December 26, 2008

The Good Cat

SO you know I had developed VIOLENT BLACK IMPLACABLE HATRED toward my van, right? It was a very old and very awful van, and to give you an idea of its disreputable horrors, the trade in offer was 1200 bucks. This was NOT A GLAMOUR CAR, you savvy, me hearties? This was poop on wheels.

But I planned to drive it a couple more years because it WENT from one place to the next (mostly) and that's all I ask of a car (mostly) and it was paid for (all-y). SO I was going to suck it up at LEAST until next year, maybe 2010. But this winter, it developed UNFORGIVEABLE HABITS.

1) Before it warmed up, it would quite often do this shuddering weird THING where it coughed and lurched forward like Frankenstein if he was trying to do the hula while being electrocuted---a sort of undead WHIPLASH inducing hurky-lurch. The movement would be accompanied by a terrible noise HUH-CHUGGA-CHUGGACHUGGA-CHUGGA-CHA-GUHGUHGA. It would do this on and off for 20 minutes, any morning that the temp had dropped under 30 degrees.

2) Sometimes, in the middle of one of its fits, the engine would stop enginging. It once DIED on the interstate going 60 MPH. Granted, the van was MUCH more likely to stall out at a red light or in a parking lot--- it was staunchly ANTI-IDLE and could reliably be counted upon to self-save on gas by shutting itself off after a thirty seconds of no forward movement. But then it started also dying WHILE MOVING. After the interstate event, I began to ask myself what would happen if I was rocketing along with my children and an 18 wheeler was riding my butt with truckerly impatience and the Van. Just. Died.

The answer involved tragedy and smashing.

3) I HATE high pitched repetitive beepy noises. I hate them with all my hate. If they go on for LONG enough I want to bang myself in the face with a brick to make it all be dark and quiet. WELL, the van started turning on its emergency brake every time I took a right turn. The brake would just BARELY catch and the van would say, "BEEP! BEEP! BEEP!" until pulled the brake release lever. IRRITATING, but I could live with that. BUT!

THEN the release lever stopped working. I would turn right, and the van would go BEEP! BEEP! BEEP! at me, eternally, on and on, beepwithoutendamen, until evil mystic forces felt it had beeped enough OR until I MADE A LEFT TURN. If I turned right ONTO A FREEWAY it could beep for HALF AN HOUR...I developed a facial tick, and the children stopped calling it Vincent Van-Go, rechristening it DING DONG DEVIL VAN.

4) When it rained, rain would come down through the sunroof and get on me. Rain would ALSO come down through the sunroof and get in the digital clock, and the display would go mad and only show some of the lines needed to make up the numbers. I have no internal clock to speak of, and if I looked at the VAN clock, it would say the time was E thirty. E THIRTY? On rainy days, I was consistently MOIST and LATE.

I do not like to be either of those things.

There were other issues. Many many many other issues. MANY. Small, not deal breakers, but cumulatively enough to make me think, "WOW we have NO food, and I REALLY need to go to the grocery. Oh. Wait. I would have to get in the van. Hmmm. Let’s see what’s here in the pantry... Can I cobble a dinner out of this pickled egg, this can of pimentos, and a box of taco shells that expired in 2002. Yes. Yes, I can."

Scott was put in charge of safety and gas mileage and whatnot, all I wanted was for the car to 1) be ORANGE and 2) not have a sunroof. Everything else was negotiable. I cart a lot of books and travel a lot, so a small SUV seemed like a good pick, and I have always had a fondness for Saturns, so if it was a Saturn that was a plus, but any orange non-sunroofed thing that didn’t BEEP was JUST FINE by me.

About 6 months ago, I started internet shopping, looking every orange car made. I finally settled on a Hybrid Saturn Vue as my dream car. Scott ran the numbers and said we could probably buy a hybrid in 2009 or 2010. Then the VAN ISSUES escalated as described above, and I started looking on CARMAX for a non hybrid orange sunroof free Vue we could buy next year. Or NOW, I told him. NOW WOULD BE GOOD.

