How did she manage this, you ask? Three years ago, she traded in a car worth about seven grand because the air conditioner didn't work. After we had spent about $900 getting it fixed. So for three years, life was good.
Then it was time for me to go out of town for a week. Immediately, the funny noises started. In the car, not my wife. So the sequence of events went something like this:
"My car sounds loud."
"No, I think something is wrong with it."
"Well, you have to get the oil changed tomorrow, have them take a look."
"It sounds like the muffler is falling off."
"It's only got thirty thousand miles on it, the exhaust system should be fine."
"But maybe something happened to it when I hit that giant rock in the middle of the road."
Saturday, after returning from the dealer's "free" oil change
"Well, I don't know what they did to it, but it's really loud now. They said I need new brakes and a new exhaust system and it's going to cost about $700. They said if I don't get it fixed, it will leak carbon monoxide into the cabin."
There's nothing I hate more than some dirtbag mechanic trying to scare a woman into repairs because she doesn't know any better. I go outside and have her start the car and it sounds like my lawnmower. I look underneath it and I can't see much of anything except for rust. Apparently Nissan is making their new exhaust systems out of old exhaust systems just to save time. I follow the pipe backward to where it goes over the axle, and it's completely rotted away from the flange and hanging in two pieces, supported only by the connection to the motor in the front, and by one half-rotten hanger in the back, with the bulk of the muffler's weight resting on the top of the axle.
"Well, you can't drive it like this."
"What am I supposed to do? You're on a flight out of town tomorrow, and I have to get to work on Monday."
"I can try to wire it up with something tomorrow."
"It's supposed to rain."
"You could drive it like it is. You'd probably be fine. Probably."
"You could drop me off at the airport and drive my car all week. If you could drive a stick."
"Yeah, yeah, I know."
"It's your own fault. I offered to teach you."
We've been married a long time.
The next thing I know, we're driving her car back down to the dealership, because at this point it seems to be the least painful option. Our plan is to talk to a sales guy about turning in her lease a little early and getting a new car. Which, it turns out, she already did. She introduces me to Shawn like they're old friends. Possibly lovers. And he knows every detail about the car and the existing lease and the work that needs to be done on our existing car. Dammit, I've been had. We really have been married a long time.
Shawn is a slick little black guy who reminds me of a young Sammy Davis Jr. When she introduces us, he sticks out his hand to shake mine and I reciprocate, but something goes horribly wrong and the next thing I know he's got the tips of my four fingers in his vice-like grip and I feel like a big pussy. Dammit! He's an early closer!
At first I can't tell if he did it on purpose, or if it was just bad timing on my part. I feel like I should curtsy. The early close is a power move that I used to be on the lookout for when I was in sales, but I don't shake many hands in my current job. It gets worse then, because he's not letting go right away (ok, it's a power move), I'm forced to extricate my limp asparagus fingers from his manly shake by quickly yanking my fingers out of his grip like it was some kind of rat-trapped glory hole.
And then we get down to bargaining. I've already lost.
He throws out all the typical car salesman crap -- we can either pay to have the other car fixed and pay the $350 "turn in fee" (eff you Nissan) or we can put the same amount of money down and walk out with a new 3-year lease on a new car. He can offer us a deal if we do it right now, he has to clear it with his manager, but it's a smokin' deal, what can I do to make you walk out of here with that car today, blah, blah, blah.
He actually wrote some very large numbers on a blank sheet of paper. I don't mean large numbers as in the car was expensive. I mean he wrote them in 2" high text. I don't really know what his angle was there. Maybe it was just a visual aid. Anyway, that's the paper he "took to the manager." It looked like a second grader's homework, but he was on a roll, so I let him go.
Our other option, and one that I was seriously thinking about for a few minutes, was to fix the brakes and the exhaust and buy the original car outright. I could tell that my wife wanted a new one because she kept saying, "If the muffler fell off at thirty thousand miles, what else is going to go wrong?" I didn't argue because I just wanted the reaming to be over. And she was possibly right. The only benefit to a lease is no maintenance, and I haven't had much luck in the "drive it til it drops" arena.
I brought up the topic of the crappy exhaust system on the original car and Shawn kept saying it was an anomaly. He said it like he was on the bridge of the USS Enterprise, and there was some weird noise coming from the engineering deck. "It seems to be some kind of anomaly in the exhaust system, Captain." I asked him if Nissan was using old license plates to make their exhaust systems these days since I have a Honda Fit with twice as many miles on it and the exhaust system is fine, but he had no answer other than it was clearly an anomaly. Ensign red shirt, we need you for the away team.
We eventually got down to the point where we walked the lot looking for cars. It was cold and miserable, and just as it started raining we found a Sentra that was both priced right for the $199 monthly payment we were looking for, and also a color that my wife could stand. Her original car was bright blue and rather sporty, and this lot was full of silver, black, grey, grey and more grey. Seriously, they had three different shades of grey. It looked like the parking lot at the FBI building. She grudgingly opted for silver. We went back inside and signed on the dotted line five minutes before they closed, and they were nice enough to let us borrow a car until the next day so we didn't have to drive home sounding like a Harley Fatboy going uphill.
As we were leaving, Shawn stuck out his hand to shake mine and that bastard early-closed again.
"Dammit!" I said, yanking my fingers free and repositioning my hand before he could react. I then gave him my most manly handshake. He looked a little startled, but I didn't care. It was the principle of the thing.
Early-closing son of a bitch.