As I write this, I am currently glaring out the window at a “light sandrift” colored Buick Century. A few days ago I would have been looking out at a white Dodge Intrepid. I hate change.
Five days ago, I didn’t have the least intention of buying a car. My Intrepid died abruptly in a parking lot on a Sunday a few weeks ago, and had to be towed to be repaired; remarkably, a shop (chain) was open and completed the repairs. On Sunday. They charged a completely obscene amount, but – on a Sunday.
Problem was, and it’s probably unrelated but didn’t feel like it, almost immediately upon taking her home she started acting up. It was pretty obvious that it was the transmission. I brought it back to the same shop, and was told it would be $200 just for a diagnostic, and then it might be days in the fixing – a 14-year-old transmission apparently isn’t necessarily easy to find. I didn’t leave her there to be diagnosed; I figured I’d figure it out. Which involved getting on the internet and doing a little research. And, apparently, a ’97 Dodge Intrepid transmission *isn’t* readily available, and moreover will cost a minimum of $1500 for the part alone. Add labor and various other sundries, and you’ve got a total which is a) more than the car is worth, and b) more than I can afford. I got up early on Sunday and started poking around – found autotrader.com, which led me to a dealership near the office, and there was the Century, for $2500.
Long and tedious story short, reader, I bought it. (<Glancing blow at Jane Eyre reference.) I test drove it Sunday (they’re open Sundays too) and bought it Monday, driving it home Monday evening. I didn’t see I had any choice. And it was a long and tedious project, during which I spent probably two and a half hours all told sitting at the salesman’s desk while he scurried about helping people who were buying more expensive cars (i.e. more worthwhile customers) or sat opposite me answering phone call after phone call from more worthwhile customers. (Between his cell and his desk, there had to have been, no exaggeration, over thirty calls while we were both sitting there. No, really, that’s fine, go ahead…)
I loved my car. I always laughed at Dodge Intrepid commercials, because surely no good Trekkie would ever buy anything called “Intrepid”! But I needed a car, I had a cashed-in 401K, my aunt had a car, I bought the car, and squashed the superstitious dread of the name – and loved it. I never thought I’d be one to love my car, but … I spent Monday feeling like Sue Heck from The Middle being forced to part with her curlers. Because the Intrepid is basically going for parts, I felt like I was sending a beloved pet to the vet to be put down, while its replacement waited in the wings. Its pretty, smelly, less appealing replacement. Because one of the two former owners of this thing smoked. I think that’s the reason I’m still trying to shake the feeling that it’s an old man’s car – it’s something about the color, the funny little presidential seals (well, seal – one’s missing), the leather upholstery, and – most of all – the stink… *sigh* I want my car back.
It’s a good thing the people I work with have had or known similar cars, because I was freaked out by the fact that the radio did not go off when I turned off the engine. (“It’ll go off when you open the door,” I was told. And so it did.) And then this morning I was freaked out because I couldn’t shift into reverse to get out of my driveway. (“Press the brake pedal,” I was told. Oh. If I’ve been doing that for the past two and a half days, which I apparently have, I didn’t realize it.)
The inside of the windshield was filthy. How – what, coffee? – got spattered like that all over the inside, I don’t know. Why they couldn’t take a cloth and wipe it I don’t know either. Once I figured out how to get into the trunk (I’ll come back to that) I found filthy and disgusting floor mats tossed in there. There is no manual – I looked online and found it, but I’m not about to print it as it’s about 334 pages (with, , literally, over fifty pages on how to use your seat belt, along with air bags and child safety seats); I’d have thought out of courtesy the dealer might have printed the damn thing. Come on, two pages per sheet. It wouldn’t have helped me at the actual dealership, when the salesguy walked away and I discovered that the car was locked – – and that the key he had given me wouldn’t open the door. Ah, that’s what they meant by keyless entry: the remote attached to the key. Got it. Oh, and the trunk? Yeah. That was the first button I pushed. The labels are pretty much worn off the remote buttons, so I pushed the one that looks like a car, and heard a clunk from the back. Oh. Hey, I’ve never had a remote before. And I don’t really want one now, at least not without a key for backup. I have an image of standing outside my locked car in the middle of nowhere with a dead remote battery …
Here is the list of amenities the dealer website claims for the car – with, of course, my comments:
AIR CONDITIONING – I think it works, which will be nice when it warms up; the Intrepid’s died a couple of years ago. A plus.
ALLOY WHEELS – Okay, if you say so
ANTI-LOCK BRAKING SYSTEM (ABS) – Okay
AUDIO CASSETTE PLAYER – haven’t tried it yet.
AUTOMATIC CLIMATE CONTROL – as opposed to -?
CENTER ARM REST – well, yeah. It has storage, at least.
CLOCK – wow. What an innovation. So it’s more advanced than a Model T.
CRUISE CONTROL – haven’t tried it yet.
DAYTIME RUNNING LIGHTS – yeah, still figuring that out; I think it’s automatic. Not sure.
DUAL AIR BAGS – I’m 5′ tall and right on top of the steering wheel. If the air bags go off I’ll be killed. This is not a plus.
DUAL FOLD-IN MIRRORS – Huh? If this means the side mirror, then it’s just as well the driver-side mirror broke a couple of months ago when I had a run-in with the ATM; it’s given me practice in doing without. Because this one is … brown. And immovable.
DUAL SPORT MIRRORS – Wha-?
