Saturday, August 3, 2013

Dream turned into nightmare

Since I was 12 years old, passing Motor Imports, a European car dealership on Austin Highway, twice a day, I've wanted a Jaguar. I fell in love with them, their body styles, their power, their colors. My dream for 42 years has been to own a Jaguar.

As I got older, the Jaguars got more expensive. They always seemed to be just out of reach.

I've been blessed to own some great cars. I started out with a 1965 Chevy Impala, 2 door, 3 on the column. It was an amazing car that my parents gave me as a high school graduation present. The car had about 55K miles when I got it, and it had about 130K when I sold it. It had been wrecked 3 times, and I got several speeding tickets.

I wanted something smaller and sportier, so I bought a Ford Pinto. It was the mustard color that everyone called baby shit yellow. It was so much fun to drive. It had 4 on the floor with black vinyl seats that had the amazing ability to get hotter and hotter the longer I sat on them in the hot summers. I hated those black vinyl seats. I was rear-ended twice in that car. Remember when Pintos were catching fire in rear-end collisions because of a bolt that would puncture the gas tank? I was blessed that I only got whiplash. That car was wrecked on 3 sides, and I found a huge bandaid bumper sticker that I put across the damaged front fender. Everyone thought that was so cute. But after a while, I got tired of driving a character car and looked for something more sophisticated.

I bought a 1974 Comet. I loved that car. It was a beautiful bronze color with a vinyl top. That was one of the best cars - just the right size, power, and style. As soon as it was paid for, we traded it in for a used diesel Volkswagen Rabbit. Boy, was that a mistake. The first day I drove that car to work, a rock hit the windshield and in no time, there was a crack completely across. Shortly after that, the electrical system went out and left me stranded on a remote road. I don't think we even had that car a year.

Then we got a Dodge Colt, a cute little 4-door sedan with vinyl roof that was customized for me. I loved that car. After that, we had a different car every other year, and I can't remember what came next. I had a Fifth Avenue, a LeBaron, a second Dodge Colt that was a space-aged looking station wagon, a Nissan (Datsun?) 2-door hatchback, a Corolla 4-door hatchback, a 4-door Ford Escort wagon, a 4-door Ford Escort sedan, a Mazda 626, and then I got my dream car - a 2004 Jaguar X-Type.

The Mazda's transmission was going out; it was never the same after I drove it to Galveston to visit my son. I was contemplating whether to have it repaired or buy another car. Then I happened to check out the Enterprise Car Sales website because that was where I got the 626. I saw the Jaguar, called to see if it was still on the lot, grabbed my purse, and ran out the door. I was so excited - a Jaguar that was affordable.

For 7 years, I felt like the Queen of Sheba driving that car. For 7 years, I felt like people should look at me and think I was special because I was driving a Jaguar. For 2 years, I felt like I was bleeding money into that car.

One of the good things about owning a Jaguar and taking it to the dealer was the loaners I got. I drove brand new Jaguars, Saabs, Toyotas, Mazdas, all sorts of cars. Each time I couldn't wait to get my Jaguar back because I liked the power and comfort. I drove a Mazda6 when the Jaguar was in the body shop when the ceiling tile landed on the roof. I liked the Mazda6 - it was a close second to the Jaguar. The car I drove while it was in the shop this last time with alternator and battery problems was a Camry. The Camry was nice, but I didn't like that it was almost black with dark interior.

When I picked up the Jaguar after the second time in the shop in a month, after plunking down another $1800 dollars on top of the $3300 I spent a month before, the transmission wasn't right. I told God, "I can take a hint." And I cried all the way home. My dream car had become a nightmare.

The next morning, I was in the credit union waiting to see my favorite loan officer. We worked out how much I should consider spending on a car - I didn't want to spend more than $10K, and she suggested looking for something about $15K. Then she suggested I look at Enterprise. Before I knew it, she had an Enterprise salesman on the phone, and I was telling him I'd stop by.

By 2:00, I was walking around the Enterprise lot, checking out all the cars I was interested in. They had several that were close to the $15K price range, a few light colored exteriors with light interior, and a couple with electric seats. I made the salesman stay out in the heat as long as I could. We walked back and forth among the cars, and I was telling him why this car was good and why this one wasn't.

The salesman finally talked me into going inside. One of the things he did was ask me what I was looking for in a car, and I gave him my list of must haves. He got the keys to a couple of cars - the Camry and a Honda Accord. We hopped in the Camry and went for a ride. We talked and wound around the country roads behind the car lot. Then we got to where I could take it on the highway. I really liked the smooth ride, responsiveness, cornering, quietness, and the driver's seat was comfortable and high enough for me.

We talked about the pros and cons of the Camry, then we took the Accord for a test drive. After a couple of miles, I knew the Accord was not for me. It was noisier and rougher, and I didn't even take it on the highway. It did not compare to the Camry. We had also considered taking the Malibu on a test drive, but he said if I didn't like the Accord, I wouldn't like the Malibu, and I didn't even drive it.

While I was test driving the cars, they were looking at the Jaguar. It really didn't matter what they saw, the Car Fax mentioned the rear-end collision in April, and it was all over. That collision, which was not my fault, caused a huge drop in the value and how much they would offer. I could have said "No thanks" to trading it in and sold it myself, but then I'd have to advertise, worry about who would want to meet me to check it out, find the title, transfer the title, etc., etc., etc. So, I whined a bit and signed on the dotted line.

As I was going through the Jaguar, gathering all the personal items and preparing to say "goodbye," I started to cry again. Then, I put on my big girl panties, took one last photo of the Jaguar and hopped in the Camry.

By 5:00, I was on my way home in a beautiful Camry that met all the must haves on my list. ALL the must haves. By the time I got home, the Jaguar had become "that stupid Jaguar." I don't miss it. Like a friend said, I "lived the dream."

I really like the Camry, and from all the reports of my friends, I'll like it for a long time. I won't become really good friends with the service rep because I won't see him/her often enough to develop a friendship like at Jaguar.

It felt sooo good to buy regular unleaded gas. I filled the tank the next day (last Sunday), and after driving around this week, the gas gauge has just hit the half mark instead of being empty like with the Jaguar. I'm not being completely fair because the Camry gas tank is 18.5 gallons (according to the manual), and the Jaguar was 14. It feels weird to not be looking for a Chevron station about now. I'm dying to get gas and check the gas mileage. But even more, I want to see how many miles I can go on a tank, so I'll be patient.

I thank God for leading me to the loan officer who led me to Enterprise, who led me to the Camry.

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