Tuesday, December 28, 2004

Car Shopping and Other Neurosis

This morning I woke straight up at 3 am. Ok, the dogs had to go out too, but I had that "HOLY CRAP" car payment fear.

I have to buy a new car. The evil Jetta was totalled in an accident (can't talk about that yet), so I have to get a new car.

First it started out with, ok, I'll get a reliable used car so the payments aren't bad. I went to look at a 2002 Toyota RAV4. I want a RAV4, mainly because I've always wanted a jeep, but in Maryland it snows, and gets cold, and frankly the little plastic jeepy covers just don't maintain heat well enough for me. Plus there's always that roll over thing, where the little plastic jeepy cover does really nothing to keep you from flinging out.

Before the accident I had toyed with getting a Cooper Mini, which are adorable, but after the accident, I'd prefer something a bit more tank-like.

After doing the Consumer Reports research, e-pinions research, and generally looking around, the RAV4 is both reliable, affordable, and damn cute, plus it has 4 wheel drive, which in Maryland... it snows.

So I did a Carmax search and found the 2002 RAV4 and decided to give it a try. Went to the dealership, dragging my mom along and sat in it. It's... used. You could tell it was used. While the dealer went to copy my drivers license for a test drive, hubby noticed that one of the back seats wasn't locked in. He fiddled with it. The dealer fiddled with it. Finally, after about 15 minutes of fiddling, I felt that was definitely a sign that this RAV4 was destined to become Satan III, and ran away screaming.

It was at thought point that I went from "I'll buy a cheap used car that will get me to and from work", to "Hey! 2005 RAV4s aren't that expensive, the payments would only be $100 more than a used one!"

Found a cool blue one with cloth seats (I hate leather seats), with all the bells and whistles that I want. Stil within my pre-approved loan amount with the insurance settlement check. Now I'm looking at not only another car payment, but a larger one.

So, I woke up this morning thinking "should I buy a cheaper car?" We could use the extra money to pay off bills, and save money. HAHAHAHAAAA! Who am I fooling? We'd only spend that "extra" money on more toys and junk. At that point I realized that debt is what life is all about. We'll never be out of debt, it'll just keep piling on and on and on. I have a friend who sold their house for a zillion bucks, paid off their debt, moved to Florida and just got a home equity loan to fix up their new house the way they want. They went from debt, to debt free, to debt again. It never ends.

So, if we're going to be in debt, and continue to be the gerbils in the wheels working to pay off that debt... I might as well be in debt and drive around in a kick ass blue 2005 RAV4 with really cool cup holders that actually hold a Starbucks Venti cup.

Saturday, December 25, 2004

Where's My Mother?

Since my dad died three years ago, my mom has been travelling by train out to Maryland to stay with us for Christmas. She loves the train, even though a plane would get her here in 2 hours, and if she wants to sit in a train for over 16 hours, then whatever.

The first year she arrived at Washington Union Station. We shlepped to a MARC train on Christmas Eve (it snowed that year), rode the MARC to Union and drug her back up to Maryland with us.

The second year she arrived at Baltimore Penn Station, so we shlepped up there and got her.

This year we said "why don't you just hop a train from Union Station and go to the Amtrak station at BWI which is 5 miles down the road from us", so that's what she did... well, sorta.

First of all, the weather sucked in the Midwest, so her train was 4 hours late arriving at her station. I kept watch on the internet for her progress, and determined that she wasn't going to get to BWI by 2:30pm, but would probably make it around 5:30pm.

At 5pm, we ventured off to get a festive Christmas Eve latte and Starbucks, then mosied over to the Amtrak station. It's a very small station, hard to miss anyone. We get there as her train rolls in. People get off, people get on, train leaves, no mother. I call our home answering machine, and there's a message from her saying she had arrived. At least that's what I think she said because even with her teeth in, she's still hard to understand. I think she says "I'm in Baltimore... BWI". Great, for some reason she's ended up at the airport, so off we go to the airport.

Ever try finding someone at an airport on Christmas Eve? Impossible. We call my sister back in Indiana and ask if she's called there, as we seem to have misplaced her. No call there. By this time I'm ranting about the fact that I've given her my cell phone number 800 zillion times, and yet she calls the house. We give up at the airport, and head back to the train station for one more look (what if she was in the bathroom when we were there), searched the bathroom, no mother.

As we head home, I check the home messages again, this time a message (slightly frantic) saying she was in Baltimore. Ok... there are only a zillion train stops in Baltimore, and mom has a tendency to call everything Baltimore. She could have been in Richmond, VA and call it Baltimore.

We go home, feed the dogs, wait for another call to pin down exactly WHERE in Baltimore she was. No call, nobody answers the station phone, nobody answers the payphone where she called from. By now I'm picturing her locked out of the train station being accosted by crack ho's. We change the answering machine to say call my sister, we're coming to get you, and off we go to Penn Station, on Christmas eve, at 7:30pm.

Drunk drivers all OVER the place, weaving around the major highways. What fun, ho, ho, ho. Of course, even with the nav system, we make a wrong turn, end up who knows where, and eventually reach Penn Station to find my mother, sitting like a lost waif eating a cookie. She proceeds to tell us about her trip... in the train station... um, hello, wanna get out of the train station?

Apparently when their train got to Union Station, they herded everyone onto another train without asking anyone where they were heading. She almost got sent to Boston (and hey, yes she's my mother, but I would have to leave her there), but some people raised a stink and they threw them out at Penn Station (merry christmas). She said she tried calling my cell phone... except she was about 5 digits off on the actual number. Who knows what phone was ringing, or where.

So, she's here. The dogs have sufficiently mauled her in welcome, and it's the start of a wonderful christmas time for us.