It was midday when we set out on what was to prove an adventure. Here we were, one definitely large person, two approaching large-ness, and one slim one all crammed into the cab of a pickup truck. I don’t remember if we took lunches or if we planned to stop to eat on the way. Or maybe we fasted. The day, other than car shopping, was a blur.
The captain of the Good Ship Used Car Search had contacted an advertiser and set up an appointment for us to see the car. It was a good 130 miles or maybe farther to where we were going. DD had talked about maybe we could get a Honda but I’d looked at the used car ads and anything I’d have cost too much for my budget. The one picked out by the Captain was a Grand Am.
I was still rather, as my mother would say, “mealy mouthed” and was backward about going and doing and fending for myself. It was a relief to have the Captain speak for me.
After what seemed like hours, we got to the little settlement of Mount Juliet, TN. It didn’t look like much and there were several stops the Captain had to make. The afternoon stretched on and on until I was about to despair of finding anything. DD would cut her eyes around at me as if to say, “WHEN are we going home??” I’d give her a look that meant, “Don’t make waves!” She’d sigh and scrunch down lower in the seat.
It turned out I wasn’t the only one car shopping. The Captain’s son who came along was supposed to drive a car back for his sister. We went to a little used car lot that dealt in nothing but Toyotas and HONDAS! While they were looking at newer models, DD and I were sleuthing around the ones that were more in my price range. Nothing was as low as my $2,000 I’d borrowed to spend. Still, there was a little ’84 Honda Civic that caught my eye. It was maroon, the same color as my beloved and dearly departed Peugeot. It seemed to be well-cared for, too. The interior was almost pristine. The one blemish was the right rear panel and it looked like it had been replaced with one that didn’t quite match the rest of the car. I wasn’t expecting perfection and I was ready to deal even though I hadn’t driven it.
I hadn’t considered the Captain and his determination to do what was right. When I let him know I’d found my car, he said no. We couldn’t do that. We had to go see the Grand Am. He’d given his word we’d look at it and, durn it! we were going to look at it. I protested I didn’t want to waste time looking at a car I, at that point, didn’t want. He insisted that I was riding with him and if I wanted to get anywhere, we were going to look at the other car. He had me there so off we went. The paperwork still had to be done on the sister’s car (his daughter). The people in the office promised to have it finished by the time we got back.
We wedged ourselves back into the truck and started off again. I felt dejected and determined not to like the Grand Am. I didn’t have to worry.
It was beginning to get dark when we got to the house where the Grand Am lived. The man came out and greeted us with an air of confidence that he had made a sale. His brand spanking new Toyota was sitting in the driveway which made the Grand Am look that much less inviting.
The Captain got the key from the owner and told me I was going to take it for a test drive. I didn’t WANT to take it anywhere. Under no circumstances was I going to buy that car. The look on his face told me I was getting into the car one way or another so I decided I’d make it easy on myself and go along.
The owner proudly showed off the attributes of the car. The main one was a post between the seats that held a CAR PHONE! Of course, I’d have to get a plan for it to work but I’d be as uptown as anyone in the valley. Dark had descended on us and I searched for the lights. The man reached in and switched them on and the dash looked like a Christmas tree. It was red, green, and yellow and I was just about eye-level with it. I tried to adjust the seat but pulling it forward didn’t do any good. I could barely see over the steering wheel.
I shifted out of park into reverse and DD (in the passenger’s seat) and I eased out of the driveway. We drove down to the end of the street, turned around and came back. Peering through the windshield, I saw there was a crack running all the way across. Well, THAT wouldn’t do. When the Captain saw it, he asked what had happened. Well, the man’s daughter had a mishap with the car. She’d gone into a ditch and not only cracked the windshield but she had messed up the trim under the driver’s door.
The Captain seized the opportunity to dicker and the man consented to knock off enough to fix the dings. It brought the price well within my budget but I still didn’t want the Grand Am. I felt like I was sitting on the floor when I drove it and it wasn’t me. The Honda was.
I was on the Captain’s list when we got back into the truck. His feelings of stringing the Grand Am man along were strong but I felt like it was my money and I’d spend it the way I wanted. All the way back to the car lot, he fumed about my behavior. By that time, I didn’t care. He told me the Honda’s shape had changed with the next model and I’d never be able to unload it for nearly what I’d be paying for it. So??
My mother would have been proud. What I’d been through in the last hours had taken my mealy-mouthedness away. It might come back, but it was nowhere to be found right then. We went into the little storage shed doubling as an office and I asked for the key to the Honda. I was reluctant to drive it in town so I got the Captain’s son to take us for a spin. I sat in the back seat and watched while he put it through its paces. I was in heaven! It had front wheel drive and a manual transmission. Five in the floor. The only thing it didn’t have that I wanted was cruise control. I could live without it.
Back in the office, I sat down to make a deal. It was priced above what I had but I told the proprietor that I’d pay him cash that night if he’d meet my offer. He agreed and I pulled out my money. I didn’t have a bank account and I’d taken the whole $2,000 with me. Foolish but effective. The man had been sort of smirking but the smirk vanished at the sign of greenbacks.
We sealed the deal, he got the paperwork done and promised to get the title to me in short order. The Captain climbed into his truck, the son into his sister’s car and DD and I got into OUR car. We were going to caravan home.
I noticed the gas gauge was indicating less than a quarter tank of gas. I didn’t know, yet, what kind of mileage I could expect to get so I needed to fill up. I pulled into a nearby station, got out, flipped open the cover over the gas cap and stopped, shocked. It had a locking cap and I didn’t have the key.