Recently added to the list of things I can’t do – which already includes waking up before 6 a.m., hiring a reporter, calculus, watching any more of the Saw movies and singing Ashlee Simpson songs alone at karaoke – is car shopping.
I’ve owned two cars in my life, the first bought as a Christmas present for me the year I turned 16 – it had 109K miles on it and no automatic anything and the CD player didn’t work when it got cold – and the one I drive now, which I paid half of when my parents helped me buy it in ’04. I should note that my current ride was purchased after 2.5 years at college with no personal mode of transportation and lots of bumming rides. My parents went out and picked it out, brought it home and said, ‘do you like this?’ and we went back to the dealership and bought it.
Dad did all of the negotiation that time. My only involvement, besides driving the thing, would be contributing the little bit of money I’d saved from working at Hallmark, Victoria’s Secret and the front desk at Southwest Hall for a short time until I was fired for falling asleep for .85 seconds one day at FIVE IN THE MORNING.
I didn’t pay much attention to Dad’s negotiation techniques because I thought the lil’ Focus would last forever and even when I went back to get another one, it wouldn’t be that bad, Dad would help me out or I’d have a boyfriend or husband to do the negotiations on my behalf, I’d just supply the money and/or the credit.
Fast-forward to yesterday. I’m 25, single, and my poor little Focus has just about crapped out. It’s up to 110,000 miles, it has a crack in the front and the fuel pump had to be replaced this summer. The check engine light has been on for 3 weeks and there’s a stain on the passenger side door from where a former roommate – who I will only refer to as the DEVIL INCARNATE because we have not spoken since the day I moved out of where I lived with her in McLean Hall at Western and she’s the meanest person alive – attempted to push a full cup of coke out of an almost closed window while drunk. Oh, and the other day, the handle broke on the driver’s side and my dad had to take it to the shop, driving AND holding the door shut with his other hand.
Yeah. It’s time.
So yesterday, we started the process of shopping – my youngest sister and I both need cars and we started at the Kia Store because I really want a Sportage. Correction – I want a BRAND NEW Sportage, but let’s be realistic. I haven’t gotten my tax refund yet, or sold my car, or taken a good look at my financial situation for the next few months to know if I had the slightest wiggle room on a monthly payment. Like I said, started the process.
We met a nice man named Fritz who just so happens to have a daughter that’s mentioned in the sports pages of the paper I work for on a pretty regular basis. He was nice – and not in that slimy way that car salesman are, actually – and I test-drove two Sportages, the first of which he should have never let me in because I liked it a lot until I found out it cost almost twice as much as I could spend.
Then, after my sister test-drove a smaller car, I got sucked into trying out the other Sportage, the one that was my favorite color, in my price range AND was a manual transmission which is fine because I can drive stick. What’s the problem there, right? So I drove it. And liked it. I’d prefer an automatic because driving stick sucks in stop-and-go traffic and after the test-drive my left foot already hurt because it wasn’t used to being bent that way while I drive. But for the price and the color and the fact that my Focus HATES ME right now and is conspiring against me, I was interested.
But hey, guess what. You don’t act interested when you like a car. And you don’t act uninterested. You act like a zombie.
No, seriously. You do. Which is foreign to a girl like me, who needs an Ace Bandage to cover up that giant heart on my sleeve. If you’ve known me for longer than 38 seconds, you know exactly how I feel when I feel something – sad, mad, happy, uncomfortable, whatever – because it’s written ALL OVER MY FACE. I’m emotional. Sue me.
So. As Fritz listened to me say I couldn’t do this unless the payments were X amount – not even $5 higher – he proceeded to offer me a decent amount of buckaroos for my current POS, sight-unseen. Then, he tried to get me to sign stuff, saying if he could get the payments where I want, would I sign? Would I buy a car today? (DID I MENTION IT WAS THE FIRST DAY I WAS SHOPPING???)
Being the inexperienced car-shopper I am, I looked at my dad, who was looking at his iPhone and he made a face at me and said “You’re an adult, this is your money.” That, kids, is not what I wanted to hear. I wanted him to say “Fritz, unless you can knock three thousand bucks off that price, we’re walking” or something else bad-ass like that. But he didn’t. And then, I did the apparently worst of all things to do while car shopping, I SHOWED EMOTIONS. Because Fritz was basically telling me I was kind of too poor to buy this car but they could maybe work it out but I needed to be realistic and drive a van or a grandma car or a car made in 1995 to afford it with my stipulations.
I put my head on the table – go ahead and judge me, but it was depressing to hear I couldn’t buy a car yesterday even though I WASN’T GOING TO BUY A CAR YESTERDAY.
Every time Fritz walked away to “work on the numbers” my dad told me to stop being so obvious about how I was feeling. Because when you are buying a car and they tell you you are gonna have a hell of a time trying to buy the one you want with your current finances, “you are NOT supposed to put your head on the table and cry.”
I didn’t cry.
We went one other place yesterday, and I think I did better that time, mostly because they only showed me cars I had no interest in – i.e. looked like a boat or was a car I know someone drives that is twice my age. Plus, both of the guys we dealt with at the second place had less personality than a rock, so it wasn’t hard to act like I was ready to leave the whole time.
I’ve looked at the money and the possibilities and I’m gonna wait a couple months before I go back out with intent to buy – thank God for Internet. But, next time I go, I will remember the following rules (and you should too if you want to get it right):
• When it comes to facial expressions and any sign of outward emotion, be a zombie.
• Say no 99 percent of the time. Don’t even accept anything to drink, then they will know you’re tough.
And finally, and maybe most importantly:
• Work out a code with your dad ahead of time so when you look at him and blink three times in rapid succession he understands that means “HELP ME OUT HERE!”