I guess that nostalgia got to me…last week I was in a bit of a funk. I went off on a tangent of thought and decided that we needed to buy a full-size van, something like the one we’d owned back in the 90s: a 1987 Ford Econoline 150 that was the scene of many good times. I pictured us throwing a tent in the back, loading up a cooler, and hitting the road. I jumped right into the rabbit-hole that is the FB marketplace and searched out a couple of contenders, newer and more up-to-date, and messaged the owners. I figured it was a good sign that they were available, though 87 miles away in Paducah, Kentucky.
We were looking for a day-trip anyway, so off we set early Friday morning. We stopped in Madisonville to pick up cash, sure we’d be making a purchase.
Of the two that I found, I felt the first one was the obvious choice with less miles, a new transmission, brakes, tires. The owner was a mechanic, which I felt was an advantage, and the vehicle could be viewed at his Auto Repair Shop.
The van was out front of the garage when we arrived and we looked it over. There were some flaws that weren’t mentioned in the ad, but hey. Up in the auto bay, a guy spotted us from under a car and grabbed a rag to wipe his hands. We asked for “Mike”; he was “Mike”. He went to get the keys and as he brought them to us, he pulled a Marlboro 100 out of the pack in his pocket and placed one in his mouth, where it remained… He never lit it, but he proceeded to talk with this cigarette dangling and bobbing with every word. I was fascinated, watching the ciggie move as he spoke, impressed with the guy’s lip flexibility. I couldn’t really understand what he was saying, but he was talking to Casey, not me.
As we opened up the doors to the van…what a sight to see…there were greasy smears of black on the carpet with a toolbox sitting in the center of the floor; other mechanical items were piled on the seats. There were floor mats thrown under the passenger seat that were way too big and nearly fell out when I opened the door. A large baby seat sat like a throne on the back bench seat with a play station laying beside it. Clothes were hanging from a rack in the back… I felt like I had walked into the guy’s bedroom.
We climbed in to take it for a drive and just as we were backing out, the owner, unlit-smoke still hanging from his lips, ran back out and stopped us. Leaning in the driver-side window, he mumbled something I didn’t catch to Casey and pointed to something between the front seats…his gun. Casey handed him the revolver and the guy contorted a smile, Marlboro to one side now, and said, “I take it everywhere I go.”
Uh, not really, buddy. If your business were robbed while you were working, your gun would be in the freaking car, idiot. We drove to a shady spot and said, WTF? It didn’t even run that well, kind of rough, and so we returned it to the shop. The owner, now cig-free, shrugged and said, I’ll just keep driving it… Then why did you run an Ad to Sell it, dolt?
We were more surprised than disappointed, and since we were in the vicinity, I sent a message to another van-owner who lived about 30 miles away in Golconda, IL, a little town that is kind of on our way home. That van had an impressive FB marketplace ad with lots of pictures. It was newer, less miles, more bells and whistles, but the owner was very candid about the rust along the running boards. I’d ruled out looking at it because the owner’s asking price was Firm. How can you deal with someone with a Firm price? But we were there, so I figured we’d check it out…
“We’re in the area and would like to look at your van. Is it still available?” I messaged. The reply: “You can come by if you want. It needs a battery and new brakelines and is not driveable.”
Whaa???? What about that Firm price? What the aitch is wrong with people???
We really don’t need a van, you know. I was just wishing for the Way Things Were; thinking about the days when our old van was full of boy scouts every month (who left a smell of dirty-socks); remembering the family all piled in and heading out on vacations to Shenandoah or South Dakota, or Disney World; picturing when it was “just us” camping at Harmonie and Lincoln State Parks.
Back in the Present, we just shook our heads and steered the Minivan toward Eville, returning via a scenic Southern Illinois route. We tooled along the backroads and enjoyed the conversation and the silence, two old people with a bag of cash, trying to buy back the past… You live and learn, eh?
P.S. Before the pandemic, I took the Jr girls to the mall every Saturday. Yesterday, eight months after our last visit, we returned…(of course we wore masks inside, though many around here still don’t)