Wednesday, September 10, 2003

if there is a sucker born every minute, i'm the one for my minute

A few days ago, as I had backed my car out of its parking place at Noodles, I saw in my mirror that a soccer-momish woman was backing her car toward me. I turned and shouted "No!", but not surprisingly, given that all relevant car windows were closed, this did nothing to prevent her from backing into me. I put down the book I was reading (thinking that this could possibly obscure the fact that I was completely blameless for the accident) and we both got out of our cars and surveyed the damage. For hers, a Saturn wagon, nothing. For mine, a Saturn coupe, a little puncture in the plastic bumper of about 3/4 inch or so. A small wound, to be sure, but not one that could be fixed without replacing the whole bumper. Which means this woman's insurance company basically owed me a bumper.

"So, I should give you my name and insurance company."
"No, don't worry about it."
[eyebrows furrow] "Are you sure?"
"Don't worry about it." I repeated with a wave in my hand, like I was telling a friend not to worry about paying me back for lunch, not telling a complete stranger not to worry about putting a hole in my car.

What was I thinking? Why don't I just put on the big shoes and red nose and show myself to the world as the cognitive clown that I am?

Which just reminded me of how I have been a sucker as far as this car has gone from the beginning. I bought it in my last year of graduate school, from a first-year student whose parents were bumping her up to a BMW. She wanted $5000, but I decided I was going to be a tough negotiator and try to get the price down to $4800.

I began the negotiation by noting that I had done some checking and thought a couple of things with the car might cost more than what we had originally estimated.

"I'd be willing to sell it for $4500," she said immediately.

Rather than say "Sold!" or "What about $4000," instead I was overcome by guilt. Why should someone not possibly get to extract the highest price from me? "Um, I'd feel better giving you $4800," I replied.

(Incidentally, the car required one unanticipated repair immediately after I bought it, which had to do with my test driving it with my friend Erin, who is only 4'11". Only afterward did I realize that the passenger seat was off its track so was stuck in the farthest forward position. Then again, that repair was only $20, and, when it's not being hit, broken into, or sideswiped by others, it's done me pretty well.)

Update: A reader from Kent, OH asks: "jeremy, are you serious about the car stories?!!!!!!! oh my. you are a suckeraroosker. or am i being the sucker for believing them?! " Scout's honor, both are true.

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