Scott complicated matters by saying I could not have a Vue if it was 2007 or older, because the safety ratings were no good. (The 2008 got a redesign and is now very safe.) Then SATURN complicated things by CANCELLING ORANGE CARS starting in 2009. SO I could ONLY have a 2008. Then I complicated matters by refusing to EVER buy a new car. T I never have yet. The idea of driving off a lot and suffering an IMMEDIATE 5K depreciation...nononono. I am too, erm, thrifty. Some people might employ OTHER terms, like, say, “stingy Irish tight-wad.” But THRIFTY is what I like to call it. RIGHT MIR? We are THRIFTY!!!!

I put an alert up on Carmax to get an email anytime a used 2008 non-sunroofed Orange Vue came up for sale within 300 miles, and for several months I got exactly zero emails. HEH. SO I took out the color consideration and started getting 2 or 3 emails a week, but the non-orangness of the proffered cars left me icy cold and unmoved to go 18 or 19 thousand dollars into debt.

THEN I saw Saturn had this red tag sale, and UNUSED 2008 cars were five thousand dollars off as they moved them out to make room for 2009's, and that was also the SAFETY RATINGS OF JOY year, and the last year for orange. WOW, I thought, that takes care of my depreciation issues and Scott’s safety issues and Saturn’s FOOLISH NO MORE ORANGE CARS in 2009 issues. SO. I started looking.


Yes. That would

I washed my hands of the whole thing and sourly decided to drive the van until it killed us.

On Christmas Eve, I had to go get EMERGENCY ROLLS and the van BEEPED AND STALLED and WAS DEMON INFESTED and it RAINED and the clock glowed with ugly satanic non-numeric symbols and I was moist and displeased. When I got home, I called the Saturn dealership closest to my house in a PET.

I got connected to a guy who said, “Hi, I am Nathan, how can I---“

Nathan: Because…um...we do.
Me: No, you do NOT. I ASKED MR. GOOGLE and he says you DON’T. *sniff*
Nathan: But. I am looking at one. I SEE it.

It was a TRADE IN! I had been looking at their NEW stock for 2008's and at Carmax for used 2008s. I had not searched SATURN for used 2008s. Doh! It was the XE, the very one I wanted, and orange as the autumn-est of all autumn leaves.

Nathan said: It is used, is that a deal breaker?’
Me: NO, that’s GREAT! How much is it?
Nathan: Oh. Let me look…It was like 18,750 but I think it is on sale from that.
Me; On sale for how much?
Him: Oh. WOW. Holy cow, this can’t be right.
Me; What can’t be right?
Nathan: Let me just check this and find out what the actual price is.Let me call you back.

I paced around and ten minutes later he called me back.

Nathan: Okay I looked it up and it IS right. You will like the price!
Me: Great. Say the number.
Him: It was 18,750, but got discounted because of the red tag sale.
Me; SUPER! How much?
Nathan: Also, I don’t know if you know this, but we are moving to Marietta, so we stacked another discount on this car as we aren’t moving it. It’s a REALLY good price.
Me: Nathan. You are KILLING me. Say the number!


Now, understand, I have priced these things every which way from Sunday. I have looked at every 2008 for sale in the state. This car was priced LITERALLY a THIRD LESS than every other used 2008 Saturn Vue of comparable mileage and options IN GEORGIA. For real. 33% less. It was INSANE. It was an INSANE price. I said the price to Scott and Scott said a word he does not generally employ and began nodding vigorously.

Me: Nathan, if you can truthfully say four words to me, we will drive over RIGHT NOW here on Christmas Eve and buy that Vue from you. LIKE NOW. In five minutes.
Nathan: What are the words?
Me: I need you to say to me, “It has no sunroof.”
*breathless pause*
Nathan: It has no sunroof.

That’s how I got the best Christmas present EVER, pictured below.
We named him The Good Cat (because he is orange, like Boggart, but he is not a JERK, like Boggart), and I super love him with all my love.

Posted by joshilyn at December 26, 2008 11:19 AM

Good lord, woman. YOU WIN AT CHRISTMAS!

So happy for you. :)

Posted by: Mir at December 26, 2008 11:29 AM

Yay for you! Clearly, you have been living right and the universe has decided to reward you with the car of your dreams.

