Saturday, April 24, 2004

What Have We Done?

Okay, if anyone knows anything about '88 Volvo 240DL wagons, please speak up before Monday evening.

Evelin and I went to a townwide garage sale in University Park, Maryland, this morning and came back with a few things, including the aforementioned Volvo wagon. I guess anyone who doesn't know about the pregnancy (or who doesn't read this blog) will figure it out now; I mean, why else would we be buying an old Volvo wagon?

It started off innocently enough. Evelin passes through University Park each day on her way to work and noticed that they were having a townwide garage sale. We thought it'd be like her friend's church garage sale (where I found several great Slavic dictionaries): all in one place. Instead, the whole town set aside Saturday morning as a day for people to have yard sales. On some blocks it was every house; on others there were only one or two houses selling things.

We started off looking at baby things (which made me a bit uncomfortable: I tend to be superstitious, and I don't want us to get too far ahead of ourselves), and picked up a little playmat with arches for hanging toys and things from, a copy of Gregory, the Terrible Eater, and a seltzer bottle.

We then found a little dresser, the right height to work as a changing table. The person who lugged it up to the driveway we were shopping in said something to the person in charge of the sale about the dresser being the one she'd been given by them. (I'm not sure that is scanning correctly: The people in charge of the garage sale had originally given the dresser to the person who brought it back for the sale.)

Evelin immediately asked the price once the people decided it should go into the sale. They asked us to make an offer, and Evelin countered that the person who was now selling it had given it away once. They asked for a dollar, and Evelin immediately paid before anyone had a chance to change their mind.

[ASIDE: Evelin's version of the bureau story: Then we walked on, and somebody had just brought out a bureau. Cheaply made, blue, nothing special. BUT, her neighbors commented and she said, "yes, this is the bureau you gave me for free" so I said (Carter was mortified) "You got the bureau for free and are going to make money off it now? How much?" So she quoted me ...$1!!! OK, we had to have it. For one dollar a cardboard bureau is worth it!]

I ran back to where we were parked while Evelin watched over her new prize. After I picked her and the dresser up, Evelin said that she'd been looking for that sort of dresser for a while, which inspired her to say that she hoped we'd find an old Volvo for sale.

We've been figuring that we'll need another car at some point in the near future. I like taking Metro to work, but since my office is so far from a train line it adds an hour or so to my morning commute. (The upside is that I'm more relaxed when I use Metro, I am forced to leave on time because of the bus schedules, and I'd get a bit of walking in to/from the train station, but until a trolley or rail line goes to Bailey's Crossroads, or until I change jobs, I'm doomed to driving to/from work more often than not, I think.)

In our talking about it, Evelin's made up her mind that she wants an old Volvo wagon (one of the square ones, like Click and Clack always recommend) or a Subaru Forrester. We've looked a little in the papers, CarMax, online, and on eBay, and nothing's turned up to tickle our fancy.

So we keep looking around the garage sales. Evelin finds a flour shifter in a pile of stuff marked free, and she stops to enthuse over an old library stool (one of the metal ones with wheels on springs so that when you step on it, the wheels retract it steady the stool).

A little further down the street, we saw a wing chair that looked interesting. (A chair is something else we've been looking for for a while.) We give it a test sitting, and the owner pointed out that it was a recliner ... and we decide to go for it. At $35, it was our most expensive purchase of the day.

Evelin then turned around and saw it. The Volvo. With a "for sale" sign on the window. The excitement was immediate. We asked a few questions and then set up a time later in the day to come back to take it for a test drive. While we were talking someone else asked about the car, but Evelin chased him away by saying that she needed the car more than he did because she was expecting; interestingly enough, the woman selling the car is also pregnant (about a month behind Evelin).

On the walk from there back to our car, we pass the library stool again, and the person holding the sale calls out to us and tells Evelin that she wants her to have the stool because no-one else is going to appreciate it as much as Evelin would. Plus it got it out of her garage.

At this point, I tell Evelin she better not be using up all our luck with these reasonably priced old cars and free library stools. Evelin counters that luck is made, not used up, so I should stop worrying.

When we got home, we called two of Evelin's uncles who happen to be foreign car mechanics to ask about what we should look out for with a Volvo 240DL of that vintage, get a short list of concerns and then piddle around the garden until it's time for the test drive.

We headed back and talked to the husband. They are the second owners of the car; it was originally bought new by a Volvo mechanic who did all the maintenance himself. They've had it for about four years, and a relatively short list of repairs. I think we're going to have to expect some issues, but it should be better than the Mazda 626 was, if for no other reason because the roof isn't leaking everywhere.

For our test drive, we loaded up the chair we'd bought earlier and drove it home -- a little noisy, but not bad considering it's a 16-year-old tank of a car. We dropped off the chair, checked out Evelin's uncle's list of things to watch for, and then headed back to haggle.

Long story short, we have the car now and are taking it to my mechanic on Monday for a look-see. If things check out (or unless I get a horror story or two in my comments), we'll be motoring Swedish style come next week.

To work out my anxieties over buying the car (cheap though it will be and negligible to insure, I'm a worrywart by nature), I spent the afternoon cutting the ogräs while Evelin transplanted tomato and pepper seedlings into bigger pots. We thought about bringing the seedlings back inside, but they need to harden off so Evelin rebuilt the coldframe (basically some old windows set up on stray bricks around the plants) and put them in there.

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