I Bought A Car

I bought a new car this afternoon. My fifteen year old ride will be retired.

What I bought is inconsequential, though I will admit it isn’t the sweet Tesla I drove a few weeks ago. I’m in SoCal. This seemed the wrong time to stop driving a convertible.

I attempted to buy the car the way I buy most everything: online research. I’d rather buy brick-and-mortar than online, but if two places have the same item, I buy on price.

I knew the model and options I wanted. That made it easier. The more done online the better.

Car shopping has given me the creeps. It’s impossible to know when you’re being taken advantage of. I always assume that’s the salesman’s goal.

I went to Edmunds.com and got a few quotes from dealers. Some weren’t anxious to deal online. They wanted me in-person to strike a deal. It’s 2013. I’m not giving up that leverage anymore.

Is it just me or is ‘competitive’ now a euphemism for, “You’ll find the best price elsewhere?”

Based on everything I can see, we got a good deal. In fact we paid less than expected. And, I eliminated the hassles.

We should pick the car up in a few days. I’m excited.

Car Buying Time

The word is out. It’s time to replace Helaine’s SUV.

Of all the purchase decisions in our lives, this is the one we enjoy the least. Seemingly, there’s no good way to buy a car and guarantee you’re getting something good for a good price. How can you not have buyer’s remorse?

I’ve been pouring through Consumer Reports. Most of their info is good. They seem a little heavy handed in the way they push their own service, which provides the actual price a dealer pays for vehicles. I’ll probably swallow hard and buy it anyway. Isn’t Consumer Reports supposed to be a little less self serving?

We went to two dealers today. At the first we looked around, acted sheepish, looked at a few cars and decided which might do.

We realized, after about thirty seconds, their midsize model was too small and their big model too pricey. A salesman came over as we were deciding to leave. I apologize here for costing you an ‘up’.

We’ve scouted out financing, but there’s a ‘deal’ currently underway from the manufacturer. Zero percent for 36 months. That’s a better price (duh) and there are legal advantages to dealer financing.

I have some rules at a car dealership. If you’re my salesman, we are joined at the hip. You cannot leave my side to consult with your manager. If you go, I go. They never like hearing that.

You may not treat me like a fool. If you lie to me, and believe me it’s happened, I will call you on it before I walk out. Lying infuriates me. I do not suffer fools or liars gladly.

Helaine made me promise not to make anyone at the dealership cry. I get a little nuts during the heat of battle, but it’s their fault. Decisions at the ‘car store’ are stacked in their favor. They have all the info. You have little. And, the salesmen have incentive to make you pay as much as is possible.

In the end, we’ll find the car we want and desperately try to get bids from three dealerships. I did that when we bought Helaine’s first SUV and I think it worked well.

I should probably sell Helaine’s car privately. Do I want to be in the used car business? Of course, you lose a lot when you trade a car in.

During the last shopping cycle, long after I left one dealership, the manager related to a friend of mine who just happened to be there, “Geoff Fox was here. He was shopping on price. He won’t be back.”

You’ve got that right, bucko.

There’s Less of Me

I had made mention, about a month or so ago, that I was starting a diet. This is not the first time time I’ve dieted and it probably won’t be the last. Luckily for me, even when I don’t keep the weight off, the act of dieting is successful in the short term.

When I was growing up… even in mid-adulthood, I seemed impervious to weight gain. For much of my early thirties, I lived on Hydrox Cookies and Coca Cola and gained not an ounce.

I thought I was bulletproof.

Helaine found the way to a man’s heart was through his stomach. Even then, while we were dating, I stayed slim. I quit smoking cigarettes in 1984, again, without weight gain.

It wasn’t until Steffie started eating solid food, and I would finish what was on her plate, that I started to expand. It wasn’t rapid but it was steady. When I bought clothes I would notice the size going up. I remember one salesman at a men’s store where I shopped commenting on my added heft.

Note to clothing salesmen: If you want to sell more, don’t tell me I’m heavier than I was.

Finally, probably five years ago, with my suits getting tight and my cheeks getting chubby (my mother had commented to Helaine I was getting a ‘fat face.’), I decided to do something. I had never dieted and was sure I had no will power. I had heard about Atkins, but knew little.

The more I read, the more enticing it became. That became especially true when I read Dr. Atkins write, you can eat many foods to your heart’s content… as long as your carbohydrate intake is under control.

I cut the sugar from my coffee. There was no more bread or pasta. We referred to chicken wings as the breakfast of champions. My weight went up the first day and then dropped. Within two weeks I was down nearly ten pounds and it didn’t take long to go from 200 to 175.

People always remark that when you get off this diet, the weight goes back on. Duh! Of course. It doesn’t immunize you from self destructive behavior.

