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Vida Express is run by a company called T-Cetra.  They are a go-between for wireless carriers, and deal in activation of SIM cards and facilitating payments for cell phone providers.  I recently had experience with them when my cell phone company, PTel, used them to promote a replacement wireless provider, Ultra Mobile.  Vida Express offered, free of charge or commitment, to handle the transaction getting PTel customers a free SIM card from Ultra Mobile, shipped free to their homes, along with a free month of service.  Here are my complaints about what happened:

I had a TON of trouble with VidaExpress this morning.  I called them, per their email, when my SIM card still hadn’t come by 2/4/16, the day before the final day to port my number from PTel.  I gave them over a week to ship it to me (signed up and ordered on Wednesday, January 27). 
I called first thing in the morning, waited on hold for 30 minutes, talked to a customer service person who used the tracking number to attempt to explain why my SIM card wasn’t there.  But I needed a solution to hold my number after PTel goes out of business.  The rep didn’t offer to do anything about that, just said they would further investigate my problem and call me back within 2-3 hours. 
After 3 hours, I called back myself, waited on hold another 30 minutes.  The new representative, Azar, wanted to go into the shipping information again, but when I pointed out that it wouldn’t do any good, that I needed something done with my number, she decided to activate the SIM that I hadn’t received, in order to port my number, and if it didn’t arrive within a week, I could go to a STORE and BUY a replacement to switch it out.  She gave me the info and I started the activation/porting online at the VidaExpress.com website. 
Then she came back on the phone and told me that wouldn’t work since my SIM had been shipped back, blaming the USPS, and suggested it might have been a bad address even though we’d confirmed the address they have on file for me is correct.  They weren’t going to get my SIM to me, or send another one, or give me a credit or anything.  She suggested I could go to Walmart and buy a SIM card from any old company.  She wasn’t even trying to keep me with the free month of service at Ultra Mobile.  She just said it wasn’t possible. 
But that SIM card is *mine*.  They’re stealing it from me!  When it was clear that the so-called customer service agent was unable and unwilling to serve me, I asked to talk to a supervisor, so she put me on hold for a few minutes, then came back and said there wasn’t a supervisor.  And she repeated the same lines that I could wait for a SIM card that isn’t coming, and that there was nothing they could do, and that they weren’t doing anything wrong. 
Finally she claimed to cancel the port, and since for the few hours after I did still have had PTel service, I assume she actually cancelled the activation.  I am now working on activating service with a completely different provider that has nothing to do with UltraMobile or PTel or VidaExpress.com  (or Vida Express’ parent company, T-Cetra, LLC).
 
Buyer and user beware!
Update: On Monday, three days after most of these interactions, and after I had activated with a different company, I received a SIM card from Vida Express in the mail.
 
To God be all glory, 
Lisa of Longbourn

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Media (books and movies) should not be censored.  Original authors may censor their own works, in a sense, by omitting immoral content.  Should this resolution be adopted, there would be no fast-forwarding unwanted scenes in movies.  Ideally there would be no need to fast forward, since creators of media would not put inappropriate things in their works.  But this highlights a clash of values, where the artist and consumer may not agree on what is appropriate.  Refusing censorship increases freedom.  As a consumer, you have the freedom to reject a whole work – but you should not take someone else’s work and chop it up to use for your own ends.  This applies market pressure on producers to only present works whose content is not morally objectionable.  Ratings could be helpful in deciding ahead of time whether to watch a movie or read a book.  Or ratings could be a form of censorship, especially as the government limits audiences based on ratings.  Governments having the right to censor gives them too much power over the education of the populace.  Movie ratings of R and NC-17 have legal restrictions associated with them.  The government also controls who is sold “mature” materials.  Does it control who views them?  Is there a legal penalty for, say, parents letting their children view NC-17 films?  Individuals are welcome to censor for themselves, or for children, so long as they censor in whole.  Why is censorship a bad thing?  Objectionable content and explicit material sometimes get an idea across in the way the creator thinks is best or most powerful.  Explicit material negatives may outweigh the positives of being exposed to a new idea, for some consumers.  Also media tends to be complex with multiple subpoints versus one whole idea – so you may only be censoring a subpoint by fast forwarding one scene.  How do we judge criteria for including (whether the idea is important enough to be presented via explicit material)?  If the consumer is to make his own judgment call, how can he before viewing the piece and seeing how the scene ties in with the entirety?

