It doesn’t matter whether you’re buying a new or used vehicle. Putting so much into something you have to live with and depend on is akin to marrying someone after you’ve met one night on a blind date. Will the union work? There’s a fifty-fifty chance either way.
Several years ago, Spouser saw a one-owner vehicle for sale on the Internet. She was the good-looking, chubby type. We thought she was a gem but soon learned she was a lemon.
Granted, the truck had been purchased used, but it had supposedly been well cared for. Our mechanic had checked it over, and we did everything they say to do by inspecting the vehicle’s history.
To protect the vehicle’s identity, I’ll simply say she was a foreign broad (truck) whose name had “UZU” in it. From day one, UZU was moody, like a mean dental hygienist who enjoys seeing patients squirm in her chair.
UZU had an alarm that would randomly shriek at will. Mind you, this was the factory alarm, not something we installed.
“Oh, gosh, no! Don’t unlock the door,” I warned Spouser one day.
“BLEEEEEP! BLEEEEEP! BLEEEEEP!” It was too late.
Since the truck was used, there was no “clicker” to open it or turn the alarm off. The only way to get UZU to shut up was to remove the key from the ignition, put it back in and turn it on. If I opened the back door to put groceries in the rear compartment, I had about five seconds to rush around to one of the front doors, open one with the key and then hit the unlock button manually, or the alarm would go off.
“I’m convinced UZU hates me,” I told Spouser as he helped me jump start the thing for the umpteenth time. “Maybe our chemistry doesn’t mesh.”
The fateful day that brings my story to the top of the list of things to write about is what happened today, the day UZU pushed me past my breaking point and found out what I’m made of.
“UZU won’t start AGAIN!” I growled into the telephone to Spouser, who had already left for work.
“I’ve got a meeting,” he replies. “Call AAA.”
“Don’t we have a limit of three tows a year?”
This comes after we just replaced UZU’s battery TWICE, after a rebuilt alternator had been installed, after we had her blessed by a parish priest who, incidentally, ran for cover when the alarm went off as soon as the holy water was sprinkled across her windshield.
“This is ridiculous,” I say. “What are we going to do?”
Realizing UZU can read my thoughts and certainly hear my voice, I ask Spouser to hold on. I smile, pat her taillights lovingly and move far enough away before I continue the conversation. “I can’t take it anymore; I’ve got to trade the thing in TODAY.”
On a mission and like an unhappy partner gathering one’s things in an attempt to leave the house before her husband returns from work, I’m praying UZU doesn’t realize what’s happening as I stop by the bank and withdraw my entire savings for a down payment on another vehicle. I open my lockbox and remove UZU’s title, carefully slipping it into my purse so she won’t see it when I get back to the truck.
I take a trash bag and unloaded all my belongings from her trunk and storage compartments, saying simply, “It’s time we give you a good cleaning, isn’t it?” As I drive away, UZU’s engine light comes on, flashes red warning signals at me for a few miles, and then turns off.
I cruise down several south-side city streets looking for car lots. I don’t know if my experience is unique, but I find it perplexing how many of the car salesmen treat me — a lone female walking across their car lot wearing jeans and sneakers, no makeup, no diamond rings or fancy Louis Vuitton handbag. Most salesmen don’t bother to even acknowledge me, much less ask if I need help. Some even have the gall to ask if I’m meeting my husband there or not. When I answer no, they walk away.
Many of the used vehicles I’m able to see start at the $10,000 range and have over 80,000 miles on them already. Every vehicle I sit in smells of cigarette smoke; some have burn marks dotted across the upholstery.
I’m lost and driving somewhere I don’t recognize when, as fate would have it, I ended up at the Hyundai dealership and plaster my face against several of their new vehicle windows. At this point, I don’t know one make or model from another, and, frankly, I don’t care. All I want is to be able to turn the thing on and have it run without trying to buck me off like a rodeo ride or scream at me like a fire truck siren.
After the very helpful manager, Freddy, and one of his trusty salesmen, JC, help me determine which vehicle fits my meager budget, I am ready to sign on the dotted line and turn over UZU’s keys, but then I speak to Spouser on the phone. “You didn’t talk money with them, did you?” he asks.
“Geez, Gina!” His tone says it all; I’m in trouble. Let’s put this scene in its proper perspective: Spouser’s originally from India, the bargaining capital of the world. He’s a banker, always zoned into the bottom line like a bloodhound to an escaped prisoner.
Due to word limit constraints, let’s move forward a few hours and sum up: Spouser and I return together around rush hour. The salesman, JC, comes into the office where we are sitting and presents us with a paper spelling out all the facts and figures — what they will give us for UZU, what the sales price is minus the rebate, plus the taxes, title and licensing, etc.
Spouser makes a few revisions. JC disappears for a few minutes and then reappears with a new paper that looks pretty much like the old paper. Spouser studies it and repeats the process. This goes on until long after the dealership closes, until poor JC has worn out the rubber soles of his squeaky-soled Hushpuppies, until Spouser has to lick the tip of his pen to get any ink out, and until I am nearly in REM sleep.
The next thing I remember, like coming out of anesthesia, someone is hovering over me saying, “Are you awake? Can you hear me?”
UZU seemed to glower at me through her smoky windows, as I hand over her keys to JC. “Be careful,” I warn. “She bites!”
“Sky blue” is what’s written on the automotive description of my new little Hyundai. “Skyler will be your name,” I tell him while driving home in the heavy dark of near midnight. I look in the rearview mirror and see Spouser’s headlights following.
Skyler is a battle won for Spouser. It’s a deal that will pay JC his commission, and now he’s the vehicle that will hopefully be a good match for me.
And like getting married after just one night on a blind date, my eyes are blinded with the splendor and hope that this new relationship will be a good one.
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