Over these past few years I have gone up (never over that first plateau at 200 pounds) and down (never quite as low as 175).

It is better to be thinner than heavier – not just for health, but also because I have so much invested in my weight with suits and shirts. You can’t go out and buy a new wardrobe every time you change.

This time, again, I started near 200 pounds. I’m just a bit over 180 now and doing fine. This time, I am doing the diet a little differently, using some of the strategies and foods from the South Beach Diet. At the same time, I am eating less fat. There have been no chicken wings for breakfast this time.

There are times when I crave sweets, or stay hungry when I know I would be eating if not weighing myself every morning. Helaine is incredibly helpful, baking low carb cookies (using almond flour) and making a Ricotta cheese concoction that I eat every day.

And then there are those fudge bars from Klondike. Three net carbs is what the package says. I’d eat them off the diet!

We are going on vacation in the beginning of July, and I’d like to try and stick to the diet until then. After vacation I’ll have to figure out how to put myself in some sort of maintenance mode. That’s never worked in the past, but I have to make it work now.

Hopefully, by July I’ll be around 170. It’s been a very long time since I was anywhere near that. I’d like to be close to 175 and definitely below 180 through the rest of 2004. It won’t be easy once pretzels and cake return to my diet.

My 1992 Camry – Goodbye Old Friend

It was a sad day today as my beautiful 1992 Toyota Camry was ratcheted onto a flatbed and driven away. In all, it was a rather ignominious ending for a wonderful car – maybe the best I’ve ever owned.

The Camry had 135,000 miles on it. The engine was sweet and still more powerful than you’d expect from four little cylinders. A cheap, fresh, black paint job, less than a year old, clung to it like some sort of auto toupee.

It pulled to one side, but that seemed to be tire related as opposed to car related. When the problem first showed up, I had Steve at the Exxon station rotate the tires and the problem just moved from one side of the road to the other.

I know it could go over 105 mph, because one Saturday on the very quiet portion of I-84, just south of the Massachusetts line, I had opened it up. I was feeling good having just captured two Emmys and was rushing back to Connecticut to help out at the Hamden High School ‘after prom’ and then a Good Morning America/Sunday live shot.

Inside, some radio buttons (specifically the one set aside for WCBS-880) were starting to show my digital favoritism. The tiny pop-out knobs for the bass and treble had long since popped out. The floor mats curled along the edges as I inadvertently pushed them slightly to the side every day.

Once, the Camry seemingly healed itself. During its first year, while riding down I-91, I hit something on the road. Bang. It was loud, and I could feel it in my feet.

Whatever it was hit squarely on the bottom of the car. After an unrelated incident with my muffler, the service manager at Faulkner Toyota, outside Philadelphia, told me whatever had hit the car did significant damage to the oil pan and some other parts. I needed to replace them to the tune of $1,000+ or face the consequences further down the road.

I never fixed the oil pan and it never complained, though that happened at least 115,000 miles ago. Thanks Faulkner.

With my “toy car” in the garage during any kind of wet weather, the Toyota still managed 8-9,000 miles a year. It sipped regular and still exceeded 22 mph – even with my lead foot. It never burned oil.

It was the first car I ever owned with a vanity license plate. It started as FORCST. I was asked on more than one occasion, “What’s does ‘for cyst’ mean?” When Connecticut changed the protocol for marker plates, it became FOR&#149CST.

Over the years, the windshield became pitted from my 85 mph dashes going to and from work on I-91. That made it tough to see clearly when the Sun was low in the afternoon sky. The adhesive from the Velcro strip I used to hold the radar detector in place oozed a little on the dashboard.

A few years ago, when the freon had leaked from the air conditioner, Steve switched me over to some atmosphere friendly coolant. From that time forward you could hang meat in the car.

When Helaine suggested we get another four wheel drive vehicle, now that Steffie was driving to and from school, the handwriting was on the wall for the Camry. I wanted to keep it, but it just didn’t make sense for the three of us to have four cars, each with an insurance and tax bill, and each needing a place to park.

At the dealership, buying the RAV4 which would replace the Camry, Howie, the salesman apologized and then offered me $500 for it. As I would later learn from friends, that’s all he could expect to get for it at auction. On the other hand, if I went to sell it privately, the car was worth well over $2,000. But, who wants to sell a car from home?

My friend Harold had spearheaded a program at Connecticut Public Television where they would take your car, and since it was a donation, I could claim the fair market value (which I established online from the “Bluebook”).

So, this evening the flatbed arrived and the Camry went away.

If you’re in the market for a used car and this little cream puff shows up, believe me when I say, she’s a gem. Without a doubt, the best car I ever had and the first car I was ever sorry to see go.