Proverbs says*: the righteous foresee danger and take precautions. The fool goes on and suffers the harm, so we ought to prepare to live in third world conditions.  Third world conditions are defined as being without running water, electricity, plumbing, or transportation systems (for some examples).  The reason we should be ready is to survive and to help others survive.  We need to plan, to figure out what will be the most effective means of survival.  Stockpiling food is probably not a good long-term strategy.  Stock-piling guns so we can take food from other people or to hunt for more food was suggested, arguing that there is a concentration of food in the city that would not quickly run out.  But there is a difficulty of transporting food from where found and grown to where people are gathered in cities.  So maybe we should spread out, buy several acres and start a commune.  It would need to be protected well, grow food, raise goats and chickens.  And if the goal is survival, we might want to make sure that the members have skills needed to contribute to the commune (and exclude those who wouldn’t be assets).  Is this a realistic foreseen danger, that our country will suffer third world conditions?  Why should we believe that the prophets foreseeing this danger are righteous (or prudent as in the verse) and that we ought to follow their “wisdom”?  Reasons for suspecting upcoming danger are: specialization of skills, and the direction of our economy.  Is prevention possibly more important than preparation, and how should we balance these in priority with limited time?  Are we putting too much emphasis on one proverb or teaching?  Is not the proverb referring to an imminent danger seen just ahead – not a risk of possible danger?  How would we do this and store up treasure in heaven?  There are other benefits of preparing skills that could be useful even if the danger does not come to pass.  It would be unwise to not prepare at all.  What about “seeking first thekingdom ofGod” because our heavenly Father knows our needs?  The ability to produce necessities could help neighbors, whom we are commanded to love.

*Proverbs 27:12 (NLT, closest I could find to what was quoted in the resolution) says: “A prudent person foresees danger and takes precautions. The simpleton goes blindly on and suffers the consequences.”

A healthy marriage is one that fights… WELL.  Fighting well is defined as with respect but no violence and without avoiding the conflict.  Never fighting is bad.  An assumption was made that there will be internalization of an offense, leading to growing bitterness, if it is not addressed between them.  The other extreme is that of violence, doing injury to one another.  A good marriage is in the middle, acknowledging and dealing with disagreement as a couple.  If the wife is obedient, isn’t there no fighting?  How does fighting well contribute to the purpose of marriage?  If conflict exists, married couples must deal with it well.  But is the existence of conflict a sign of a good marriage?  How frequently should conflict arise to prove a good marriage?  Is fighting the best way to deal with it?  Is conflict sinful?  The debaters speaking seemed frequently to assume that conflicts arose when one person sinned against another, but are there other reasons for conflict?  Is fighting sinful?  When you fight you have to work through a disagreement.  Repentance (of sin if there was sin causing the conflict) is more important than fighting. Why doesn’t the wife just submit as a way of dealing with it?  A wife should sharpen her husband (as opposed to always being silent and never expressing a dissenting opinion).  An example was given of a polygamous marriage in which one wife is sharpening her husband because that is the sort of relationship they have, but the other wives are to submit quietly and contribute to the household (think Jacob and his four wives, Rachel being the one he really wanted the emotional relationship with).  Assuming there is conflict, fighting badly and avoiding the conflict would not, either one, be productive responses.  A good marriage is one that communicates, that works as a team, and those virtues are hindered by the bad extremes of dealing with conflict.  A couple should decide in conference whether an issue is worth fighting about, and if not, let it go.  Allowing bitterness to grow (through avoiding conflict or not) is sinful.  It is a spouse’s spiritual duty as a Christian ‘brother’ to confront sin.  But it is less important to fight about non-sin.

