December 19, 2015

I’m just letting everyone know I am not in the Christmas spirit. Not one iota. If I had my druthers I’d lay down to sleep tonight and wake up, oh, sometime around January 4. There are a number of reasons for this, but the primary one is that I have always considered cars a necessary evil, and this past week has brought out all the evil cars can. First a little history:

We were reduced to a one-car family when, back in August of last year, some dolt not paying attention slammed into our Saturn L300 on the eastbound 202 at 60 MPH, turning our midsize into a compact and sending Tracey and her twin sister to the hospital with concussions. Over the next year, while the personal injury lawyers battled it out with the insurance companies, our second car, a little 1999 Saturn SL2 with 130,000 miles on it was forced to bear the brunt of daily commutes and rush hour traffic. That’s a lot to ask for, especially for a car whose history goes back to our time in Louisville with frequent commenter Jana, but it did the best it could. When we finally got our settlement I was keen to get a replacement – and pronto – but you know how these things go: you don’t just snap your fingers and a replacement car magically appear.

My idea was that we would rent some cars for a few days so Tracey could get an idea of the kind of car she wanted. We knew we didn’t have the cash for a new car, so something with 15K – 30K miles on it seemed like the most cost-effective solution. When we rented a Nissan Maxima several weeks ago from Enterprise, Tracey seemed to like that, and the counter guy encouraged us to take a look at Enterprise Car Sales as a buying alternative since their cars were the top of the line and there was no haggling over prices like at auto dealerships.

Upon my return from Vegas I knew I had to get moving on this. The Saturn had 163,000 miles and already needed its catalytic converter replaced at an estimated cost of $1K or better. So last Saturday I headed out on my own to make something happen. A trip to a Nissan dealership found me in the same kind of pressure-inducing, “what would it take for you to drive this car out of our lot today” kind of bullshit I thought went out of style when George W. Bush was president. It was there that, backing out of my parking spot I felt an unusually-hard lurch in the Saturn’s transmission. Now when you’ve got 160K+ on your odometer any car is going to get grumpy from time to time, and, my heart beating faster, I prayed this was an occasion where in my desire to get as far away from that dealership as possible and as quickly as possible I might have gotten too greedy with my driving intentions.

It was then I saw within driving distance the Enterprise Car Sales place I had been looking for to begin with. The Saturn wasn’t happy – shifting from first to second produced a hard jolt, from second to third the same but less so, from third to fourth no lurch but a weird sense of the engine racing, then from third to forth a heavy jolt that made you think you were leaving car parts on the road behind me – so, sweating bullets, I pulled into the Enterprise lot and shut the ignition off. I was beyond stressed out, so I took a few minutes to collect myself and calm down, for it was time to start some serious car hunting.

The folks at Enterprise Car Sales were nothing but great. No pressure, no haggling. My immediate Saturn concern pushed me into an aggressive, no holds barred, “show me what you got so I can pull the trigger and get a damned replacement car pronto”, yet the guys there were patient and understanding. They knew the hard sell was going to send me into another orbit, so they calmly and positively showed me what they had in Maximas and Altimas, and we found a Maxima at another dealership 40 miles away that they were willing to drive down for a Monday night test drive.

The Saturn was in a bad state. I spent the next 25 minutes banging and lurching my way home. I already had an appointment at the AAA Auto Repair facility on Tuesday for the catalytic converter, so it was a no brainer to get the Saturn over there immediately. But I needed a rental car first. It was 12:50 on a Saturday afternoon, so I knew I was hardly in the catbird seat. I called Hertz (they have an office at the AAA facility), but after ten minutes on hold the guy told me he was closing in ten minutes and was clearly not interested in staying around to help us out. I’ll admit I told him off with an expletive deleted. By that time I knew the Enterprise car rental place up the street from us that we had been using to try out cars had already closed.

I was, to put it mildly, a thousand light years from my time in Vegas.

Fortunately, I found another Enterprise place twenty minutes away that was open for another hour. The Saturn was barely driveable by this time, but we got it down to the Enterprise place and got a rental. I then sweated every bullet I had in my holster as the Saturn limped down to the AAA facility. I can’t tell you the stress and relief I felt as I shut the engine off; as we drove away, I couldn’t help but think I had driven that car for the last time.

On Saturday night I did my homework. The Saturn was going to cost $1,200 to fix the catalytic converter; if a new transmission was needed it would cost me at least another 1 or 2K. Did I really want to spend that money? I Googled a junk place and found someone who could give me $120 to take the car away. At that point it really felt like the end of an era.

Filed in: Uncategorized by The Great White Shank at 01:29 | Comments (0)
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