Why Boring Cars Are Beautiful
By December 6, 2016on
Two jobs. A $20 a week food budget. College courses designed to challenge your mind and bust your balls. And a boring car. What an awesome life!
Well at first, it was… damn good. See a car to me meant freedom. Not only to emancipate myself to the South and get rid of my hideous ‘Joisey’ accent, but to also become financially independent.
That’s why I ended up buying this…
A then brand-new 1994 Toyota Camry coupe in candy apple red. You say it’s a rolling refrigerator, but back in the glory days of the Clinton Era it was more, “Ice! Ice! Baby!”
From an interior that wasn’t made out of the all too common Tonka toy plastics of that time period. To triple seal window moldings that gave it a Lexus like hush during my travels.
Sunroof. ABS. It was loaded. It was 1990s loaded! And so help me, it was not the car I wanted in my heart at that time. What I wanted back then was this…
Everybody and their car loving dog in the automotive world wanted to drive one of these. Except me. To drive one, absolutely. The neighbors had one, and I was smitten and bitten at first sight.
But I wanted my first car to do something unusual. I wanted it to let me focus on the business world as I graduated school and pursued the good life that was the 60 hour work week as a financial analyst on Wall Street. To me this meant…
But back then owning the house behind those cars was what I was really after. A nice house paid off by the time I was 30 (God I was delusional back then!) was my ultimate goal in terms of things.
But then life happened. I became a friendly financial analyst on Peachtree Street instead of a wolf on Wall Street. I met a girl. Fell in love. Got married. And I finally figured out that corporate America was a sham and became, an auctioneer.
“A Jewish auctioneer in Georgia. Now that I haven’t heard before!” it would be Arthur Fonzarelli, Henry Winkler, who would utter those words to a skinny, gawkish, Jersey kid who was at the Atlanta Jewish Federation back in 1996 with hundreds of other Gen Xers who were trying to pursue careers they didn’t really want.
Maybe it was having to spend months on end being bathed under florescent lights while making numbers dance on a computer for 60 hours a week. Or maybe I was truly as arrogant as my idiot boss said I was, and I needed a reality check.
Henry Winkler gave me that reality check. What I really wanted to do was become a businessman and entertainer at the same time. I went to auctions every single day possible back then. Even ones loaded with what I saw were ugly antiques and shitty cars that drank, smoked, and hung out with the bad boys.
That would be my life! I started out as a starving auctioneer. A ringman. I guy who hoots, hollers, and helps the auctioneer create the urgency to buy.
The guy that points at a bidder and excitedly yells “Yep!”. That would be my life for the next two years as I began my real education in the auction business. That boring little Camry became my rock of transportation through three hour drives to the best auto auctions in God’s green Earth, and to sleazy ones that were called, “The Red Light Districts” due to them selling cars that were AS/IS for all the wrong reasons.
I needed a boring car in my life so I that could focus on other things that would get me ahead in my unique work.
I practiced my auction chant as I traveled to five to seven auto auctions every week. As each car passed on the other side of the winding one lane roads, I would up my bid price as I imagined the future glories of auctioneering on the block. As the miles piled up on the boring not-so-new Camry, I learned to further economize my life by maintaining my own car and driving conservatively.
I did have my temptations that ran through the auction block. There was a rare Toyota Celica All-Trac that I managed to buy from another car dealer for all of $1500. I kept it for a few days. But then I decided to sell it since i was near broke, which I did for $3300. There were other lusts and wanderlusts. Some of them strange.
A 1986 Honda Civic with a vinyl interior and a four-speed? Bought it for $525 and sold it on Ebay for $1576 to a Polish PhD student from Emory University. There was a Peugeot 405 that bit me on my wallet real hard, and then another Toyota Celica, this one a base model, that gave me my first real chance to learn how to drive stick.
I loved fun cars. But what I really wanted in this new life was success, and that meant making a boring hideously reliable car a keeper. Plus they are usually cheaper to insure. Having the cheapest auto insurance helps with my tight budget.
30 miles per gallon. $5 oil changes. Cheap gas, and two roommates who now rented out rooms in what my more affluent co-workers called, “A nice little trailer park house”. That boring car I bought five years prior was now literally saving my bacon so that I could eat and sleep the auction world.
I became a lucky guy by working my ass off and finding any edge possible. I could auction in Spanish, and I was ‘conversational’ with it in a north Georgia world where the only Spanish word widely known was ‘taco’. I could “put deals together” as a ringman who could speak the language of Latino immigrants who would come to the public auto auctions and buy their first cars as groups.
That Camry got me everywhere I needed to go, The fun came with the journey.
Boring car? Didn’t matter. It still doesn’t because, truth be told, a car often times has to put on many faces as you travel on life’s own highway. So when you see some beautiful Audi or MINI as you drive along in a bland beige blahmobile, remember that every good boring car has true inner beauty.
Even old Camrys.