A few years ago the Captain and I were shopping for an automobile in Italy. We had bought an aged Peugeout 106 when we first immigrated, and had pretty well beaten it up. We were aching for something that seemed a little more stylish and had a lot more speed. The Captain has always driven a sports car; it’s one of his Rules. Being a tall person, I’ve never been in love with squat little two-seaters. I find them hard to get in and out of, and once in, it’s not always easy to see what’s going on outside your cozy little cockpit.
We looked at every dealer we could find in Chiavari; we looked at Fiats, we looked at Peugeouts, you name it, we looked at it. Finally we looked at the Nissan Micra and I lost my heart. This lovely car has the rounded shape I have always defined as ‘cute,’ perhaps even ‘darling,’ certainly ‘irresistable.’ In addition it had some nifty features – a front passenger seat that lifted up for sneaky hidden storage, a key that magically opened the door without having to be inserted in the lock. It was a dream. AND, the Captain was willing to compromise on the usual sports car because we sometimes have guests in Italy, and without an unsightly roof rack there is no way to transport either guests or their luggage in a two-seater.
When I say we ‘saw’ all these cars, I am really attacking the issue at its heart. We saw them; we did not drive them. We were not invited to drive them. The Peugeot dealer took us out for a spin, but he insisted on driving. This concept of look-but-don’t-test-drive was quite foreign to us. On the other hand, we could see the logic of it given the narrowness of the roads and the nuttiness of some of the people who are navigating them. Still, it left us feeling a bit as if we were buying a pig in a poke.
Nonetheless, a Micra it was to be. Only problem was, we wanted one right away as we had an actual guest arriving, and there was a road-trip planned, and the old Peugeot 106 was behaving erratically. The Chiavari dealer could not oblige. The Captain called a dealer he knew in Piemonte who said he could have one for us the next day and the deal was struck over the phone.
Ten minutes after he hung up the phone a friend called to inform us that after making us wait for acouple of years, he had decided that yes, he wanted to sell us hisMini Cooper S. Synchronicity at its worst!
My dream car went the way of all dreams, evaporating in the mist. The Piemonte dealer was gracious and understanding (who would want a Micra if he could have a Mini? that was his reasoning), and the road trip was made in the almost-new Mini. Getting the darn thing registered in Italy was an amazing and complicated feat, involving a trip to Monaco which had issued the plates (which weren’t really plates, but stickers)… but that’s a story for another day.
Also for another day is the comparison of our car-buying experience with the experience I shared with my friend M several weeks ago as she shopped for a new car in the U.S…. stay tuned.