I had been going down and up the mountain for so long, it was second nature. Contrary to what my mother thought about that “windy (as in winding) mountain road”, it was surprisingly easy to travel. I could get a “rhythm” going and could almost drive it with my eyes closed—but, be assured, I never did. I was thankful for my little maroon Honda Civic, old as it was. I’d stopped to pick up a co-worker one day who was in need of a ride and she was impressed with how well it handled.
One winter evening, I had left the hospital and was just a quarter mile or less away when the Honda died. I tried to start it but it wouldn’t do anything. Nothing. Nada. Not even a squeak. Instinctively, I knew I shouldn’t push my luck. Providentially, one of the men from the church happened along and rescued me.
The next day, the owner of the gas station at the end of the road took his car hauler to the valley and picked my poor little vehicle. He loaned me a car until he could assess the damage and repair it. The news wasn’t good. The timing belt had failed and one of the valves was bent. Could it be fixed? He had no idea but he would try.
I was heartbroken. I’d been through so much with that little car. It was a member of the family. I prayed that he would be able to repair it so I could drive it a few more thousand miles, at least. I needed to buy time if nothing else. He called and said to come pick it up. He was able to straighten whatever had been bent and, while it wasn’t perfect, it would do for then.
His loaner car went back and I drove my car home. It didn’t “feel” exactly right and I was afraid to put my full weight down when I was driving it.
It started burning oil. Another symptom of its being terminal. I’d had one other car that burned oil. I had to carry a case of oil in the trunk so I could top it off frequently. People could see me coming from a long distance, what with the smoke signals. I couldn’t go on that way and I knew it. I hated to have to start car shopping.
I’d been paying extra on a couple of credit cards to get them paid off early and finally those obligations were history. It was time to get in gear (in more ways than one) and get ‘er done. I started looking around.
I felt a new car was too far out of my reach so I decided I’d go ten years younger than my little Civic and get a ’94. One of the ladies at work was interested in what I was doing and she gave me a piece of advice. Unless I could pay cash, check out the interest rate for a used car against that of a new one. I might be surprised by the result.
Checking in the paper and online, I found a likely looking ’94 Honda Accord. It was bigger than what I was used to and it had an automatic transmission—both were strikes against it in my book. The asking price was below the Blue Book value so I used it to do my calculations.
Lo, and behold (and, as my sister would say, “high and be dropped”), the woman at work was right! If I got a new Civic, it would cost less in the long run than the six year old car. Then I started looking at dealers.
I might insert here that I would have loved to get a 2000 Volkswagen Beetle. There was something quite novel in the fact that it was a Y2K Bug. However, the price was definitely out of my league so I had to let that idea go. It was more important to get a reliable car I could afford. Another one of my “wants” was a Honda Insight. At the time, it was one of the first hybrids but it, too, was too much money.
Not wanting to go into a place “cold”, I filled out a couple of contact forms online. A few days later, I got a phone call from a salesman at a dealership some 40 miles away. There was one other place that was a little closer but not by much. I set up a time to go in and look at cars.
When I got to the dealership (after having to stop several times for directions), he came out to meet me. I didn’t have any illusions about his friendliness being genuine but he did seem like a nice guy. I told him I wanted a five speed Civic. Other than that, I wasn’t going to be too choosy. There wasn’t a single one on the lot. He gave me the key to one with an automatic transmission so I could drive it. When I got inside, it was almost like my Civic with a new car smell. There was little difference in the placement of the different controls and knobs. I admire Honda for keeping what works and not changing something for change’s sake. It seemed natural
I drove up the road a few miles and turned around and came back. On the way, he told me about how he came to contact me. They would get a lot of contact emails but few of them would pan out. The other salesmen pretty much ignored them but he always followed up. He felt it didn’t hurt and in my case, it certainly didn’t. I pulled into the lot. Except for the transmission, I was sold. I held out for a straight shift.
He seated me in his office and started making phone calls. There was a five speed in a city about 100 miles away. He asked me if the color mattered and I told him I wanted a car that was pollen colored unless he could get me maroon. Honda wasn’t making a maroon Civic that year but the one with the straight shift was titanium. He showed me the color, a pale gold. That should hide pollen pretty well.
I had no idea how to dicker on the price so I pretty much bought it straight across, sight unseen. I have thought since I should have taken someone with me to make the deal but I didn’t and I can’t change it now. He took my poor little car into the service bay and had it checked over. He came back and told me the car was practically worthless but he would do what he could on a trade-in. I was a little surprised he didn’t charge me to take it off my hands.
He handed me over to another fellow with a calculator and all sorts of forms. Yes, I wanted the extended warranty. We discussed payment plans and I went for the one that fit my budget best. I signed my name time after time. Finally, it was time to leave.
The salesman sorrowfully told me he couldn’t send me back to the mountain in my car. He was afraid it wouldn’t make it. Now what? He took me to the lot and helped me into a CR-V much like this one:
I’d driven many many different types of motorized transportation but never one quite like this. I was in unfamiliar territory in an unfamiliar vehicle and I was alone. He was sure I would be okay. He’d either go to pick my new car up or he would have someone do it. He’d be in touch. He handed me the key and I was on my way.