Entertainment is wrong.  Entertainment defined as anything you do simply for pleasure or fun.  If you have more purposes, it is not entertainment.  Entertainment has unintended benefits.  Why would it be wrong?  It distracts from beneficial behavior.  It causes people to ignore good works.  It selfishly seeks gratification.  Laziness is bad.  Could we just say that entertainment shouldn’t be placed above something more beneficial?  Should people always do the most beneficial thing?  Being conscious of your motives is essential.  Are there other restrictions on fun or pleasure besides motives – extravagance of spending, content, frequency?  There is such a thing as Christian pleasure.  We are not choosing between something fun and some good work, but good works that can also be fun – or at least bring us pleasure as we honor God with our lives.  Friendship is impoverished when people cannot connect on pleasures and interests.  Does this resolution lead to justifying entertainment by adding other motives?  Or do we add entertainment to other central motives so that we get enough fun in?

In the following resolution, ‘Church’ is defined as the assembling of Christians as described in the New Testament.  Because Pigfests are so much like Church, we should let women be silent.  (This was my resolution, and as a female, I refused to say anything more after this for fifteen minutes.  A few women continued to contribute, but the debate was mostly carried by the men present.)  Pigfests are not enough like Church, in that they are not claiming to be church; only then could rules about Church apply.  Churches, definitionally, have leadership structures that Pigfests lack.  Is women’s silence useful for something in particular?  (after a pause in conversation) Things get decided faster!  The New Testament says that where two or more believers are gathered, that is Church.  So if Christians are driving in a car, the women shouldn’t talk?  If only two Christian women are present there would be no talking?  That would make for less gossip (though men gossip also).  Is a Pigfest more like church than those (in car, 2 women) gatherings?  New Testament Church was a gathering devoted to doctrine, teaching, and reading the Word of God.  New Testament church gathered for edification (one of the stated purposes for Pigfests).  New Testament Church is for worship.  Where is the verse about women being silent?  There is a scarcity of conversation when men who are used to women participating are faced with women being silent.  1 Corinthians 14:34 was read: “Let your women keep silent in the churches, for they are not permitted to speak; but they are to be submissive, as the law also says.” (NKJV)/“Women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says.” (NIV)  The verses assume that women are present, listening.  A husband or father can benefit in at least two ways from the “asking at home” in verse 35: 1) He needs to pay extra attention to be able to answer, 2) The man has the responsibility to participate at Church, whereas the woman just observes and has a more objective perspective.  These two perspectives are joined at home through the personal interaction with the women who saved up questions and thoughts.  How do unmarried women get their questions answered?  (In jest, it was suggested that unmarried women did not belong at church and should be out finding husbands instead.)  Unmarried women can learn from fathers.  Most “churches” in theUnited States let women speak.  Does silence mean what we think?  Why ‘let’?  Corinthians also says a few chapters before that women praying and prophesying in Church should have their heads covered, allowing speaking in some circumstances.  Both passages deal with subjection and are perhaps driving at a deeper concept that would be applicable at Pigfests.

Churches should draft all attendees to serve in preschool nursery care during service.  (My summary is not based on notes for this one, but on memory of segments caught while I was preparing dinner in the adjacent room.)  Assumes churches have nurseries.  Give visitors a few weeks before requiring them to serve.  Should service be determined by gifting, desire, request of elders/deacons, or by mandatory rule?  What are the dangers of having someone who is not a Christian or who knows nothing about taking care of children serving in those ministries?  Why are parents often expected to serve when they’re the most burnt out?  Specifically mentioned was the class of empty-nesters and older people who could be a help to young parents.  Parents need a break from children.  Why this ministry above others?  Evangelizing children is so important because you are so much more likely to get a conversion from people before they reach adulthood.  And the kids are ready to be learning truths about God and stories from the Bible that will benefit them their whole lives.  But is that what Church is for?  The same people tend to serve in many ministries and get burnt out, but a draft would ensure that those accustomed to coming to church as only consumers would contribute.  (Again, I apologize for not having more detailed notes.)

