The Legend of the Black Versa



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Recently, I decided to rid myself of my old 2001 Chevy Prism, a clunker that was rapidly falling apart beneath me as I drove. Actually, the Prism, which was a thirdhand driveway deal back in 2009, was a safety hazard from the get-go: unstable, touchy about my language, and productive of an eerie keen when traveling at speeds exceeding forty miles per hour. When last I saw this noble steed, it had 146,000 miles on its odometer and cost much, much more to fill up than it was worth. To add a final touch to its ineffable charm: several serious dents.

In short, I required a new vehicle, and not just any ancient scrap heap from the side of the road either. Now that I was a Grown Damn Woman, I needed a Grown Damn Woman car, not a Sleazy Kid Car that looks like something owned by a drug runner. (I’m not making that up. The police used to follow me around back home because apparently drug runners in my dear old stompin’ grounds of upstate New York favor the Prism’s trunk space and low profile.)

So I did what a Grown Damn Woman does when she needs a car: I hauled my Grown Damn Self to a dealership.

My lovely girlfriend and I put aside an entire Saturday to shop and deal. We had a strategy that went something like this: I was the Good Cop who just loved shiny, overpriced, blinged-out idiot carriages. She was the Bad Cop who cared about money and safety and fuel economy and all that kind of Bad Cop stuff.

After a few super-lame used car lots had already wasted several hours of our time, we arrived at the fateful doors of a completely innocuous-looking Nissan dealership. Now I’ve driven Nissan cars before. Specifically, I’ve driven Versas. This is because everyone in my family owns a red Nissan Versa hatchback with manual shift, and my Prism was often, as I may have mentioned, in a state being such that I was inspired to borrow cars from family members on short notice. I happen to be a free spirit, however, and I was resolved to not buy a red Versa hatchback. I would blaze a trail and buy a different car than my father and his father before him. After some dithering around the lot, I decided that I had a keen yen for a sunroofed, navigation-ated, Sirius-XM’ed, 2011 model black Versa hatchback.

Boy, I thought, that’ll show ’em!

Our salesman, Bob*, looked about sixteen. He wore a yellow suit that was comically large and shapeless on his spindly frame. He looked for all the world as though his mother had somehow stuffed him into a giant lunch bag instead of dressing him. Soon, we realized why she would have done such a thing: clearly, she was hoping that he would be mistaken as actual lunch by something large enough to carry away the mess. As we discussed the purchase of the black Versa, we learned waaaay too much about Bob’s* financial situation, work history, career ambitions, and personal code of honor, all of which would have been better off not existing. The only thing that stopped us from leaving out of sheer discomfort was that Bob* was also highly gullible. Whenever he showed signs of digging in his heels regarding the ultimate cost of the car, my beloved would sigh audibly and declare, “I just don’t think we need the extravagance of a sunroof.” (This is, by the way, complete bullshit. As far as my girlfriend is concerned, sunroofs are portals to a magical land where joyous people dance with the sky as a magic carpet transports them through the world’s gayest block party.) However, the deception was extremely effective. Soon, whenever he saw my girlfriend draw a deep breath, Bob* would pale, raise his sweaty hands, and lower the price of the car. It was like working with one of Pavlov’s dogs, if Pavlov’s dogs were somehow worse at selling cars than Bob*.

Finally, when he seemed to have hit a price floor and would no longer budge, we departed the building, only to watch him sprint out to the parking lot and throw himself in front of my rattling, wailing Prism, shouting over the din that he had made a mistake about the cost of pre-certification and that the black Versa *actually* cost about a thousand dollars less than he’d told us.

Then, of course, he tried to pin on extra “taxes.” That actually made the deal even sweeter: when I called his boss out on it, the dealership had to buy my junky Prism for the princely sum of about $2,000 just to cover the difference. That’s fully two thirds of what I originally paid for it! Had Bob* been just a little more inept, or his manager just slightly more interested in the process, I would have made money. Alas, that the world remains unfair.

Chuckling smugly, I finalized the sale. My girlfriend and I congratulated each other on our Kickass Teamwork and the Wicked Deal we got through our Exceeding Cleverness. Oh, how I shudder now at our naivete.

Bob* told me that he’d figure out the registration and insurance the next day, considering the lateness of the hour. (By then, the hour was indeed late, so this seemed plausible.) There was nothing to worry about, he claimed, because the insurance on the Prism would cover my new-to-me car for up to one week. All I had to do was bring the black Versa back to the Nissan dealership in a couple days for its inspection sticker, which would be covered in full by Bob*’s boss.

