By Louise Ure
Welcome back from your long holiday weekend, ‘Rati. (Well, the long holiday weekend for you American ‘Rati, anyway.) I hope your weather was as gorgeously lazy and blue as it was here in San Francisco. I did nothing particularly patriotic or unusual … dinner out with several friends, a remarkable barbeque on Monday, a day weeding on the roofdeck-garden which has left my muscles in a state of contrition … but it was good.
Oh, and I bought a car.
I’ve been on a car selling-binge for the last year, auctioning off Bruce’s racecars, the tow vehicle and trailer, but I still had two cars to go.
The first was a 1971 Mercedes 280SL that I bought back in the 80’s. I’ve loved that car for over a quarter of a century, using it as a daily driver, a Sunday treat, or a long haul Thelma and Louise touring car riding from Montana to Arizona and back again. That car has seen me at more cowboy bars and roadside motels than it has grocery stores and libraries.
But she’s aged better than I have, and my knees no longer make it easy or graceful to get in and out of that plush leather bucket seat. It was time to say goodbye.
I had a collector over to look at it a couple of months ago and he low-balled an offer I wasn’t interested in. “For that price, I’ll just use it as a Barcalounger in the garage.”
He kept calling back, notching the offer up a couple of thousand every few weeks. Finally, when he reached a price that was three times what I’d paid for it 28 years ago, I said yes.
The second car, a 2000 Mercedes SUV, reflected the wife, business owner, middle aged woman and dog transporter I’ve become in the last quarter of a century. It’s another car I’ve loved and I could happily keep driving it for another twenty years without a second thought.
With this car, it wasn’t my knees that betrayed me, but technology. As wonderful as that Mercedes was – navigation unit and all – it was still twelve years old and technology has outpaced car design by a long stretch.
I was tired of wearing a Bluetooth headset as my only means of answering a phone call while driving. I wanted easy access to my whole iPod music library and not just a lousy 6-CD changer in the trunk. I wanted a rear view camera to keep me from scraping my bumper on that stubby concrete post at the grocery store. Oh, and a little better gas mileage wouldn’t go astray, either.
So this weekend, I did a little research, found something I liked coming off a lease, and went north to a Marin county dealership and bought myself a car.
I make that sound easy, and it probably would be for most of you. But let me put this in perspective.
I am sixty years old and I have never shopped for and purchased a car by myself before. I inherited my first car through a death in the family. My mother went with me to buy the next car, and my brother fulfilled that function for the third.
By the fourth or fifth car in my auto-resume, Bruce was there, asking mechanical questions I didn’t even understand the answer to, and negotiating deals I thought we had no chance of winning. And I certainly didn’t have a clue about how to value or negotiate a trade in.
So I got internet smart, reading Kelley Bluebook quotes and checking out used car prices at lots all over town. I investigated recommended negotiating techniques and used car dealer tricks. (As my brother Jim reminded me on the phone yesterday, when he and his wife last went in to by a car, the saleman left them alone in his office and then listened in on their negotiation conversation through an open intercom.) I read Edmunds and Car and Driver reviews of various years’ performance. Who says old dogs can’t learn new tricks?
The upshot, after a full five hours of negotiation (“Don’t worry about me, take your time, I’ve got my iPad to keep me busy, you take just as long as you need to figure out how to get to this number.”) they came down a few thousand on price, they came up a few thousand on the trade in, they threw in a bunch of extras like an extended warranty and handed me a few hundred bucks more I found lying in the weeds, and I got my car.
I think I’m going to like it. It’s a different brand than I’ve ever tried before and it will take some time to get to know all these flashy new hi tech toys, but it looks good in the garage and I smile when I drive it. (Forgive me for not picturing it here, but author/police officer Robin Burcell told me years ago about the dangers of showing our actual houses, cars or license plates online. I have enough stalkers in my life, thanks.)
And I think that what I’m really smiling about is that it’s yet another first. Another thing I’ve successfully done by myself. Many of my other “firsts” this year have been sad ones. The first Christmas without Bruce. The first road trip alone to Seattle to take care of his father.
Here’s to more happy “firsts” ahead.
And how about you guys? What is your most recent “first”? Or what “first” would you like to accomplish? It doesn’t have to be a Bucket List kind of thing. It can be tiny.
I think I’d like to make my first ever squirrel pot pie.