I am 33 years old, and I just bought my first and second car. Having a car is awesome. The fact that I can walk a few yards from my door, get in my car, control its climate, listen to podcasts and music, talk on the phone, arrive, and park within a few yards of my destination still leaves me feeling a little stunned. Don’t get me wrong; there are disadvantages to owning a car. They are shockingly expensive. Traffic is annoying. People driving 60 MPH in the fast lane empurple me with rage.
But honestly, these disadvantages are dwarfed by the joy and convenience of not having to depend on public transportation. There’s really only one “con” that almost convinces me that owning a car isn’t worth it, and that is the fact that you have to buy one. And I’m not talking about the act of shelling out a lot of money. Even that’s worth it. I’m talking about the actual process of deciding what kind of car you want to buy, finding such a car, determining whether it’s in good condition,and most important, dealing with a car salesman.
I think deciding what kind of car to buy would be pretty easy if you were single, or in a marriage where only one person cares about such things. No luck here. Our marriage lacks many things, but not opinions. Lots and lots of opinions. And I’m not talking about things like, “I would prefer something with 4-wheel drive, for the snow.” I’m talking about, “I hate Civics, because I knew this girl named Shalauna in high school who had one, and she was Such. A. Brat.” Someimtes Melissa’s opinion boiled down to a crinkled nose and an, “Eww.”
And it would be unfair for me to act like Melissa is the only one with strange opinions of untraceable origin and unquestionable strength. I’ll look at a perfectly reasonable car, think about it, and say, “Nope. It would make me feel like the guy who coaches his son’s T-ball team and yells at his son in the parking lot after a big loss, not caring that the other kids and parents can see and hear him.”
So finding a car we wanted to buy was a challenge. And as far as assessing whether it was in good condition or not . . . I pretty much nailed that. I even made sure to ask one guy whether the timing belt and water cooler had been replaced. The sad thing is maybe 10% of the readers of this blog know that what I said was really stupid, and that I meant to ask about the water pump. One guy asked me if I wanted to take a look under the hood of a car, and I said I did, and then said, “Well, I am pleased to note that there is an engine down there. Nobody is going to be sell a car with no engine to this guy!” But once I’d determined there was an engine there wasn’t much else for me to do under the hood.
All of that, of course, pales in comparison with the gut-churning pain of dealing with car salesmen. Good heavens. They know what everyone thinks about them, right? And maybe I’m the exception to the rule, but I can honestly say that we bought two cars in spite of them. On the first, we decided to buy a car we’d seen earlier that day, and then spent 30 minutes arguing over who had to call the salesman back to tell him we were going to buy it. We argued over who was going to have the misfortune of a 120 second phone conversation in which the salesman would be informed that we would be buying the car. Think about that for a second. It’s really quite remarkable. And of the two salesman we bought from, he was by far our favorite.
The second was at a little family-owned used car lot. The son, about my age, was rational and nice. His father was remarkably unpleasant. He seemed genuinely offended when I tried to talk him down a little, to the point that I felt as though I were talking about how much I would pay him for his daughter’s hand in marriage. “Market value for a girl of her age is $100, but you . . . I mean, you can see that she’s really ugly, right? And I’m just getting to know her, but I think you’d agree with me that she’s that rare combination of boring and annoying.”
I still can’t decide if this was a ploy on his part to deter negotiation, or if he really believed his Nissan Xterra was the prettiest princess in all the land, God’s gift to snowboarding-themed SUVs. Either way, his manner and tone were so overbearing that I told him I wasn’t going to buy it. We got in the car and Melissa said, “So, you don’t want that car?” I said, “No, I do.” And she said, “Then why did you leave?” And I said, “So that you and our future children would be able to respect me. For having the guts to walk away from someone who was mean enough to bully a 33 year-old man. Besides, I didn’t look under the hood, so that car probably doesn’t even have an engine in it.”