Fasting is bribing God to do what you want Him to do.  Does it always work – that God gives us what we want when we fast?  The Bible does say, of fasting, that God rewards what is done in secret.  But that reward might not be granting what we ask.  Bribery is wrong when it perverts justice.  Fasting is different from prayer.  It puts us in the mindset or mood to accept God’s will.  But people in the Bible initiate fasting when they really want something (example of Esther).  Are there other motives than asking God for something?  Should we fast merely to be open to find what God’s will is?  The act of fasting, apart from God “answering” in some way, practices self-denial and being open.  The hunger is a reminder that we are hungering for other things.  It helps us remember to pray, to practice for or relate to famine and starvation in the world.  Jesus talked about praying in secret and fasting in secret, not seeking the praise of men.  Jesus’ disciples did not fast, Jesus said, because they had the bridegroom with them.  So fasting is an appropriate response when separated, a sort of mourning.  Is Jesus with us now?  Matthew 6 contains Jesus’ teaching on fasting.  Feasting is the opposite of fasting.  Jesus also said that some demons came out by prayer and fasting.  Why did Jesus fast for 40 days?  Does the Old Testament Law have instructions for fasting, especially why?  Was there some tradition of fasting when separated from a bridegroom?  Husbands and wives, in 1 Corinthians 7, are allowed to be separate from each other only for a time of fasting.

Premarital sex is not wrong; you just have to marry the person.  Is marriage, then, to be seen as a penalty?  Paying the dowry was also required by the Old Testament law.  Fornication is often forbidden in the Bible.  The Hebrew and Greek words translated fornication are mostly associated with harlotry, or descriptions of sexual immorality or sin which would include the other sins listed in the Old Testament Law: incest, homosexuality, beastiality, rape, and adultery.  Is a male paying for dinner sufficient payment for relations to be considered prostitution?  If the woman cooks a man dinner, is she paying him?  What is the penalty in the Mosaic Law for visiting a prostitute?  Is almost barely permissible really “ok”?  What if the woman doesn’t want to marry the man?  Are they then sinning?  If the father refused, in the Old Testament, they didn’t have to marry.  It is not beneficial to prove that unwise things (as being debated: premarital sex) aren’t sinful.  Would the couple be sinning if they repeatedly had sex before they were married?  Is there a time limit before they must marry?  What is the impact of telling people they’re sinners if they aren’t sinning before God?  There are positive instructions in the Bible to keep our bodies pure, not prostituting them.  Women, at least, are also told to be chaste – and what is the definition for that?  The Old Testament allowed a man to annul his marriage if he discovered that the woman he married was not pure – not a virgin.  Is it a fair argument that because the Mosaic Law does not treat premarital sex with the same consequence (death) as other sexual sins, that it is not immoral or sinful?  The law about requiring a couple to marry is a protection for a woman, who gets one chance to choose whom she marries.  It is better, Paul said, to marry than to burn – not to give in to the burning and then get married.  What are we doing to teens who engage in this behavior but are not encouraged to marry?

*A Pigfest is 15 minutes long, and I am glad that such a topic cannot be thoroughly explored in that time.  Pigfest topics often spur further conversation, study, and debate after the party has ended.  I am aware of many such discussions and investigations following this particular resolution.  In the interest of spurring people on to holiness, I am adding some notes that were not covered in the debate.  1) It is almost impossible for premarital sex to occur without sinning in some other way – especially in dishonoring parents.  2) If Jesus’ relationship with the Church is to be well-pictured by weddings and marriages of Christians, then there will be abstinence until marriage.  Abstinence also accords with the way God instituted marriage.  3) As our ceremony and vows are not described in biblical accounts of weddings, it is hard to determine what constitutes a marriage before God.  However, the act of intercourse, it is made clear by the law in question, is not sufficient to make one married.  4) The biblical understanding of harlotry comprised more than our modern understanding of prostitutes for hire; it very likely included all premarital sex.  5) Christian virtue calls for purity, self-control, fleeing youthful lusts.  6) Marriage that is supposed to be a life-long commitment, recognizing submission as ordained by God – not governed by force or passion – is not starting out on a good foot if it is begun in insubordination to parents, giving in to lusts, and letting self control rather than be controlled.  7) We ought to hold Christians to the high standard of God, and in the New Testament era, to exercise church discipline on those unrepentant about their sin – so long as we identify sin for what it is.  8) Christians should be clear on the source of their understanding of what constitutes sin.

