Trust But Verify



From August 2012

The Summer Olympics are over, a happy event conveniently timed to give Americans a dose of friendly competition before the Presidential election leaves us all feeling a little queasy.  If only the candidates could just settle things in the pool.

Nastiness isn’t new, although we’ll hear over the next 10 weeks or so that it is, that we’ve reached a new low of political ugliness.  And so I think about Richard Nixon.

Of all the harsh things said about our 37th President, before, during and after his shortened stay in the White House, maybe the worst was a popular poster from the 1960 Presidential campaign.  It shows a grinning Nixon, apparently a man who learned to smile from a correspondence course, with the caption: Would You Buy A Used Car From This Man?

From anecdotal historical evidence, it seems that Mr. Nixon didn’t care for this particular poster, which is understandable.  I always wonder, though, about the used car salesmen of the time.  That had to hurt.

I had an interesting conversation with a preowned vehicle facilitator the other day, as a matter of fact, not about Nixon but it could have been on his mind, who knows?  Like politicians, lawyers, and pretty much every Adam Sandler movie, car salesman are at best viewed suspiciously in our culture, but this guy seemed perfectly nice.

We talked mostly about the changing world of auto sales, and informed consumers.  These days people walk into the dealership with data, he said, gleaned from Internet research, so they know what they want and what it’s worth.  He didn’t seem to mind; I got the impression it made his job easier.

It certainly made buying a used car easier, which was a good thing as we felt a little under the gun.  Our 1999 Saturn, which we bought in 2004, had been a fairly reliable form of transportation for eight years.  It got us where we were going, a few times including 1000-mile weekend round trips, although it was mostly driven by my wife.  She treated it lovingly, too, careful not to damage the paint job with soap and water, and responsibly protecting the interior by covering nearly every square inch of it with pieces of paper and coffee cups that sometimes were empty and sometimes not.

It had been our sole form of transportation, too, over the past couple of years, although we’re still a two-car family.  It’s just that the other one sits in the driveway, bad brakes, dead battery, waiting for me to do the right thing and donate it.  Which I will as soon as I find the keys.  I came to the conclusion eventually that it was dumb to drive two cars, since I work at home and am still capable of walking, so I stopped driving it.  The one car was enough.

This was a dying relationship, though, and before our little car dumped us we decided on a preemptive strike.  Everything I know about cars I learned on the Internet, most of it a couple of weeks ago, so after a few hours online I carefully picked a blue one. 

It had low mileage, was a late model, looked sort of sporty, and being our first automobile that was made in this century it came with high-tech bells and whistles that felt novel to us.  Keyless entry.  A CD player.  All sorts of sensors, read-outs, computer chips and circuits, including a security system that momentarily, a few days ago, turned me into one of those horrible people who doesn’t know how to turn off their car alarm.  Politicians look like saints compared to those people.  I learned quickly.

My research gave me plenty of weapons when it came to price, but again: This wasn’t a 1960 used car experience.  The sticker price was actually well within fair, although we did some good-natured dickering just for the sake of nostalgia.  After a few hours, we came home with a sporty, metallic blue new/old car, which as a bonus had no trash inside and came with a still-intact power train warranty.

I have no idea what a power train is.  I do know blue when I see it, though.

It’s all good, as old people say because they think young people say it, although they really don’t.  We managed to buy a used car with a minimum of trauma.  The Olympics were fun.  Our weather here has been pretty glorious compared to the past couple of summers. 

And somehow I think this will help me negotiate our political season and keep me from getting depressed.  If I can research a car then I can sort through political ads and figure it out for myself.  Now I just need to find out if you can donate a car that has no keys.  I’ll have to look that up.


Chuck SigarsComment