However, there is one bright spot. In the midst of tonight’s ordeal, Caroline had to fend for herself for quite awhile. At one point, I was sitting on the bathroom floor discussing poop with Sam, and Caroline wandered around the corner holding an old book. I guess we must have family hour in by the commode pretty regularly these days, because she pulled up a stool by the sink and continued reading like it was nothing unusual.
“What’cha got?” I asked her. It was hardbound without pictures or a slipcover.
Rather than closing it, she peered all the way across the top and looked upside down at the spine, then intoned “The Pain and The Great One, by Judy Blume,” in her robot voice.
Seriously? I had to bend around so I could see for myself. She’s about halfway through it.
“That was one of my favorites when I was your age!” I said.
But she didn’t hear me. She was too deeply engrossed in her book.
That’s just a status update. Here’s the real blog entry.
When my parents were married, Mom used to say “For better or worse, but the truck comes first.” This particular commentary on the state of their union meant that, while he might have been wedded to Mom, Dad’s love affair with his Ford F250 qualified it for mistress status. I’m beginning to understand his position.
Pretty early on in the blog, I mentioned that we have been car shopping, with plans to buy new. Also, that I’m extremely uncomfortable being middle class enough to think about the long-term cost of a car, as opposed to the short term expense. That was over two months ago. Scott and I shop very slowly, even once we have made up our minds. We had a pretty good idea back in May that we would be buying a Hyundai Sonata, as it offered a reasonable compromise between size and gas savings. And we figured out our color choice pretty fast. We even knew we wanted a GLS without any added options packages.
Still, it took us until last Friday to actually go buy the thing.
Our car buying style has evolved over the course of the relationship, with nothing running true to type. This is one of the few things we have in common with my parents as a couple. Their car buying abilities were also so unique as to defy any dealer’s comprehension training. Back when they were buying cars together, the dealers tended to assume that the woman would be the soft sell, so they spent a lot of their time showing the man the car’s practical advantages while showing the woman the features. But in our family, Mom was the hardliner. She knew how much she could afford, couldn’t have cared less about the dealer come-ons, and had no interest in features. So the dealers wasted a lot of time trying to win over a man who they had back at the word “car”. And they spent almost no effort at all on the person with whom they would actually be negotiating.
It never went well for the dealers.
Scott and I aren’t like that. I’ll freely admit that I’m the stereotypical female shopper in an era when dealers are getting trained to avoid sexist thinking. Hyundai had me at “Free XM radio trial”, but the dealer got distracted by my sudden nostalgia for the Mazda that he didn’t even know we would be trading in. Therefore, he wasn’t quite sure what to do when I had no interest in test drives, didn’t really care a whole lot about fuel economy since it wasn’t a Prius, and wasn’t even much interested in color. Scott, in contrast, did several test drives of the Sonata, of the Honda Civic, and I think of one other. He studied Consumer Reports and Kelly Blue Book, and he determined which car would get us the most for our money. I rode along for two of the test drives and contributed almost nothing but anxiety to the process.
I was nervous about buying a Hyundai, just as I had been nervous about buying Mazda twelve years ago, and Honda back in 2008, because I’d never owned one before. I’ve apparently got brand loyalty issues when it comes to cars. I consider myself a Toyota girl, since the two used Toyotas that got me from about age 18 and into grad school were reliable vehicles that only required the occasional timing belts or alternator replacements. (And, from time to time, tires. But even the new ones need those.) This, in spite of the fact that I haven’t owned a Toyota since 1999. I accidentally convinced Scott I didn’t want the Hyundai for a few days by virtue of my incessant fretting.
But by the time we walked into the dealership last Friday, we had all of that ironed out. We knew everything about the car we were buying, and we knew how not to get ripped off. Kelly and CR confirmed that people were pretty much paying MSRP for these things and that there wasn’t any real discount wiggle room there. We knew we had a trade in, but that we needed to wait to disclose that fact until after the car price was sealed, and we knew its relative value as well. We walked into Capitol Hyundai, found the salesman with whom we had been working and said, “We need to buy an Indigo Blue Sonata GLS without any option packages. We don’t expect to drive it off the lot today, because you haven’t got any in inventory, and we’re ready to fill out the paperwork.”
“Uh, waitaminute.” He said. “Let me see if I can find you one.”
“According to your website, there aren’t any in stock,” Scott said.
“Well, we may have had some come in.”
So Scott and I sat down.
I’ve been under a lot of stress lately, and this whole car buying thing hasn’t even been the half of it. To keep myself somewhat sane and under control, I brought my computer and sat there grading papers. Poor Scott didn’t even have a book.
