So, this week I have been shopping for a car, after Hurricane Harvey ate my shiny, pretty Altima last fall.
Everyone always asks me if I got some of the government money doled out for victims of the storm. I didn’t. For one, it didn’t occur to me until much later that I could apply for assistance, so I was late to the game and much of the money had already been spent. My denial letter came with instructions on how to appeal the denial, but then I got into conversation after conversation with people who were ripping out sheetrock, shacking up with relatives, and lugging waterlogged boxes of all their earthly possessions out to the curb.
My little engine problems seemed petty, considering I waited the storm out comfortably and happily in my cozy little third story apartment. So, I took my losses from Mother Nature in stride. After all, it is not the United States government’s fault that I lost my car.
Now, I am finally able to buy another one, so I am car shopping. Car shopping for me is a bit different for me than for most people. Most people go to dealerships and talk to slick salespeople on commission, and then fork over a sizable down payment. Then tell their entire life story several times over on forms. At the end of it, they drive away in a shiny new purchase. They say this is the way car buying should be.
I’m a bit of a different breed. Car buying for me, involves what I call, “the sketchy dudes.” It’s some sort of sketchy character–of ANY race, mind you— that fixes up clunkers and sells them for about the same as a down payment. For some reason, I like things this way. Car buying for me–is quick and dirty.
It’s all done in some back parking lot somewhere, usually at night after work. Tires get kicked, the customer inspects the engine, while the car’s owner rambles about the stellar maintenance trying not to get defensive. Then the extra drivers wait around during a test drive, uncomfortably making small talk or hiding in their respective cars. Finally, money exchanges hands in an envelope and counted covertly in a backseat. And then everyone drives off, like nothing happened. To me, this is much easier. No banks. No computers. No FICO scores. No forms. Barely even a name exchange.
These guys are the same ones that when the mechanic gives you an $1100 estimate, they will fix it in their front yard for $200 (and a burger and fries).
I’ve been thinking today about the economic importance of the “sketchy dudes.” These guys are useful in the world. As long as you don’t look into their personal lives, they provide cheap cars and cheap maintenance. This is an important place in the economy. And for this, I applaud the efforts of the sketchy dudes. You are important and long may you live.