Friday, November 07, 2003


November 7, 2003

Today, after nearly three weeks of waiting, we finally have our car! We bought a Ford Fusion, which is made in Great Britain and not sold in the US. It’s in between a Fiesta and a Focus in size, and we bought the station wagon model, after discovering that the hatchbacks just didn’t have the space we need. The “fusion” part of this car is supposed to be a mix of small car maneuverability with the increased height of an SUV. It does look a little boxier and cluckier, and does sit up a bit higher, but it is definitely NOT an SUV! I would enclose a picture, but it’s raining today. We found out that the rain is considered good luck, so keep your fingers crossed!

We found the car nearly three weeks ago, on a Sunday. On Monday morning we went to the Post Office, where we have recently opened a bank account. We completed the paperwork, with our director/postmaster, Fabio, and were told it would be a few days. When we checked back with him on Thursday, he told us there was a small problem. Since we have no credit history here, they wanted us to have Art’s pension check automatically deposited in the PO bank every month. As you all know, the current administration’s economic policies have really hurt the strength of the dollar. Last year we could buy one euro for 92 cents. That same euro now costs between $1.14 and $1.20. OUCH! We told him we would have to think about it.

We decided to go to our original bank to see what they would say about a loan. We completed the paperwork, and while we were there, the loan officer, Corrado, told us about his insurance company and their very reasonable rates. Because we don’t have a driving record in Italy either, we will start off paying the highest premiums. We were supposed to hear back from the bank about the loan on Friday…the paperwork had to be sent to the main office in Florence. Well, Friday came and went. On Saturday, Art went to the post office to pay the electric bill, and while he was there he told Fabio that we had decided not to take the loan. He explained that it was just too expensive; that we would lose money every month, instead of trying to transfer a large sum when the rate was low. Fabio was heartbroken. He made some phone calls, proclaimed that we were “a good family”, and got the decision about the direct deposits reversed! Now what were we going to do?

When we still hadn’t heard from the other bank on Monday afternoon, we decided that this was a good opportunity to decline the loan…we would just say that they had taken too long. Art felt obligated to Fabio, since he had worked so hard to get us the loan, and since it was in our town. We told Fabio at the PO to proceed. Then the problems REALLY started. Now the PO wanted a letter not only from us, but also from the other bank, saying that we had declined the other loan. It was showing up on our credit report as “open”, and the PO needed reassurance that we wouldn’t take both loans. We didn’t want to tell the bank that we were getting the other loan, and this was just another delay. Maybe we should just take the bank loan? Would they still give it to us?

We called the bank and told them that money we had been expecting to use to pay cash for the car had not yet arrived, could we still get the loan? The loan officer said it wouldn’t be a problem. He called the next day to say that it would be at an even better rate than before, because we would be getting it directly from their branch, but the catch was it would only be for 2 years, not the three years we had originally requested. Okay, we decided we could make the higher payments until spring, when we really did plan to pay off the car. The money should be ready in a day or two. Okay. By now, we have phoned our car salesman many, many times to change the pickup date. We are confident that this time things will work out.

We hadn’t yet told Fabio an absolute “no”. We were just going to tell him that it was too much trouble, and thank you, but we just went with the other bank. That way would be much quicker. Or so we thought! Now the bank calls back to say that in order to give us the loan at this lower rate, we must open some sort of investment account. This fact had never been mentioned, and I think it was mandated by the home office. All of this happened one morning while we were at school, and Wendy was forced to make a quick decision. She called Fabio to see if that loan was still waiting for us, then told the bank NO. Obviously if we had the money to open an investment account, we wouldn’t need to borrow money to buy the car! She was a little concerned that we would be upset, but on the contrary, we were glad she had made the decision she did. But when would the money be ready? Probably on Monday or Tuesday. We call the salesman and tell him we will be in to pick up the car. The money is not ready on Tuesday. Maybe Thursday.

We had finally gotten all the car insurance questions figured out, and on Wednesday had faxed everything to them. We made the first six month payment with our Visa card over the phone. Now all we had to do was get the money. Then things got more complicated. The insurance company wanted proof that we owned the car, but we hadn’t yet paid. We decided that we could write a check for the car, and when the loan was ready, we would deposit it into the account. We made sure that the check could and would be made out to us, not the car dealership. Then we waited for the insurance company and the dealership to get their paperwork in order. The insurance company kept asking for documents, and the dealership would send them. Then the insurance company would ask for something else. And so on. We decided that insurance companies are the same no matter what country you are in…no matter how good the rate, no matter how nice the agent, insurance companies are blood-sucking leeches who want only to receive and never to give. We were astounded to discover that our car, a demo, would cost MORE to insure because it was considered a USED car. We were told that a used car is more likely to be in an accident! I’m not sure what statistics they used to figure those rates! By this time it’s nearly five o’clock, and it will take at least two hours for the paperwork to be verified. We decide to give up for another day…we have a tiramisu class to go to! If everything goes as planned, we will pick up the car the next day. I still had my doubts!

Amazingly, when we called Wendy this morning, everything was ready, so we headed for the rental agency to return the car. Wendy met us and she drove us to the car lot. Once we got there, we discovered that our salesman wasn’t there! Luckily, he showed up shortly after we went to the office to write the check. He handed us the keys, walked Art out to the car, showed him a few basics, and we were off! We are now the proud owners of a 2003 Ford Fusion, ink blue. It’s a five speed diesel and has plenty of pickup, and plenty of room for the luggage of our friends and family. I’m sure the first nick or dent will be painful, but we know it will happen sooner rather than later. Those narrow, winding medieval streets just weren’t made for modern cars! For us, it’s a small price to pay.


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