Betrothal should last at least one year consisting of spending a lot of supervised time with no physical intimacy.  Why so long?  Can you back out of a betrothal?  Parents would be more comfortable giving their child in marriage after such a year.  In that year a couple could learn about conflict resolution and be more mature about their relationship.  The goal would be less divorce, discovering compatibility.  Pre-arranged marriages (which had basically no interaction before the wedding) also have less divorce and are more mature, since they start with a commitment to work through the marriage.  Short engagements save you from temptation.  Should we be saved from temptations?  Long engagements enable you to save money for a wedding.  It is possible (preferable?) to know people well before you get engaged so that you wouldn’t need a year-long betrothal to get to know them.  Shouldn’t Christians just be able to have a good marriage with anyone else who is a Christian?  Why do we need all these conditions and preparations?  (For example, arranged marriages work in many cultures.)  Parents know their kids well.  Who better to decide whom they should marry?  God might know better.  It would be beneficial, in the proposed betrothal situation, to have that support and accountability that comes from the supervision.  But wouldn’t such support and accountability be just as useful if it were instituted at the beginning of a marriage?  Should community help (not supervision) end at the wedding?  Church discipline should be an option for divorce or marital problems, a further example of accountability after the wedding.  There is value in a vow.  Following people with church discipline (the only way to effectively do it in this age of church choice and denominations) can get you sued.  Do the right thing anyway; help couples to have a good relationship and hold them accountable for sin.  A show of hands revealed that there was almost unanimous support present for short engagements.  When people get married for love, then the ‘butterflies’ go away and they don’t feel like being married any more.  (Would the butterflies go away because of the year-long highly supervised, get to know each other very well betrothal?)  Some husbands ‘testified’ that the butterflies haven’t gone away.  Awwww….

Gluttony is one of the most prevalent and least talked about sins in America.  The silence is surprising given the number of health problems related to gluttony.  Gluttony is defined as desirous of food to the point where you put it above God.  How would it be put above God?  Testimony was reported of one whose “soul reached out to eating food,” that it was a focus of his life.  If gluttony was so prevalent, more people would be 400 pounds.  But there can be gluttony even in a culture with much higher risks of suffering starvation.  Gluttons desire to eat – and they aren’t picky about eating good food; in this way as in other ways, it is similar to drunkenness.  It is, however, harder to tell when a person is being gluttonous.  Obesity or lack thereof is not proof of gluttony – or of not being a glutton.  It is not gluttonous to occasionally, at feasts (think Thanksgiving), eat too much.  Why does our culture address it – when it does – as a health issue or a corporate issue instead of as sin?  The main verses addressing gluttony were found and read, particularly those in Deuteronomy and Proverbs.  Bulimia – partaking without consequences of nourishment – might be related to gluttony, though it is likely associated with other mental health (spiritual?) issues more.  If someone struggles with gluttony, it should be treated as sin – and deliverance should be sought by acknowledging it to be sin.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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For Mother’s Day my family took Mom out to a restaurant we’d never been to before, Cheddar’s.  Dad was leery since the name sounded like cheese.  Mom read the menu and it sounded like there would be good food for all of our tastes.  My brother called ahead and found out that they didn’t take reservations, even on holidays.

So we arrived and were handed a little black disk, with flashing and vibrating potential, and an estimate of 25-30 minutes to seat our seven-person party.  All the indoor and outdoor seating for those waiting for tables was taken on this busy Sunday evening.  Dad and my sister took a walk.  Mom and the rest of us sat down on an out of the way sidewalk to play a word game while we waited.

At 20 or 25 minutes, we were summoned inside to get our table.  Host and hostesses bustled in and out of the stone-tiled receiving area, consulting schedules and table charts and updating lists.  A woman in black (as all the hostesses wore) layered silverware on top of menus and led us beneath brick archways to our seats in the back corner of the restaurant.  The table was wide and a little high, made of a honey-colored wood and covered in a thick satin-shine finish.  Unadorned by colorful brochures about happy hours or daily specials, there seemed room to be a family.  My brother did discover the black leather-bound book with drinks and desserts, the only menu with pictures.