Half an hour later, the salesman came back over. “We’re still looking for a car for you!” he said, then vanished.
When he surfaced once more, we tried to explain the situation again. “We just need to do the paperwork today,” I assured him. “We seriously don’t have a lot of time to do this, and I don’t want you looking all over the state for the car we want.”
“It’s not that simple,” he told me. “We have to find the car you’re buying so we know how much it costs.”
“Bullshit,” I told him.
He seemed taken aback. They always are when I start swearing.
Scott added, “There’s a Hyundai plant not ten miles from here. You’re telling me that they won’t roll an indigo GLS off the line in the next ten to fourteen days?”
“But we have to have a VIN number to put on the paperwork,” he explained.
“Bullshit,” I repeated. I could feel my face getting red as anger and impatience bubbled to the surface.
Scott said, “We really don’t have a lot of time for this.”
He made placating noises, and we sat back down to wait some more. We had been in the dealership for an hour by this time. And I should take a moment to note that this portion of problem was not the salesman’s fault. He had some stupid asshat manager who could not understand people willing to walk in and commit to a car they had not personally fondled. Or something. Our guy was the quintessential middleman, running back and forth to us with his manager’s racket.
At one point, Scott got up and strode towards the manager’s office, just about giving the poor salesman apoplexy. He kept saying “But sir… but sir,” as Scott headed across the showroom floor.
“What? Is this TSA? I don’t see ‘no customer zone’ anywhere around here,” Scott said. “He doesn’t want to come talk to us? Well we’d like to talk to him.”
“I’ll get him for you,” the salesman promised, herding Scott back to the leather sofa where I was still grading essays.
He did not get the manager, but I’ve no doubt he tried. Instead, the manager thought we had reached the point of impatience at which we would be malleable, because he sent the salesman back out asking, “Would you be willing to buy one with an added option package…”
“No,” I cut him off. “And you can tell your manager that if he tries that again, we’re heading next door to Honda. If he doesn’t start some paperwork in the next few minutes, we’re gone.” I have walked away from cars I want due to inept sales staff. I was not bluffing.
“He’s got calls out. He’s just waiting for one of them to call him back,” the salesman countered.
“He’s losing a sale,” Scott explained.
Scott was much more rational than I was, but the salesman had no way of knowing that. Scott’s blank looks have an angry edge even when they are completely neutral. And, having run through the magazines in that first thirty minute stretch, he was far from neutral. Add to that image the sight of me glancing up from my computer every once in awhile to issue a new dictate and froth at the mouth some more, and you can really start to feel for this guy. The salesman went back to his manager, still unsure whether Scott and I were a couple of bluffing card players or just a pair of tough customers.
The manager finally decided to run a credit check to dick for time. He sent out paperwork, which we completed and before waiting some more.
The next time the salesman walked by, I started a countdown. “You have thirty minutes,” I said, “before we have to leave to go get our daughter. Don’t make me late.”
Twenty minutes later, things finally started moving. “We found your car,” the salesman said, like he’d just walked out back and we hadn’t been cluttering up his showroom for the better part of two hours.
“You have ten minutes,” I told him.
He tried to counter with, “Well, we had to run the credit check…”
“You assumed we are applying for credit.”
And that just shut him right down. He had not asked if we were applying for credit or if we were letting him fill out that paperwork to amuse ourselves while he wasted our time. In the process of starting the credit check, he had made the mistake of calling me “Mrs. Merriman” and mispronouncing it to boot. Bonus time! Here are the top three ways to infuriate me. One, refer to me with a first name of “Mrs.”. Two, assume I have the same last name as my spouse. And number three, fuck up the pronunciation of Scott’s last name when you’re doing it. This was the only thing I could hold against the salesman himself, rather than his stupid boss, but he had completed a perfect trifecta. Win, place, and show. Up until then, he had been carefully nonsexist, guessing correctly that he was really negotiating with Scott only when my commentary devolved to insults and time-calls. But at the credit-point, the only thing he could have done worse was try to make my first name “Scott”.
I had said tersely “Look at the license” and then corrected his pronunciation of Scott’s name twice. But by the time he came back to tell us “we found your car”, we wouldn’t have gotten our financing through Hyundai if they’d had a zero interest loan option. OK, if they’d had that, we probably would have used them. But they didn’t. And, like I said, we were out of time.
