Saturday, March 2, 2024

Car Shopping - Weekend #3


The above picture is an ad produced for a New York City area bank (which I ended up working for a few years after this ad campaign).  They wanted to show the public that they would lend money on any major car brand, then: Ford, Chevy, AMC, Chrysler, and Volkswagen.  Although more brands have appeared in the American market in the past 50 years, the process of buying a car is just as frustrating now as it was when I bought my first car.

This weekend, I wanted to take test rides in 3 cars: The Subaru Crosstrek, the Honda HR-V, and the Mazda CX-30.  Although all 3 would be good choices, I am leaning towards choosing either the Crosstrek or the HR-V.  Both are excellent cars, and both have all the options I want for a similar price.  RQS leans towards the Crosstrek because of its display.  I'm still torn between the two due to my prior experience with the Honda brand.  What I see as an advantage with the Subaru is equaled by my experience with my Honda Civic.

On Friday, I picked up RQS at the station, and we test drove a Subaru.  I was pleasantly surprised how good this car felt.  It was a car which I wouldn't be bumping my head into the door frame upon entering the car - and I like that.  Although a 15 minute drive is way too short to evaluate a car, it was enough for me to make it my number 2 (or even my number 1) pick. At the end of this test drive, I knew I needed to drive this car again before making a final decision.

Saturday came, and we didn't get out of the house until mid afternoon.  Our first stop was at a Honda dealership to drive the HR-V.  And RQS was equally impressed with this car.  It seems like this is an extremely popular model, as this model seems to be sold as quickly as it is delivered to the dealership. Once done with this dealership, we ended up at another Honda dealership.  This time, they had no HR-Vs in stock for me to drive.  In fact, half of the cars in this dealer's showroom were used cars.  How this dealership makes money I'll never know.

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I made an offer to DCD that he could buy my current car for book value.  Given that the car has over 200k miles on it, but has been well maintained, DCD figures the value to be about $2,500.  Since I am not going to be holding a note on this car, I wanted a check for this amount if I were to sell him the car.  Today, I found out that he is not able to get this amount of money from his bank, "The bank of Mom".  So, I guess I'll end up letting the dealer take my old car off my hands.

In the end, I expect to be $33k poorer than I am now, but with a car that's safer to drive.  The only questions are: (1) Which car will I choose, and (2) When will I drop the hammer on the deal?

Friday, March 1, 2024

Dinner with Vicki and RQS


This is not where we ate the other day.  But I'd have loved to eat here, just for the outdoor ambiance. Vicki, RQS and I agreed to meet at one of our usual go-to places, Lefteris Gyro for a dependable good meal.

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RQS and I had been car shopping all day when a woman who I met in Marian mode called.  I made the mistake of answering the phone in Mario mode, and then RQS came on the line and fouled things up a little.  I'll bet that this spooked the woman who could have become a friend before I had the chance to mention my TG nature.  When I called her back later on, I found that her voice mail response hadn't been updated since 2021.  

Around 7 pm, we met at Lefteris, and  had a good meal.  Vicki may have been a little surprised to see me in Mario mode, but that was because I had been in Mario mode to do car shopping. Our conversation got a little animated (not in a nasty way), as Vicki and I both have strong opinions and needed to express them as part of our conversation.  Of course, this might have disturbed a couple at the table next to us (they were giving Vicki weird looks), but it didn't matter to us.  We ended up being the last people to leave the place, and we left a good tip to make up for taking up a table for over 2 hours.

On the whole, it was a nice way to finish up the day, and I'd like to do this again soon....

Thursday, February 29, 2024

Valentine's Day - Only the weather at first was cold


I won't say too much about Valentine's Day, save that I went to RQS's place and went out for dinner.  Well, I kept joking that I'd made reservations for two at a restaurant called "Der Weissen Schloss".  She knew my joke - I would never participate in White Castle's Valentine's Day gimmick, as that would kill a relationship.

RQS knew what I had gotten her as a gift.  But I didn't know what her gift would be.  I was pleasantly surprised by her gift - a pair of earrings, golden hoops to be exact.  She more than accepts me as Marian!  YAY!   I can't wait to wear these earrings for her someday soon.

RQS and I left for dinner around 6.  We had originally planned to go to an Italian restaurant 10 minutes away by bus.  With the cold, we decided to eat at a Thai restaurant a few blocks away from her house.  One problem - the place was closed.  So we tried a local Italian joint, and they couldn't seat us until 9 pm.  That wasn't a realistic choice.  So we walked to a nearby Indian/Nepali joint.  Although the food was good, it was not to my taste - I would prefer to try another Indian place if one was available.

