Buying A Car
Buying A Car: The Good, The Bad, and The Bizarre
A couple of weeks ago, my dear friend Carolyn went with me to look at a couple of cars I was considering. I didn’t really intend to buy anything that day, but the great beneficent universe had other plans for me.
Let me begin by telling you a little about Carolyn, because she’s my hero.
I met Carolyn in 1998, at the first of nine summers that I would attend Wildacres Writers Workshop and Retreat on 1600 acres high atop Piney Knob in the NC Blue Ridge Mountains. It was a huge stretch for me to go to something like that alone, and when I got there I felt lost in the crowd of a hundred people. As soon as she saw me, Carolyn walked over to me, welcomed me, and made me feel at ease. That began a friendship that has lasted through our times together on the mountain and the years beyond.
Besides all our stories, over the decades, Carolyn and I have shared our varied creative pursuits. She’s a retired English professor, poet, book artisan, stained glass artist, jeweler designer, visual artist, and more. My creative identities have included leather artisan, jeweler designer, website designer, hair stylist, editor, book designer, poet, author.
Me and Carolyn at Wildacres Writers Workshop 1999
Beautiful Carolyn 2022
Carolyn is my hero in terms of outer, in the world, fearlessness and courage. She says, I’m her counterpart in the inner spiritual realms of experience, although she, herself, is most definitely magic. In the world, Carolyn has had adventures I could never even dream of. She was in Peace Corps in Brazil; has traveled to some of the most naturally beautiful places on earth, including Patagonia; hiked with her amazing son, Farzad, through Monument Valley Navajo Tribal Park and Brice Canyon National Park when in her sixties; rode her first zipline in her seventies. She told me she was once a competitive swimmer and has swum in the ocean beyond the point where you can see the shore. She rides horses, has wrangled skunks with her identical twin sister. She recently saved her neighbor’s dog from an attacking copperhead by snagging it in a snake noose (she actually keeps one of these in her workshop) and killing it with a knife. Did I tell you that she’s barely 5’1” tall and can’t weigh more than 105 pounds?
The reason I’m telling you all of this is because Carolyn is the most perfect person in the world to take with me almost anywhere. No matter what’s going on within me, which is often something untoward, Carolyn can always make me laugh. We make each other laugh a lot.
National Park in Utah
I told Carolyn I’d narrowed my search down to either a Kia Seltos or a Honda HR-V, but I really didn’t want to go all the way to the Honda Dealer, so I said why don’t we start with Kia. And since Carolyn drives a Kia Niro, she would know things that might help me decide. I had called the week before and spoken with Jonathan, a lovely man who I told that I was still just gathering info. He gave me his cell number and said if I’d text him when I was coming in, he’d be there to welcome me. And he was.
Unfortunately, he was involved with a customer at the time, and he got another lovely salesperson, Kristin, to help us. We all enjoyed an effortless comradery. I asked tons of questions, which were answered completely. And when it came down to my bottom line, it turned out I only had two choices…unless I wanted to wait until December when most of their new cars would arrive. This, it seems, is pretty normal these days.
In truth, I had not been craving a new car, and I could have been fine continuing on with my 2003 silver Toyota Avalon XLS with its 165,000 miles. But after a few years of major personal challenges on every level, I now wanted to find my way back into life, and I wanted to make a change indicative of my intention to move forward.
Of the two choices, the first was a new basic model Seltos LX in dark gray with black interior that was coming in September and was a little above my bottom line. The other choice, was a pre-owned, still under warranty 2021 Seltos S with 14,101 miles and a few more features than the new LX. The pre-owned car had literally come in that day, just a short while before we got there. I’ve learned to pay attention to these sorts of occurrences.
We decided to take a look and went out to the parking lot. The car hadn’t yet been cleaned, and had several scratches, but otherwise was pretty impressive. And Carolyn and I both loved the color. It was called Mars Orange and looked kind of scary online, but the actual color was more of an elegant deep red/burnt orange metallic that seemed perfect for someone who wanted to stop hiding. And the numbers even came in a little below my limit.
