About 6 days ago (well, exactly 6 days ago), I bought a “new” car. That’s it above. Well, that’s not EXACTLY it. But it’s the same make, model, color and class as mine. Silver Mazda 3. Fine car. Very highly reviewed by all.
Automatic transmission, so that, with my partially torn right shoulder muscle, I don’t have to keep reaching across to shift with my left hand. Keyless entry. Keyless lock. Push-button start. Better handling, breaking and acceleration. Quieter. No transmission bearings going. So choice.
Well… not that choice….
First off, let me say that… being very attentive to reviews doesn’t make me incapable of having my own opinion. That’s often one of the first responses I get from people. Something like “Well, I like to make up my own mind.” Well so do I. But I also have VERY limited time and money, and I like to pay attention to the thoughts of those “in the know” to increase the odds that I’ll spend my precious, precious, precious (Did I say “precious”?) time and money well.
I first started using that tactic for videogames. Then other things. Books. Movies. TV. Etc. And now a great baseline is the wonderful website Metacritic.
Again, it doesn’t dictate my opinion. I’m not a slave. I’ve been left cold by many a highly rated thing, and loved many a lowly rated thing. But it does increase the odds of success. And doing stuff this way, including car shopping, does not threaten my sense of self.
But I was talking about buying cars….
I looked at about 5 cars, after perusing the following “5 year cost to own” awards, because the cost-effectiveness of a car is not solely based on fuel economy but based more on maintenance, dropped value, insurance, and other factors. It is about MORE than fuel economy.
(Yes I’m talking to you, Prius.)
Anyway, here’s the very useful awards, which Mazda won the “best brand” award for.
Very informative, if you’re looking to buy a car.
So anyway, I made a list of about 5 cars to check out. They were all cars that showed up on the lists, at the top or near, in the “cheaper” categories, like “compact” and “sub compact,” though I felt curious about electric cars and hybrids too.
(Yes I’m talking about you, Prius, but also about the f***ing-only-available-in-California-and-Oregon Chevy Spark EV.)
In addition to the Mazda 3, I looked at a sub-compact Chevy Spark.
Surprisingly decent for a car the size of an unripe lime.
Then I looked at a 2014 Toyota Corolla.
I did that because it won the KBB 5YCtO “Compact” award, and because the last two cars I’d owned were the 2007 Corolla and the 2009 Corolla (each from separate design cycles). And I only got the ’09 because a fella lost control in winter and totaled my ’07.
Then I checked out a Hyundai Veloster, and it certainly had cajones.
That would’ve been a good car for my job delivering pizzas. Power. Cornering. Braking. Style. But alas it was not to be.
But I do have to tell you I had trouble, damned lot of it, remembering the name “Veloster.” Every time I tried, I drew a blank, and then said to myself “Wait… Velociraptor???”
I even checked out a Kia Forte.
It felt badly engineered on a deeper level, especially for a car having a sticker price (at a dealership I later heard bad things about) of almost $20,000. Hitting the brakes was like driving through a puddle of Crazy Glue. No dice, fuzzy on the mirror or otherwise.
But, in those first few days, I realized I was having a lot of fun. There’s a particular sense of… power that comes from being fawned over by sales people, especially when you have the strength to resist the “I do not want to let you leave without buying a car” skills they throw at you.
We all know the car salesman stereotype….
Right. Tricky. And, after finally getting my Mazda 3, I had a sadly belated conversation with a coworker, a man who’d once been a car salesman. He told me some things I’d wished I’d known. “They’re always lying about something.” “If there’s no sticker price, turn and run.” “They’re always assessing how gullible you are.” “Low credit means they pretty much know they’ll be able to convince you that you have no way to negotiate.” “If you’re not asking for $2000- $3000 off the sticker price, you’re getting hosed.”
