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After 227,000 miles

Back in 1995, after the Volkswagen Jetta I had slammed into a deer, I got a new car, a 1994 Ford Escort. It’s been getting a bit long in the tooth, and when I took it to a garage for state inspection on Monday, the evaluation wasn’t good — there was an area of rust with the frame that would have to be repaired. That would be very expensive. So it was time to say goodbye.

I used personal time at work to take Tuesday afternoon off and today. And began hunting. First I went to a credit union to apply for a pre-approval on auto loan. With that, I secured a number on how much was possibly available. It was plenty, way more than what I would need to get the sort of car I would be looking for. After that, I began hunting for types of car in the price range I was looking for. There weren’t many. I think one of the effects of the Cash for Clunkers program is that it has shrunk the used car market, driving prices up on what’s available. Then the other problem is that with the economy sputtering, lots of people are holding on to their cars that are 4 to 7 years old.

I found an interesting one Tuesday afternoon, but when I drove to the dealership to check it out, it was already sold. That taught me the lesson that I ought to call first and confirm what I see  on the internet is still at the dealership.  So I returned home and searched more. My search last night gave me two decent leads, with the best lead being a car with a single owner, no accidents on the Carfax report, and having only been driven about 16,000 miles a year. The only real disappointing part was that it was an automatic, I would have preferred stick, but with the lack of vehicles in the price range and which looked to be in good condition, I couldn’t let the transmission be a hindering factor.

So I called that dealership and checked to make sure it was in. It was, in fact it had just recently been posted on the website, and I was the first to call about it. It was too late then for me to make the drive there, but I said I would try to get there about half an hour after they opened in the morning Wednesday. More research found me another potential car to see at another dealer, I called them as well and said I would try to be there early in the afternoon.

But when I went to the first car, I was quite pleased. It was in excellent condition and the test drive was fine. The other car I had thought to maybe go look at had 25,000 more miles on it and was a year older. It was cheaper and a stick, but I didn’t feel the difference in price was enough.

So I went ahead and bought a Ford Focus today.

It was long and stressful for me. Interacting with people produces anxiety in me and this had a lot of anxiety with the money that would be committed to a vehicle. I did my best to cut down on that anxiety by get pre-approval on loan, although the dealer ended up finding another lender with a better rate and offer for me. But having that pre-approval gave me confidence that I knew I could make a deal for a car I wanted to buy. So that helped me feel confident in dealing with the salesman, I didn’t end up feeling like I was being manipulated or led around by him. And that’s because I made it very clear and very quickly that I was looking specifically at that car, I wasn’t going to be interested in any other sorts of ideas. So he and I teamed up to let me examine the car and then once I decided that I would buy it, we got the financing arranged.

But wow, I drove that Escort for 16 years. It was something of the last large tangible link to my dad who died in 1996. So I’ve been almost grieving at times today. It felt weird shifting the gears on it, the rattles it made were almost like the sound a person makes when their breath gets funny from trying not to cry too much. I thought about my first serious girlfriend and the time I spent driving to her, the times she rode in the passenger seat.

Now all that is going away, that tangible part of the memories.

I sometimes rub my hands across the top of my head. I’ve been rubbing myself a lot today. It’s a twitch I get when I feel a lot of emotion and stress, like I want to wipe it away.

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