Thursday, November 30, 2006

Well that was...unexpected

So yesterday morning on our way to work, the dreaded "Check Engine" light came on in VNB's '96 Chevy Blazer that he bought from his uncle for ~$3000 about a year-and-a-half ago. While we waited to pick a friend up, we used his handy-dandy little code reader thing to find out what the error was, causing the light. It was error code 1870 - bottom line, transmission troubles.

So, after dropping me at the metro, VNB brought the car to the local dealership. Later on he called me with the news: They can fix the current issue for ~$500 and put a 5-mo warranty on it, but if something else dies (and that was highly likely), they'll need to replace the whole transmission. They have one on the shelf, but it'll cost ~$3000. After only a few minutes of discussion, it was decided that it wasn't worth it to put a new transmission (costing the same amount as the car did) into a 10-yr-old, we can afford a second car note right now that I'm working....but we don't anticipate me working (even part-time) forever, so if we're gonna do it, we should do it now rather than later.

So...we were buying a car. We very quickly decided against a brand new one (VNB wanted it, but the instant depreciation was too much for me), but both of us wanted a relatively late model that we knew would last us for a while. Since it was the end of the month and dealerships would be wanting to meet quotas, we figured we should start looking immediately, so VNB checked out CarMax.

First car that popped up from his search? 2005 Ford Escape Hybrid 4WD automatic, 22k miles, $22k. That was definitely a car we'd discussed in the past, so he had CarMax hold it for us for the day so that we could take a look at it after work.

But when he returned to the dealership to pick up his Blazer, they were waiting for him. They told him to search the lot for a car he was interested in. Of course, waiting for him was the Equinox that he'd been eyeing for years - 2005, AWD, automatic, 33k miles, $19k ("but we can go lower"). They couldn't hold it for him (and I was in a meeting right then, so couldn't answer when he called), but they could let him test drive it for the night and bring it back the next he did. There was clearly some wear and tear on the car (door handles and buttons were worn, a wheel hub had obviously scraped something, as had one bumper, etc.), but it drove _pretty_ well (VNB notices vibrations that no one else can feel), and it _definitely_ had a lower step than our Blazer or my Escape (non-hybrid) (this is an issue for me right now with my big belly - lifting my feet to get into a car has become painful).

So we test drove the Equinox to CarMax to check out the Hybrid (heehee).

We both got to drive the hybrid (VNB thought it had stalled one time that it switched over to the electric motor), and the salesman (who wasn't expecting us as early as we came and so was involved elsewhere too) gave us plenty of time to discuss. While we were discussing it, we happened across another Equinox in their showroom - same make, model, amenities (except no sun roof), about the same miles, and in better physical shape...but only $17k.

Not liking the feel of the Chevy dealer's Equinox or the fact that their initial price was so much higher, we took that off the table. So the decision was down to the Equinox at CarMax (that we hadn't driven), and the Hybrid. We went through the math of how much we were gonna save with the _MUCH_ better gas mileage with the hybrid (a minimum of ~$40/month), figured out how long it would take us to recoup the $7k difference in price (a long time), wondered about tax credits for used hybrids (still don't know the answer to that one), wondered whether maintenance would cost more on a hybrid and if CarMax's extended warranty would cover the "hybrid" parts too (except for the batteries themselves, it does), didn't want to buy it just because it was "cool" (although that was definitely a factor for both of us), wondered why a lightly-used hybrid was sitting at CarMax when it was only two years old, and basically were both afraid to make a decision.

So we did what anyone would do in that situation. That's right. We flipped a coin (hey - that's how they picked out Jonah...casting lots is entirely Biblical...really.... ;p ). Heads, we took the hybrid, tails, the Equinox (or at least, not the hybrid, not right now - although they couldn't hold it for us overnight, so it might not be there later if we wanted time to think it over). Mostly I just wanted to see how we reacted to the coin flip - if we were happy/relieved to see that it was heads or disappointed that it was tails (or vice versa). It was heads...and we were both scared to admit that that was what we wanted.

But we both knew that wanting something and knowing that we ought to buy something are two different even flipping a coin didn't really help that much (although the anecdotal "signage" from God was mounting).

But CarMax has that nice 7-day no questions asked return policy, so we figured we could still take our time with the final, FINAL decision and still not pass up on the opportunity.

So after waking up with no expectations of getting a new car anytime soon, we went to bed with a 2001 Escape, a 2005 Escape Hybrid, a borrowed 2005 Equinox, and a 1996 Blazer.

Since the Blazer's transmission is going to die very soon, we figured we wouldn't get a very good deal from CarMax for it, so we're going to give it to a charity we just have to figure out which one. So, to aid in that transition, this morning VNB drove the Equinox with me following behind in the Hybrid (probably one of the last times I'll get to drive it :). We dropped the Equinox off at his work, he dropped me off at the metro, then dropped the Hybrid off at his work, drove the Equinox over to the dealership, and presumably gave it back, returning to work in the Blazer. The Blazer will stay in the lot at his work until we find a charity to take it. Which means that we're driving the hybrid home and will be back to having only two cars there. It was/is quite the dance.

Life (God) keeps doing this to us. Leia's back from Iraq for two months? Oh - meet VNB. Six months later? Engaged. Six months after that? Married. Two months later? Pregnant, and a new/old job. We finally get caught up on debts and bills, with a little in the bank? Need a new car. Two months from now? New baby, job/life drastically changes. I feel like I'm in one of those Nationwide commercials - "Life comes at you fast. Don't you wish everything did?" Just two years ago I was travelling the world, with very few strings to tie me down. Now I'm married, about to have a baby, with a "real" job, a mortgage, and two car notes.

I feel like I need to stop and catch my breath (at the very least). Another part wants to run. I've chucked it all once before, why not again? But then I look on my desk and see VNB staring out at me from our very first picture together. Not only am I reminded of how hot he is every time I see that picture, but his eyes do for me exactly what they do in real life - they settle me down. There's no doubt that being with him is the right thing and right now, that means marriage, mortgage, car notes, and a baby on the way.

Next to that picture is one from our wedding. Now, he's hot in the first picture I described, but that's in an approachable kind of way. On the day of our wedding, he was scorching, too-hot-to-touch hot (I think it's the combination of the haircut and the suit...and just his general hotness...have I mentioned that I think he's hot?). But that's all really beside the point.

Next to that picture is the sonogram pic I posted several months ago of our baby sucking his/her thumb in utero. Despite my ever-expanding girth (pics to follow soon) and my constant state of discomfort, it's still hard to believe sometimes that I'm pregnant and will soon be a mommy. But the little one in that picture is so precious, with all of those little baby parts being so perfectly knit together...and is certainly making sure I know they're there with the constant indigestion and the dance parties... Despite the excruciating leg cramps and dreams of Martha Stewart (don't ask) that interrupted my slumber last night, and despite the fact that it's getting hard to walk with a 35+-lb bowling ball strapped to my belly...I know that the baby's just _right_ for right now too. (Plus, with walking as difficult as it is, running is certainly out of the question, and even if I _did_ run, the baby would still be attached when I got to where ever I was going, so there's not exactly any escaping this one. ;p )

I guess, really, I've just exchanged one type of spontaneity and freedom for another. Before, I could go where I wanted, when I wanted (basically). Now, there's someone who's got my back if something goes wrong, and with whose management we've been able to get to the point where it was OK for us to be unexpectedly pregnant, and to where we could discover one day that we needed to buy a car...and actually buy one that same day (and have it be a cool one!!!)!

So, surprise! We've got a hybrid, and we think it's cool! And so far, I think we're gonna keep it.

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