By the time we got home, we were both cold and tired.  Blame the weather on that....  

Wednesday, February 28, 2024

Precious Time and Bucket Lists


When I was younger, I sometimes felt like there were never enough hours in the day.  Although I feel this less and less as I get older, I find that there are not enough days in the week.  Today was occupied by two things: Shoveling my car out from the snow, and a co-op board meeting to be held in the evening.  As I get older, I dislike shoveling snow more and more, and would prefer to have a garage where I can put my car in case of bad weather.  

Why might you ask that I'm complaining of not having enough time?

The answer is simple.  The older we get, the less time we have to spend.  And, we're also fighting the body's normal decay process as well.  I have less energy to spend on things, which means that it takes me more time to do the things I could do in less time when younger.

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Knowing that I have only so much time left to me makes me think - what do I want to do with the rest of the good years of my life?  The process of answering that question also spends a portion of the time I have left to me.  Although my apartment is a mess (being perfectly tidy is a low priority for me), I still want the creature comforts that money can buy for me - such as a working range hood fan over my stove.  Being serious, I've already generated a bucket list of things to do and see.  Yet, like in the movie, the Bucket List, I've found that many of the things must be done by more than one person, including the completion of that list.

I consider myself lucky that RQS has been with me for the past 2 years, as I have a companion for that ride into old, old age.  And I feel that she feels the same way about me, especially when I have opened her up to new possibilities in life.  Yet, I don't think that either of us will complete the things we want to do on our bucket lists.  There is only so much time, and it becomes more precious every day.

Fortunately, I am out to the world in regard to being transgender.  This takes a big load off of my mind. Overcoming the fear of wondering what people might think made it easier to pursue other things on the bucket list with much less fear, as I have found that most of us worry about many things needlessly.  If we were to ask ourselves "what's the worst thing that could reasonably happen?" in a given situation might free us up to do things we might not otherwise do.  Heck, I've had to deal with a stolen wallet last year, and I was able to recover from it.  Many of us have had to deal with broken limbs, or worse.  Yet, we recovered.  So, if these are the worst things that could happen, why not try to check off items on your bucket list before it's too late to do so?

I'd love to see your opinions on this....

Tuesday, February 27, 2024

The first major snowfall in 2 years


February 13, 2024 - a snowstorm to remind us of how much of a nuisance show can be.  And I had the wisdom to move my car from my usual parking spot to a visitor's parking spot to leave room for the plow to push all of the shoveled snow.

If we didn't get any snow today, I'd have been out shopping for a new car.   Since I was up early enough to to get out and about in the morning, I had nothing better to do than test drive cars.  Instead, I had to wait until the snow stops falling to shovel out my car and then go food shopping.  Do I like this?  No.  It's not that I mind snow.  But it is simply getting in the way of me doing things important to me, such as picking up a small Valentine's Day gift for RQS.  (She already knows what her big gift is.  But a woman should always hove something to open on V-Day itself.

Thinking of new cars, have you noticed that most cars being sold these days are in shades of white, gray, and black?  It is much less common to see cars painted red or blue, and even less in other colors.  Gone are the days where I could get a VW Bug painted in Yellow.  Even though one could never sell a new car equipped like the old Beetle these days, this car was fun to drive.  More important than that, the car was a good car to learn on, because it could take a beating and still keep soldiering on.

When I had my Bug, I practiced driving in difficult driving conditions.  The only time the Bug could be said to fail me was when I had to brake or steer on a slick surface - there was not enough weight on the front wheels, nor any power, to help keep me from sliding forward when I wanted to stop, or when I wanted to go around a curve.  It was a car best suited for summers on the California Coast, and not for winters in New England.

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What cars bring back memories for you?

Monday, February 26, 2024

Meeting RQS's Friend


Yes, is a picture taken of me over a decade ago.  But I don't want to show a picture of RQS or her friend in this blog.

We had arranged to meet in NYC several weeks ago, and it was nice to be back in Marian mode again. RQS and I got ready to take the train into NYC, and I noticed that one of my dresses had a rip at one seam.  Since I couldn't wear that dress, I had to substitute a sweater dress in its stead - and that was a good thing, considering the cold weather outside.

