Car purchase an adventure in itself

By Jim Lee: PNT columnist

Two people with one car can drive a person nuts.
What about those times my wife has to use the car? Yes, she can drop me off at work and pick me up when it’s time to go home, but what if she can’t be there? Then I’m forced into getting some exercise by walking home. It got worse a few weeks ago when she had to drive out of town and be gone a week or two. The situation made me choose between a period of fresh air and healthy exercise or putting out $$$ for a rental car. I sure hated spending that money.
Situations like that got me thinking we might need more than one vehicle. For once I had a good point. So I told Saundra we had to buy a motorcycle, preferably bright red with loud mufflers, to get me to work and back each day. Judging from the look on her face, it made her think of geriatric biker gangs. I couldn’t tell if she was laughing or choking. So I proposed the next best thing, a pickup truck. She pointed out that a vacation trip would leave luggage out in the open with a pickup instead of securely stowing it in a car trunk.
It all boiled down to this: I wanted a motorcycle or a truck, and Saundra wanted a car. So we compromised. We decided to get a car. I sure got the best of her on that one.
We noticed a car with a for-sale sign on one of our weekend trips out of town. It was a large, top-of-the-line luxury car. It had a reasonable asking price with no extra charge for that rusted-out fender. We took it for a spin and really liked it, but it was 19 years old with more mileage than the space shuttle. It looked like it weighed more than a bulimic battleship, so it probably didn’t have the greatest fuel economy in the world. We decided to keep on looking around. I noticed some motorcycles and pickups for sale, but my begging and whining proved fruitless.
Then we looked at some new cars at one of the lesser known dealerships of the High Plains. The price tags exceeded the Latvian national budget. This presented a new predicament — we didn’t trust used cars and didn’t like the cost of new ones. This was worse than caught between a rock and a hard place; it was more like squeezed in the vice-grips of reality.
After a brief introductory chat and being handed a sweat-stained business card, I decided the salivating salesperson in the studded vest and cheerfully rattling chains was a woman. That decision was easier when I looked at the card. It said, “When it comes to a deal, nobody beats Mistress Hilda.”
Mistress Hilda the Car Woman said the car we liked was still under warranty. She also said the price painted on the windshield wasn’t really the price because it was after a 20 percent down payment. When I mentioned something about deceptive business practice and outright falsehood, her lip ring danced in a wicked snarl. Her gold tooth glinted in menace.
I talked the price down to the one on the windshield, but backed off calling the salesperson a liar, not that I was afraid of her. All in all, I must confess the leather-clad diva did treat us fairly — uh, eventually. We got a good deal. Now all I have to do is figure out how to use all those gadgets without resorting to that nine-pound sledge hammer. Don’t tell Saundra, but I really like the car more than a motorcycle or a truck. And it sure beats that healthy exercise method of transportation. Now if Dave across the street knows how all those gadgets work …

Jim Lee is news director for KENW-FM radio. He also is an English instructor. He can be contacted at 359-2204. His e-mail: