of Sam Fant as an elected official in San Joaquin County – he’ll be eligible with the felony “wobbler” conviction to get it dropped down to a misdemeanor in three years, and could then have that expunged from his record – I can’t help but think that Fant’s charisma and talents and fierce advocacy for Weston Ranch will be largely diluted when looking back on his time on the Manteca Unified Board of Education.
It takes a certain type of person to become an elected official. And while he may not have been well-received in some circles, Fant had that unexplainable something – the ability to disarm people with a well-placed laugh or a smile or a complement, when necessary.
There would be nights that I would call him for a quote on something pertaining to his case, and we would end up talking for the better part of 30 minutes – sometimes longer – about the larger state of local political affairs and other topics that meandered from time-to-time but always seemed remarkably genuine.
Whether it was the case Fant felt like he was fighting for the people who put him in that position. And while his tactics may have run afoul of the law he always seemed to have his constituents in mind.
It’s truly the end of an era.

Pigskin Prognosticating
We’ve still got two weeks before our picking season officially begins, so I figured I would give Chris Teicheira the chance to offer a few insights since his preseason predictions have been far and away better than they were last season.
So here he is:
“Well, Manteca to a T is back! Sort of. Feels a bit odd to attempt to roar back like a lion when last year’s football pick results had all the tell-tale signs of a lamb. I’ve taken quite a bit of green-and-white scorn in regard to me being photographed in ‘the other school’s’ letterman’s jacket – all while being forced to purchase a brick for the other school’s Circle of Honor (oxymoron anyone?) Alas, I am a Buffalo – we pay our debts. To be honest the brick is encouraging me to finally have kids of my own so that one day they may vandalize daddy’s brick out of existence…
“In Manteca to a T fashion, I need to unload. Football season is upon us – the greatest time of the year. However, the proverbial elephant kneeling in the room has divided a football nation. Some people are insisting that they will boycott the actions of a player, or the non-league actions of the NFL?! Pull back on the reins Lone Ranger. Football is entertainment, and should be treated as such – I don’t hear these same ‘I’m done with the NFLers’ railing against every George Clooney movie being made. It just seems a like throwing the baby out with the bathwater. But if you must, please adorn the baby in all of the NFL memorabilia you’ve gathered over the years and send it to the Manteca Bulletin c/o Manteca to a T. It’s football season people – lighten up and enjoy.”
To contact reporter Jason Campbell email jcampbell@mantecabulletin.com or call 209.249.3544.

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