Buying my first new car

I don’t know what it is about this time of year, but I seem to have a penchant for buying expensive things. Last year, I bought a house. This year, I bought my first new car.

For those of you now saying: “He bought a Mini”, you would be correct. There are a few of you out there who said I should have bought the Cooper S (the sport version). A little too expensive for me right now — maybe in a couple of years, I’ll trade in the one I have. A few of you might frown on my little green bag. Of my favourite deterrents, one even called it a “girl car”. Personally, I always thought that was a VW Cabriolet. Call it what you will, this is the only street legal go-kart I know of.

Not even a week ago, I was in the general vicinity of the Mini dealership, and thought I’d drop in to have a chat with Michael, the Mini salesperson who had been fielding my seemingly endless questions. Unfortunately, he wasn’t in that night. Another salesperson, also named Michael, chatted me up. We talked about the Mini, and a little about the one I wanted. Michael — the one I had been talking with before — had indicated there were a few on-site that might match my needs. Michael — the one I was talking to at the time — had some additional ideals.

My criteria were pretty simple: I wanted a cool, distinctive car that had no practical purpose. Yeah, I know, “mid-life crisis”. Frankly, if I’m having a mid-life crisis now, I need help. A lot of it. I think the reality is that I’m, well, boring. Yes, I’ll admit it. Dull. Blah. Without any sense of edge. Predictable, even. (Don’t believe me, check out the comments a few people wrote about me in a survey I sent out a couple years back.)

When Stuart had first shown me a picture of the new Mini a couple years ago, I about freaked. It was perhaps the coolest thing on four wheels I had ever seen. For the last couple of years, I’ve been following the launch of the Mini worldwide, and especially in Canada. For a while, I’ve lamented living in Calgary — we were one of the last major cities in Canada to get a Mini dealership. (Saskatoon got one before us. Yes, Saskatoon.) Anyway, about as soon as one opened here, I started looking.

At Christmas, Critical Mass gave me a bonus (why, I’m not really sure — I’m not sure if I really earned it). While I’m not at liberty to say how much, it was enough to make me seriously give thought to buying a new car. I guess I need not elaborate on what direction this took me.

Anyway, back to the second Michael. He showed me a model he had sitting in the showroom. It was a demo unit purchased by Mini Canada (Corporate Office) for one of their executives. When they were done with it, the Calgary office purchased it for resale. At a discount. And so began what ended up being a three-day bargaining session. Mini would come to me with a price, and I would turn it around, looking for incentive. It wasn’t easy — unlike other dealerships, Mini has the luxury of waiting for the next person to snap up a waiting vehicle. As it stands, I was the first of about five people interesting in purchasing that car.

It’s British Racing green. (Dark green, for those of you unfamiliar with the colour.) White roof and mirrors. White alloy wheels. Beige leather interior. And really, really, really comfy. So what was the catch?

Manual transmission.

The interesting part is that I actually went out looking for manual. Why? Two reasons. One, it’s more fuel-efficient than the automatic (a general rule). In fact, the manual transmission Mini Cooper is one of the EPA’s Top 10 most fuel efficient cars. Secondly, it’s because I didn’t really want to get the automatic. It’s a CVT – Continuously Variable Transmission. Basically, no gears. While an uber-cool idea, I was a little paranoid of what would happen if it broke — how much would it cost to fix? Manuals are less expensive.

Problem: I’d only ever driven manual once before. I know the principle. It’s just the practice. Which I need.

Now I have one other problem: Where to park it. I can’t leave the car parked on the road (the city doesn’t really like that). Naturally, I should park it in my garage. That’s what I tried to figure out on Saturday — clean it out, and prepare it for a car. But very early on, I realized I was going to have a major problem: The garage door.

One of the previous owners (I’m not sure which) decided to sabotage the garage door and remove all the gizmos that let you open and close the door. The door itself is nailed in place. Opening and closing it at present requires two people and a hammer. Not exactly convenient. Closer inspection made me believe that I wasn’t going to solve my problem with a screwdriver and a mallet. No, I needed a new door.

Off to Revy, where after a few minutes, I happened upon a gentleman by the name of Gerald, who got me the details. Luckily, I have a standard-sized door for my somewhat unstandard garage. It wasn’t exactly cheap to purchase the door, but I opted also for installation and removal of the old door. I’ve learned from many people that you simple do not try to install a garage door unless you know what you’re doing. And aside from the fact that it would take two cars to carry something as large as a garage door, I have no idea what to do with it anyway.

Returning door-less (it comes some time this week), I proceeded to clean out the garage. I succeeded only with the returnable recyclables (we get money back for the containers for which we pay deposits). That pretty much left me incapable of walking, mostly as a result of my first week at the gym. I finished the following day, though not without injury — I now have a terribly sore throat.

I hate being sick.

Tonight, I signed away what little life I have left after the house, and picked up my new car. This was a good thing, since I was barely able to concentrate on sqwat all day. It took about an hour and a half, including all the financial work, and the walkaround. Yes, a walkaround. You don’t just drive away from a BMW dealership — you get the full meal deal. Which is good, because there were a few little things that I wouldn’t have known otherwise.

I picked up Tamara from home, and we went for a drive. First, to the office to pick up proof of earnings, which I had mistakenly forgot at the office. After faxing that in, we went in search of a Shopper’s Drug Mart. I needed throat lozenges, very badly. Then it was to Dairy Queen for a quick celebration, and back to the house. As I sit here typing, I can hear the car calling to me.

“Drive me!” it coos.

But I need to go to bed — I have to be up early to go to the gym. I must resist its lures. All I can do it wait with baited breath for the weekend, when I can drive free of the city … and practice my hill starts without backing into anyone. Maybe I’ll get Therese and Stuart to teach me.

This time next year, I’ll have to refrain from anything too expensive. Right now, I’m thinking of a Snickers bar.

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