ELECTROCHROMATIC REAR VIEW MIRROR – Oh my. I’m honored.
GAUGE CLUSTER – I have no idea what that means, and am resisting a reply starting with cluster and ending with f…
HEATED OUTSIDE MIRROR(S) – I can’t say I ever had a problem with icing on the mirrors, so – ?
ILLUMINATED ENTRY SYSTEM – Whatever. I’ve never had trouble finding my way into a car, so -?
IN-DASH CD PLAYER – haven’t tried it yet. I will say that the sound is very good – but I was USED to only hearing the instrumentals on Beatles songs.
INTERMITTENT WIPERS – Yay.
INTERVAL WIPERS – Again, yay.
KEYLESS ENTRY SYSTEM – *&#! ^*$! (*!!
LEATHER UPHOLSTERY – which seems a little grungy, though intact, and which I expect to be hella hot in summer. We’ll see.
LEATHER WRAP STEERING WHEEL – not anymore. It’s disgusting. Another “You’d think”: you’d think they’d stick a $10 steering wheel cover on the thing.
POWER BRAKES – a little slower than I’m used to
POWER DOOR LOCKS – like every other car made in the past fifteen + years
POWER DRIVERS SEAT – which is slllooowww. And which, manual-less, it took me ten minutes to find. I’d rather just pull a lever and move it.
POWER MIRRORS – not anymore
POWER MOON ROOF – like I’ll ever use it
POWER PASSENGER SEAT – see driver’s seat
POWER STEERING – a little softer than I’m used to
POWER WINDOWS – see door locks
REAR DEFROSTER – see door locks
REAR WINDOW DEFROSTER – as opposed to “REAR DEFROSTER”? Oh, maybe the latter … never mind.
RECLINING SEATS – like every other car EVER made
REMOTE TRUNK RELEASE – see keyless entry system
SPLIT BENCH SEATS – okay
STEERING WHEEL AUDIO CONTROLS – which has resulted in my changing the radio station or volume half the times I’ve driven it so far. ETA: actually, the station changes without my hitting buttons. I accelerated from a stop sign and it went from 105.9 to 88.1. Go figure.
TILT STEERING WHEEL – not an innovation
TRACTION CONTROL SYSTEM – okay …
TRIP ODOMETER – not that I’ve seen…
WOODGRAIN DASH – Okay. Here I have to object. I’ve picked some nits above, but here I must object. Woodgrain? There are two “woodgrain” panels, each about 3″ by 8″, set into the door handles, surrounding the window and door-lock controls. The dashboard bears no relation to wood or woodgrain. At all.
(All pictures of the “new” car are from the dealer website. It’s still on there. You’d think they’d take it off once it was sold.)
Oh, and did I mention it had 184,340 miles on it when I bought it? My Intrepid, two years older, had about 94K. I guess that’s one reason I got the Buick for $2.5K. And did I mention it stinks?
There are some positives. The tires are good. (I’m ashamed to say I never looked at them until it was too late, so – thank God.) It’s a V-6, which I don’t know exactly what that means but it does have quite the pick-up: it’s vroomy. It is, as Mom calls it, “rich-looking”; in fact I have no objection at all to the outside. Sharon went with me Sunday to look at it, and while we were sitting at That Desk waiting for Him to pull it around for my test drive, and he did so, I said “I think that’s it.” “That? No, can’t be.” “I … you’re right, but I think it is.” “But – it’s – ” “I know!” And then he got out of it. And it was. It’s purty, I suppose, despite being taupe, but … What else… They switched my plates over, so I don’t even have to go to the DMV, and the insurance switchover was quick and easy and didn’t involve any change in my premium. Er. It doesn’t, to my knowledge, have any transmission issues.
However. If it DOES have transmission, or any other, issues, I’m stuck with ’em, because a) what are they gonna do, give me back my car? (If only – except as you’ll recall the work on it would cost more, and not be financeable. I’m making six more payments on this bloody thing.) And b) I bought it “as is” – which was not what I was led to believe, which was not what I thought I read on the window tag, which was what I was advised expressly not to do – but which I didn’t find out about till I’d signed ten of the twenty-three documents I had to sign. It’s more than seven years old, you see, and therefore the dealer is not required to warranty it, though I would swear I had seen “thirty-day dealer warranty” SOMEwhere. There was no real point to protesting too hard then; I had no choice. (The “check engine” light went on while I was actually taking my test drive, and I told the salesguy about it; it’s off now, but … did they do whatever needed doing, or just clear the code? I’ll be worrying about that for a little while.)
My friend Jen – another friend Jen, Jen – named her cars; one was Ziggy and one was Chester. She said they “felt” male to her, and she didn’t really give them the names; they came with the cars. Well, the Intrepid never really had a name, but she was a she; she could be a right bitch when she wanted to be, but so could I, and we got along beautifully most of the time. This one … This one has a male feel, and there’s a name there somewhere (starts with a hard “c”); I thought “Charybdis” was right, but she was a she. Oh well.
The summation is: I’m stuck with it; I’ll get used to it and the stink will fade (it already has with liberal use of Febreze); I have no choice. So – yay. I have a new (to me) car. But I reserve the right to complain about it bitterly for a while yet.
PS: I emailed the salesguy about the key, and haven’t heard back yet; I think it’s his day off. But the phone just rang, and it was the dealership – – wanting to know if I still wanted to trade in my car. *sigh*