Friday, September 11, 2009

“Car Shopping, Revisited”


c. 2009 Rod Ice
All rights reserved
(9-09)




Note to Readers: The recent ‘Cash for Clunkers’ program had lots of Americans searching for a new, more thrifty form of personal transportation. This plan was intended to aid weary, post-bailout citizens while helping the environment. But while it appeared to succeed, the effect was only temporary. And not everyone who was car shopping could participate. Including one humble family from Geauga County, Ohio…

DAY ONE

It was late in the Icehouse home office.

I had been at the computer for several hours, since we finished having supper. My intent was simple – to purchase a second vehicle without breaking the budget. Each mouse-click yielded new pages of automobile listings, with cyberspace rapidity. But nothing seemed to fit our needs.

I groaned with frustration. Despite the benefit of Internet technology, this was sure to be a long process.

Liz, my wife, was getting sleepy. She appeared in the doorway with a flash of pink pajamas.

“Are you coming to bed?” she pleaded.

I slumped in my chair. “This needs to get done.”

“Relax, Roddy!” she sighed. “We can look all weekend.”

I clicked on an entry at Thompson Motors. “How about this? A 2006 Hazaki Pundit with only 26,000 miles.”

My spouse shook her head. “Hazaki??”

“They are made in Vietnam,” I said.

She stiffened her shoulders. “Stop kidding around!”

“No, really!” I explained. “Hazaki is the fastest growing line of cars in North America. They have a staff or engineers hired from Honda and Toyota.”

Liz bit her lip. “And you’d be happy with one of those? Instead of another truck?”

I clicked to a new page. “Okay, how about this… a 2007 Satra 4-Go with 18,000 miles…”

She wrinkled her nose. “A whatra??”

“Satra,” I repeated. “They are made in Russia. The 4-Go is a fuel-efficient hybrid SUV. And they offer a ten year warranty!”

She folded her arms. “You really want a car from Russia?”

I clicked on yet another page. “Okay, how about this… a 2004 Kendi Ghanza with 31,000 miles. It comes with all the popular accessories and even a built-in MP3 player…”

Her mood was growing rowdy. “Rrrright. Where do they make that one?”

“In Pakistan!” I cheered.

“Come to bed, Rodney,” she frowned. “We can look at some real cars tomorrow, instead of playing on the computer.”

Her patience had evaporated. So I surrendered without an argument.

DAY TWO

Our shopping adventure began in the morning.

Hoping to save money, I chose to visit smaller, ‘budget lots’ in the area. But this produced an unintended consequence: lots of distractions. Though we were seeking a fuel-efficient family sedan, I kept seeing relics from the past. With each classic car, I became less focused on our task.

At Big Fred’s Claridon Car Carnival, this problem became overwhelming. While Liz pondered a red Nissan Altima, I stood in awe before a gray 1960 Chrysler 300. It’s bulging chrome grille and sleek tailfins had me spellbound.

I was lost in a fit of desire.

“Honey, look at this,” my wife purred. “This car has a luxurious interior, AM/FM CD player, cruise control, and air conditioning!"

My mouth hung open. “I want a Hemi…”

“Rodney!” she squawked. “Are you listening to me?”

I lovingly caressed the Chrysler’s hood. “Real Steel from Detroit. That’s what I need!”

She was impatient. “Do you want my help, or not??”

I shook off the daydream. “Sorry. Lost my focus there for a moment…”

The next lot boasted over a dozen models, including an Audi, two Pontiacs, and a Scion. But in the back waited a 1963 Ford Falcon.

Liz peered through the window of a VW Jetta. “This is sleek. Leather seats and everything. Have a look!”

I was busy reminiscing about the Falcon. “My Grandfather had one of these… a blue and white coupe. And there were two Falcon station wagons in the family. I remember that those had the rear window crank on the outside… a weird design.”

My wife snorted. “Would you pay attention? We need something that isn’t older than our daughters!”

I relented, begrudgingly.

Finally, we decided to pause at a Subaru dealership. It seemed like a safe place to consider economical transportation. But there was a late 60’s Cadillac hidden behind their all-wheel-drive station wagons.

My pulse quickened. “Yes! Ohhh… yes!! Now that’s a REAL car!”

Liz bowed her head. Our search was bearing no fruit.

“Go check it out!” she grumbled.

I got out my cell phone and took a photograph.

“This will look really cool on Facebook!” I cheered.

DAY THREE

After much encouragement, I agreed to visit the local Kia franchise. Happily, their salespeople were friendly and professional.

Almost immediately, Liz became intrigued with a 2006 Optima. The car was a bit smaller than her domestic sedan, but well appointed and stylish.

A test drive added to her affection for the car. It delivered a smooth and comfortable on-the-road experience.

But as we sat down to consider financial details, I remembered that there had been another couple looking at the same car.

When we made an offer on the vehicle, our young salesman reddened with embarrassment. “I’m so sorry,” he apologized. “The Optima has… just been bought by someone else. Could I show you a different vehicle?”

My spouse withered with disbelief.

“Thanks for your time,” I said. “This just wasn’t meant to happen…”

He looked surprised. “Isn’t there anything else you’d like to consider?”

“Not today,” I said.

The evening sun disappeared as we returned home, empty-handed.

DAY FOUR

We had been car shopping for approximately three months.

While Liz was at work, I continued the hunt. After browsing through more small lots, stopped at a Dodge/Jeep dealer. They had listed a silver 2006 Hyundai Elantra for sale, with 55,000 miles.

My salesman was a grizzled veteran of the business. But when I asked about the South Korean sedan, he became flustered.

“Umm, I think that is across the street,” he confessed. “It’s at our Chevrolet/Buick location. Let’s check it out!”

Reluctantly, I followed him across four lanes of traffic.

When we finished recklessly running across the road, another salesman appeared. He was even more gray and weathered from long hours on duty.

“Do you still have that ’06 Hyundai?” my temporary guide inquired.

His counterpart looked sour. “Nope. Sold that one earlier today…”

My stomach began to hurt.

“But hold on,” he said. “If you’re in the market for something like that, how about a ’02 Pontiac, with only 173,000 miles. She’s a real creampuff, as they say…”

I disappeared before he could continue the sales pitch.

Shortly afterward, I picked my wife up from work.

“Did you look at anything else today?” she said, hopefully.

“A Chevy Malibu, a Nissan Sentra, and a Dodge P. T. Cruiser,” I said. “Then I tried to find a late-model Hyundai. But it had sold earlier in the morning.”

She was out of breath. “Oh my!”

“Look,” I said. “There’s a ’98 Ford Ranger pickup in Parkman with only 42,000 miles. And it’s cheap. I’ve had five trucks in a row. Why not just make it six?”

Liz nodded. Shopping fatigue made her weak. “Okay… take the deal… and run!”

Our search was over at last.

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