Wednesday, February 07, 2007

The Black Beast



I just loved this car. And now it's gone. Thanks to a nice young Indian gent here at the University of Texas to study Electrical Engineering. He and I (and his two friends) spent a LOT of time together over the past 3 days as we maneuvered around the difficult business of selling a car. During various test drives and various mechanics and waiting for the ultimate title transfer, I learned about his life here in Austin and in his home of Bombay. Here, he's in a 2-bedroom apartment that he shares with 5 (!) other Indian students. There's not really a problem for him since in Bombay his home was small and he shared it with brothers and sisters and cousins and so is used to being in close quarters. But he prefers motorcycles to cars because he likes the open air. And is depressed by the suburbs he's seen in Dallas, where no one ever seems to go outside their homes. And he can't yet tell his way around Austin, because every street seems to look alike.

The competition at the primary university in Bombay is fierce, simply because there are so many talented people vying for the same positions. That said, some of the programs, like in Electrical Engineering, in the US are known for being the best in the world, which is why Indian students want to come here. While the buyer of my car is still in school for a couple of more years, one of his friends has a job lined up in Dallas; the other in Mississippi. After working in America for several years, they all plan on eventually going back to India, although they're tempted by the higher standard of living in the US.

S. was also a hard, but fair, bargainer. I'd done my research before selling the car---looking up the rates on the Blue Book and NADA, as he'd also done. I'd listed the car for $3750, and he bargained me down to $3400, after the mechanic examined the car and noted the belts and two tires that needed replacing. When we went to the state office to officially transfer the car title, the woman looked up the state-determined value of the car for tax purposes: $3480. Perfect.

I was proud of myself, because I'd never actually sold a car of mine before to an individual. (Which is much more involved than selling back to a dealer, for instance. The dealer will take care of all of the taxes and paperwork, but will also give you a lot less for the car. Also, in the past, for another car or two, my mother had done all the work for me. It felt good to do "grownup" stuff by myself.)

One funny thing: I had 4 bumperstickers on the car: the Joan Crawford "JC" oval; the anti-Bush "W" with a slash over it; a "Hedwig and the Angry Inch" sticker; and "Keep Austin Weird." Before I'd tried to sell the car I'd gone to an auto parts store to see if they had anything for removing stickers. Oddly, they did not. During the whole selling process, there was no mention of the stickers. After I'd received the money, I asked S. if the stickers bothered him and if he was going to try to remove them. He hadn't given them much of a thought, other than that he and his friends had been trying to figure out what the "anti-W" sticker meant---they had figured out amongst themselves, "anti-WAR." I was kind of bemused---those stickers had always been so personal to me. And if I had bought another person's car with his/her stickers on it, the first thing I would have done would have been to take them off!

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