So, having determined once and for all that the Chevrolet Suburban is the One True Vehicle for us, there remained the simple task of acquiring one. Right. Just like that. How hard could it be?
History shows that when that question is asked, an answer soon follows.
Our search began easily enough, thanks to the wonders of the interweb. Once we had a clear idea of our parameters for year, price, and mileage, we were able to locate over half a dozen examples that fit the bill. So what if they were almost all up around the nearest big city, some 75 miles away? Since we had just gotten The Green Hornet out of the shop (again!) and it was finally running well, we could drive up there on my next day off.
I have to say, though, that this is a rare circumstance indeed for us. We normally don’t have the luxuries of time and space in which to do our car shopping; we’re usually in a scramble to replace whatever it was that just finally gave up the ghost, or whatever it is that’s about let us down again. What would we have done, I wonder, if we had no car at all? I suppose we’d be down at the corner consignment lot, settling for whatever was available; scouring the slim pickings in our immediate area, where there is very little that suits our needs; throwing ourselves on the goodwill of a nearby dealer; or dumping money into a rental car for the long ride north. We’ve done all these things before, with decidedly mixed results. While they make for entertaining stories, they don’t always result in good decisions.
So it was, then, that we headed out on our quest one day last week, with a notebook full of prospects and heads full of V-8 powered dreams. Naturally, each Suburban we looked at wasn’t quite right: one had a funny whine in the driveline; another, a telltale spot under the transmission; one was just a bit too…used; one very nice red one was a big-block gas guzzler; and one just wouldn’t start. Being patient, and in the rare position of not being Desperate to Buy Something Today, we politely passed on all of these.
Home we went, to rest our weary heads and ponder our next move. There was just one more wagon to look at, over in the next town, and it looked promising. A 1996 4WD 1500 series-just what we wanted. Mileage was fairly low at 149,000. The wagon looked clean, and the ad was well-written, so we decided to take The Boys along to look at it the next day, even though the price was a bit of a stretch for us at $4350. But you never know until you try, right?
This one was more than a pleasant surprise: emerald green on the outside; grey leather interior; obviously well-cared for. The seller was the second owner, and he had bought it from his neighbor down the street. The story was a common one: empty-nesters downsizing from the big family wagon, passing on the legacy of road trips and safe travel. It was by far the nicest Suburban we’d seen; it didn’t look or feel old, even though it was the same age as our Little Red Wagon. The Boys were thrilled, once they got the requisite “who sits where” squabble out of the way.
There was one more step we wanted to take before making an offer: the mechanic’s inspection. The transmissions on these rigs are notorious for jumping ship after 100,000 miles or so, and there are some other minor issues that an impartial eye can find. The seller agreed to let us bring it to our guy for a look-see; he even offered to let us borrow it overnight. We weren’t ready for that option, as we suddenly found ourselves having to attend an 8th grade celebration assembly that very night. We declined the overnight loan, agreeing to pick the wagon up the next morning on the way to Dear Wife’s dentist appointment.
It is on the hinges of such minutiae that the fate of the world swings.
We called before leaving the next morning, to let the seller know we were on the way. We talked excitedly on the drive about how this was the right move, that this was a vehicle worth stretching for-comfortable, secure, versatile, and respectable. We saw five years or more of service, ten with a decent level of care.
Then we pulled up to the seller’s house, and he met us in the yard. He said he was very sorry, but…someone had stopped by, not five minutes ago, on their way to the nearby hospital…wanted to buy the Suburban…agreed to the asking price, and had gone to the bank…so he had agreed to sell it to her. We were out of the game, just like that.
Really? Who does that? I didn’t know whom to be mad at: the buyer who cut in front of us, or the seller who let her do so. After some discussion, I voted for the seller. The logic of it came down to asking myself what I would have done in that situation, which wasn’t hard to do since I’d been there myself. Before we moved out here, I had bikes. Lots of bikes. I like bikes…sorry, almost drifted there-and we had to get rid of lots of our stuff before the move, most of my bikes included. I sold them mostly on Craigslist, and I had a simple method for dealing with such a situation: “I have someone coming to look at it right now, but if they pass, I’ll give you a call.” Short, sweet, and simple, and everyone understood. Apparently everyone else doesn’t do that which I considered common courtesy.
That leaves us back where we started-in an old green minivan.
There is, of course, a silver lining here, loath as I am to admit it. First of all, the search was taking up hours of time and tons of attention, both of which we need for other things. Second, as I mentioned, we don’t need a vehicle now; the minivan is running well and does fit all of us; third, we’re keeping our money-we’re going to need it for The Big Summer Road Trip-and not sliding further into debt (we were looking at financing through our credit union, possibly with our savings as collateral). So, while I’m not about to admit that the seller did us a favor, it seems that perhaps Somebody did.
Now to fit our gear in there, and replace the windshield, and that side-window latch…
“Do me a favor-no more favors, okay?”
“It is done…but that’s two you owe me.”