Yesterday I was talking about “just in case” scenarios and how we spend so much of our time and energy (and money) preparing for the worst.
Then I remembered another one.
A couple of weeks ago, Art and I bought a car. We had done our “due diligence”, reading up on the various models in Consumer Reports, and we had settled on a car that got good marks all around, but especially in the category of reliability. Reliability was of particular interest to us, since our last car had been such a lemon. (Don’t ask – Suffice it to say that our last car was a luxury import from a country famous for its oom-pah-pah and strudel). This time around we went for a family sedan from a country famous for its sushi and Kabuki dancers.
In any event. In retrospect, I think they have something of a “good cop-bad cop” game going on at the dealership. The people who sold us the car were very sweet, very affable, and very friendly.
After we had negotiated our best deal, especially paying attention to the well-advertised low interest financing, we were feeling pretty good. The car was being spiffed up and prepared for us to take it home. Then they brought in the “finance person”. This was a woman who was very buttoned up, very straight-faced, and who was having no nonsense from us.
She started by offering us the famous “extended warranty”. Yes, for about an extra thousand dollars, we could have a warranty that goes beyond the standard three-year warranty. I was confused. Here, this woman’s colleagues had just finished assuring us that the car we had selected was the sturdiest, most reliable we could have chosen. We were congratulated on our good taste and our shrewd ability to discern between the wheat and the chaff, so to speak. But this martinet warned us in hushed tones that our chosen car (although it’s a good car, of course) does have a history of problems after the three-year warranty has run out. I wondered, “Which is true”? Thankfully, my husband is much more decisive than I am. He cut her off at the knees: “That ain’t happening!” he barked.
She then moved on to the special warranty pertaining to the paint. “The paint?” I repeated to myself. “What’s wrong with the paint?” I queried. Well, nothing, but after years of washing, normal wear-and-tear, and sun damage. . . “Nope”, quoth my husband, “Nevermore”. (We had to sign an affidavit stating that she had warned us about the paint, and we had foolishly rejected her generous offer).
She did manage to talk us into keeping the existing alarm system, which is an anti-theft device. Art had to go out to check on something, and while she and I were alone in the room, she told me that, even though she has the alarm system (which she said is a “deterrent”) and the Lo-Jack system (which nabs the crooks in the act), her own car (an exact replica of our car) had been stolen three times in the last year. She explained that the unassuming, low-profile car we had chosen was actually the second most stolen car in the country. When Art came back I tugged on h is sleeve and said, “Maybe we should get the alarm system, honey”. He grumbled and negotiated the price a little, but he acquiesced.
Finally, we left the showroom with our brand new car (streaming little dollar bills as the car’s value depreciated). We discussed the scene in the office of the “finance person”. Art told me that the reason he was so opposed to any of those extra protection warranties was that all of them were based on fear. He was right, of course. All of the “what if?” scenarios are based on our deepest fears.
If you watch enough TV news, read enough newspapers, peruse enough magazines, or indulge in enough cops-and-robbers movies, you can become convinced that the world is a pretty dangerous place, full of hidden pitfalls and malevolent forces. Call me naïve, but the sun is shining this morning, and I just refuse to believe it. To quote Franklin Delano Roosevelt, “The only thing we have to fear is fear itself”.
© 2005, Robin Munson