Our waitress was a friendly and attentive woman, Casie, with a pink daisy in her hair behind one ear.  She quickly furnished us each with a drink (Coke products, lemonades, ice teas, waters), and was ready to take our orders when she’d handed out the glasses.  Within a few minutes we had received our happily-portioned house side salads (each with a croissant), another order of three honey-butter drizzled croissants, and queso chips and salsa appetizer.  The chips were thick; the salsa had a sweet tinge and the exotic addition of mango chunks.

While we waited for the entrees – and the wait was considerable, but forgivable with such non-stop demands on the kitchen – a manager approached a table near us.  The diners there reported that they had received their food cold.  Immediately the woman told them that their meal was free, and she would do whatever she could to make it right.  They declined replacement food, but accepted a free order of the croissants.  We saw that family leave a while later with several to-go boxes.

We spent time admiring the fish tank across the restaurant, the strong older custom look of the décor, and the fans with interesting blades – particularly the one near the entry whose blades rotated vertically, like a waterwheel, instead of the traditional horizontal strokes.  During this time our waitress replenished drinks and chips and salsa several times.

Our food finally came, and there was plenty of it.  Hamburgers were a half pound each, and come with all the standard trimmings for only $4.99.  One thing I actually appreciated was that fries don’t come automatically with the burgers; you have to purchase them as a separate “side” for $1.79.  My dad and I both opted to get salads instead, a much healthier alternative.  Two of my sisters ordered chicken tender baskets off the appetizer menu, and those came with a side.  One got hers buffalo style, and reported that the flavor was “better than Wal-Mart,” the brand she usually buys.  Most of the dinner entrees came with a side or two, unlike the burgers.  We came away with two boxes of leftovers: French fries and chicken tenders and half of Mom’s burger.  I ate quite a lot, a croissant and another half in addition to my own order: with the honey-butter they were addicting!

The menu at Cheddar’s advertised that they cook all their beef medium-well or well-done, which is rather unusual but just the way we like it.  Mom requested that her burger come well-done just to make sure.  When we received our orders, my burger was more done than hers, so we traded.  As I ate, I decided that my burger (which had been Mom’s) was more like medium-cooked, even, than medium-well.  Across the aisle from us we saw another manager approaching a small family in a booth.  The mom complained, almost apologetically, that her steak was not medium-well.  It was pink, and hard to cut.  She declined a replacement, since her toddler-son was already grumpy with the later evening hours approaching.  The manager made things right for her much as the other one had done for the other nearby family.

Our order came without Mom’s side of fries, but she had gotten a side of corn that my sister didn’t want, so she was content.  We guessed that in taking seven people’s custom orders, the waitress had missed the simple and normal order for fries.  But when we got the bill, the fries were still listed.  The waitress promptly removed it for us.

Over all I was pleased with our experience.  The prices are very good for a family-friendly sit-down restaurant, to the point that I’m surprised if they’re turning a profit.  Cheddar’s was definitely a popular destination for families on Mother’s Day.  Maybe the value, atmosphere, and excellent wait staff and customer relations will out-compete the other nearby options enough to keep them going.  They are just opening a second location in my state, inColorado Springs.

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

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So today, several days after I bought my car, I made it to the DMV in my county, at which I could turn in the title to have it transferred to my name, pay sales tax, and acquire temporary tags by which I may legally drive my vehicle.  Next I have to get an emissions test, get the new car listed on my insurance, and figure out what to do with my old car.  I’m very reluctant now to get rid of it. My friend who is interested is waiting to get back to me on it.

 

Meet Laurelin, named for the golden tree in Valinor:


The first place I ever drove by myself, in my first car, was to my friend’s house.  It was a wild party with drinking and a cake sliced with a sword and a strange large man in denim overalls without a shirt blocking the door.  I was 19, and stayed long enough to take a walk with a friend who was also at the party, show her my car, and escape.  Still, it was a memorable experience, and I have every intention of driving my new car to that same house as soon as possible.  Except this time instead of being filled with newly adult partiers, it is filled with a family of five children, their parents, and another smaller family living in the spare room.  Isn’t life exciting?

 

(Update: The first place I ever drove my new Nissan Altima after purchase was to those same friends’ house.  That night was also a memorable occasion, but not one for a blog.)

