I’ve been told that my father was a car fanatic.
Every year, someway/somehow, he’d always have a new Cadillac. I never knew that Cadillac guy, but I most certainly inherited his love of cars. One of my mom’s enduring friendships was with a grumpy degenerate alcoholic. He also did not smell good.
He had a car!
Every Sunday he’d come by and pick my mom and I up and we’d go to Belmont Park. (Oh, yeah, he also had a gambling problem.) It was a mutually beneficial proposition. I got to ride shotgun (this was pre nanny state car seat requirements for children) in Betsy (that was his car’s name…hmm and probably where I got the notion that cars needed names) and I would tell him which horses to bet on (it was weird, I was usually right. I hit the trifecta like four times over the years…sadly, I have since lost this horse picking ability.)
In high school, I whined and whined and whined to my mom for a car (what? it worked when I wanted to get a Game Boy in eighth grade.) I never got my car. Instead, I rode shotgun in my best friend’s car, which I named Tony the Toyota (oh my gawd, how adorable am I?) despite Don’s many protestations that cars were not people. Someday, I’d say, in my best Scarlett O’Hara fist shaking voice, “someday I’d have a car of my own! And never go hungry again!”
And then, voila, a mere 9 years later I was standing in the showroom of a car dealership in Brooklyn. I was moving back to Connecticut and I needed a car to get from my home in New Haven to my job in Bridgeport. I’d had a license for 8 years by that point, (an optimistic teenage Dawn had paid for driving lessons and the cost of taking the driving test…twice. Gulp.) but I certainly had not driven at all…unless you count taking out the van when I was a camp counselor and driving 6 mph two miles to the video store with four appropriately terrified tweens…and you probably shouldn’t count that.
Anyway, so in the search for my first car I decided the most important feature would be On-star, so I could call for help when I inevitably crashed in the Connecticut backwoods. The only cars in my government salary price range that offered the service were Pontiacs.
“You the girl looking about the American car,” the salesman asked when I gave my name to the receptionist and said I’d made an appointment.
Before I could answer in the affirmative, my mother, who immediately read this as a situation of the slick car salesman looking to take advantage of two clueless women, jumped in.
“No, she doesn’t want no damn American junk car.”
In hindsight, this was all probably for the best since despite my month of research that had resulted in my settling on the Pontiac Grand Prix, I had made my first appointment to actually test drive cars at a *Honda* dealership. D’oh.
Anyway, we sat down, he showed me the Civic.
“Nah, it’s too small.”
Next was the Accord, which I really liked.
After that, it was a fairly straight line to signing ownership papers. With a slight stop at “would you like the special edition model? They come with wood paneling.”
My mom: Yes, I like wood. Get that one. (My mom denied that story FOR YEARS…fast forward to present day…)
Green being the least offensive of the 2000 special editions, that’s what I ended up with. A few days later, I went to pick up my car and the salesman said something to me which I have never forgotten.
“You’ll enjoy the Honda, Dawn. It’s the black man’s BMW.”
I still remember seething with disgust. Fuck you, dude, the BMW is the black man’s BMW and if I didn’t already sign that promissory note and I wasn’t already saddled with $130,000 of educational loans, I WOULD SO GET ME A BMW right now! Okay, I didn’t think all that. But definitely the first part.
But I did love me my Honda. Probably a little too much.
Of course, eventually, she craps out on me. Again. After the incident with the burned out headlight in February, followed by the flat tire in March, I warned her that I would not tolerate anymore of these costly, Dawn inconviencings anymore. Then, boom: May comes and transmission blows. (Though, she flashed me the “check engine” light back in April, so…you know, blame is a strong word.) But it was enough.
After, as Alceste so cleverly phrases it, desperately asking for advice about what to do, I ignored it all and set out to get a new car. (Actually, Rick Blaine recommended the Volvo S40 and that’s where I made my first appointment, so I didn’t ignore all the advice.)
I got up at a crazy hour of the morning to catch the bus that J told me would get me from my house to the Volvo dealership in Bay Ridge. My mom and I are walking from the bus stop (me thinking, ugh, I vowed I would never have to walk from bus stops ever again!) to the Volvo dealership when we pass a Honda dealership!
Sabaka had bought her little Honda Coupe at this place five years ago, but I thought it had gone out of business.
I walked in.
“Hi…I have a 2000 Accord. But the transmission died and I was told it’d cost $4000 to fix it, so I’m looking to just get a new car,” I said point blank.
“Ok…what did you have in mind.”