This is the moment when I should have started looking at this whole deal askew. No inspection? Why not? Isn’t that illegal? But instead of asking these important questions, I jumped into the driver’s seat and my girlfriend and I made a victory run to Market Basket, sunroof open and Sirius XM blaring.

Sure enough, about two days later, I received a panicked phone call from Bob*. Something was not right, he babbled, his voice cracking hysterically. I needed to bring the black Versa back post haste. The dealership would put me into a rental for a week – tops! – while they sorted out whatever the issue was. I was in no way clear about the problem, but I did know that 1. it was urgent; 2. it was serious; and 3. it involved the black Versa’s registration. What I didn’t know was that, after dropping the black Versa back at its place or origin, I would never see that car again.

The dealership put me into a brand-new Altima that turned out to be the bane of my existence. I would much rather have had my old clunker back for a year than drive the Altima around the block once. The Altima’s windows fogged from the inside, obscuring my entire view with layers of weird, greasy, smelly condensation that wouldn’t wipe off. The car was also enormously, comically too large for me. Remember how Short Round drove with a brick on his shoe in Temple of Doom? Imagine that I’m him without the benefit of a brick. Bad sitch.

After suffering with the Altima for one utterly miserable week, I got them to give me a different rental car . Why did I wait so long? Well, I figured I’d tough it out. Just a week until I got my *real* car back, right? When they replaced the fucking Altima with a brand-new black Juke, I decided that another week really wouldn’t make much of a difference. The Juke’s nice! I was perfectly OK with hanging out in my free rental sports car for a few days. Plus, at this point, I could do pretty much anything to it because the salesmen were now desperate to please me. Trip to New York and back? Sure! Paint scratches? No problem! They were just thrilled that I was being such an “understanding customer.” After the atrocity of the Altima, I decided to savor it. After all, it won’t be long before they get whatever sorted out with the black Versa. Right?

Wrong! The weeks scrolled by and winter turned into spring. I called the dealership periodically, now talking to Bob’s* manager instead of Bob*. Was my car ready? No, it was never ready. You are in the automotive Twilight Zone, my friend. There was still some vague “problem” with the registration. Bob* was no longer in the picture. When I went into the dealership, I couldn’t help but notice that his little desk was perfectly clean.

And I soon discovered that the Juke is a temperamental gas guzzler. It’s fast but delicate, and by the time I turned it in, it already needed maintenance. Furthermore, it was on the dealership’s insurance. Initially this sounded like a great idea, but what it *really* meant was that the insurance that I was *still paying* on the black Versa was going into a black hole. This went on for eight weeks.

Just as I was about to march back to the dealership with demands, I got a phone call. This phone call was from the manager’s manager. Let’s call him Mike. Bob’s* manager was there too, but he didn’t say much, except to agree with Mike. As Mike described himself, he was the guy who was going to make everything right. Mike had a really fun story about the black Versa. It was a complex, nuanced tale about Minnesota, Tennessee, and a car that had been registered at the former, surreptitiously transported to the latter, and purchased under unclear circumstances before winding up, title-less, in Massachusetts. Now, for reasons as quasi-criminal as they were idiotic, I was never going to see the black Versa again.

Yup! I had bought a stolen car.

I had just a few seconds to enjoy this turn of events before Mike offered me an “equivalent vehicle.” This new Versa would be a year younger and possessed of every feature I had loved in the first car, from hatchy back to bossy navigation. Could I come into the dealership to try it?

I most certainly could!

Upon meeting the new Versa, a few minor differences were immediately evident. First of all, the vehicle was not a hatchback. It wasn’t even close to being a hatchback. It was, in fact, visibly and obviously a sedan.

Second, where the first car had been black, this one was a bright, happy metallic blue.

There were a few other details, most notably the absence of a sunroof or navigation, that I pointed out to Mike inside of the dealership. He seemed genuinely surprised. I actually remember this conversation because by the end of it I had realized that Mike could not possibly be a car salesman. “But they’re exactly the same car!” he exclaimed, ruffling papers like a frantic gerbil.

“It’s a sedan,” I said, “it’s blue, and it doesn’t have a sunroof.”

He looked at me blankly.

“My car was black,” I prompted. He continued to stare. “It was a hatchback.”


“It also had a sunroof.”


At this point, I became convinced that the dealership with which I had been dealing for two months was, in fact, a mob front staffed by low-level goons.

Yup! I had bought a stolen car from the Mafia!

