I have another story to tell you all. I will forewarn you all; it will be a long story, so please bear with me. But, it’s a warm-hearted, feel-good story that tells everyone that there are still good people out there in the world and when you least suspect it, they show themselves. I don’t want you all to think this is a story about me. I am part of the story, but I want to make sure that the focus is not so much on me, but the unselfish acts of another.
My story starts a brief four weeks ago. The car that I had been driving back and forth to Houston for my treatments has a few miles on it…over 150,000 to be closer to accurate. The car was given to my wife by her parents. It really wasn’t much of a car but it got really good gas mileage! It’s a 1994 Oldsmobile Achieva SC. The history of the car was long, but we didn’t know all that much about it. All I really knew was that it had a remanufactured engine in it. That was good. But time began to rear its head over the year or so that we had the car. Generally speaking, one thing led to the next. I installed new brakes, alternator, front suspension bushings, front axles, struts, you get the idea. We put into the car more than the car was worth. But it was making the trip back and forth to Houston, so it wasn’t a big deal. Now about four weeks ago now, I noticed a “bell” type of sound coming from the engine compartment. I’m not a dummy when it comes to engines as I actually do most of my maintenance and repair work. But I was getting into a serious time crunch because I left again for Houston in a few days. And what I was really waiting on was some money… I knew it was coming, but wasn’t sure of the exact day it would hit. When I finally found out the money was “officially” on its way, it was the day before I left for my next trip to Houston. As you can imagine, this put me in a significant time crunch!
So that morning, I took the Achieva to my mechanic. I DO use a mechanic when I know I can’t accomplish the task or when I am up against a time crunch. I do it as a hobby; they do it for a living. I know without a doubt that they can get it done faster. And due to the fact that I still have to work, that time crunch is typically that much more compressed. I suspected that the tensioner pulley bearing was beginning to fail and as a result was causing a vibration through the pulley which was making the audible ringing sound. I relayed this to my mechanic and then proceeded to work.
It was about noon when the mechanic called me to tell me what was going on; a practice that is standard before they proceed with any repairs. I was correct thinking it was pulley bearing, I just had the wrong pulley. In fact, it was the air conditioner compressor idler pulley bearings that were failing. In addition to that, the clutch for the air conditioner compressor was badly worn and needed to be replaced. Ultimately that meant a new air conditioner compressor was needed. That, in itself requires a whole new set of parts including air conditioner lines, the dryer as well as new refrigerant not to mention the labor to get that all installed. All-in-all I was looking at a repair bill well over $1000. Now, looking back, I had already spent over $1000 in repairs to get the car to where it was at that point. A quick look at both NADA and Kelly Blue Book showed that in the condition the car was in, it was worth at most $750. So when do you cut your losses? That was it!
I talked to my lovely bride at lunch and we decided that it wouldn’t hurt at all to look around at a few of the dealerships in town to see if they even had anything that would fit the bill. I started my search at the one dealership we didn’t make it to when we traded in our Trailblazer for a Suburban, Sid Dillon Buick in Lincoln, Nebraska. It worked out well. When I arrived I told the salesman who approached me that I was looking for a car that was less than $4000 and was capable of lasting about 8 months making trips to Houston, roughly 850 miles one-way, every three weeks. Of course, through the conversation I revealed the reason I travel to Houston every three weeks; a clinical trial to prevent the recurrence of melanoma for a third time.
The car they showed me was a local trade that had just arrived a couple days earlier. It was a 1998 Buick Regal LS, green in color. I test drove it and it fit the bill I was looking for. The price was initially set at $3900 pending a check-over by my mechanic. I called my mechanic and they could look at the car (by this time it was after 2pm). However, after I got off the phone, I decided to stop by the bank first. I figured the bank closes before the mechanic, so off to the bank I went.
A brief time later, I was approved for a loan for $3900 and had the check in-hand to prove it. I was off to have my mechanic evaluate the car. After their evaluation, there were a few things noted that the salesman at Sid Dillon was not aware of that was wrong with the car. The list of things that needed to be fixed were this: driver’s side inner tie rod end, transmission service, damaged oil pan, front sway bar broken, brakes worn as well as a few other minor deficiencies like a blown speaker. With that knowledge, I went back to the dealership and negotiated a little lower price. The agreed upon price was set at $3579 and the papers were signed. But by this time at night, about 6 pm, most of the rest of the staff were gone. In order to receive the $321 back, I would have to come back the next morning. My plan was to use that money for the tax, title and license for the car. That was no problem because I did need something done to the car the next morning before I began my 2000 mile journey to Houston and back. The most pressing issue was the transmission needing serviced. The fluid had bubbles in which meant that the pick-up was drawing air. On a long trip, this could mean that the transmission could burn up. That’s not something I wanted after just purchasing a car. I wouldn’t have any trouble getting back to the dealership the next morning.
