Retail Therapy

Kage Baker loved shopping: for anything, with anyone, anywhere. She didn’t even care if she bought anything – she just loved to shop. She could really get behind Retail Therapy.

I hate it. I’d like to get behind Retail activity and shove it off a cliff.  Left to my own devices, I get into a store and out again with a completed list as fast as I can scurry. If you want me to run you an errand, I’m great – if you want a pleasant day of perusing available displays, I am a nightmare. And if not for Kage and Kimberly – who have selected and curated my clothes since early adolescence – I would be a nightmare in mismatched rags and no shoes. With my gear in a shopping bag instead of a purse.

Nonetheless, sometimes one must go out and shop. Recently, it became necessary for Kimberly to acquire a new car – because her old one was not just dead, it had become an evil undead zombie car. So we did research online for several days – a task I could handle nicely – and finally decided to take our chances with Drivetime. Kimberly figured, since they seem to specialize in giving credit to morons without any, then she and her husband (who have good credit) should make short work of the process. Sure enough, they okayed them right away, few or no questions asked, right over the phone.

So we went out to West Covina to look at the (really huge) assortment of (admirably priced) cars. Somewhere on the way – with Kimberly and Michael driving the zombie car for a trade-in and me following as back up – we apparently crossed over into the Twilight Zone.

First, they would not accept any of her financial records unless everything was signed off by her husband. Granted, it’s his pension; but it’s a joint bank account, and a community property state. Now, Ray, a physicist who retired with a background as a Naval officer at the Navy Nuke School and teaching physics to teenagers for 30 years, doesn’t like to venture out to places like car lots. He is spending his retirement happily at home, seeing about 4 people a month, thinking about String Theory and calculating baseball stats in his head. He had no intention in Hell (or West Covina) of going out to car shop.

DriveTime wanted a notarized Power of Attorney. Back we drove to get his signature on a POA (leaving the zombie car there, and using my car). And so began the long, long, interminable, unending process of completing Kimberly’s pre-approved car loan contract. Everything had to be signed multiple times. The salesman was a nice guy who’d been on the job maybe a month – so he kept making errors and things had to be done over. And over. And over. Again, and again, and again. In the meantime, Kimberly test-drove cars and found a beauty. Success!

We started at 11 AM.

At 6 PM, they decided they couldn’t take the trade-in, and so we had to park it and make arrangements to have it towed away. Oh, well.

At 7 PM, Michael left a message on the home phone to tell Ray we were not dead in a ditch.Everyone kept a cheerful mien in place.

At 8:45 – as the second complete iteration of the contact began, Kimberly sent me home to check on Ray, the Corgi, the parrot, the cats … she was assured she would be 10 minutes behind me in her new car. At 9 PM, during my drive home, DriveTime technically closed.

At 9:30 – home and still alone, I fed everyone, explained to Ray what the cluster-fuck was and called Michael to see if all was well. He said they were due to leave at any time.

At 10:15, I called the dealership to see if they had been invaded by vegan bicyclists in a Critical Mass uprising., and my family was being held hostage. No – though Michael and Kimberly were sounding definitely strained – but no one there actually knew how to process the POA they had demanded, and the contract was being redone a third time.

At 11:00 I called again, and they were just leaving. All was well.

At 11:10, they called me – all was not well, the car would not go faster than 20 miles per hour, they had pulled off the freeway into the parking lot of a Macy’s somewhere in Covina, the dealership was closed behind them in the dark, what could they do? I screamed, blithered, found a map, figured out where they probably were, and prepared to sally forth in rescue …

At which point, Michael called back, calm as ice, and reported that he had read the manual (his father’s son, all right) and discovered the car had an optional manual transmission mode they had accidentally accessed: the dreaded Flappy Paddle Gear Box of Top Gear infamy. And now, all really was well …

They got home safely 25 minutes later. Ray was amused, the animals were hysterical, I was smoking gently around the edges, and Kimberly and Mike were triumphantly elated: as they should have been. Easier transactions have been accomplished in faerie tales, involving souls, first-born children and magic beans.

The car – a Chevy Cruz with low mileage, great gas economy, and a clean record – is gorgeous and Kimberly loves it. The old car is still in West Covina; I’m arranging to have it towed from there. DriveTime can live with it until Monday. Kimberly says they did their best, and I cannot write them nasty letters nor try to sic the zombie car on them. I say she’s just blind in the bliss of her new car.

So that is where I was all day yestreday, instead of writing. It all worked out. But I hate shopping more than ever.

And I just know,  Kage would shake her head at me and say, “But it’s such a pretty little car!”




About Kate

I am Kage Baker's sister. Kage was/is a well-known science fiction writer, who died on January 31, 2010. She told me to keep her work going - I'm doing that. This blog will document the process.
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7 Responses to Retail Therapy

  1. Tom says:

    How wretched.
    Mary Lynn and her pal Julia Day back in STL used to say, “Men, money, or motors – we’re doomed.”
    Glad for the (good and bad) details on DriveTime. Dame Janet II is headed for the knackers, and the little pickup doesn’t quite meet all my needs.


    • Kate says:

      There were many, many advantages to DriveTime, and Kimberly is satisfied with the finished product. Just try to find a dealership where they have dealt with your kind of paperwork before, and your sales rep has been on the job more than 30 days.


  2. buggybite says:

    If you had chosen a company that was tough on credit, you’d have breenged through the process in a half hour, and been home in time for a celebratory lunch. Such scenarios do make the gods laugh. It’s why good old Sod (or Murphy) made that Law.

    All’s well that ends well. And if it had gone smoothly, what on earth would your blog have been about, eh?


    • Kate says:

      At least another company might have known how to process an POA … but it all worked out. Though if it had not all happened, I might have written about Neanderthal sculpture gardens or snorting chocolate.


  3. mizkizzle says:

    They must have thought that Kimberly murdered Ray and stole all his money, or had him drugged to the gills and locked in the basement, why else would a married woman attempt to buy a car without her husband being present?


    • Kate says:

      Kimberly hushed me repeatedly when I was about to make sarcastic comments about their treatment of her as a – gasp! – unaccompanied woman trying to buy a car. She felt the situation had enough problems, and she was probably correct. But it really was demented. And then, they didn’t even know what to DO with the POA when they had it in hand … I carried one around with me for a year and a half during Kage’s terminal illness, and it really isn’t that hard to use.


  4. Lynn says:

    This sounds like the start of a great short story for Twilight Zone.


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