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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That night I called on a car I’d had my eye on for a while, but which I knew had been through several showings earlier in the week.  He told me the car had not been sold, and agreed to schedule a test drive for the next afternoon.  I got my mom to join me on this test drive, male members of the family being at work.  We met a colorful Indian man who showed us his gold Nissan Altima, the same age as my car, but with less miles and much better maintenance history.  He was asking right at market value.  Except for some very minor hail damage, the car was in great shape.  I’d checked the VIN to make sure everything was clear.  The story went that the car had been owned by only one elderly gentleman since it was made, until a couple months ago when the Indian man bought it.  But the Indian found another car he liked better and was now interested in selling this one.

 

The Altima tends to have trouble with the CV joints, something to do with the wheels and axels.  But the owner had just paid to have that fixed.  Plus there was a new alternator, front tires, and air filter.  Altima’s use timing chains instead of timing belts.  They are much more durable, fairly easy to replace, and thus, inexpensive.  Really the cars have a reputation for being very reliable mechanically.  When we test drove it there was a bit of a squeak when we went over bumps, nothing too annoying or worrisome.  I left the test drive fairly certain I would buy that car.

 

That night I called to schedule a pre-purchase inspection of the car with my mechanic.  It was quite stressful, as I felt like I was putting the owner out, and trying to coordinate between my mom and I and the owner and the mechanic.  Plus Mom was babysitting, and I needed to talk to someone interested in buying my old car.  But I straightened my back and marched forward.  Took the car and the owner to my mechanic (a recommendation from a friend, but a shop very close to my house), who told me the car checked out.  So we drove back to the owner’s apartment, and completed the transaction.

 

To buy a car privately in Colorado, you have to sign the Title, put the new owners address on the back of the title, and record the Odometer Reading at the date of purchase.  Plus you need a bill of sale with the date, seller’s name, buyer’s name, signatures from both, amount of sale, and VIN # for the car as well as the year, make, and model.  While I wrote out those things, the owner counted the cash.  We shook hands.  He got his plates.  And I drove my new car home, with proof of insurance and the bill of sale on hand, while my mom drove my old car back home.

 

The day I bought my car was Veteran’s Day, a government holiday, so I couldn’t apply for temporary tags right away.  Instead I parked my new car in the garage and began the transfer of items from my old car to the new.  (In my car I keep coats and blankets and a Bible, pro-life literature, tracts, grape juice, a footstool, hats, gloves, cleaning supplies, a spare pair of clothes, maps, mall directories, a camera, and batteries as well as a cell phone charger and garage door opener.)  The new car just barely fits in the garage, as it is longer and wider than my old one.  However, it is set up much the same inside so that driving it is still rather intuitive.  The Altima does not have a sunroof, which makes me sad and inspires all sorts of improvisations like taping a picture of the sky onto the inside of the roof.  Yeah.  I’m that weird.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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On a Tuesday morning, I nervously picked up my phone to schedule a test drive of a 2003 Dodge Neon.  It just so happens that our first snowstorm of the season blew in that day.  We agreed to meet at a gas station between our two houses, since it would be after sundown and they have good lights.  I got my dad and my brother to go with me.  (I’m the research end, and the transaction I handle on my own, but I really don’t know much about cars or what to look for on a test drive.  Plus, with a big decision like this, I want at least another opinion on whether the car is good or not.)

 

We had an adventure.  First, I had the wrong intersection for the gas station.  Next, the gas station had changed brands, but we were pretty sure we were in the right place.  We parked and got out, looking for the car.  But he wasn’t there yet.  The snow was falling hard.  Also in the gas station parking lot were three police cars and one police SUV.  While we were waiting, a fire truck and ambulance arrived, lights flashing.  The police then put a man, hands cuffed behind his back, into the back seat of one of the cars.  A woman a few pumps over stood clapping her hands.  I huddled against the front of the quick stop.  Then the EMT’s put another man in a neck collar, and laid him on a stretcher to put him in their ambulance.  We can only speculate a fight broke out and one man assaulted another.  I don’t know why.

 

My family and I looked awfully suspicious standing there watching the whole scene, outside, puffing warm breath on our cold hands.  We were still waiting for the Dodge owner to come when a tow-truck came in to take away the offender’s vehicle.

