December 20, 2011

Behind the wheel again

In almost ten years of marriage, we had never purchased a car.  Everything we drove before moving to East Asia had been given to us, and everything we have driven since has two wheels and needs to be plugged into the wall of the parking garage overnight in order to get down the road.

But then kid #4 came along, and one of our scooters was stolen (an uneventful occurrence over here, unfortunately), and we figured the time had come to buy a car.

So, after Daniel studied his brains out for an incredibly pointless driving test, and after he was handed a genuine local drivers license, he started researching vehicle options.

The best option for a "semi-longterm" family like ours is what they call a mian bao che (mee-en-baw-chuh).  It means, "bread van," because it looks like a loaf of bread.  The van on the right in this picture is a perfect example.
Not the coolest looking thing.  After much looking and pricing, however, Daniel found a great deal on a much more suitable "bread van" for a 32-year-old American guy who has never bought a vehicle and deserves something mildly cool.  I mean, c'mon, this dad has earned it.
And then (it really shouldn't have surprised us) the van fell right in line with everything else in our lives over here: nothing is what it seems.  First of all, it took 6 weeks after ordering the thing for it to arrive.  Second of all, Daniel was given three color choices: white, black, and green.  It was a no-brainer for him; the van would be black.  To which the salesman said, "No problem!"

The funny thing is, locals never know how to tell us "no."  Instead, they say, "No problem!" to everything, and then try to talk us out of our choices.  In this case, the salesman started by telling Daniel that a black van would take two weeks longer to come in.  Daniel told him, three times in a row, that he didn't care.  Finally, having reached desperation, the salesman looked Daniel right in the eye and said, "Green drives better."  Uh-huh.  Yep.  Welcome to our world.  Now Daniel knew what the salesman had known all along: the van only comes in green.  OK, the van would be green.

Moving on.

When the green van finally did come in, it wasn't exactly in mint condition.  The driver's side door had not been hung correctly and had to be slammed shut or the dome light would stay on.  The alarm system had a small glitch, causing it to constantly re-arm itself.  Not the best thing when you're trying to load four small kids in and out of the vehicle.  The dealership did throw in a free, dark purple tint job (yay, thanks for nothing), but it was so dark purple you literally couldn't see through the windows.  Needless to say, it had to be ripped out and redone.  There were no seatbelts in the back seats (there never are), and every single solitary piece of the vehicle had its bar code sticker left on it from the assembly line, which would later take Daniel and a bottle of GooGone 2 1/2 hours to remove.

Worst of all, as Daniel drove the van off the lot, he noticed the low-gas light was flashing.  Yep, they sold him a brand new car with an empty gas tank.

The cherry on top?  As Daniel tried to get to a gas station as quickly as possible, he realized that he couldn't get the van into third gear.  First gear, then second, a painful rejection from third, followed by a sinking fourth...Daniel was furious.  He had to puff and sputter, without the use of the third gear, to the gas station (actually four, because the first three wouldn't sell him gas), before returning directly to the dealership for repairs. 

For weeks and weeks and weeks, my incredibly busy husband spent almost all of his free time getting our new van in working order.  After all he'd been through to get the wrinkles smoothed out, he figured he would get the thing starched to perfection.  He needed something to go right with his green van.  Yes, folks, a custom roof rack was in order!  My poor husband cut his finger something horrible helping this guy sketch, cut, coat, and assemble the roof rack of his dreams.
But in the end, Daniel's finger healed, and we paid a ridiculously low amount of money (in cash) for a cool (and relatively safe) 1.378-liter 10-seater, with a roof rack for all our stuff and a smokin' top speed of 74.56 miles per hour.  I know nothing about cars, but Daniel tells me there are lawnmowers in the States with bigger motors.

But hey, we're not complaining!  It looks great, it goes down the road, and the kids and I no longer have to worry about helmet-hair and sore behinds.

And Daniel is just happy to get behind the wheel again.