Thursday was the day – I was going to find a car, or bust.  I needed to get the car this weekend, because I’m spending next weekend at the People’s Brat Fest and at WisCon.  After that, well, I’ll still need a car, but have no ride with which to go acquire one, so that’ll be awkward.

Being the sometimes compulsive planner that I am, I started lining up appointments to look at cars on Monday.  I knocked out all of my work by 2:30, and the car shopping got serious.  First stop, Schoepp Motors, because I had an appointment nearby, but time to kill.  The weather was nice, I had a mission with parameters established.  I figured the worst I was in for was getting little lady’d.  Oh boy, was it ever more hilarious than that.

I got there right as NPR was announcing that the state senate passed the voter ID bill, so I sat in the car to hear the end of that and cuss a bit.  Before I got the chance to get out, a tall Wisconsin native ambled over to ask if I “needed service.”  How do I know he was a native?  Because he was blond, had a beer belly, and looked like a he played football before retiring to drink beer and eat brats.  Thus is the native male identified.  “Yeah, sorry, just listening to the news,” I said as I got out of the car, feeling somewhat foolish for driving up to car dealership to sit in their parking lot and cuss.  No way is this guy going to take me seriously now, right?

Except he was drunk.  I smelled it before I observed it, but yeah, he was well into his 3pm Thursday cocktail hour.  He tried sending me over to their mechanic before I made it clear that the service I needed was help, you know, buying a car.  “Post turn of the century, keyless entry, under 8k is preferable but I can go up to 10k for the right car.”  This was when he started walking, wobbling, and I was sure my booze-hating nose wasn’t picking up on leftovers from the day before.  Also, smoker.  I did not get within three feet of the guy for the rest of my time there – he reeked.

Now, you know and I know that I’d been flirting with a few 12k cars because my head gets turned by tight turning radii and zippy engines, and I expected a used car dealer to start showing me 10k cars work on bumping me up to the 12k category – that’s why I gave him the range I did.  I’m still dedicated to buying something much cheaper off Craig’s list, but what’s the point of going to a dealership if I’m not going to let it complicate things by introducing me to something sexy just outside my desired budget?  None, I tell you.

Instead, this guy pulls out a crumpled sheet of paper with a list of the cars he has on the lot and slurs his way through telling me how much more car I can get for 10k.  “That’s in my budget,” I assure him.  The he squints at the paper, starts stabbing it with his finger and slurs his way through “I don’t think I can help you.  There’s nothing here.  I don’t think I can help you.”  Oh I am so tempted to get existential on him.  Instead I point to a malibu for just over 10K and ask him about it.  He shows me the trunk, waves vaguely at the interior, tells me it’s got great mileage, then goes back to shaking his crumpled list and telling me, “I don’t think I can help you.  I can’t help you.”  Never did man speak truer words.

I ran away with a great deal of dignity and reserve.

The best bet of the true Craig’s List appointments was a 2006 Hyundai Elantra.  It had good mileage, one prior owner (and adorable Russian man who was selling it because his daughter in college did’t stop drinking after he laid down the law) with meticulous maintenance records, and driving it depressed me.  Thinking about buying it depressed me.  I’m getting depressed reflecting on the car.  It was fine.  There was nothing wrong with it, it had everything in my basic requirements.

Sometimes, the basic requirements are not enough.

My last appointment was with a guy named Paul.  I wasn’t really sure what was going on there, because my Craig’s List search was limited to private owners, but this car, a VW Passat, was at a dealership on the east side I’d never heard of.  “Must be some sort of consignment dealership,” I thought to myself, and spent portions of the day fantasizing about how neat a consignment dealership must be, and the cool business planning etc. it must involve.*

It’s not a consignment dealership at all, but a tiny lot surrounding a one-garage mechanic that holds about ten tightly packed cars.  Paul is the owner/salesman guy.  He’s friendly, extraordinarily low pressure as used car salesmen go, and handled it very well when I thanked him for being sober.  Also, he did a really good job of not letting on that he could smell blood when I was trying to not let on that I was really enthusiastic about the car.  I’d never driven a German car before.

The Beltline is not the autobahn.  This is a tragedy, and will likely end in getting my license revoked, because I so very bought that car.

I did the responsible thing and waited a night to think on it.  I did all kinds of research on the Passat, and did everything I could to research Paul and his dealership.  Google knows it’s there, but nobody has said a thing about it anywhere, and Paul doesn’t appear to exist on the internet at all.  He reminds me a lot of my grandfather, which either means he’s just a nice, charming sales guy, or a total scam artist, and I decided a distinct lack of people screaming about scams must be a good sign.

Which is why I didn’t freak out when, five minutes after driving off the lot on Friday I noticed that the rear driver’s side window doesn’t roll down properly and, once down a bit, doesn’t go back up without a lot of jiggling.  I just drove right back and said, “Paul, we’ve got a problem.”

No, I didn’t freak out until today, when the plastic cover under the engine fell part way off and started dragging.  Apparently all of the bolts from the front are missing, and it had finally worked its way loose.

Paul is very sorry, doesn’t know how that happened, and his mechanic will come to my house to put the bolts back in when he comes in to work on Tuesday.  I’ll be out of town for my sister’s graduation.  And hey, Paul’s mechanic might just be sloppy, missing the same window I missed testing on Thursday, and forgetting to put the bolts back after examining under there.  (It was very clean, I’m sure he’d been in there)  If this is the end of it and things are in fact fixed on Friday by the time I want to be at WisCon, then I got a good deal and I’ll post Paul’s last name and dealership to give them good google-juice.  If it’s not, well, either way, a google presence will be established.  I’ll definitely be more motivated to make it a big one in the latter case.

*Yeah, I find business planning amusing, what of it?  Stop judging me, I can feel it.

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