Wednesday, October 3, 2012

Buyer's Remorse

Can you spot the fatal flaw that made this a bad buy?
Mr. Carlin, a good buy in philosophy.
If you are living on limited resources, a bad buy hurts a lot more than one made when you're in a comfortable state.  The unfortunate fact is that the first condition probably describes your younger years when you are short on the experience and knowledge to appraise a decision wisely before making it.  I can think of two times when I really screwed the pooch in this area. 
In June of 1967 I decided that a VCU degree would be worth about what I was paying for it (not much), so I enrolled in the summer session at the University of Richmond to get a leg up on credits, knowing that paying for the full semester in the fall would strain my self-financed educational budget (i.e., 80% of income) to the limit.

Within a few weeks, I saw that what I thought I wouldn't like about UofR was looking to be all too true.  I had my motorcycle for transportation, an expense I couldn't really handle, but it was a long way from my Fan lodgings and there did not seem to be anything available in the nearby tony area.  I thereby learned that the parking situation mirrored American social structure neatly:  everyone but fraternity and upperclassmen dorm residents was relegated to a pine grove, far from any classes and a mess to navigate in bad weather.  I had a nasty accident due to wet pine needles, loose gravel and one of those big pine trees.  After repairs, I parked nearer classes in safe places and instantly got tickets galore.  And phys. ed. was a requirement (mandantory Baptist chapel had just ended, though), which was a waste of my already scarce time and money.  And I had thought the indifferent student part-timers one had to deal with during registratrion at VCU were bad -- the old biddies in the office at UofR were like the love children of Rush Limbaugh and SNL's Church Lady!

I'd decided on a philosophy major, which wasn't available at VCU at the time.  The initial class was on the English trio of Hobbes, Hume and Berkeley.  It's been decades, but I still can't see why the study of these fossils had not been relegated to the senior level of courses, where you could have avoided them by picking another specialized area you had some interest in.  Even at the time, ignorant as I was, I wondered why we weren't starting where it all started, with the Greek atomists, Thales first and foremost.  I was paying for this with my $1.15 an hour gross income, not a scholarship fund or parents, and I felt then and now that I'd made a lousy buy. 
Broke after the fall and spring 1968 semesters, I sold the cycle and returned to VCU after negotiating a payment plan.  Spending more for presumably a better product got me exactly nowhere.

Needing a car that provided both economy and carrying capacity, in the late 70s I bought a 1969 Volkswagen 1600 Type 3 Variant, known as the Squareback.  It was priced reasonably, looked like it had been pretty well cared for and not been in an accident, and more than fit the requirements.  Plus, it was dark blue, not one of those usual yeccch VW colors.  That was all I had to go on; today we have the Internet and Consumer Reports, and with little effort, can look past the surface and identify what is actually a good buy.
Those listed under "Worst Used Cars" are off the prospects list immediately.  Bullet dodged.
What I did not know (like the silent snake in the grass, that's what gets you) before it was too late was that VW's new "Einspritzung," or Bosch fuel injection system, was nothing but problematic as the cars aged (otherwise, all I replaced were a belt and a few light bulbs).  At 90,000 miles, the FI system's race was run, and it left me stranded in bad neighborhoods and rain several times.  I hauled new, valuable audio and videotape equipment that wasn't my own for my job at the public school system, so the car sitting in a desolate areas made me pretty nervous -- with no cell phone or AAA to the rescue.  That said, I did love the Squareback otherwise.  So simple, just enough room for everything, and nice looking, too.  That unreliable fuel injection system may be why you never see such an excellent old car around anymore.  Well, that and rust.

So we either learn the essential lesson that being unprepared and uninformed is going to cost us, or we don't.

I'll let Consumer Reports and CarFax guide you expertly on major vehicle purchases, and in the area of philosophy, I'd recommend either Mr. Carlin (now on YouTube) or a young fellow by the name of Michael O. Church, whose blog is more than well worth digging in to.  Look up for brilliant essays on American social structure, the three phases of the U.S. national identity, or an argument for the survivial of the spirit.  For the price of your Internet connection, that is a very good buy. 

Oh, and Smartwool socks for winter.  Great buy.


1 comment:

  1. We all make decisions that we regret. Sometimes it is costly and sometimes it is timely, but the memories wear on.