Arriving at Grand Central an hour ahead of our expected time, we killed some of it in the waiting room over a cup of coffee.  And then it was off to lunch.  When we arrived at our destination, I noted that it couldn't be the Chick-fil-A on the corner, as corporate management is anti-LGBT.  Luckily, we were meeting at the French themed shop next door. And that's where a complication arose - there were no seats, and RQS had already paid for lunch.  So we ended up walking a block to another place, and again - no seats.  Both places had turned into de-facto office spaces, with people both eating and working at the tables.  Again, we picked up and left - for the Wendy's next door.

Time flowed way too quickly.  Her friend greeted me as Marian, and we hit it off instantly. If I didn't have to be back in Croton by 6 to get my car out of the parking lot, we would have stayed longer.  But it was a good excuse to take my leave.  Surprisingly, I made it home by 5:15, as I caught a non-stop express to Croton and beyond. 

Sunday, February 25, 2024

Car shopping - Weekend #2


I'm certainly not in the market for this old truck.  But I am in the market for a new car, and it will most likely be an SUV, given the options available to me.  Gone are the days of nice sedans and coupes.  We are now in the age of the do anything vehicle.  And this is not a bad thing, considering that we all seem to need to carry large things in the back of the car now and then.

This weekend, I was forced to stay in Mario mode, so that I could visit several car dealerships and have ID that matches my gender presentation.  What bothers me is that I won't be able to get my nails done for a few weeks, so that Mario looks like he's expected to look - like a boring, heavy set, old guy.  And we had a frustrated laugh at the first dealership we visited.

Most of us have gone through the frustrating experience that is new car shopping in the Unites States. First you enter the showroom and meet a salesperson.  Then, they ask for your license, so that they can check your credit report and start the process of structuring a deal designed to get you to buy their car with maximum profit. When the salesperson comes back with your license, he starts asking you about your budget for the car, whether you will be financing the car and what kind of monthly payments you can afford, whether you have a car you'd like to trade, as well as other information he will need for his finance guy to structure a deal.  Only then, do you get to the process of taking a test drive.

Now, I have been around this block before, and I have had many dealers try to screw me - even when I was willing to buy a car at MSRP (both before, during, and after Covid-19).  So, I've taken the time to learn how to NOT provide much negotiating information to the "enemy". And RQS has been a great help to me while we have visited the dealerships.

Before RQS came up this weekend, I had a pleasant test drive of a Honda at a local dealership.  The salesman knew that I've been to this dance before, and didn't try to hard sell me on the car I tested.  Instead, we had a long, leisurely test drive on both local roads and the highway, and I found this to be the best car I had tested so far.  Although there is one thing I don't like about the car (the CVT transmission), I'd buy this car at the right price.  This would become the car I measure things against in test drives planned when RQS arrived.

On Saturday, we visited the first of these dealerships, a Mazda dealership, where we were greeted by a salesperson who offered us coffee and proceeded to ask for my license, so that he could make a copy.  After an excessive amount of time, RQS and I were starting to get frustrated.  But then, I think the salesperson couldn't pull a credit on me, as I had frozen it when my wallet was lifted in Chicago.  And only when he gave up, did he return to the desk to try and extract more information from me - which he didn't get.  After the test drive, we chatted and I got his opening price for the car - something in a fair range for the vehicle we tested.  Unfortunately, it was getting dark, so we suspended our shopping for the day.

Sunday came, and we ended up visiting 3 dealerships.  The first one we entered, a Subaru franchise in Yonkers, got me to write a "Nastygram" (as I call it).  We entered the dealership, and the receptionist was doing her business on the phone and didn't bother to acknowledge us.  After 10 minutes of walking around, no one bothered to ask us anything, so we left.  (Given the large inventory on their lot, I don't think they are too successful a dealership.)  And then it was onto the next dealership - a Yonkers Honda dealership.  Although we were acknowledged promptly, we still had to wait a while due to short staffing. When we finally met with a salesperson, we were told that they don't do test drives on Sundays, and that she couldn't give me an out the door price - she was required to haggle.  Since there's no way we'd even consider doing this without even a test drive, we moved onto a third dealership in White Plains. This time, we were greeted promptly, "interrogated" for sales information, and given our test drive. Although we did get an out the door price, it would not be as good as the price I got before the weekend started.

Monday came, and I wrote the "Nastygram" I mentioned above.  Even though I received an apologetic response later in the day, I won't return to that dealership.  I figure that I can get a better deal from other dealerships that carry its brands, assuming that I don't go with the Honda....

An early dinner with a friend

  Last night, I mentioned to Pat that I wish I could have been born a cisgender female who looked like this when younger.  If I were younger...