Column: The Gray Line Tour

Published 12:00 am Monday, May 18, 1998

Leonard Gray / L’Observateur / May 18, 1998

Truck-Buy Experience Less Fun Than Dentist

It was one of those things every driver dreads – not throwing the piston rod and being forced off the road with a disabled vehicle. Rather, it was what followed.

The new-car dealership and the ordeal of getting a new vehicle stands right up there with going to the dentist in my list of least-favorite things.

It was time for the 1990 Toyota Tercel to go. It was old, had 113,000miles and a hard past to it, barreling along at a rate of 20,000 miles per year in my hands. I was zipping along Interstate 310 last Saturday, headedfor Luling, when the rod popped as I approached the Hale Boggs Bridge.

I managed to putt-putt over the bridge and down to ground level before the engine died completely. I then pulled out my handy-dandy cellular phoneand called my uncle for help. He soon arrived with a borrowed chain, andwe hauled the car back to my place.

That night, with my wife, I checked out the vehicles at one dealership. OnSunday we hit two more dealerships. That’s what I like to do – go in peace,review what’s available on the lot without being bothered and go a long way toward making my selection.

Months earlier, my wife and I had decided (it was my very own idea) to get a pickup truck. I had never owned a pickup truck before and had hardly everdriven one. However, I feel more secure in one.On Monday afternoon, as I was making the rounds of the bank (for my car title in my safety-deposit box) and the credit union (for the down payment), I was about to make a left turn at a busy intersection when a man in a large pickup, not noticing the insignificant bug of a car below the range of his vision, nearly sideswiped me before I blasted my horn at him and alerted him to the fact he was about eight inches from my wife’s car, borrowed to do all this running.

After running my errands, I picked up my chief negotiator (my wife) and we hit the dealership we had selected. A very polite and helpful salesman,or new-car sales associate, approached us.

We discussed what we wanted. We took one for a quick test-drive. Wediscussed how much we were willing to pay. His face fell.That’s when the hard-nosed negotiations began and with the help of my wife’s quick mind and nimble financial wizardry, we got out of there in record time, signed up for the next four years to pay $100 more per month than we originally planned to spend.

However, knowing we could just tighten our cashflow a bit and hang in there, I’m now back on the road in a new pickup, high in the saddle and looking scornfully down on those “other” people in their itty-bitty cars.

Now, in a pickup, I’m up high and can now be part of the problem for those little-car drivers when my headlights appear in their rear-view mirrors.

Leonard Gray is a reporter for L’Observateur.

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