So, trusting in my good feeling, and the fact that everything seemed to come about with ease and grace, I bought the red car. And Carolyn was given a $100 referral fee, even though she hadn’t really referred me. Plus, during the next few days I was able to sell my Avalon to my neighbor’s partner, who loved it, and offered me a fairer price than Kia could give me.
2021 Seltos S Mars Orange
I was scheduled to pick up the car in a little less than a week, plenty of time for the busy mind to check in, no doubt encouraged by Spankie, my lower self.
What in the world had I done? Why in the world do I need an SUV, compact or otherwise? Why hadn’t I test driven the car and tried lifting the back door? In my perverse way of looking at how many years my relatively fixed income would allow me to support myself, why had I just spent one year of my fairly comfortable life?
And I already started worrying about driving a totally unfamiliar vehicle for the first time on the highway, mainly because I’ve had issues with my eyes over these last four years, and I mostly limit highway driving.
Since Carolyn lives almost an hour and a half away from me, another friend, Margo, took me to pick up the car. I was greeted by Jonathan, and handed over to him a huge cashier’s check, which was about $5,000 more than the sticker price of the car almost three years before when it was new. Ouch. I did not get a receipt. I’ll talk more about that in the bizarre part of my story.
Jonathan attached a temporary license plate to the car, and then sent out Sara, who showed me how to adjust the seats, choose a setting on the unfamiliar CVT transmission (I went with Smart Mode to let the car do the thinking), set up the media screen, something else new for me. She immediately reached for my iPhone, ready to connect it with Bluetooth so I could answer calls while driving she said, and use GPS. I stopped her, telling her that I don’t even keep Bluetooth turned on (why add any extra unnecessary radiation), that I don’t talk on the phone while I’m driving, and that I rarely have any need for GPS. She gave me a look like she wasn’t sure I was from this planet. Who is? I thought. She then started showing me how to set up my radio stations. I explained that the only thing I listen to in the car are downloaded audiobooks on my iPhone. I thanked her and added that I was a computer savvy retired website designer, and I’d be able to figure out how to set things up on my own.
The drive home in my new car was uneventful and very pleasant. I pulled into my driveway and parked in front of the house. I opened the door and started to get out when I found that the seat was up so high that my feet could hardly reach the ground. I had also adjusted the seat more forward, and because of its design, with slightly inward angled sides that kind of hug you and feel really comfortable while driving, I had to slide my butt over the bump of the curved in sides as I got out. And slide might not be right word, since, unlike the beautiful leather seats in my Avalon, the fabric seats tried to hold me in place.
Once out of the car, I stood there, feeling frustrated, and disappointed in myself for not checking things out more thoroughly. And the large scratches on the driver’s side door really showed up in the bright sunlight. After a short while, however, I took a deep breath and told myself not to fret, that I’ll get used to it, that change is good. I told Spankie to take a hike.
The next new thing I did was open the back lift door. It felt huge and like it weighed a ton. At first it was an effort even to get it to move up against gravity. And I also discovered I had to be extremely careful that it didn’t hit me in the face. Once it was all the way open, it was higher than I could reach to close it from the outside, and even using the inside underneath handle, it felt like it was tethered to the sky and I’d never get it down.
Again, I was inspired by Carolyn, how she easily manages the huge back door on her larger Niro. I reminded myself that I was at least three inches taller and five pounds heavier than her, and that I, too, am actually stronger than I look. I again told myself not to fret, that I’d get used to it, that change is good. And I consoled myself with the undeniable truth that my new Seltos looked mighty spiffy in front of my house.
The first bizarre thing was that I walked out of the dealership without one piece of paper confirming that I had just agreed to buy a car. In fact, paper was no longer even part of the transaction. When I was escorted to Elaine’s office, the person in charge of doing the documents, I had to sign what seemed like fifty pages using a stylus on a huge flat computer screen set into the top of a desk. When I asked if I would get a printed copy, she said that the documents would be emailed to me. This, however, did not happen.
Suffice it to say that I never received any documents through email, even after I was told at least two more times that they had been sent. Since I once had an issue with a bank where their system did not recognize my domain email (made up of my first and last names) as legit and could not send anything to me on it, I texted Jonathan an alternate email and asked to have the documents sent there. But I still did not receive them, and there was never anything in my spam box.