Before I left the dealership that night, the salesman introduced me to his boss, who happened to be part owner of the dealership. He too is a cancer survivor and so we shared our stories for nearly a half an hour. I didn’t think too much about it, because, well, I’m a talker. I tell many people my story and never think anything of it. I headed home in a new-to-me car and proceeded to prepare myself (read: “pack my suitcase”) for my journey.
The next morning my wife and I took the car directly to the mechanic and then all the kids to their respective schools. Shortly after dropping the car off at the mechanic, I received a phone call. It was the co-owner of the dealership I met the night before. Apparently I made some type of impression. The conversation wasn’t that long, and I don’t remember a lot of the details. What I remember was him asking what the check for $321 was for. I told him I was going to use it for taxes, title and license. His reply through me off a little because he said, “We still want to give you the car.” It struck me as a little odd because the paperwork was finalized; I bought the car. He went on to tell me that I could come pick up the check and that they wanted to give me the car. I got it this time. My only response was, “You’re kidding!” That’s right, they GAVE me the car. In addition to that, they still gave me the check for $321 to cover the tax, title and license. Needless to say, I was not only flabbergasted, but completely overcome by their generosity. I couldn’t hardly say anything more than, “Thank you,” repeatedly.
There was only one small snag that day. While test driving the car after flushing the transmission, the alternator went out. Considering the fact that I just received the car for nothing (well, $60.98 to be precise – loan processing fee and a single day of interest) I had no problem fixing the alternator. All that done, I began the adventure that I take every three weeks. But before I left, the salesman and part owner told me to come back to see them when I returned in reference to the things that were wrong with the car.
The car performed great on the trip. It averaged 28.2 miles per gallon which was less than 3 miles per gallon less than the 4-cylinder Achieva. But once I got home, I left immediately again for another week to help my father with some work. Now, I’m only home about two weeks between each trip to Houston. That meant that this week now was the only week I was actually going to be at home to get some of the work done on the car. I could do a lot of the work myself, but not all of it. I went back to the dealership and was told to make a list of the things that needed to be done, parts cost and labor costs. I did that, but didn’t include a lot of things on the list. All that was on the list was the tie rod ends, the sway bar and the oil pan. And Wednesday, as you all know, was Veterans’ Day. That meant I had the day off work. And because I am somewhat handy with a wrench, I spent the day working on the car. I performed the basic tune up, plugs, wires, air filter, and oil change. I also replaced the brakes; front rotors and pads and rear pads. For the most part, that was the extent of my abilities given the time constraints of my next trip to Houston. A quick phone call to my mechanic scheduled the tie rod replacement for today. I was planning the sway bar replacement when I got back and the oil pan in a trip or two from now.
You’d think this might be a decent stopping point to my story, but there’s more to tell. It was shortly after lunch today when the dealership called me. It was in response to my list of work that needed to be done still on the car. I explained that I had the car in the shop for the tie rod ends currently, so that was getting completed. During this phone call, I explained that the most critical parts were the sway bar and the oil pan. The sway bar was next on my list and the oil pan would come sometime in the future. That was when the same part owner offered me some of the parts to fix the car. I figured to this point that the “implied” offer was that I may be able to get the parts at cost. This again amazed me! He gave me the front sway bar, the oil pan and the oil pan gasket. If I had to purchase those parts on my own (two of which are dealer-only items), I would have spent over $400. This ends my story.
There are several reasons I told this story. The first and foremost is my way of saying “Thank you” to Sid Dillon Buick of Lincoln, Nebraska. Another reason is to show that there are still wonderful people in this world. I never doubted that those people were out there. I just never expected that I would find anyone so generous. One thing I do have to say is that Sid Dillon now has a customer for LIFE! I would encourage any who might be live in the area to consider getting your next car at Sid Dillon. They don’t carry a single brand of car that I ever considered driving before, but that’s the only place I will shop for another car!
I never asked for any assistance nor did I expect any. I must have made a significant impression on the people at Sid Dillon though because of their offer. I didn’t go there with my hand out asking for anything, yet they offered. I want to again say, “Thank you,” to Sid Dillon Buick for the kindness they have shown me.
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