Sunday, March 25, 2007

Scooter, Or How Not to Buy a Car

P., our driver, picked us up at 11:00 A.M. We were hungover. When we arrived at the car lot, it wasn’t open. P. spoke to a guy who seemed to work there and he told us we could call the owner and he would maybe come down and show us some cars. Thankfully P. placed the call for us as we were in no position to even understand what was going on, or rather, if asking the owner to come down was a conceivable thing to do. If it were just me, I would have said, darn, the place is closed, let’s go home (seeing that picking up a bacon, egg, and cheese on an everything bagel is not an option).

The guy on the phone told P. he would send someone down. The guard let us in and we sat in the shade with the guy who seemed to work there. We watched the goats.

The owner called P. again. P. reiterated that we were waiting. P. put the other guy who worked there on the phone and told him we could start looking around.

Going into it we were set on either a station wagon or a Rav 4. P. suggested that Toyotas were really the only way to go because parts were easy to get and they had good resale value. The lot only dealt with Japanese imports. We found a couple station wagon Corollas that looked good and a couple Rav 4s. Meanwhile, it’s about 110 degrees in the sun and we are baking. Just when we decide we can’t stand it anymore and start to head back to the shade, an Indian dude arrives to sell us a car. So we stay in the sun.

Turns out a couple of the cars we had our eye on were in the portion of the lot of sold cars. There was only one station wagon Corolla that was really an option for us and it was white and pretty banged up. J. was having trouble with the idea of owning a white car. The Rav 4s turned out to be way out of our price range and the guy was not budging on price. We’re taking laps around the lot, J. and I feel like we might pass out or die at any second, and I’m certain I’m going to be burned to crisp when everything is all said and done.

And then we passed the Suzuki Escudo. (Though until we left the lot and I asked J for clarification, I thought it was called a Suzuki Scooter, due to the various accents involved in the transaction, and I thought that was a pretty terrible name for a car.) Seeing the car was sort of like when I found my wedding dress: I knew it was right as soon as I laid eyes on it. P. stopped in front of it and said, what about this one? It was quite the turnaround after all the Toyotas. We pretty much would have bought anything P. recommended even if it was a mini Cooper, which could conceivably fall into one of the larger potholes here and not be able to get out.

To be honest, all the cars looked pretty banged up. They take off all the metal decals and hubcaps and the radio—basically anything removable—and then put everything back on once it’s sold. It’s a 1992 with only 47K kilometers and if I understood correctly it was recently imported from Japan, like two weeks ago. J managed to bargain the dude down 500,000 shillings, which is sadly a lot less than it sounds, but still a couple hundred bucks. J looked to me, I gave him the sign, and we told the dude we would take it.

Could we take it for a test drive? The dude laughed at us. Could we start the car up to see how it ran? The dude didn’t have the key. Could we at least sit in the car? The car was locked and again, he didn’t have the key.

We could be buying an absolute lemon, but isn’t it cute?

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