How To Keep That Competitive Edge
- Volume 14 - Issue 12 - December 2001
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A new form of bragging rites exists among physicians. There seems to be competition among doctors where the winner is who who paid the least for his car. I have been the clear winner in my medical community. During the past year, I have been driving a 1967 Mercedes diesel that cost me $1,400. It doesn’t look like much but it makes a statement. It says I’m frugal and not afraid of risk.
While I always carry a tool box, a cell phone and a case of oil, the old Benz has been a reliable means of transport to and from the office. There was an unfortunate incident last spring when the drive shaft broke and dropped to the ground as I crossed a set of railroad tracks. A resourceful old German mechanic and a junkyard got the Benz back on the road.
Reimbursement from insurance com
panies improved over the past year so I decided to upgrade my transportation and give somebody else a chance at having the cheapest car. An internist in my building had an old Nissan that would guarantee him the distinction. I owed it to Larry to look for a better car.
I haven’t bought a new car since 1987 and I didn’t look forward to the experience. Since my old Mercedes had been a good car, I decided to look at the new ones. One look at the window stickers threw me into shock. I spent less on eight years of college and buying my first home than the cost of a new bottom of the line Mercedes.
A sales guy asked if I needed any help, skeptically glancing at my old car. I commented the prices seemed a little steep. He said, “Well sir, they’re Mercedes.”
“So’s mine,” I replied.
He chuckled and said, “You’re not thinking of trading are you? There’s no market for those old ones but I’d be willing to take it off your hands.”
There was no way I was going to drop a fortune on one of those overpriced chariots, no matter how good they are supposed to be. I thanked the sales guy and headed home. I stopped at Wal-Mart for another case of motor oil and a can of transmission fluid. My old car leaked a multi-viscosity variety of lubricant goo. My family nicknamed my car, The Exxon Valdez. I’ve gone through several giant bags of cat litter keeping the garage floor clean.
Last week, the old Benz was bucking and coughing more than usual. I was leaving a fog bank of blue smoke driving in and out of the hospital parking lot. I began leaving the keys in the ignition, confident that no self respecting car thief would touch the beast. Even if a thief started the thing, it’s doubtful anyone could figure out the shifting pattern. I decided it was time to get a new car.
I checked out several of the upscale Yuppie cars. They were boring and overpriced. I also found that I was good for about three minutes with most of the sales associates or whatever the PC term is for car salesmen. My last stop of the day was the Volkswagen dealership in Olympia, Wash. The cars seemed to be well built and the prices weren’t too bad.
A new sales guy named Dan came out to see if I had any questions. He confessed that he might not have all the answers but would get help from the experts if needed. I liked Dan and enjoyed exchanging stories with him as we walked around the lot. I asked an occasional question and he would run to one of his mo