If you haven't figured it out by now, I made the purchase. I am the proud owner of a very orange 1997 International Utilimaster. And it is quite the vessel.
I met Frank at the "Department of Motor Vehicles" office of my choice, explaining to him that the only way I would perform the transaction would be to do it under the direct blessing of the State of California. And, really, what could he say? He had a stack of paperwork including three bills of sale between three unique parties, yet he possessed no pink slip. I told him I was ready with cash in hand and he desperately needed to sell -- something about his daughter's wedding and the embarrassment of having to move in with your parents at the age of forty-seven. I felt kind of bad for him.
Normally, I schedule appointments at the DMV ahead of time, and I don't think I've ever stepped foot inside a branch office other than for my first driving test and subsequent renewals of my driver's license. Transfers of ownership I have always done through the mail, so I really can't fathom what all of those people were doing in front of the DMV an hour before opening. But, the earliest appointment was weeks away. So, we decided to go for it. The line rivaled those at amusement parks for the newest attraction on opening day.
Honestly, I was sort of dreading the whole experience. I mean, who wants to stand for forty-five minutes beside your adversary in a business transaction? Awkwarrrrrrrrrrd!
When I walked up and met him in line I asked him where the van was. " I left it at home, because I didn't have a ride back." The perspiration on my upper lip was building.
Finally, we zig-zagged our way through the doors and up the steps to window "A." Taking two front row seats, we settled in until our number was called. During that time, the ice began to melt, and Frank confided in me that he shouldered a tremendous amount of stress right now in his life. He hasn't seen his children in three months since having come down to southern California for the express purpose of selling the vehicle. He's been trying for several years to climb out of the hole left by an ugly divorce, and he said that he's tired of all of the back-stabbers and opportunists that make up Los Angeles. I said it's the nature of the big city and I'll bet that people in Chicago lock their doors at night, also. But I didn't want to add salt in the wound.
While at the counter, we fielded a handful of questions from the moderately enthusiastic customer care representative. I love "customer care." It's one of my all time favorite corporate terms. But I digress.
She asked why the "release of liability" form was dated for tomorrow...
She then asked why there were two VIN's in all of the paperwork. "Well, the truck has one and the motor has another." She asked me what my weight capacities were going to be and then tallied up our answers. The registration wound up being over a thousand dollars in fees and surcharges -- almost double what Frank had assured me it would be. Nonetheless, the van was now mine.
On the way back to his house, he missed a freeway turn off while fiddling nervously with his GPS. "I'm all tore up about the cost of that registration. I can't even drive right. Let's take off a couple hundred bucks. I'm really sorry."
We arrived at his house, and I flopped down two envelopes. I counted out the total, minus two hundred. He walked into the next room, looking for the manuals. I remarked to myself how easily I could have peeled two bills from the stack he left in plain view, and he probably would have never known it. He really was a trustworthy guy from a small northern town.
Upon his return to the kitchen, he reached for the stack of bills and slid out a crisp hundred. "Here. You already gave me a deposit." Yep, a good guy, indeed. I had forgotten about that.