Did I say low credit? That turned out to be the issue. I mean, I was just under 600, but it was by then technically “sub prime.” For over a decade I’d had a credit rating over 700, and I’d never expected that the bad last few months would’ve harmed me so quickly. But luckily I have a fair amount of debt, so I should be able to quickly re-prove that I’m “good for it.” And that’s what a credit rating is all about: lots of debt you’re good for.
But low credit, and being underwater on my car loan, threw me off my “I’m in control of this game” game.
Right. I was “underwater” with my car loan on my ’09 Corolla. By about $4000. My work friend told me that the big drops in value on a car come at 50,000 miles, 80,000 miles, and 100,000 miles. And I was at 117,000 miles… with some body damage.
But I had a bearing in my transmission going too, which could’ve cost me $2000 to fix, while in the meantime the tension-inducing noise in my engine would’ve grown louder and more tension-inducing.
And they didn’t check for that. So I “felt” like I “got away with one.”
On a shark? Maybe….
Did I say I got the car at a certified Mazda dealership? Seacoast Mazda, in Portsmouth NH? It’s part of the reason I hope I didn’t get secretly shafted with a car that has problems, because, by Kelly Blue Book, the price I got was very good. I suppose they had to give me a good price, though, so I could get the loan.
With a kind cosign from my father. Thanks Dad.
But I did have fun, before realizing I had the low credit. What a thrill, “making salesmen jump.” Power position. A high. Felt like a god trapped in a mere human body.
I’m not someone who usually has much power to toss about.
Not much in charge.
That’s Nick Nolte “going electric” in Ang Lee’s “The Hulk,” by the way.
And was I high to get a car? No. Actually, I enjoyed the search enough to know that, once it was done, I’d feel somewhat sad. I’d have nothing to show for the end of the search but a fine car….
Anyway, I actually had a plan for an on-the-phone bidding war, between the sales people. Seems silly now. Now, I’d wait for improved credit, go in, and say “If you can give me this car for $2500 below the sticker price, we’ll have a deal. Otherwise I’m walking out.”
Oh well. Next time. Just before my fine Mazda 3 hits 100,000 miles.
Many eons ago, when the World was nothing more than a barren ball of rock forsaken by the gods, it was happy.
It was happy because life was simple. It was happy because life was understood. It was happy because simplicity is the way to peace, not only for creatures, but for worlds as well. And so, without even being aware of what to call it, the World was at peace.
But one day, a wild pack of gods searching for a world discovered the World. And these gods were indeed searchers, having pushed far out from the crowded, god-packed center of the Milky Way and toward the outer reaches of one spindly galactic arm. To reach the World, they flew for many ages, at a thoughtful pace, as gods are wont to do. And in reaching the World, they grew very excited indeed.
“It is a fine ball of rock!” cried one.
“And we will make a fine World of it!” boomed a second.
“Yet this time we will do it right…” whispered a third.
Gods do not need air to make sound, in space. They are gods. And so they can bend both worlds and the laws of physics over whenever they wish, screwing both as they please.
“It is time to begin,” intoned a fourth god.
And the gods did begin.
First, born from a deific love of disaster and chaos, the gods gathered in a smaller planet from elsewhere in the solar system. Obeying the artistry of physics in their task, they created a collision, watching as the flesh of the two worlds both blended and separated as the two worlds felt both sadness and joy. And a newer, more fertile World was born.
High above, the Moon formed from the debris thrown free. It seemed to watch the proceedings below, like a bastard child half envious and half relieved.
“It is now ready!” shouted a fifth god. “It is hot again!”
From the bosom of one the rest pulled the seeds of life. Seeing this, the World grew nervous. It had heard what the seeds of life had done to some of its third cousins, but being a ball of rock, could do nothing to resist.
At first life grew slow by our standards, hardly evolving at all. Yet by the standards of gods and worlds, it grew and evolved fast.
Single-cell organisms became multi-cell organisms. Multi-cell organisms became complex organisms. Complex organisms became diverse organisms. And, manipulating the flesh of the World for the benefit of life, the gods made sure that water, atmosphere and more all grew in the ways they knew to be necessary, from eons of training as young and obedient gods elsewhere in the galaxy.