“Well, maybe a pre-owned Acura?”
“Why? Just get a new car. The Accords are amazing now.”
He took me over to the Accord XL. It was navy blue and shiny.
I wanted it.
I sat inside and while it was familiar — with everything in the same place as the Professor — it was totally new and awesome! Moonroof! Leather! Fancy clock and temperature telling doohicky.
Professor 2.0, baby!!
I got out and we started talking numbers. He told me I could get the car for $23K, which was a few hundred more than what the dealer had paid and well below the $28K sticker. And then his manager came over and said “I can do better than that…I can get you that car for 21K.” He also told me that the stimulus bill President Obama signed into law, provides for tax incentives if you purchase a new car by December 31st AND further CASH incentives if your new vehicle is more fuel efficient than your old one — which a new Honda would be in spades!
A new Honda would basically be free! Thank you, President Obama and Democratic Congress!
They offered to throw in wheel locks and splash guards and the little cable that I needed for my ipod to work with the car.
I was sold.
And then the salesman showed my mom…
“These versions come with wood paneling on all the doors and interior rims.”
“OOH, I like wood! Get that one.”
I shook my head. My mom likes what she likes.
“Okay, I’ll get that one. In blue.”
“No, these models don’t come in blue.”
“Just get black,” my mother said.
It’s weird, but it was a deal breaker for me. I wanted a blue car, for some reason, and I was gonna get me one.
I told him I’d come back. But that I was getting the blue car, so I wouldn’t be needing the wood. My mother scowled.
Next stop was the Volvo dealership.
This place was downright dinky next to the Honda dealership. All the cars were clustered together in a showroom that was only slightly bigger than my living room.
All the salesmen ignored us.
I knew exactly what my mother was thinking.
“I made an appointment with Mike…yesterday.”
“Sorry, he’s with a customer. You’ll have to get someone else.”
I stood there and started my “fuck this countdown.” To wit: I pick a number…in this case 20…and start counting backwards to one, when I hit one “fuck this.”
Around number 6, a short, overweight guy with glasses and an audible wheeze waddled over.
I prejudged him right away as some kind of nephew of the dealership owner.
I told him about the Professor’s death and said that a friend recommended the S40. He took me to see one and started telling me all the features. My mother really liked the eight air bags and I really liked the rain censors. You know, the important things in car purchasing.
But the backseat was really cramped and I just pictured the bitching of one Al C. Este for two hours in each direction. The car was 30K, but I asked to see the next one up: the S60. I really liked this car. I remember thinking it was a clever vehicle. It had the moonroof and a censor that will stop it from closing if your fingers were in there and it came with free satellite radio…oh and the back seat would fold down into the trunk!
Best of all, it was only $6K more!
This was definitely my car!
I test drove it around Bay Ridge, but it didn’t really feel right.
(Not that I know what a car is ‘posed to feel like or anything…)
But whatever, I would get it.
We went inside and this guy really was no salesman. (And on the test drive he admitted that the owner was a friend of the family and he was really “in theater” whatever that meant.) He basically said “ok, it’s 36K…but that’s sticker…so you would actually pay 31K.”
Where was the showmanship in it all? Oh, those men at Honda knew how to make a girl feel like she was getting a deal!
I said I’d be needing the car in blue.
“That’ll be 3K extra because they would need to customize the paint.”
I also told him I wanted this thing I saw on a car in California where like all you do is push a button to start the car.
“Um…no, we can’t install that.”
“Ok, give me your card. We’ll come back.”
I wasn’t coming back.
I decided to just get the Accord XL.
“Wait, what’s the store at the end, I see cars,” my mother asked.
My mom and I had basically walked up 4th avenue in Brooklyn. It’s a “car dealership row” of sorts. You start at Honda, then pass Mitsubishi, meander by Volvo and you end at…
“the BMW dealership? Are you crazy, woman?”
Oh, we could go.
We walked in and I was immediately nervous. I didn’t know anything about cars, much less BEAMERS. At least at the Volvo dealership I could kinda fake it based on what Rick had told me, but here I was lost.
The receptionist, a black woman in her mid-twenties, with insane nails, looked up from a magazine and asked if we needed help.
“Um…yeah, I’m looking for…a…car.”
Don’t say BMW, Dawn. Don’t say BMW, Dawn. Don’t say BMW, Dawn. Don’t say BMW, Dawn.
“Um…I’m not sure yet.”
She went back to her magazine.
“Should we just look around,” I asked the top of her head.
I was getting that “fuck this” feeling, when a stocky middle age white man came over and introduced himself.
