Sunday, January 10, 2010

Craigslist is a dangerous thing

Nowhere else can an idea from casual to costly so quickly. After sending each other Craigslist links for a month or so as we waffled between Landcruisers and 4Runners and Land Rovers, rationalizing that we should be buying the car as soon as possible to equip it and get familiar with it, we came across an ad for a silver 2004 Nissan Xterra XE 4WD with 55K miles on it. “Maybe we should just go check it out. I’m sure it’s not the one we’ll end up with but will be good to drive as many as possible before deciding.”

A drive down to San Jose on a Sunday morning revealed that it was a certified pre-owned car that had been a second vehicle. A shift to cohabitation with a similarly eight-wheeled significant other resulted in the need to liquidate the rarely used Xterra. We were attracted by the low miles, base trim (less to call attention and to go wrong), and good color (common and NOT yellow) as well as the fact that it was not supercharged, a “feature” that would not be happy with less than supreme gas.

The next week, we made the various arrangements to have a mechanic look at the car. Also on Craigslist, we found a link for Mel, a mobile mechanic who would come to the house to do a pre-sale inspection. I liked the idea because we could look over his shoulder while he went through everything, something the highly rated auto shops on Yelp were not too excited about. Turned out Mel was either totally full of shit or really knew his stuff ‘cause he basically did what I would have done – opened the hood and nodded, knelt down and  pretended to notice something underneath, jumped up and down on the front bumper, and declared it to be a fine  specimen.  That being said, I liked him and his enthusiasm for what we had in mind, and we agreed to do an oil change together in a couple months and to complete the 60K service just before taking off in the  fall. He also agreed to put together a list of spares and potential repairs for us.

When I showed up to finalize the purchase, the owner asked if Ann was coming, having understood that the car was to be for her. I said it was kinda for both of us and left it at that. I don’t know why I had the instinct to hide from her that we planned to thrash her precious baby through potholes and rivers and across mountains and deserts. Like she’d refuse to sell it to us claiming that it had become like a member of the family and she could not in good conscience subject it to that kind of punishment. After the deal was done, I told her what we had planned and of course she was excited and insisted that we keep her informed as the trip went on.

The drive home already felt like the beginning of something. This was the windshield through which we’d be seeing 20,000 ft volcanoes and lions and fjords and temples.