 

Finally, the Dodge Neon arrived and we began our inspection.  There were no bells or whistles, not even power locks.  But the car was clean, with only 79,000 miles on it.  He wanted $3800, which according to my research was pretty close to appraisal value.  There’s a fine balance to reach between new cars and old.  The newer ones have a lot of computerized things that cause weird problems mechanics don’t understand.  But they also have less parts likely to wear out soon.  (Even if I replaced the engine on my Saturn, it’s quite likely something else will go out and cost more expensive repairs.)  When I drove the Neon, it handled ok, in the snow, but actually seemed to weave a bit.  Plus my brother said the tires were wearing out.  So I mentally added the price of tires to the sale price.  I like power locks.  Power windows I don’t like all that much; Mom says manual windows are safer (and cause less problems if the motors or electrical system in the door go haywire).  Still, the car was clean and relatively new.

 

I asked the owner if I could take it to my mechanic the next morning.  He said as long as he was there, too, that would be fine.  I could text him with the address and he would meet me there.  But that night I asked my dad, who said that the car wasn’t that impressive.  Plus I did the appraisal again, knowing the car was only the base model, and found out the car is actually worth about $600 less than what the owner was asking.  So instead of texting him an address, I texted him that I declined.  He responded that I could have haggled, but offering someone $600 less than asking price is a little more confrontation than I was looking for.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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After I had learned to identify scams on Craigslist, I got to work researching real potential cars.  I grabbed a scribble pad from the dollar store, a gel pen, and started listing cars that at first glance looked good.  I put the Year, Make, and Model as a heading for each entry.  To the side I wrote the phone number of the owner, as listed on Craigslist.  Below the heading I put the cost, and then below that the mileage.  After that I went to my Edmunds.com appraisal site and listed the MPG and the Consumer Rating.  Then I did the appraisal and wrote that amount at the bottom.  A lot of people want hundreds of dollars more than their car is worth.  I feel sorry for them.

 

I searched mostly Nissan Maximas and Altimas, Toyota Camrys and Corollas, and VW Jettas (a friend has one).  Several friends told me they are happy with their Hondas, but that brand tended to be slightly above my price range.  Toyotas and Nissans are better deals.  One big thing to me is the gas mileage. I’m a good driver and can get the upper end of the range of fuel efficiency, but if a little Ford Taurus will get me 19 mpg while a similarly priced Nissan is nearer 29 mpg, I’m ruling out the Ford.  Different years of car get different mileage, so I have to pay attention.

 

I narrowed my list down to the best deals (runs well, new tires, maintenance records on hand, no accidents) and did a little more research on those models, reading through the Consumer Reviews on Edmunds.com, and editor reviews if there were any.  From the editor reviews I learned what to watch out for on a test drive (turn radius, blind spots).  And the Consumer Reviews let me know first, whether the higher ratings are for looks or for reliability and fuel efficiency; second, they told me what tends to go out, and at what mileage.  Were repairs frequent or expensive?  That way I could see if those repairs had been made recently to my potential cars.  You have to use a critical reading of the Reviews to get good information out of them.  Some vehicles reviewed were not well maintained, or the mechanics were not good.  Other people complain whenever a vehicle needs a repair.  A car at 100,000 miles is going to need a major fix or two.  My Saturn cost me about $700 in repairs every year, so if I can get better than that, I’ll be happy.  Finally, some people complain about performance (like they wanted a race car or a truck instead) and about little things breaking (having to slam the trunk lid, or rattles on the inside).  I’m not picky about those.

 

Next I took the initial steps of contacting the owners of the cars that survived my research.  I looked especially to get the VIN #’s, and for information about exact model (is it an LE, an SE, a GXE? – and what on earth do those mean anyway?) as well as to confirm that mechanical condition is good (especially, with the mileage I was looking at: near 100,000, for the engine and transmission).  Due to schedule constraints I was unable to set up test drives right away, so I contented myself with requests for more information, resigned to the possibility that a good deal might not be available by the time I was.

 

To God be all glory,

Lisa of Longbourn

 

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