Some of the gods worried, as philosopher kings and queens are wont to do, about this new life. Their godly hearts bled for every form, and they wished to good for each. But deep down they knew that what is good for one life is evil for another. So they taught life to love and trust the gods, who are always the true kings and queens of worlds.
Many of the gods descended to the flesh of the World, to grow smaller and become gods of certain places. There they learned the ways of the organs of their new World. There they worked in tandem, for the good of the whole, and always half awaiting the day when this World would die and they would be forced from its corpse and toward the distant body of another, younger one.
“It is now time for sentience,” stated a sixth god.
The other gods, seeing the giving, taking Eden they had created, assented.
And pulling new seeds from the bosom of one, the gods planted them, sewing the flesh of the changing, learning World with the sprouting promise of Humanity.
Humanity grew, following the mandate of all life by giving allegiance to the gods who were responsible for all life.
These new creatures, blessed with faculties unique on the World, did not deign to see themselves as gods over it. The very idea would have been ridiculous. They loved their wives, aided their husbands, raised their children, and partook of their communities, each of which was awash with stories that sang of the truth of that view.
“And if they were to see themselves as gods?” wondered a seventh god.
“The same fate would befall them as befell all the others of other Worlds,” replied an eighth.
“But are we not better and wiser gods than those we left behind?” inquired a ninth. “Can we not avoid the fault of our elders, faults they are only not wise enough to see, recognize, and mend?”
Godly murmurs of powerful assent rippled over, across, and within the World.
The changing World heard these murmurs. Long ago having fallen in love with the life sewn on it, it had bonded with both that cornucopia and with the gods who had fallen and bonded with it. It felt fear, and yet it also felt excitement. The possibility of more change was the common source.
“Then we will whisper to Humanity that they are but young gods,” bawled a tenth god. “Perhaps they are. Perhaps that is how new gods are grown. I disbelieve the fables told by our elders.”
Starting in one place, then, the gods did whisper.
As they knew would happen, Humanity began to behave like kings. In a god’s eye blink of Time, were gods to have eyes, a fire started that spread outward, consuming not only all other life but all of the pockets of Humanity that still believed themselves to each be one of myriad subjects in the Kingdom of Life, and not the unified King or Queen insulated from the commoners.
From on high, the effect of the change on Humanity was clear. Humanity spread, as if on a mission to turn all of the flesh of life into the flesh of Humanity. It looked to the gods like a disease. They thought of the life of their World, and of its affliction called “cancer.”
On the surface of the anguished World, the descended gods shrank or even died under the feet, tools and assault of Humanity. The gods, pressed, wondered what to do.
“And now how do we guide them?” questioned an eleventh god.
“Can we guide what will not listen?” queried a twelfth.
“Perhaps they can be taught by a greater connection of their devices,” proposed a thirteenth. “If the essential variety and interconnectivity of their machines becomes apparent to them, perhaps the essential variety and interconnectivity of the life of the World will become apparent to them.”
“Most by far will do no more than satisfy the simple desires they are evolved for,” blurted a fourteenth.
“Yet perhaps it will still work, somehow,” hoped a fifteenth.
“Perhaps it would be better if we destroyed them,” mumbled a sixteenth.
“You would murder god children?” barked a seventeenth.
“Then perhaps a humbling disaster,” ventured an eighteenth. “Destroy their belief in their own godhood.”
“Then how would we reproduce?” goggled a nineteenth.
In the end, the gods did guide Humanity into the weaving of a Web. And things proceeded with some promise. Little. Yet some. And over it all, the gods hovered, doing what they could for the bleeding, anguished World from which diversity was being stripped away like layers of skin, and cut out like organs.
“Are they gods, or are they not?” pontificated a twentieth god, the one who forever watched from the face of the Moon. “Perhaps we should not have left home so soon….”