Hey! Randy

Archive for the ‘cars’ Category

I Added to My Payment Book Library

Posted by heyrandy on May 13, 2008

My car died, so I bought another. Actually, it was not that simple.

When that Saturday morning my car’s transmission, emitting a very loud noise, failed as I backed out of the garage, my only concern was to get to work.  I would fix the problem when I returned home. I switched to the other car; the one my wife normally drives. She, awakened by the swan song of a expiring vehicle, said that she wasn’t going anywhere that morning, so I could take her car.

I managed to back her car out of the garage without hitting either the dead car or the garage wall. When my car died, it stopped just outside of the garage, allowing the garage door to open and close. But the space between the carcass of the dead car and the garage wall was not too generous.

I thought that I had a bad axle shaft joint that had suddenly failed. To fix it would only cost a few hundred dollars and only take four or five hours. It was not to be that simple, that cheap, that easy, or that quick.

What had happened was the connection inside the transaxle housing had failed. This, plus the body damage I did last December to the right front fender and headlight when is slide into a guard rail would render the the repairs to be too expensive to justify the effort. The car was finished, but I was not. It would take no more journeys, but I was just starting an Odyssey. It would be a curious experience.

The Ratmobile

We need two cars to function. I wish we didn’t, but that is not the case. Since one car was kuput, I would need some interim transportation. This means RENTAL. To the internet I went. Behold, there, at a rental agency within walking distance of my dearly departed was a new set of wheels available at only $19.95 a day! Great! This will not cost too much. But since we did not need the second car for Saturday, Sunday, or Monday, we did not rush over to get it. Monday afternoon would be soon enough.

It was soon enough. But the price had changed. To reconfirm that the price we (my kids and I) saw I recalled the web site and found that the price had almost doubled. The search for a cheaper vehicle had begun. We looked for one of those places that rent used cars. We could not find any of the major names, but I did find one place that would do quite well. Off we (my wife and I) to said rental place.

It is a dump. But the price was low, and one credit card imprint later, I was on the road in my new, rusty old Chevy Cavalier. It was a four cylinder, front wheel drive model with a five speed manual shift transmission. It even had a sun roof. And a whole quarter tank of gas. What else could anyone want? Yes, the radio worked, sort of. I didn’t like the station, so I tried to figure how to turn off the radio. The radio was an after market add on unit that had lots of buttons identified with faded writing covered in grime. I kept pushing buttons until the front of the radio fell off.  At least it stopped playing.

I called the car “The Ratmobile.”  My wife wanted to know if there were really any rats in the car. I said no; I just named it that because the thing looks so ratty.

The following morning when I pulled the ratmobile out of the side street onto the main road, the oil light flashed on and the off.  At first I thought I was seeing things, but every hard left turn caused the oil light to flash. I knew this was serious.  So I took the lefts a little easier. This worked.

That afternoon I checked the oil. The dipstick was dry. There was nothing showing on the end of the stick. I bought two quarts (that is 0.9 liters to you who use the inferior metric system. If you don’t like it, the next time you are in Texas you just try and buy a 37.8 liter hat!), and put them in the engine. This brought the oil level up above the add mark on the dipstick, barely.

The Search

Being a parsimonious person, I began to search for the cheapest thing. All I was really looking for was four doors, automatic transmission, and air conditioning. There is a lot to choose from. Most of it is not any good. I went on to Craig’s list, and I looked for the bargain of the century, but I did not find anything that said, “Hey, Randy.”

I searched through those tabloid car shoppers one can pick up wherever newspapers are sold. I found it all very unfruitful.

I did go see a car that I saw on Craig’s list. It was a Pontiac something or other. It ran fine, but the air conditioning did not work. They said that it was because they had changed the compressor but forgot to put in the “gas”. Yeah.

With them off the list I went to another place. There were a lot of cars from which to chose. The two I drove ran just fine, but the air conditioning did not work in either car. The owner of the car lot told me that they don’t do air conditioning repairs because of the expense. He said that they just don’t have the profit margin to afford it. Okay, at least you are being honest. I kept him in mind when he said that he got new cars every Wednesday and Saturday from the auction. The next Saturday I went by, but there was not anything that I found interesting. There would be, I thought, other Saturdays.

I found something in a shopper paper. It was near my price; i.e., it was cheap. It was at a Chevrolet dealer some distance from home, but I called. It was already sold. But they did have other, similar cars. I got the prices.

It was Friday evening of the second week. I had originally rented the ratmobile for a week, but had to renew it for another week. This was starting to get expensive. I was a motivated buyer. So I went to see the cars.

The dealership was really hopping. It was packed. Sales were being made. I could tell by the way people were sitting at tables: two on one side across from one on the other side with papers in between. I drove two Chevrolet Impalas. They were both good cars; and, yes, the air conditioning worked! Things were starting to look up.

The Buy

The price was too high. I told the “sales professional” (the dealer’s term for sales person) that I didn’t want to spend that much. When I told him what I was willing to spend, he said, “I have some wiggle room, but not that much.” He next said something about seeing what he could do with the sales manager. He then come back and asked if we could agree on this range. I went up a little, and he went back to the sales manager for more of whatever it is they want you to think they are doing. We agreed on the price.

A problem occurred. One of my own making. I forgot to bring a check for the deposit. I had one, but when I changed clothes before going to go see the cars, I left the check at home. “No problem,” he said, “I can put it on a credit card.” He did, mine.

This is the strangest thing of the whole experience. Next, I suppose, I will pay for surgery with a credit card.

I would pick up the car Monday evening.

Youth, It’s Contagious

My daughter wanted to take a ride in the ratmobile, with the moon roof open. I didn’t have any objection in principle, but I was afraid that the moon roof, once opened, would not again seal sufficiently to keep out the rain, so I told her that we would only do it just before I returned the car to those people who were brave enough to acknowledge that they were the owners. The next day after the weird credit card experience, the daughter and I took a spin in the ratmobile, moon roof open.

The daughter enjoyed the experience. It reminded me of my early days. Those days when cars were not just another payment to make. Days when the joy of life blocked the frustrations. I had a good time with her. I even told her, “Let’s take this thing on the expressway to see what it is like with the moon roof open when we are doing 60 miles an hour.”

You get a lot of air flow.

My daughter was even impressed by the manual shift transmission. I got to explain to her how the shift lever works. This was the best experience of this affair!


I picked up the car at the dealer Monday evening.  The once hopping show room was quiet.  No crowds, no people sitting at tables, just a few sales persons (my term for sales professionals).  After signing some papers, making the down payment (I remembered to bring the check), and a hand shake, I was on the road.  My wife and daughter had accompanied me to get the car.  They waited patiently outside in my wife’s car as I signed on the dotted lines.  Once I was driving, I swung by my wife’s car and picked up my daughter to share the ride home.  She was excited, even more than when in the ratmobile.  (She shows good taste.)  On the way home she read the owner’s manual.  She explained all the things on the dashboard, set some of the radio pushbuttons, and worked the his-and-her controls of the air conditioning.

All that is left is to figure out how to pay for this thing.

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