Tuesday, May 22, 2007

Another car lesson

Jacob's hoopdie finally cashed its chips a week ago, and he needs to get to school and work - but not in style, while the insurance is in my budget. So we looked for a suitable car and found a 1976 Honda Civic wagon. It's a pleasure to see simplicity under the hood, even a carburetor! And it even has a manual choke, and aged as I am, I have never owned a car before with a manual choke.

The guy put new seats in it. I guess that if you want nice seats for a 1976 Honda you don't get a wide choice of colors anymore. These are BRIGHT yellow and subdued royal blue. As the seller explained, he had to paint the car to match. So it's a BRIGHT yellow car, which Jacob likes because the cops laugh when they see it instead of pulling him over.

But when I went to DMV, I found that the seller had said wrong that it didn't need smog. 1975 is the last year you don't need it smogged. And he had a bad check on the last registration - that would be $469 - which DMV had a mind to collect at this strategic moment. It certainly looked like I got ripped off.

However, one fact out of place was that the seller had happily accepted a check for the car, and people who are cheating you commonly don't do that! With used cars between private parties, in God we trust but all others pay cash, as the saying is. So I called the guy with the bad news and he did seem genuinely astonished at both items. We agreed to meet after his work to get the car smogged and the bad check squared away.

He had never deposited my check, because the bank said they were going to put a hold on it, so he returned it to me, I put it in my pocket, and we drove to the smog shop. The car flunked of course, so off they went elsewhere, performed some magic which did indeed make it run better and stop backfiring, and they returned with a real live smog certificate. We went to my bank and I gave him green money less the bad check, and I got the good reg from DMV. And they were nearly empty this morning, so I was in and out of there in less than 10 minutes.

So everything turned out fine. The seller had thought it didn't need smog because he misunderstood what the smog tech told him last time when he told him it was the last year, going backwards, that needed smog. He had given the money to his brother to pay DMV, who kept the money and wrote the bouncing check, without of course revealing what he had done.

Moreover, they managed to push it through smog without changing the distributor cap, which was bad, and the car was acting like that was a problem. I didn't like the rotor either, so for ten bucks I replaced them both, so I have cause to think the rest of the engine isn't too bad, though I do plan to look at the plugs.

In conversation as we waited at the smog shop, the seller talked about how he had become a Christian just threee years before and that he had been "a real bad guy." I saw that I had had a narrow escape from doing grave injustice to this delicate person, and a lot of damage, by assuming that things meant what they didn't mean although they looked that way. I would have, too, if the love of money, pride, and such like had had as much of a hold on me as they used to. It's still bad enough, but praise be to God, I seem not to be as insane as I used to be. Life is better if we walk in the Lord's counsel and not in what our ears hear and our eyes see (Isaiah 42).

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