…I have internet today. And I have a whole week off, since school is out for the Thanksgiving break. I don’t get paid time off, but after three unrelenting months of working with a little sociopath, I’ll take it.
I also have no excuse not to update the blog now, hee. Getting everything into one blog post, however, is going to be tough.
Most important event of the month: my daughters gave me a newish car.
I guess you can call it an early Christmas gift. My battered ’96 Camry was becoming less and less reliable and more and more expensive to repair. The last fix emptied all of my bank accounts and left me with nothing to pay the rent with. The mechanic kept saying the Camry was good for at least another three years (and I’m sure he adored it, since it’d brought him $1400 in revenue this past year): but my daughters decided I needed a new car now.
The younger one flew up from San Diego one weekend (which was fun in itself—I hadn’t seen her since Christmas) and helped me shop, since she’d had some recent experience with buying a used car. I didn’t want to use craigslist: there’d been a number of incidents here where someone answered an ad for a car on sale and arranged to meet the seller and his car in a park or restaurant parking lot, only to get robbed by the “seller” of his wallet, phone, and sometimes his own car. So we ended up trolling the dealerships.
I won’t say the cars were junk…but it was hard to find something within our budget. One otherwise sexy maroon Mazda 3 had 238,000 miles on it (who drives that many miles in just five years?); a 2009 Honda Civic sports coupe had the worst tires I’d ever seen on an operating vehicle; a 2005 Toyota 4Runner handled like a truck and had a tired, beat-up interior, like kids had spilled multicolored Gatorade on the seats and dogs had thrown up in the back after tearing holes in the upholstery.
Then there were the salesmen (and yeah, they were all men: I didn’t see one woman on staff that day). They huddled in groups around the showroom doors, watching us like a pack of feral dogs eyeing a couple of loose chickens. One would
pounce come out and greet us; we would explain to him we were shopping on a budget, preferably for a Honda or Toyota sedan, and he would promptly show us a car that was $3000 over the price we’d asked for. Uh, no, that’s ‘way beyond what we can afford. “Oh, really?” he’d say in an incredulous, disappointed voice. “That’s a nice car for the money. But let me show you….” He’d walk us far into the wilderness areas of the dealership and show us everything that wasn’t anywhere near what we’d talked about: SUVs, sports cars, even a few that looked like they were salvaged from a wreck.
We also got treated rudely by one sales manager, who turned down our request that they take $1,000 off their asking price for a rattletrap Kia Rio. He stared at us coldly from under his eyelids. “Any car that’s under $10,000 is junk, and WE DON’T SELL JUNK.”
I gave him the finger as we drove out of there. It was childish, but I doubt if he saw it, and I was frustrated as hell with the whole process. Who turns down ten grand? Was it really that easy for him to make that kind of money?
By this point it was 4 in the afternoon and the shadows were growing long. Daughter and I agreed as we pulled up into the dealership at the end of the road that this would be our last look for the day. This place sold Acuras and Audis: we could smell the new leather and car wax as we walked in. Daughter worried that we wouldn’t be able to afford anything on this lot. It was intimidating, looking at the rows of shiny new Audis, but before we could run, a salesman came out and asked if he could help us.
He was quiet and soft-spoken, and with his vaguely British accent and Wilford Brimley appearance he reminded me of a minor character from Downton Abbey. I suppose they get a Downton Abbey customer base at a place that sells high-end cars (I mean the Great Hall customers, not the servants’ quarters customers like us), but it was such a huge change from the brash in-your-face greeting we’d been getting all day, I wanted to ask him if he could bring us tea. He probably would have, but instead he showed us the Honda Civic.
It was a sweet, clean little car with 86,000 miles on it. I think he was surprised I popped open the hood to look at the engine—the exterior was so perfect, I had to look at the guts to see if there was anything wrong with it—but was happy to show us the Carfax plus the mechanics’ report of all the things they had fixed before putting it on the lot. The only main issue when the car was traded in was the rear brakes, which the dealer had replaced. “Otherwise we could have sold the car for a lot less, but we wouldn’t want you to drive off with an unsafe car,” the salesman purred.
The test drive went without a hitch. The handling and acceleration were a lot more sporty than the Camry, which always struck me as being like a prim, sedate but well-mannered old mare. She didn’t like being pushed beyond her limits, but she could get you wherever you went in comfort if not in style. Driving the Civic was like riding a smart young horse who liked to take the bit and occasionally run. It surprised and spooked me a little, but after ten minutes, it was fun.
We did find out that the salesman was originally from Australia. His sales manager, who also had an unusual accent, was from New Zealand. (Cue the snippy jokes about Kiwis and ‘Stralians.) I didn’t ask why they moved to California but guessed cars sales are a lot more brisk out here than Down Under.
I didn’t trade in the Camry. It was so old and beat up, the value would have been negligible. Also, this happened the night we bought the Civic:
I know this post is already too long, so I won’t get into details, except that I hit a tiny concrete island and it deployed the air bags. That was the worst part: my daughter was stunned after the bag hit her in the face and knocked her left arm back. I got hit in the chest. I would have been injured a lot more severely had I not had a knitted scarf wrapped around my neck (thank you again, Older Daughter) and the knot cushioned the blow. I didn’t notice until the day after that my left boob was black and blue. Since it’s just fat tissue, I didn’t worry about it. I was just profoundly sorry my daughter got hurt, and I did this to a car which served me faithfully for 19 years. My only solace is that National Public Radio will use the car to make some money, which hopefully will make up for all those years I never donated or signed up for a membership.