Thursday, November 13, 2008

Stimulating the economy, Part Two

A couple of posts ago I wrote about buying a new couch.
I also just bought a new car.

In the absence of any paycheck other than social security disability, it might seem strange to make such big purchases. But here's the thing: I hold on to my stuff for a long time and then I think about getting new stuff for a long time, so that by the time I actually make a big purchase, I have saved a lot of money during the thinking phase. Also, as my sister, Diane, pointed out in her recent comment, so-called "retail therapy" is an investment in the future. It is a sign that I plan to be alive to enjoy my new purchases.

Back to the car. It was hard to say good-bye to the nine-year-old Mommy Van with the Wellfleet and Eastham parking stickers in the window.

But last winter, when it got stuck in a snow ditch, I began to think seriously about getting something better in the snow. And with 162,000 miles on it, I figured I should quit while I was ahead.

It’s hard to go car shopping at the post-transplant stage when you still need to wear a mask inside. In fact, it's hard to do most kinds of shopping, as I wrote in my "couch" post. Earlier in the fall, when I bought a mattress sight-unseen, I had to explain to the salesman that the delivery people couldn’t come if they were sick. I could have left it at that, but the rest of the story just slipped out. “I had a bone marrow transplant and I have a weak immune system and I can’t be around germs,” I said.

He promised to send healthy delivery people only. We settled on a memory foam mattress.
“It’s really great on your bones,” he said.

Hmmmm. Well I guess I had never thought much about the meaning of a bone marrow transplant before I had one. I ended up hating the mattress, because I felt every night that I was getting stuck in the valley formed by my body. Recently I exchanged it for a normal mattress. But anyway.

As for the car, I settled on a Subaru Forester. I drove the car, figuring that there couldn’t be too many germs in a new car. Then I negotiated with salesmen from different dealerships. I told them only that I had recently gotten out of the hospital and wasn’t supposed to be around germs, and that we would need to have our preliminary conversations outside.

I’m not naturally suited to the price negotiating thing, so I tried extra hard to do a good job. I researched the car on Consumer Reports and paid $14 for a report telling me the price at which to start negotiating.

Dealer #1 was about $500 above that bottom line and said he could only go down $100. “You don’t have to believe me, but I’m only making $250 on that car. It’s a great deal,” he said. As for my van, valued at $2,800 in the Kelley Blue book, he said he’d give me $2,000. Harumph.

Dealer #2 went below the Consumer Reports bottom line on the car and gave me $3,500 for the van, for a total price of $2,000 less than Dealer #1.

Naturally, I bought the car from Dealer #2, who brought paperwork into the van and used the dashboard as his desk. I had told him that I could go inside if I wore a mask, but he said he didn’t mind sitting in the van. (And, really, he would have sat on top of the car to make the sale, right?)

We chatted a bit, and he told me he is from Greenfield (Mass.), where my aunt and uncle lived and my cousins grew up. I asked him if he knew my late uncle Milton. “Milt!” he said. “Everyone knew Milt!” And it’s true; every time I bump into someone from Greenfield, they have a story about Milt.

So there I was signing paperwork in the car and talking about Uncle Milt. Odd. Then the salesman asked to take a copy of my license. I was on a break from chemo when they took the license photo, and the registry wouldn’t let me use the old photo. So in the photo I’m wearing a headscarf and looking kind of thin and pale.

When I handed over my license, I blanched, as though I had been found out. (I know, I know, nothing to be ashamed of, but still…) “It really is me,” I said.

I told him I’d miss the van, and the stickers, and he said that if I wanted, he could get the stickers off and affix them to the new vehicle. “That’s kind of cheating,” I said. “I’ll have to get back to the Cape and get some new ones.”

Mission accomplished, I went home for a few last days with the van. The van is dark green, and for a change of pace, I picked a maroon car with a reddish hue. It's a more fun, lively, jazzy color.

Last time I was in the hospital, my friend Barry brought me a red toy car. It was his way of reminding me about the need to “keep the car on the road” when my mind starts to wander to the dark side.

The little red car is on my dresser. The big reddish car is in my driveway.

And really, it’s all about keeping the car on the road, isn’t it?


Howard said...

I had an Uncle Milt too (Long Beach NY). What would he have said after reading your post?

Drive it in good health.

Enjoy your new ride

PJ said...

My first car was a Subaru, sort of a wine color. And yes, I do drive a minivan.

Kudos for single-handedly propping up the economy. You're the only person I know who's buying stuff, a true patriot. Enjoy!

Barala said...

Now you have 2 red cars to gently remind you to stay on the road. Welcome to the Subaru club. You'll be looking for snowstorms to drive thru and amazed at how easily you plow through them ... just like this next phase of your life. Sounds like a road trip is in order ...

Anonymous said...

Hey Ronni! your car sounds fun and zippy, just like you! Care to take it for a spin next Friday to meet me in Northampton?


Susan C said...

I have almost the same philosophy of car buying. Buy a slightly used, still under warranty car, and drive it for 150,000 miles or ten years, whichever comes first. (Although I did go new when I got the Prius almost two years ago.)

Enjoy the new wheels!

Nelle said...

Congratulations! May you drive it in safety for many years! I purchased a new car a year ago and it has been a pleasure to drive again.