Robert (gurdonark) wrote,

Limping Home

"Who wants to become a writer? And why? Because it's the answer to everything. To "Why am I here?" To uselessness. It's the streaming reason for living. To note, to pin down, to build up, to create, to be astonished at nothing, to cherish the oddities, to let nothing go down the drain, to make something, to make a great flower out of life, even if it's a cactus". --Enid Bagnold (author of "National Velvet")

Saturday morning I arose early, as is my custom, to read the newspaper. The classified advertisements were filled with worthy automobiles, eligible for purchase. Although some part of me wanted to get a "pound pet" from the local used car shelter, I determined to focus on a new car.

On Memorial Day, we had encountered many nice and extremely competent people, but also a few people who seemed derived from some stereotype I keep in my mind about the old-fashioned automobile dealership. On Saturday, though, the three dealerships we visited all had extremely affable, competent, low-pressure salesmen.

At the first dealership, we drove a car which offered a standard-sized car at a
compact-car price. We enjoyed test-driving that one. At the second dealership, we drove a car that was similar to a car we already own, but as to which the automobile company had placed on the same platform a quirky little station-wagon-y body, which really appealed to my quirk factor. I had said to my wife that we had been short of "quirk factor" in our car search. I find that I like a car with a bit of quirk.

At the third place, a dealership which prides itself on a "no haggle", predictable fixed price approach to cars, we liked the salesman immensely. He was a plumber who had just taken up automobile sales. He explained that at 39, he had recently discovered religion after living a life a bit wilder than the norm. He had that look of a man who knows the inside of a bar well--not so much a "drunk" look as a "guy you see playing darts, beer in hand" look. In his first month, he had become the top salesman. He laughed at himself, explaining how he prayed "God, do you want to sell some cars?" and how "I guess God did". Although his dealership's new cars were too expensive for us, they had a used version of one that fit our needs, still under warranty, with an extended warranty from the manufacturer at a low price.

I wonder, by the way, if I am getting older. I used to disdain any car warranty other than the factory initial warranty, on the theory that the exclusions made the coverages unappealing. Of course, those were also the days when lots of private companies got into the auto warranty business, writing warranties that all but guaranteed that they would not have to pay claims. Now, if a warranty has meaningful coverage provisions, I love the idea of being under warranty.

If only life were under warranty. Imagine what a difference that could have made. I thought yesterday of how interesting it might have been to be a physician like my father. That's not something I dwell on often. I was always raised to be a physician, in a way. In our little town, people would ask me if I was going to follow my father's trade, and I would usually say "yes". I know my father would have loved to see me become a doctor. But when I got to college, I did not study very assiduously. I made a B average, in an era when I needed something just over a high B+ average to have a shot at medical school. Later, in law school, I studied hard and made much better grades.

I wonder if I had the mental wherewithal to go to medical school, if only I had taken it to heart as much as I took law school to heart. In law school, my hard work was very motivated by fear. I felt that if I did not pass law school, then figuring out a career would be much more difficult. So I worked hard. Fear often helps me perform.

It's all conjecture at this point, but I do suspect that I did not "have it" for medical school, even had I worked my heart out. Law works easily for me, and it's something I almost seem born to do. I notice, though, that otherwise I lack any real genius at anything (other than, perhaps, at knowing a very little about a very great deal). But as there is no "do over", I'll never know. I did think, though, that if I'd become a doctor, I could have lived in small town Arkansas, and had a life which, if not less busy, might have been more filled with small town comforts, quirks, and neighbors.

I don't like to have those moments of regret. What good do they do? It's rather like one of those few times during my single days when someone "tres interesting" whom I was not dating propositioned me, more or less out of the blue. For a reason or two, including, not least, a complicating factor (her intoxication), I declined.

It was, in the circumstances, "the right thing to do". Yet it irks me, a bit, when that feeling of "an experience not had" still creeps in, and it irks me more that such a silly thing could irk me at all. I know that people more social or more attractive than I am have those moments often. I am glad, in a way, that temptation usually resisted me more than I resisted temptation, and yet not glad, too, if you see what I am saying. I've never bought into that saw, by the way, that you only regret the things you didn't do, but never regret the things you do. When I do regret, it is not so cut and dried. I regret that I regret, though.

My wife and I adjourned to the Chaat Cafe, this wonderful Indian place where they took tandoori chicken and made Tandoori Wraps, very tasty and yet fast-foodish.
We laid out our four "finalist" auto choices:
1. one car which was extremely inexpensive, with good handling, and a dealership from Monday we really did enjoy and respect;
2. one car which was quirky and fun, from a company which makes extremely reliable cars, which manufacturer my wife still drives. We had to admit that the car was "very Bob".
3. one car which, though used, was in wonderful condition, and which had the salesman we found amusing and charming; and
4. one car which was from a company becoming known in recent years for good workmanship and a long warranty, which offered us the size of a good-sized car at the the price of a lesser car.

We finally settled on choice 4. We drove back to the dealership to negotiate. Our sales guy was busy, so the sales manager took us around the available cars in the model we wanted. It was fun trying to pick a color. We went with gray, although I liked that one color was called "celadon green". If I ever make cars, I am going to name one model "mastodon khaki" and another model "kissed lip red".

I had an advertisement i our local paper from a dealership up on the Oklahoma border of a price for the car which was frighteningly low. The local dealer had a "beat any price" offer, so he quickly came in with a price slightly lower. The entire "negotiation" took five minutes. My wife's eyes bulged with shock. I was worried that she had realized, as I had, that there was another hundred or two dollars of room I had left "on the table". Instead, she was just amazed we got a low price so easily. I try to get "winning" negotiations, but in my personal life I am sometimes willing to leave a nickel or two on the table. I find that if I leave a dime, then the other side will not respect me. But if I leave a nickel, then
the other side will want my business.

I hope the poor finance guy did not feel too put upon when I took all the curious financial ways of explaining his way of doing things, and made him redo the math so that I could have "apples to apples" comparisons. I take great pride in being more a bad poet than an accountant, and more a boring attorney than either, and I freely confess to my D in Calculus III. But I find, to my amusement, that I am very good at financial models and business arrangements. Who would have imagined?

We live in an historical low interest climate, and the rates were so low it was almost funny. I am against long car loans on principle, because of the mid-term "underwater" factor (i.e., in a long loan, the car is worth less than what is owed on it during the middle of the loan), but this time I intentionally went out rather "long" because the rates seemed like giving away the use of money. I struck a finance deal, and we were off to the races. We were handed off to a really competent woman who did up our paperwork in record time. Soon, we were driving our car off the lot home.

We took the new car home and parked it. Then my wife drove me to the automobile shop outside which my old Ford was parked. I got in and drove it the 1.8 miles to our home. It drove as though it was one of those people you see in an anti-smoking commercial, riffing about emphysema. It rattled and cranked and wheezed and seized up a little once. But it made it home.

I am debating internally whether to have the local woman's shelter pick up it up as a donation car, or whether instead to auction it on eBaymotors, as a fun exercise in writing an ad that highlights its many flaws in a humorous way. On the one hand, the women's shelter could probably use the car. On the other hand, I could have fun with eBay and sell the car with only a bit more hassle, and I could probably even donate part of the proceeds to the shelter (which, given how little salvage yards pay for worn out cars, might even be more than if I gave them the whole car). We'll see.

I watched Tom Selleck do a surprisingly good job playing Ike on a TV movie, and then I went and picked up Persian food for us to eat. I like being a regular at the Persian restaurant, where the most charming people always greet us. I think to myself often that people who are 22 now seem so much more "hip and attractive" than I did at 22. Oh, well--someone has to be the boring person working in the dark Satanic mills.

We watched a bit of the Ronald Reagan media, as Mr. Reagan passed away. But I soon found myself switching channels. I may offer some thoughts on Mr. Reagan, but I think I won't this morning. We also missed the Belmont, although I wish Smarty Jones had won. I think that horses should be named things like "Smarty".

I read a bit today about Edith Bagnold, who wrote "National Velvet". She had a rather colorful life. Writers often, but not always, do. My life tends to be less colorful in the large sense.

I'm reading an old Andre Norton sci fi novel from my teen years.
I think that life was arguably better when I went to school, did not think about "what might have been", and read lightweight sci fi, so that I could explore the planets.

But life is darn good now. I'll work a bit today, but I might have all sorts of other fun as well.

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