I’d already checked out the van last weekend, when Lowell and I went to look at it. Lowell is the formerly homeless mechanic who lives in the loft he built in our toolshed. Though he’s lived there for several years, I don’t know much about him, except that he once lived out west and restored old cars. He’d given me the “all clear” on the van, and now I was on my way to hand over the money.
I’ve never been big on shopping for cars. I hate salespeople, and to be honest I kind of hate cars. Not in a “Pollution kills whales!” kind of way, but more in a “Why the fuck do they put so much useless shit in these things?” kind of way. Fortunately, this one is pretty clean. Hard to believe that a vehicle made is 2002 doesn’t have power everything, but this Dodge Caravan doesn’t even have air conditioning. In fact, it has a cassette deck and old-school window cranks. You could still get music on cassettes in 2002? I don’t need all that crap anyway, just more stuff to go wrong. The cruise control is kind of cool though; never had that before.
So to get the title notarized, we have to go to a salvage yard where a notary public works. While we’re there, we discuss firewood and the army field jacket I’m wearing, while I gaze a wall of newspaper headlines memorializing various UNC championships. I was hoping to get most of the paperwork done in time to get back to Greensboro so a friend of mine could take me back to pick up the van. I still have a ways to go, though. Once the title is done, I have to get my insurance company to fax proof of insurance to the garage where I’m buying the van. Then it’s off to the dreaded NC license office, AKA the “Temple of Doom.”
So far the snow has held off, but the Volvo gives me a near-heart attack when it stalls at an intersection. Fortunately, it fires back up, and a quick check under the hood reveals no obvious flames or other issues. It occurs to me at this time that I’m lucky to be on my own in this epic quest. I can’t imagine running around like this if I had a kid or two to drag behind me, as some people are probably doing today, what with school letting out early. Single parents, my hat is off to you.
I get to the tag office and the usual half-million people standing in line. It goes quicker than I expected, though, and I have to feel sorry for the guy at the window next to me. He’d bought a car from a fellow who shipped off to Afghanistan before they could change the title over, and the best suggestion the clerk has is to see if anyone in the soldier’s family has power of attorney and can finish the transaction, otherwise he’s out of luck. All the little disruptions you never think about in a nation at war.
I make it to the window and I have that sudden fear I always have in these situations, that they’ll find something wrong with the paperwork and I’ll have to go back to the beginning and start all over. Maybe it’s my Jedi mind trick (“There is nothing wrong with this title”), but there are no snags. I’ve got my tag and I’m on my way to Greensboro to catch my ride to get the van.
“Someone told me about an article they read that said poverty makes you stupid,” says Kathy as she takes me back to the garage. I disagree; you have to be a lot smarter to be poor than you do to be well-off, or rather, well-off people only have to be good at one thing, whatever it is makes them money. If this had been Bill Gates’ day, he would have simply had the car towed and gone to work, or more to the point, he would have had a better car (or several better cars) in the first place. Poor people aren’t stupid, their mental energy is just directed into the millions of little survival decisions they have to make each day. Compared to that, Homer’s Cyclops was a piece of cake.