Posted by: kmkat at December 26, 2008 11:58 AM

Was Nathan about 3 feet tall with pointy ears and green pants?

Posted by: Debra at December 26, 2008 1:28 PM

Good for you! That is wonderful. :)

Posted by: AJenTooMany at December 26, 2008 1:50 PM

That's excellent. Nothing like a man whispering those four magic words to make your day.

Posted by: ccr in MA at December 26, 2008 2:14 PM

Yay for worky cars! (and on sale too!)

Posted by: RandomRanter at December 26, 2008 3:03 PM

Alternate title: "When good things happen to good people." I was a little disappointed because I thought it was a surprise and perhaps you just forgot to take the picture with the giant red bow on top. But I love a story of searching and longing with a bonus discount and happy ending! I love your Christmas story. Congratulations on The Good Cat. May it serve you well for many years.

Oh! I just thought of a bonus bonus. You got such a great deal PLUS it is a hybrid so there is the fuel savings and probably a tax break or something. You probably just received money to take away the car of your dreams. Yeah!

Posted by: Em at December 26, 2008 3:24 PM

Yay for you! My question is how on God's green earth did you manage to eek out $1200 for Ding Dong Devil Van?

Posted by: liz at December 26, 2008 8:41 PM

WOOHOO! Congrats on the new vee-hicle ;-)
Also? "engine would stop enginging." - love ;)

Posted by: Heather at December 27, 2008 12:35 AM

Wow, you really are a MOST awesome writer! You have made me verklempt with the happy ending of a CAR story! :-D

I once had a ginormous old 70's brown car that would keep running herkily-jerkily for several minutes AFTER you turned it off and pulled out the key. I started calling it "Christine". Luckily LONG gone now.

Posted by: Brigitte at December 27, 2008 6:58 AM

I bet you made Nathan's commission earning day!

Posted by: mom, again at December 27, 2008 6:46 PM

Wow, sure beats my new laptop ... even though it's red.

Posted by: Patti at December 27, 2008 8:43 PM

I lover that colour....vesuvisus. And now your safe mommy rating will skyrocket. How did you get that good of a trade in?

Posted by: Cele at December 28, 2008 12:00 PM

Okay. . .that has got to be one of the AWESOMEST car buying stories EVER!!!!! Ever. I'm wondering if Nathan even REMOTELY knows that manner of cool to whom he was selling that vehicle. Will Rose be driving an autumn leaf orange Vue Hybrid in your new book? Will her hero's name be Nathan?

Posted by: Roxanne at December 28, 2008 8:27 PM


Yay for sunroof-less orange safety.

Posted by: Lisa at December 29, 2008 9:31 AM

Yay! What a great story, with a superbly happy ending. That orange is the EXACT shade of the orange van that my best friend's parents used to drive, and I have many happy memories of singing camp songs in the back of that thing. Yay orange!

Posted by: Aimee at December 29, 2008 11:11 AM

You are going to LOVE that car. I had an older Vue (may it RIP) and absolutely adored it. I miss it. :( Enjoy that present!!

Posted by: Julie at December 29, 2008 2:57 PM

The good cat = the car that was meant to be.
What a wonderful story!

Posted by: Rompompom at December 30, 2008 9:36 AM

Fantastic story - tragedy, comedy, dramatic tension - I can see it being a winner at Sundance.
Congratulations to you!!!
PS Unsure if in the film version you drive all the way to Marietta to take Nathan a plate of thank you cookies and they say "Nathan? We never had anyone who worked for us named Nathan..."

Posted by: Elizabeth J at December 30, 2008 12:03 PM

Best car shopping experience EVAR. (Except for that whole van falling apart thing...)

Now I am quite envious. It's a good thing Christmas is over now so Santa can't see my jealousy.

What? Everyone knows he's on vacation right now...

Posted by: erinanne at December 31, 2008 6:37 PM

holy lord, this story just salvaged a really big bummer of an evening. And the single line "Scott got an office chair" absolutely cliniched it. Instead of self pity over having to wait for two clinics to finish posting charges for 2008, I'm laughing away in my cubicle. Thank you !!!

Posted by: eden at December 31, 2008 10:28 PM