Saturday, December 26, 2009

A Grand Gamble

Saturday December 26th, 2009 - Waukegan, IL

In order to think big, I have to work my way up. How about I just start to THINK period and see where that goes? I can be pretty impulsive at times and then I have to go back and try to fix what seemed like such a good idea at the time I did it. My humongous mountain of sports cards is a stellar example. It sure was fun to buy it, but now it’s a gigantic pain.

I’ll deal with it in due time, but it’s not a crisis. I did think about it when I bought them, and I tried to imagine every angle and consequence that could happen if I did. The worst case scenario ended up happening, but I’m surely no stranger to that. It is what it is, and I knew it was a possibility when I did it. I didn’t think it would actually happen, but it did.

I rolled the dice, what came up came up, and I’ll learn from it and move on. I may lose a little money or even a lot. Maybe I’ll even make a little. The top mistake was not figuring in the extra time it would take to sort through all of them, and also that sports card shows are drying up all over the country. Ebay is the way it’s evolving but that’s not my plan.

At this point I am going to sort it and package it the best I can and try to find a buyer for ALL of it. I’ll see what I can get, and if I can come close to breaking even I’ll do it in half a split second of a jiffy. It’s cardboard. I want to aspire to higher things in life than that.

My most pressing need today was to acquire reliable transportation for the least amount of money as humanly possible. Being without a working car is torture for me. I need it for gigs, but it’s more than that. A car is freedom to me, and always has been. If I want to get in and drive to Guatemala or Oshkosh or Nova Scotia, I want to be able to do it anytime.

Jerry Agar was off this weekend and there were no Kidders so he came over and picked me up in his 1984 Buick Skylark his aunt from Canada gave him for his son Tanner. Jerry has been driving it too, and it runs pretty well. I teased him because he’s driving a car that even predates most of mine, but I didn’t tease too hard because he was doing me a favor.

He took me to the Waukegan Auto Auction so I could hopefully score a new old car and start my life over. Of course it was snowing like a Christmas movie, but too bad. I needed a car, and today was the day I needed it. Again, it was the worst case scenario but I wasn’t upset at all. In fact, I kind of liked the challenge. I’d done my homework and was all set.

They put the auction list of vehicles on a website at so it’s possible to at least check out the selection that particular week. They do accept bids online but I wouldn’t recommend doing it. I think it’s smart to look at the cars in person and get a feel for what’s available. I know it sounds goofy, but cars have personalities.

I totally believe that. There is an energy that comes from sitting in a car, and I can feel it after all these times I’ve bought at the auction. I’ve had good feelings about cars and been dead on every time. The danger comes when I try to force it. A few times I needed to pick up a runner and I took a chance on something I hadn’t sat in or looked at and got burned.

I wasn’t about to let that happen today. I knew I needed a car and looked over the list of what was available. Once in a while they’ll throw something in late that hasn’t been listed and I’ve ended up scoring a couple of nice deals on those. I had it in my mind I would not just bid on any tin can because it was cheap. I wanted to be smart and score a sweet deal.

This was actually a good week to buy a car. Attendance was about as low as I think I’ve ever seen it at the auction and I’m sure that was because of both the holidays and the bad weather. I figured I had an extra good chance to find a cherry so I set out to hunt it down.

There is a period before the auction when the cars can be started up and looked over for damage, but not driven. They don’t even allow anyone to pop the transmissions in gear so there is risk involved. I’ve gotten pretty decent over the years at picking though. It’s hard not to smarten up when one gets burned as many times as I have. Those scars go DEEP.

Today’s auction was 120 vehicles, and I had six I was interested in, and another three or four that I had mild interest if the price was right. The two main ones I liked were Toyotas but one was a 2000 Corolla and the other was a 1993 Camry. I sat in both cars and started each one up and looked under the hood for warning signals of abuse. I also checked them for heaters, very important this time of year. I also check lights, signals, radio and doors.

One thing I’ve learned is it’s NOT a bargain if the radio doesn’t work or the driver door doesn’t open or some other annoying defect that makes life miserable. Dents are fine, but they don’t affect how the car runs. Neither does the radio, but I listen to a lot of different kinds of audio so at this point stereo is a required part of any car I might buy. I need one.

The first few cars went extremely cheap and I thought I might have a shot at getting one of my two top prospects. The first car of the day was a ‘97 Buick with 107,000 miles on it that ended up selling for $150. Even with the auction fee of $200 and $55 for paper work it would be a running car out the door for about $400. I’ve jumped on those in the past.

Most times it ends up a bad deal. It sounds good at the time, but then something pukes that costs big money like a transmission and it becomes a lost cause. This one had rust on it but the inside was very clean. Still, it looked like an old man’s car so I passed on it. I’ve had enough of those rot rods in my life and I just didn’t feel like settling for another one.

Sure enough, the ’93 Camry came up and didn’t attract many bids. I’d set a $1000 limit in my head, and that’s as high as I was going to go. It hit $1050 and then $1100 and I put my bidding card away. No hard feelings, I had my budget for what I thought would be an affordable deal. Then, the lady who bid $1100 pulled it back because she misunderstood.

The guy that bid the $1050 didn’t want it either, so it came to me. The auctioneer said he’d sell it to me for my highest bid of $1000 if I’d take it, and I said I would. I made the deal and juiced up the last of my available credit and drove Jerry to buy him breakfast. It seems like it had care. The interior is clean, no rips in the seats or cracks in the windows. The brakes are solid and the tires are new. For $1000, I think I scored a deal. We’ll see.

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