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Written by Don Walter
From his column A Minute with Donminute-with-don-09-15-1

I lead a conflicted life—not in matters like values and principles, but in the area of automobiles. There I suffer what I call “creative tension.” I am fascinated by unusual automotive specimens, but I have limited mechanical abilities. I’m also frugal (some would call me cheap). It doesn’t take long to realize that anyone suffering from these attributes might be conflicted. I am one of those people.

I once “accidentally” purchased a late-model, high-end sport sedan on eBay. “Accidentally?” you ask. Read on. It was a “no reserve” auction, and the car wasn’t attracting much interest. I placed a very low bid on it, believing that, surely, someone would raise it. Imagine my surprise that evening when I was greeted with a “Congratulations!” email. I was the proud new owner of a high end sport/touring sedan. I hadn’t planned on buying a car; especially not one domiciled in New York City!

Without going into detail, let me just say it turned out pretty well. My wife fell in love with the car, so that part of my anxiety was quelled. In the aftermath, I did learn a lot about the costly care and feeding of sport sedans. That unpleasant part of the experience was ameliorated by a long-standing relationship with a great mechanic…and the fact the car was still under warranty.

I enjoyed that auto for several years. When I finally traded it in, I got an allowance of about 70 percent of what I had originally paid for it. My wife was pleased.

More recently, I found myself again in the throes of car conflict. I’d been driving a fun little Korean car/van for five years, and sensed the need for a change. I suggested that perhaps my wife might want to drive my vehicle for a while, and I would find another.

She was not as thrilled as I hoped she’d be. To her, the car was uncomfortable and unpleasant to drive. Still, she assured me she would do “what I wanted,” all the while reminding me it would involve considerable sacrifice on her part. After pondering what “considerable sacrifice” might mean in terms of my future happiness, I realized I needed a different strategy.

So I started internet surfing for things automotive. The search involved listing the features I wanted, and how much I was willing to pay. As you might imagine, my price limitations failed to produce anything with the features I wanted. While not actually calling me names, the search engines confirmed to me what others already know: I’m cheap…and a bit unrealistic in my used luxury car expectations. Still, my simple automotive philosophy is to drive as much fun as I can afford, so I kept looking.

As I searched, one car kept popping up. It would disappear from a site, then reappear a few days later on another. It was just what I wanted (and low mileage for the model year). While it wasn’t exactly local, it was only two hours away at a smaller dealership in Iowa.

I watched it for several weeks and, amazingly, the price started to drop.

Knowing myself, I asked God to not let me do anything imprudent. I don’t know about your experience with such things, but I’ve found that if I pay attention, God really does try to steer me away from bad decisions. Over the years, a recurring prayer of mine has been, “Lord, don’t let me do something foolish.”

In the following days, my mind repeatedly wandered back to that automobile. At last, it was too much. I scheduled a drive to Iowa.

You may not believe me, but when I sat down in that car, the seat conformed to my body, effectively hugging me. It was the automotive equivalent of being licked in the face by a puppy.

Needless to say, I liked that car. After a zippy test drive and deliberation with the salesperson, I agreed to purchase the vehicle that had stolen my heart and was now hugging the rest of me.

A few mechanical issues needed to be addressed, so I drove home and returned a few days later with my wife to pick up my new wheels.

The trip home went by without problems and confirmed that this was indeed an unusual automotive specimen. In fact, I had a sneaking suspicion I was now the owner of a car that was smarter than I was. I did notice it seemed to have a desire to leap ahead at stop signs. I attributed this to having not been driven much recently, and perhaps to water vapor in the fuel lines.

Finally, we were home. I pulled into my driveway and went inside to open the garage doors. Upon returning to my new traveling companion, something was amiss. My automotive adventure was about to take a new twist. (To be continued.)

Don Walter is director of Pensions and Benefits USA for the Church of the Nazarene.

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