Monday, June 27, 2005

turning suburban

Hey everyone. I'm still alive. But it's been a busy weekend.

The first order of business on Saturday morning was The Matter of The Car.

A fairly brief explanation just to bring you up to speed. My parents have two cars. But, being residents of Manhattan, they rarely drive either of them. One of their cars is at their apartment, and the other parked in the garage of the apartment building where Joe and I live. They have very kindly allowed us use of this second car (don't get too excited, it's a dinged-up 1992 two-door Honda Civic hatchback--GREAT for picking up chicks!) which we have mainly been using to drive to work early in the mornings. This car has completely suited our limited purposes, and despite its age, has been reasonably reliable, probably owing to the fact that it only has 21,000 miles on it accrued over the past 13 years. Yes, you're reading that number correctly. 21,000 miles over the past 13 years. I wasn't kidding when I told you that my parents never drove it. I think the most that would happen is that they would get into it and run the motor for five minutes once a month while sitting in the garage, just so it wouldn't, you know, rust into immobility or whatever. And you wonder why I never learned to drive.

However, now that Cal's on the way, I think my parents were having second thoughts about the possibility of us driving around in this little two-door with a baby in the backseat. So they asked us if we would do some research and "help them" pick out a new car to replace their Civic, and after getting this new car, to "help them" maintain and drive the car around. So basically, they were telling us to get a safer new car for the baby. So we started doing our research.

Luckily, we had a lot of information already, because Joe and I had talked about getting a new car several months ago in anticipation of having the baby, and even done a lot of the safety and Consumer Report-y research already. We just never ended up doing anything about it because between the baby expenses and the nanny expenses, we just didn't have enough paycheck left over to even think about making car payments. I mean, unless we learned to photosynthesize. So we put off the new car idea for a few years at least, and decided to make do with the Civic, and basically avoid putting the baby in the car altogether.

However, with this new development with my parents helping out, we were able to resurrect all that old research, and after some more visits to various Honda dealerships in and around New York, had decided to get this car, the Honda Element EX.

Now, I am aware that this car incites extreme emotions from the general population. Some people love this car, and I see many, many Elements driving around the city streets. And some people think this car is the ugliest thing on the face of the earth. In fact, I think there was an episode of "Car Talk" on NPR a few months ago where viewers were calling in to nominate which vehicles they thought were the most hideous-looking things on the road, and I think that the Element came up fairly early into the program. Myself, I don't know anything about cars and I couldn't care less what it looks like, but liked three main things about this car:

  1. High safety ratings
  2. Despite the fact that it looks big, it's actually barely larger than the old car, and fits perfectly into our current parking space, which is a small, tricky park job, even by Manhattan garage standards.
  3. It's not much wider or longer than the old Civic, but has a lot more usable space, so we can actually cart stuff around in this car, like baby gear and canines and such.

I know I'm not telling you anything new by revealing that the act of buying a new car is a gigantic pain in the ass. I mean, we were more than happy to alleviate my parents with the crappy administrative details of the actual purchase (that was one think that my dad was adamant about not being involved in), but I would happily live the rest of my life without having to visit another car dealership. I kept thinking about "Fargo," and Jerry Lundegaard. "Well, heck, if you wanna play games here! I'm workin' with ya on this thing, but I... Okay, I'll do a damned lot count!" Car salesmen are crooks, I tells ya.

But anyway, after about a week of haggling with these guys, we finally drove the car off the lot on Saturday. Drove the car off the lot...and straight to BJs (hee) wholesale club. Between the car and the wholesale club, it's now official. We are turning suburban.

So the ostensible purpose of our visit to BJs (hee) was to survey the scene and decide whether or not it would be worthwhile to shell out for membership. I think we were convinced by aisle 3. Something about seeing all that Charmin Ultra at rock-bottom prices was somehow very exciting. And because they're having some sort of special promotional month, we got a 15-month membership for $30, as opposed to the usual 12-month membership for $40. I am pleased with the savings extravaganza.

I couldn't tell how much cheaper the baby stuff was, because we just don't have enough buying experience with baby products to know what's a good deal and what's the same as the price being offered at Walgreens. Well, except for the price of diapers, which is comparable to what's offered on Amazon--but as we've discussed before, we have more than enough diapers for now, thanks. However, some of the other stuff we're used to buying (dry and canned foods, brown-bag lunch items) were being sold at outrageous savings compared to what we're used to paying. Of course, you have to keep in mind that our usual method for supermarket shopping is to swing by our local Manhattan supermarket chain after work and picking up assorted items piecemeal, which, duh, is an expensive way to live. But now that we know the CIRCUS OF VALUE that lies just across the river from us, we can plan ahead a litle and try to stock up on some of these items in bulk the next time we visit BJs (hee).

A brief summary of some of what we ended up buying:

  • Fresh fruit and veggies
  • Frozen veggies and meats
  • Dog treats
  • Various granola-type bars
  • Cleaning products
  • One million sandwich bags
  • The mother lode of Barilla pasta and tomato sauce (and yes, it's spelled "mother lode," not "motherload")
  • The biggest box of Nilla wafers you have ever seen
  • A gigantic pack of assorted Orbitz gum
  • A huge sack of Starbucks French Roast coffee beans for Joe (he prefers Peet's, being a Frisco expat, but can look the other way in the face of MONSTER SAVINGS).

So honestly, how was the BJs (hee) experience? Fun, and reasonably economical. I mean, the discounts weren't, like, mind-boggling or anything like that, but I think that we can safely say that we recouped the $30 membership fee in this one shopping trip alone. So I'm not going to go nuts second-guessing our choice to join. Instead, I'm going to sit here and work my way through our box of 64 granola bars.

Currently reading: This article in yesterday's New York Times Magazine about teenagers with perinatally acquired HIV, and the secrecy that sometimes surrounds their diagnosis. I had a case in the ER just a few months ago of a teenager who came in with his mother for something extremely minor. As usual, I asked about past medical history, home meds, past hospitalizations, and everything was no, no, no, nothing, never. But this kid just did not look right. So on a hunch, I looked him up on the hospital computer system and saw through the pharmacy notes that as recently as last week, he had been prescribed a whole slew of anti-virals and antibiotic prophylaxis. The hell? I went back to the room, pulled the mom outside and asked her quietly, point blank, if her teenager had HIV. Looking relieved, she nodded, and acknowledged that both she and the kid were HIV-positive. She just hadn't wanted to say anything in front of him, because he actually didn't know.

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