SUNDAYS WITH SHARON:  The Car Caper

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My son needed a car for work some years ago and, since my husband is the resident expert on cars in our family, he agreed to take him down to the local auction yard to bid on a couple of cars there. These are vehicles siezed in drug busts or otherwise impounded or found abandoned. Although we’ve bought cars there from time to time, I’ve never known one of these to be a real barn-burning steal. But it’s hard to tell a 20 year old male eager to get his first car, or his father, who desperately wants to prove his value to his son.

They missed the evening before to go check out the vehicles, so they arrived early the day of the auction to scope everything out, and selected five or so to bid on. As it turned out, all the cars they liked came up towards the beginning, and the prices seemed a little higher than they wanted to spend. At last, the final car they were interested in came up, and they were the successful bidders. Upon going over to the office to complete the paperwork and pay the fees, they learned this particular car, costing about $200, came with it some $120 of fines and tickets that also had to be paid off before they could take title. They were to find out this was the least of their problems.

I was at work (this was prior to writing) and was expecting a call around noon with the news. When I still hadn’t heard anything, I left a message for my husband around 2 PM again without a returned call. I made several other calls to his cell without an answer. I figured out about the fourth or fifth call that he was trying to figure out a story I was going to be told.

Around midnight, a taxi delivered my husband and my son home, which was the best decision they made all day. I’m still learning details of their car buying caper, and it’s been several years. I doubt I will get the whole story anytime soon. Men are like that. When their projects go haywire, they carefully bury it, thinking no one will remember to ask them about it later. Like sticking your head in the sand, butt fully exposed, thinking you’re hiding.

So, near as I can get to the IMG_0934truth, here is what happened. After paying all the fees, they went to drive the car home, my son following my husband. The auction yard is about 45 minutes south of where we live. They stopped to pick up gas and some waters, and that’s when they discovered the car had no reverse. And the heater was stuck on “on”. They manually backed the car up and went back to the auction and I guess were greeted with smiles and nods of the head, and looks like, “You honestly think we care?” The car, they were told, belonged to my son, and that was that. No exceptions. No refunds. Have a nice day.

They drove it home to Santa Rosa and decided to get some things for dinner. This wouldn’t be the celebratory dinner they’d hoped (I’d hoped), but along the way they found another car for sale by owner at the supermarket. The owner came and after a test drive, they decided to buy it. They even threw in the old car purchased at the auction yard, since the person selling the vehicle was raising money for a church. The lack of reverse was thoroughly disclosed, and, although the church group didn’t really want the car, they didn’t decline it. My husband left the keys in the vehicle in the Safeway parking lot for the group to pick up the vehicle later on that night.

Of course, the story continued. On the way home, the new car overheated and something terrible happened. I believe the term is called a cracked engine block. It involved a lot of smoke. It would turn out to be a repair cost far in excess of the value of the vehicle.

I believe it was at this time, nearing the dinner hour, they wanted to rid themselves of the reality of now two bad decisions, so my husband drove them to a nearby brewpub to perhaps lick their wounds, leaving the smoking second vehicle at the side of the road. A few beers later, neither one of them could or should drive. A few friends came down to add their condolences to the $200 car that had now cost close to $1000 and became two, and neither one of them was worth the original $200 estimate.

Meanwhile, I continued to wait. Around midnight they returned home. My son wanted to go straight to bed. My husband was left with telling me the story. I think I was in shock.  And yes, his car was safely down at the brew pub and could be retrieved the next day.

The next morning, we drove by the Safeway parking lot to discover the first vehicle had indeed been picked up. We called the wrecking yard to pick up the second car and thought we’d done our duty. My husband’s vehicle was successfully retrieved. All was well.

Until the police showed up at our door about ten days later. Seems someone else wanted the first vehicle we’d left in the parking lot, stole it, used it in an armed robbery, and, not being able to quickly exit the bank parking lot due to its lack of reverse, hit several parked vehicles before abandoning it and running away on foot. No, we didn’t know anything about that, and the police didn’t smile much. I’m guessing they did in private.

Did my son ever get a car? Yes, some time later. Did we get in trouble for the “abandoned” car? No. Neither did the church group, thank goodness. But boy what a story to tell the grandkids. Part of the fabric that is our colorful family. Maybe it will wind up in a romance novel some day.

I’ll bet you have some stories like this one from your family. I’d love to hear them!

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