Again, I contacted Jonathan, who this time told me that he’d have my documents printed and snail mailed to me. I waited several days, but those, too, never arrived. And I couldn’t reach anyone directly through Kia’s phone number, because apparently their system had crashed the week before and it would be two more weeks before the new system was in place. No wonder Jonathan and Kristin so readily gave out their private cell phone numbers.
Earlier this week, someone from Kia named Marsha called to say that my new license plate was in and asked if I wanted to pick it up or have it mailed. I told her to mail it. I also repeated, as calmly as I could, that I still hadn’t received any documents although I was told they had been both emailed and snail mailed. She said she would print them out herself and enclose them with the license plate. When the plate arrived, finally, inside the envelope was the paperwork.
It had taken sixteen days!
Another bizarre thing that happened was involved with switching my insurance from the Avalon to the Seltos. I called my State Farm agent who I have used for over three decades, but the person who answered the phone was not a sales person I knew. Her name was Ann. She sounded youngish, and might have been somewhat inexperienced, because each time I asked a question, she had to hang up to get the answer and call me back. Between the information she needed from me, and the information I needed for her (i.e. vin #, etc.), we went back and forth like this for a couple of days. When everything was assembled and I decided on the coverage I wanted, again, she had to hang up to put everything together, and said she would call me back with the exact numbers.
Then, an even more bizarre thing happened.
Let me preface this by saying that I don’t read much news, except maybe some political discussions, so when Ann told me what I’m going to tell you, I had no knowledge of it. Apparently, some deviants on TikTok had posted what was called The Kia Challenge, showing how to steal certain 2010 to 2021 Kias and Hyundais using only a USB cable. Badboys everywhere, some not even old enough to drive, were taking up the challenge and it had gotten out of hand all over the country. She went on to say that because of this, State Farm Insurance in NC would not cover Collision or Comprehensive on my car, since it was among the listed years and models.
I couldn’t believe this was actually true, and I told her so. She said she had the information in front of her and that it was true. I told her I was hanging up. I hung up.
I was angry. This opened up a whole bunch of new issues I had to deal with. I made a list:
- Research what Kia was doing to fix the problem, and find out if it was done to my car.
- Call other local insurance agencies and see if they were doing the same thing. If not, get quotes.
- Check with other local State Farm agents and see what they have to say.
- Call the Regional State Farm office in Charlotte and see if I could get the facts.
This is what I found out:
- My car already has anti-theft installed.
- I left my number with several car insurance sites and my phone hadn’t stopped ringing for hours.
- Another local State Farm agent knew of the issue, but thought it only applied to Tennessee.
- The Regional Office finally cleared things up. The woman on the phone read me the part of the directive that said that existing State Farm policy holders switching insurance from an old to a new car are completely covered.
I called Ann and explained that I had spoken to the Regional Office and that there was no problem insuring my Seltos. She said she would have to talk to her boss, who was on the phone, and get back to me. Quelle surprise!
When she called back, she said that she spoke to her boss who said exactly what I said the Regional Office said, that there was no problem including whatever coverage I wanted. She said that the directive to her was “so complicated and confusing.” I said it seemed pretty clear to me.
It was only then that I realized I could have saved myself a bunch of angst and many hours if I had only immediately asked to speak to her boss, who I knew. Why in the world hadn’t I thought of that?
I was exhausted. And I again wondered if I had made the right choice. A part of me knew that there must be some divine wisdom in here somewhere. But the only blessing I could think of was that the whole ordeal was finally over.
Then I remembered that when I was first considering a new car, I had almost bought a 2023 Toyota Corolla, a short-lived endeavor. It was silver. It looked a lot like a smaller, newer yet pared down version of my old Avalon. Although I wasn’t consciously aware of this at the time, it didn’t really represent any big change. So maybe I did make the better choice. Maybe some of me was listening to a more expansive part of my Self, was pointing me in the right direction, one that was serving my deeper purpose. And, of course, there was still the undeniable truth that the Seltos looked mighty spiffy in front of my house.
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