Whatever was really going on behind the desk, I wanted a damn car. I didn’t care if I bought it from Godzilla as long as I got my money’s worth. I reasoned that I’d already been enough of a bother that if they were going to break my legs, they would have done so by now. I decided to be super, super pushy. After my good buddy Mike agreed to return to me the value of the sunroof, the insurance payment, and the car payment I had already made on the black Versa, I agreed to take the blue Versa instead once everything – and I do mean everything – was sorted out.

Of course, this took another long week.

When my girlfriend and I finally made it back to the dealership, Mike told us right off the bat that we could drive the blue Versa away that evening. Then he mentioned that we’d have to come back on Saturday for registration. And then on Monday for insurance updates. But we could, of course, do it all remotely. A three-way call to the insurance company would clear everything up in one go. Or two calls. Maybe a four-way call. Could we put aside about three hours on Monday and Tuesday?

No, we most certainly could not. However, I could return, at my tremendous inconvenience, on Monday and make one. Last. Attempt. To stop the madness. If the madness did not subsequently cease directly on Monday, I would either depart the dealership with my money or would contact a lawyer even as I stood upon the very dealership’s sales floor.

That brings us, dear reader, to Monday. After a mere hour and a half of insurance wrangling (on my part,) double-checking (on my part,) and inspection (done by them, secretively, at a weird, grungy and nameless off-site “gas station” instead of at their clean and personable service department,) the blue Versa was mine. Also mine was a check for the value I’d lost on the sunroof and payments, a lower interest rate, lower monthly payments, and, apparently, the abject fear of a small bevy of traumatized car salesmen. Or low-level Mafia goons. Whatever.

Maybe someone big and mean will be by to rough me up over this idiotic fiasco (or this snarky blog post,) but honestly, after what they put me through for this car, they really ought to be concerned about what I’ll say about them on Yelp.


The Traveling, Twittering, Completely Evil Librarian

Among the “pros” of being an ambitious librarian, I have to say that attending conferences is right up there. I had the opportunity to visit the beautiful Holy Cross campus in Worcester (Pronounced WOO-sta, like a gangsta of romantic overtures) for Digital Commonwealth 2014.

Worcester is about an hour away from my home in Somerville. When first I set out, the rain sleeted ragingly from a benighted sky, pummeling my windshield like the two million watery fists of a million tiny, screaming berserkers. Damn, but it felt good to win that battle so overwhelmingly! I imagined my Juke, a we’re-so-very-sorry rental from the car dealership that still has not given me back my Versa, as a mighty battle elephant of immense scope, plowing through the watery, skyborne kamikaze raindrops like a –

Ahem. Excuse me.

Anyway, the drive there was OK. I mean, I’m basically driving a sports car right now, so I take pretty much all driving hazards at ninety miles per hour. On top of the crazy engine power, add the fact that this car happens to be on the dealership’s insurance. Yahtzee! Let the reckless abandon commence!

After a few million mid-highway donuts and some sick air off of various semis, I got bored and went to the con. The upper campus of Holy Cross overlooks the city of Worcester like an eagle on a high tree at the edge of a cliff. The hilly expanse of central Massachusetts stretches out like a National Geographic wallpaper.

Sidenote: someday, I want actual wallpaper with National Geographic wallpapers on it. Also, ostriches that I will ride to victorious splendor.

DigComm turned out to be significant for a few reasons, one of which being that I gained respect for the Twitter thing. I tweeted like a twithead throughout the con. I tweeted like a tweety bird. Not once did my attention wander. Well, just once. I had to write an obituary for Archie Andrews of Archie Comics fame near the end of the day. (It really is mine, I swear. I wrote it.) Otherwise, I was johnny-on-the-spot and it was fantastic. I am going to live tweet everything I ever do again for the rest of my life.

Another one of the amazing things about the Digital Commonwealth is that it’s happening by and for the public sector. Most initiatives like this are reliably academic, which makes sense considering how much they can cost. But if knowledge is power, then I say, power to the people! This is where crowdsourcing is going and it’s exciting to be riding that wave on my own personal evil librarian agenda. I’m already looking into incorporating ViewShare into my proposed Local History expansion to the library website, and though I have been unsuccessful in uploading data as yet, I have full faith that I’ll get results soon. I’ll just call up the Library of Congress and be like, hey, looks like my sample .xlsx file is holding up the pipe, but I can’t delete from the user end. What gives? And they’ll be like, oh, that’s totally weird. Let me give you some functionality on your side. And then I’d be like, you’re awesome, Library of Congress. Then I’ll make some beautiful gosh darned timelines of the lives of local citizens, complete with links to their writings.

That’s what’s gonna happen. Yup.