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Charlie Hatton
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Howdy, friendly reading person!
I'm on a bit of a hiatus right now, but only to work on other projects -- one incredibly exciting example being the newly-released kids' science book series Things That Make You Go Yuck!
If you're a science and/or silliness fan, give it a gander! See you soon!

Nearly Nickeled, Undoubtedly Dimed

The missus decided recently to change jobs. On the whole, this is a good thing. She’ll have more interesting work, likely shorter hours, and the positive effect on her sanity — and, by extension, mine — is expected to be tremendous.

The only checkmark against this new position is the location. Since I changed jobs myself in January, we’ve been working practically shoulder-to-shoulder.

(Of course, that would never work. She’s six inches shorter than I am. At best, we’d work shoulder to eyebrow, or something. Or shoulder to tricep, from her point of view. Anything above ankle-to-ankle, and you’ve got to do some conversion. Or put her in really tall heels.)

The point is, our workplaces have been within a couple of blocks of each other. For eight months, we often carpooled home — and occasionally to work, as well.

“Before eight AM, she’s on her own. If I tried driving at that hour, I’d wrap the car around the first building that didn’t run screaming out of the way.”

(On days when she didn’t leap out of bed at the asscrack of four and catch the first subway of the morning, that is. Before eight AM, she’s on her own. If I tried driving at that hour, I’d wrap the car around the first building that didn’t run screaming out of the way.)

Starting next week, however, that’s all changing. My commute remains a four-milish northerly meander through the campii of Boston University and MIT, as usual. But she’ll be running a 30-mile gauntlet due west, out to the wild open suburbs where the Turnpike roams.

I can’t exactly swing by her building to pick her up on my way home any more. Not without a rocket booster and some sort of pilot’s license, anyway. And so, for the very first time ever, we’ve become a two-car family.

This is sort of a big deal for us. The last time we each had a car was when we met in college, back in Neatherthal times, approximately. I was majoring in ‘Fire Discovery’, while she was pre-med. Which at the time meant that she carried around a big bottle of ether and stuck leeches on people when they sneezed.

Apart from being a second concurrent car, this is also — if memory serves — the first car we’ve ever purchased voluntarily. We started with hand-me-down-mobiles from our parents — a Chevy Cavalier, then a maroon Buick Regal. An errant cabbie totaled the Buick, so we bought a used Nissan Maxima. I named her Silver Betty.

A few years later, an errant SUV pulled out in front of me, and Betty whumped into it rather violently, crumpling her into a weeping heap of unfunctioning ex-auto. Also, I think it dented the SUV’s door. Poor baby.

So we bought another Maxima, used but newer, and that’s what we’ve been tooling around in for the past three years, give or take a bus ride. But now, for the first time ever, we decided in advance to buy a car, even without a steaming pile of metal in our driveway. And it’s for the longest commute either of us has ever had to make. So clearly, we wanted something with muscle. Something sleek. Something sexy. A powerhouse of a car to speed my wife to and from work in luxury, style and on top of legions of snorting horsepower.

Yeah. We bought a Prius.

I don’t know where the plan went awry, exactly. I suspect it had something to do with my wife saying she didn’t want to be stopping for gas four times a week. Also, we’re pretty big fans of trees. I’ve never actually hugged one — not sober, at least — but if she can make her rat race in a vehicle that makes the planet a little less worse off in the meantime, then great. Prius, it is. The snorting horses will just have to wait, I suppose.

Until I buy my next car. Aw, yeah.

The actual buying of the car went about the way you’d expect. We test drove a few hybrids, asked some questions, sat in a Camry for twelve seconds and jumped out feeling like our grandparents, then settled on the Prius. We had the good fortune to be tire-kicking in a “no-haggle” dealership, which meant that the price on the tag is the price we pay. No bargaining, no hassles, no prolonged sweat-soaked negotiations.

(I assume they roll the cost of all those theatrics into the tag price. If they can’t have their fun, it’s got to cost us a few hundred bucks on the back end, right? Very probably.)

We settled on a model and color, bit the bullet, and bought our Prius. But during the paperwork, there was still one teensy little trick up the dealer’s sleeve.

In the preliminary workup, the car cost exactly “gobs of cash and lots of dough and enough money to choke a yak, and twenty cents“. We became very familiar with that number, as we tried to wrap our brains around the enormity of currency they wanted for a vehicle that runs, so far as I know, on sunshine, a stiff wind, and a couple of AAA Duracells.

Then, in the final paperwork, the cost magically became “gobs of cash and lots of dough and enough money to choke a yak, and twenty-five cents”. We were, quite literally, nickeled by a car dealer.

I raised a fuss. “Oh, this is how they get you!” “My mother told me about you people!” “What’s next — we have to pay extra for the ejector seat? WHAT DO YOU MEAN, IT DOESN’T COME WITH AN EJECTOR SEAT!?!

My wife smacked me, of course. I may have gotten just a tad carried away. But hey, I’ve never been straight-up nickeled before. By a car salesman, no less. I thought the moment called for histrionics. We weren’t going to haggle, after all — I’ve got to get some fun out of this deal.

In the end, we settled the bill — and those bastards got their nickel, let me tell you — and now we have two cars. One of which is a Prius. And I’m spending all weekend going over the paperwork one last time.

Because I want to know where my dime went. You can bet your hybrid battery those car dealers got that, too.

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