“Nice to meet you.”
I told him about my Honda.
“Okay, great. We’d love to help you out.”
He told me “Brent” would be helping me and gave me his card, “in case I needed anything else.”
Brent was a towering figure. He was like 6’5 or 6’6 or 6’7, with a slender build and floppy hair like the boy next door always has in the movies.
He said he’d moved to Brooklyn 3 months ago to get married and said I was brave to drive around the city.
“Oh, I grew up here,” I said reassuring him that it was no big deal as I’d been driving around this city for 29 years, no sweat!
The first car he showed me was the 328. It was okay. My mom was happy to hear it also had eight airbags.
But it felt cramped to me.
And then he showed me the 528.
I can’t exactly put my finger on it, but I loved this car immediately.
I sat down in the driver’s seat and knew right away.
But I had known right away three times already just that day. I wanted to drive it!
Oh. My. Gawd.
It was soooooo amazing.
Push button? Check! Rain censors? Check! Moonroof finger not getting squished thingy? CHECK!
It ran so smoothly too.
We got back to the desk and he told me the sticker price was $56000.
MY MOTHER SAYS “that’s okay. This is the car. I’ll help you pay for it.”
I say “Are you crazy, woman?”
And then tell Brent that it’s way too much.
Brent leans in and says “well, look…I know it’s getting late and I hate to pressure you into anything…”
Oh, here it comes…
“…but we actually have a number of five series cars that we’re trying to get rid of because they ordered too many and they have these customized winter and sport packages that not everyone wants. So I can get you a really good deal on one of those because you pretty much have to take them as is. The only problem is, we’ve really been pushing them and now there are only two left. A white one…”
I shake my head.
“Nah, I don’t want a white car.”
“…and a blue one.”
I looked up.
“What kind of blue?”
He typed some stuff into the computer:
It was EXACTLY the color I wanted! And for almost 12K less because “I had to take it as is!” Waa, poor me, I can’t customize my own Beamer.
With the Stimulus bill tax incentive (the BMW wouldn’t qualify for the efficiency money) this was totally doable. Plus, the interest rate on the loan was less than 1 percent! Like there’s a decimal point AND NO number in front of it followed by the percent sign. AND BMW will make the first two payments for you!
Gimmeee my car, beetches!!!
(I feel obligated here to say a few words about fiscal responsibility, especially since F-Train has been heard to say fiscal irresponsibility jokes are in and Gay F-train jokes, almost like the man himself, are out.)
You really shouldn’t buy a new car. Preowned cars are an excellent way to own a vehicle which is covered under warranty for a *fraction* of the cost of a new car. They also hold their value much better than the new car and when you’re selling your preowned car, you’ll likely get back what you paid. Instead of not even getting back what you paid to change all four tires on the Professor two years ago. Never mind all the money I spent fixing shit this year. Pout.
And I have yet to hear any sound financial argument for leasing. So, kids, get yourselves a good reliable preowned deal AND pay for it on a credit card, but make sure you have the money to pay it all off when the bill comes. You get miles or cash back, there’s no interest and no monthly payments dragging you down. You should be financially stable in all other areas of your life too. Apartment, food, medical insurance, then and only then should you even think about getting a car of any kind, especially in New York City. And even then you shouldn’t think about a new car. And you definitely shouldn’t think about a new luxury car! Haven’t you heard we’re in the throes of the Bush recession. All a man has is his word, and that includes promises to blood sucking credit card companies, predatory banks and opportunistic car finance departments. If you can’t afford something, don’t sign papers saying you can (horrible, unforseeable tragedies notwithstanding, of course.)
And, we’re done with that.
I believe this shot that Doris took during our first ride in Prince Elihu says everything else. Who needs thousand, this picture is worth just three words:
Totally. Worth. It.
Now, sure, I won’t be able to take any vacations that I can’t drive to or buy any snazzy gadgets or gizmos for a long while, but, if you’re going to wipe out your savings, this (and weekly trips to Las Vegas) is the way to do it, friends.
Plus, we are going to have to shop our way out of this Bush recession one impulse luxury car at a time. (You’re welcome, Mr. President. My pleasure. Anything I can do to help a half brother out.) Jake and I are doing our part to make America America again.
It was settled, if I didn’t get this car, the terrorists win!
Nice try, Osama. NOT ON MY WATCH! Brent handed me a pen.
I agreed to the terms and signed on the dotted line.
Finally! I was getting me a white man’s Honda.
I’ve been told that my father was a car fanatic.