A couple of years back, we got a car. It was a much needed balm at the time and over the past few years, it has been a real life saver. Our little “Silver Car,” as Monki dubbed it, allowed us a freedom of movement which was vitally important.
Sure, Kaunas has public transportation, but the car let us go and explore places public transportation made extremely difficult to reach, if they went there at all. This was how we were able to visit the beaches and hiking sites in nature and even make day trips to the zoos and dino parks which aren’t in our backyard.
But, like all good things, our time with Silver Car was coming to an end. Over the past few months various things have started to go wrong, nothing major but enough so that it felt like something major was on the horizon. So Rasa, as she is wont to do, started looking for a new car. She does this as a form of therapy. When we were looking for a new place to live, she would spend a bit of time each morning going through the ads, searching for a now domicile. Eventually, she found the amazing place where we’re living now. And thus it was with a car.
For the last few weeks (or maybe months? who knows how long, really? Time works different under quarantine lock downs), Rasa has been going through the online ads and looking for a new car for us. She even got aid in this from our mechanic, who would go and check out cars when he was able to, and at least read through the advertisements and give an informed opinion when he wasn’t.
Most of the cars she liked, though, were either crap or out of our price range (the option of financing didn’t really exist for us, for a number of reasons, but most importantly, 18-21% interest rates!) So we had a certain amount of cash set aside and we kept looking.
Eventually, she found a car in Mažeikiai (her home town) and enlisted her brother-in-law, Paulius, to go and investigate it. The car itself was, like the others, crap, but this did open up a line of communication we hadn’t thought about before, and Rasa asked Paulius to help us find a car. See, Paulius knew people and had just gotten a car for Rasa’s sister, so this made perfect sense. And sure enough, a few days later, a car had been located, pictures sent and prices negotiated downward.
And we still hadn’t driven it.
The car was reserved for us and we quickly made plans to drive up to Mažeikiai to see it. There were a couple of concerns we had as we headed up. The first was what would we do with Silver Car if we decided to get this new one? The second was that if we bought it, we’d need to have the cash in hand. Driving around with that much money was a bit daunting but if that’s what we had to do, then that’s what we had to do.
As we drove to Mažeikiai, we talked more and more about this car and even though it wasn’t exactly what she was looking for, it was a great car, at least on paper, and could be great for us. At this point, I should point out that despite all of that “it’s our car for our family” stuff, this would definitely be Rasa’s car. I’m not a big driver so as long as the car is comfortable, then fine. For Rasa, though, driving is her happy place. When she’s having a bad day, getting behind the wheel and just cruising around town instantly calms her down and makes her feel better. Therefore, ultimately, the decision on the car would be hers and she needed to be comfortable behind the wheel.
We got into town a bit late, had some food and made plans to meet up with Paulius at 9am the next morning. Paulius, for his part, had checked on the car a few times, making sure it was all good and had “reserved” it for us (which turned out to be a good thing since there were plenty of other people looking at it).
We left Monki with Lina, Rasa’s sister (and Paulius’ wife), and her kids, who are Monki’s favorite playmates and got to the dealer bright and early, where got our first glimpse of this beast. The car is a 2015 Opel Astra with turbo overdrive. Turns out they were made for the Western European market and are a special, limited edition. This one is black, with a leather interior and quite sleek. We walked around the outside, checking it all over, and then Rasa took it for a drive. I went with her, naturally. Halfway down the block, without ever taking her eyes from road, Rasa said “I want it.”
Back we went to do the paperwork. Now, when I say “dealer” this isn’t a showroom situation. This is a guy with a garage and a number of cars and an import connection. It’s all perfectly safe and legal, but it’s a bit different. We were led to a back room/office area, and with everyone but me speaking Lithuanian, the scene was right out of every Eastern European action film of the mid-90s, right down to my pulling an envelope stuffed with small, unmarked bills out of my backpack and throwing it down on the low table in a very dramatic fashion.
The money was counted, by hand mind you, no fancy counting machines here, and keys were exchanged. Our next step was to head off to the Lithuanian version of the DMV, called Regitra, in order to make sure it was legal for us to get it home. Not only did we achieve that goal, but we got our plates and everything, so the car was officially ours and good to go wherever we wanted to take it.
The one remaining problem was Silver Car. Thankfully, Paulius took care of that, too. Between him and the car guy, they were going to take it off our hands and make sure it was all dealt with. The advantage here was that we didn’t have to drive two cars home (parking is bad enough for one car, let alone finding spots for two!).
And that was it. We had successfully navigated the system. For Rasa, this was a pretty big deal as it is her first actual car purchase. While Silver Car was great and all, this is the first one she was involved with from beginning to end.
As I’m typing this, finishing up the narrative, she just walked in to the office to tell me some piece of minor news, nothing major, nothing really of any consequence. But then, before she left me to finish, she looked out the window to where the new car is parked and said “I love my car.” The grin on her face makes it all worth while.