I have a rule of thumb: if I can’t confidently say yes, I say no. It keeps with my conservative personality; it serves me well. But once in a while I keep thinking about a no I’ve said, and wonder if I should have said yes. Seeing this Mercury Grand Marquis gave me one of those moments.
You see, I thought seriously about buying JPCavanaugh’s son’s sweet ’89 MGM LS last autumn. You’re not likely to find a 25-year-old MGM in better cosmetic condition anywhere. I even test drove it, checkbook in my pocket. I was a little surprised by how tight the cabin was, but I was even more surprised by how tightly the car handled.
JPC sweetened the deal by saying that his son was ready to let it go for a song. He was trying to push me past some obvious problems with the AOD transmission, which would promptly need to be replaced. My independent mechanic could have done the job inexpensively. I tried to rationalize it: for a few grand, I could enjoy this car for a year, give or take, and probably sell it for more than I’d sunk into it. But no amount of rationalization could bring me to that confident yes. I needed a no-hassle daily driver, and I worried that even after fixing the transmission this old car would need occasional and typical little repairs. I kept my money.
Days later, JPC announced he’d sold it. Shortly thereafter, it appeared in a front yard around the corner from my house with a For Sale sign in the windshield, priced at a profit even after presumably replacing that transmission. There’s no doubt it was the same car; its paint scheme is custom. Damn, that could have been me.
Things have a way of working out. The first of June, the company I worked for realized it couldn’t afford to pay me anymore and let me go. I’ve got a son headed to Purdue in the fall. The money I was going to use to buy that gray-over-silver Grand Marquis was going to come from money I’d set aside to pay for his freshman year. I figured I’d make it up out of a bonus I was due to achieve. But that bonus is now never going to come, and it’s not clear when I’ll have a regular paycheck again. Seeing this lesser Grand Marquis caused me to pause and reflect. I concluded that I was wise to say no.
And lesser it truly is, not just because it’s the lower-trim GS, but because it has rust spots here and there around the body. That baby blue paint isn’t bad, but it lacks the elegance of that gray over silver.
But still, I walked away feeling a touch of sadness.