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May 25, 2023

Greetings Laff Lovers,

It has been 17 years since I bought my last vehicle, and the experience has gotten no pleasanter with age.

After the old battle wagon started leaking like a sieve last weekend I got on the Interwebs and started researching compact to mid-size SUVs. One name that showed up several times on lists of 'most reliable vehicles' was Nissan Rogue. So I called my local Nissan dealer.

I talked to a sales manager who told me they had lots of options and I should 'come on down' for a test drive. So I left the office early drove over there.

After I parked the beast I walked up to the dealership and saw a teenager hanging around outside the building. I thought maybe he had an after-school job there sweeping up or something, but as I approached the entrance he walked up to me and said, "Can I help you?"

I said, "I'm looking for the sales manager."

So he led me inside and introduced me a youngish looking man named Sal who was wearing a very tight shirt and sporting a startling tan for May. I told Sal I was the guy he had talked to earlier on the phone and I reiterated what I was looking for; a used small to mid-size SUV with low mileage.

Immediately assessing that he had a little fish on his line he turned me around to face the youngster who was still hanging around in the margins. "This is Tim," he told me. "He's going to take care of you." Whereupon Sal turned on his heel and walked away.

Standing face-to-face with Tim I asked him, "So... you're a salesman?"

"Yeah," he said. "I'm new."

"I can tell."

"But don't worry!" he added, "anything I can't figure out I'll ask somebody."

With this reassurance nestled in the back of my mind we began a torturous tour of the used car lot.

The first thing he showed me was a 2021 Rogue. Getting in I pulled the door shut and immediately noticed that it didn't close properly. I had to slam it twice before it was firmly latched. Out on the road it felt light and bouncy. Maybe I was just used to my 8-cylinder land tank, but I got the feeling that the thing would tip over in a stiff wind. After the test drive I gave it a once over and digging around in the back seat I found broken glass.

Pouring the fragments from my hand into Tim's I said, "A misaligned door and broken glass in the back seat makes me think this car's been in an accident."

"You could be right," he admitted.

"So what else you got?"

Young Tim didn't have many opinions to offer. His role quickly diminished to following me around the lot while I looked at cars and kicked tires.

"What can you tell me about this one?" I would ask.

And Tim would invariably pull out his smartphone and say, "Let me check."

I soon discovered he was looking the cars up on the dealership's webpage - which I could have done myself... honestly.

After two and a half brutal hours of waiting for Tim to look up information on the Internet, plus two more disappointing test drives, I finally lit upon something I was not looking for at all.

Almost all of the reviews, lists and reports I had read online pointed in the same direction; the most reliable cars were the foreign models... the Toyotas, the Hondas, the Nissans. I have driven American cars my entire life - even going back to college when I drove around a beat up, old Cadillac Coupe de Ville - but I was determined to shake off this silly sentimentality and finally buy something that wouldn't need a new water pump after 50,000 miles.

But when I saw this solid-looking American model tucked away in a corner of the lot I couldn't help but cupping my hands around my eyes and peeking through the window. Ten minutes later Tim and I were tooling around the neighborhood in it while I appreciated the familiar, comfortable furnishings and appointments of the interior. To me the foreign models I had driven earlier felt... flimsy - for lack of a better word - while this cruiser felt substantial under my butt, even for a 4-cylinder.

A nagging suspicion was growing in my mind that I was going to buy this 'auto repair waiting to happen'.


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