Car Buying Was Not Part Of The Plan


We bought a new car.

I say it matter-of-factly and devoid of excitement because that is how it happened. We were cruising down the interstate, four hours into what was to be a 19-hour trip, and I smelled transmission fluid. “I smell transmission fluid,” I said.

“Uh-huh,” said Mark, dismissing the comment, perhaps because I am a girl, and a girl could not possibly know what transmission fluid smells like.

“Did you put transmission fluid in before we left?” It was a long shot.

“No.” Mark is a man of few words.

“Things are only going to get worse from here,” I said.

I may be a girl, but I am a girl who grew up with two gearhead brothers and a mechanical engineer for a father.

Mark tried shifting into low. The car did not like that.

We limped off the exit ramp and into the parking lot of a hotel. Unbelievably, there was a Ford dealership right across the street. “It’s a sign,” I said.

“Right,” Mark replied.

The time was 9:15 p.m. Car dealerships typically close at 9 p.m.

“I’m going to walk over there and see what time they open,” Mark said. “We’ll stay here tonight, and I’ll be first in line for Ford service in the morning.”

That was fine with me. The hotel lobby had one of those vintage-looking red carts offering up free hot popcorn. I filled up a bag and got a soda out of the machine. I was “making lemons into lemonade.”

“You know they’re going to sell you a new car, right?”

“Naw, I’m just going to get this one fixed,” he said.

Mark is a babe in the woods sometimes.

At 9:15 a.m. the next morning, Mark called the room from his cell phone. “I’m just outside the lobby,” he said. “Come see what you think of this new vehicle.”


“The service department says our car needs a new transmission. It’ll cost $4,000 and they can’t get to it for three days,” Mark said. “So I’m taking a test drive in this.”

“It’s a pickup truck,” I said. “We need an SUV.”

It was the beginning of the end. There followed six hours of test drives, negotiation, calls to friends who work at Ford to see about available discounts and the inevitable dealing with Ford Credit.

It’s like the nightmare I have where things get smaller and smaller until I’m stuck and can’t move. Mark and I started out in the vast Ford parking lot, advanced to the spacious showroom, were moved to a dealer’s roomy cubicle and ended up in a tight little office where our knees were jammed up against the desk and our chairs were too short.

On the bright side, we had found a nice vehicle right on the lot, were able to hitch our trailer to it, and were on our way within hours. Things could have been so much worse. We could’ve been stranded in a field somewhere… could’ve had to pay towing charges… it could’ve been snowing… and, worst of all, no popcorn.

“I didn’t like our old car anyway,” I said.

“And that was really good popcorn,” Mark replied.

Fifteen hours to go.