March 30th, 2010

The chronicle of the new car

So, in my last entry, I mentioned in the first sentence that I have recently purchased a new vehicle. Two entries before that, I recounted some trouble with the Blue Trooper. The two aren't directly related, but more trouble cropped up with the old war horse, and it was trouble that led ultimately to its demise.

Two weeks ago, I drove home in much the same manner as I normally do, and going up to my room, I was informed that the engine had been heard to be running without a driver in the cabin. Given the odds of that occurring, I dismissed the possibility as, essentially, my mom hearing things. The following day I drove to school as I have done on so many other days, but during the return trip, everything started to go wrong. At some random point along the Northern State Parkway, I noticed that the temperature gage was, as we'd say in the Navy, "pinned high." This concerned me, but apparently not enough to immediately suspend the journey. But such a suspension would come soon enough, and without my intending it - the Blue Trooper stalled at the bottom of the off-ramp of exit 42N. I got it out of the way of traffic, and after a few minutes of cooling, it started and ran long enough for me to take it to a nearby side street. I put the hood under a street light and looked, but found nothing conclusive. I fired up again after a few minutes, and thankfully, it started. The temp needle was now just below the line corresponding to "H," and I knew full well it was my job to keep it there. I was able to do so...until I had to make a sudden right, at which time the engine heated again, and forced me off the road and into the parking lot of a supermarket about two and a half miles away from the Ancestral Palace. At this juncture, I had a decision - do I call for help now, or let the engine cool again and try to bring it in? I decided on the latter, and in the shortest term, I was successful in doing so. After I got myself and the car home, I looked under the hood and found random splashes of liquid. But it wasn't just any was green. Being green, it was obviously engine coolant. This explained the immediate problem of the engine being hot. But why was it there? Barring an explanation completely beyond me, there was a clear malfunction with the Blue Trooper.

That circumstance caused me to wake earlier than normal on the morning of the 17th, and point my car in the direction of Salonga Service. I expected the repair to last no longer than a couple of hours, and so I decided to skip a day of classes - an unusual course of action for me in these days. However, comma, I got bad news a few hours later - the head gasket was blown, and would to be re-machined to be made ready for normal use. Based on the estimates given me, I authorized this repair, due in no small part to a sentimental attachment to the Blue Trooper, after she had seen me safely around my home country on the PNR. The next day, I had to be be ferried both into Hofstra and out again - and it was just the same on the following day. As I rode shotgun with my Dad that Friday afternoon, I was continually serenaded with the good news of the Big Red basketball team building its lead over Temple; I got word of the final score shortly before arriving at home. But not half an hour later, I got possibly the worst word of the month - the head of the Blue Trooper's engine was beyond repair. The cost of a replacement head was beyond what I was willing to pay, and I was shortly on my way to the repair shop to conduct final clean-out.

That evolution didn't last very long, and soon after it concluded, I set about the task of finding myself a new vehicle. There were only two real competitors in this game - Honda and Ford, and the former was quickly dismissed after a comparison of the base prices of their models. Once I'd fixated on Ford, I set about finding one close to me that I might want. And fortunately, I did - a gray Focus that didn't carry many frills, but would do what I needed it to. That very evening, I made my way out to the dealership that had it. As I sat in it that night, I felt good, felt right. Being as it was a Friday night, the necessary paperwork and preliminaries couldn't be completed immediately, and so we went to Wal-Mart, and then back home. Once back, I set up as much as I could, in the hope that I could drive that car off the lot the next day.

That hope was very much realized. My personal financial plan worked for me and against me at the same time. Not having any credit cards, and paying my bills on time for all the years I spent in the Navy, meant I had essentially no credit history. On the other hand, I'd built up a sizable cash position over the last three years. The net result? I could cover a good fraction of the cost of that Focus in the down payment - and that would allow me to get the sexy rate you hear about on all those commercials, also known as zero percent APR for thirty-six months. About eighteen hours after my initial inquiry, I drove off the lot in the Focus, having suffered both a sizable increase in personal pride...and a sizable decrease in my personal bank account.

I cannot emphasize enough how much I enjoy my new ride. Especially the complimentary six-month subscription to Sirius Satellite Radio, which I just might maintain. (It was most beneficial during certain games of the NCAA Tournament - particularly the Northern Iowa-Kansas upset.) The Blue Trooper served me most faithfully; she gave me nineteen and a half months and 26,098 miles - 8,653 of which I'll forever commit to memory. I was certainly content to ride that car as far as she would take me. But I'm finally in a ride I can truly call my own - and that's something to be proud of, regardless of the attendant circumstances.