For a good two minutes, things moved quickly. We established the price, and the salesman went from taken aback to offended when I pointed out that this was exactly the price we had known we were going to pay walking in. I think he was upset because I had essentially called his boss’s bluff about all the dicking around “finding” a car.
When we had finally signed the offer, which, for the record had no VIN number on it, Scott said, “Now, we’re going to talk about our trade in.”
I said, “You have eight minutes.”
The poor salesman just opened his mouth and stared. Then he and Scott went out to see the Mazda. The manager, thinking our hurry meant something else, tried to lowball the trade-in price. Once again, the salesman found himself up against my mottle-faced “Bullshit,” this time followed by “we’re down to three minutes.” And here’s where he really did something right. Without consulting the idiot in the back room, he promised us full “excellent used” value for the Mazda, when all we had been asking for was “good”. I’m sure that was a serious risk, since he had, up until then, not been able to say our names (even incorrectly) without a consultation. He swore up and down that we would only have to come back once, to finish the paperwork and collect the car, and he was telling the truth.
I do want to emphasize that, as salespeople go, he was doing his best. Capitol Hyundai just had some real dumb fucks in their back room and some screwed up policies to go with them.
So we came back on Monday and signed a lot of documents and picked up our new car. Our salesman must have warned the paper-signing dude about us, because that was the fastest I have ever signed paperwork for something expensive. Typically, the paperwork is the longest part of the process.
After that, it was time to drive our baby home.
At first, I was too scared to drive it. I had explained repeatedly at the test drive phase that as long as Scott liked the handling, I was happy. And I had test driven the Sonata (a 2011, if that matters, since they came out with the ‘12s while we batted around our plans). But I was so afraid of dinging it that I only went a mile or so before giving it back to the salesman to park. So Scott got the honor of driving the new machine home and putting it in the garage. Even he was moderately paranoid, because he made me help him with positioning.
I didn’t drive it until this morning, and right up until then, I maintained my distance. It was a new car. Nice color, great radio, but it stank of new car spray to the point that I had to leap out into the grass as we got home from the dealership to avoid hurling on the new seats. I’m allergic to most scents, and they had doubtless perfumed the hell out of the thing before handing us the keys. I remained in terror of dinging it.
After all, I put the first dent in the last new car we got, a scant few weeks after we purchased it. And I don’t want to do that again. But once I sat down in the driver’s seat, I had to forgive all. I had to forgive it for being an automatic, for smelling like upholstery spray, and for not being a Toyota. Because from the driver’s seat, it is incredibly like my 1987 Toyota Corolla SR5. No popup headlights, but the shade of blue is just about the same, the radio is better, and the handling is sublime.
I have never loved a car this much before, and I can say without (much) embarrassment that I’m already planning her first bath. Do you know when the last time was that I washed a car? Yes, that’s right. Never. But I’m washing this one. And I’m waxing the dash. Or whatever you do to ward off dust. And we’re buying seat covers and floor mats, and there’s no damned way the kids are eating in this thing ever.
The list goes on. Scott has already snapped at Caroline for trying to carry a breakfast bar out there this morning, and I got on her case for smudging up her window this afternoon. Sam has been thoroughly lectured for touching the paint with what might have been a fingernail, and there is no question of allowing the poor hairy dog in there.
The kids are as in love with the radio as I am, and can, in fact, read the XM display from the backseat. God help you if you skip a song Caroline thinks she might like. Tonight, watching me skim past titles (from my steering wheel control), Caroline suddenly shrieked “Go BACK! That’s Judas Priest! That’s “Night Crawler”. And I LOVE THAT SONG.”
“You’ve never heard that song,” I said.
“Yes, I have.”
To prove her wrong, I went back, whereupon I recognized the tune and realized that yes, in fact, she has heard that song. It has been at least four years, and it was on a yard sale purchase that came without a case, so it was one of those that I never was sure of the name of because I couldn’t quite understand the chorus. But yes, she has heard Night Crawler before. And yes, she can understand it better than I can, because she was singing along for most of the rest of the ride home.
For my part, I was torn between emotions. Delight that I finally don’t have to dig out a CD to hear Judas Priest warred with concerns that she’s old enough to get nightmares from that particular tune. And both of those thoughts were driven down by the realization that I just lost control of the radio I wanted for myself. The feature that sold me on the car has been usurped by the kids, and I’m reduced to being grateful that they have excellent musical taste even as I plan to never scroll past Radio Disney.
I love this new car, and I can’t wait to find out all its new treats.
Jessie Powell is the Jester Queen. She likes to tell you about her dog, her kids, her fiction, and her blog, but not necessarily in that order.