"So this is what you do: Get laid off and buy yourself a house." So says Steve Goldsmith on our way to the DMV. We're talking about his new, 1920s house, green roof, barnlike, on 5 acres of land, with a stream, overlooking the Shenandoah Valley. And, oh yeah, Dave Matthews is a neighbor.
But this is not really a story about Steve Goldsmith--well, not totally anyway--it's a story about a 1983 Mercedes-Benz, blue.
It all began on a Friday after lunch. On the way back to work, a co-worker and I pulled up beside the Mercedes at a stoplight. A bright yellow sign read: $2,000. I looked at my friend--that's my car.
A little context.
For two years, due to an uncalled-for sabotage of my 1988 Honda on an Atlanta highway, I've been carless. I'm a self-sufficient person who really dislikes relying on others, say, to go to the grocery store, or Barnes & Noble, or to cash my check, or go on a date (which, for this reason, I've done very little of), so not having a car was taking a toll on my steeze (read: self-esteem). Something had to change.
I looked at my friend--that's my car. Later, exactly four minutes later, I call to express interest. Later--approximately 10 minutes later--I get a return phone call from Steve.
I arrive at Steve's around 5:20, with my poker face on. As I'm making my inspection I ask, "So, why are you selling the car?"
"I just got laid off," he answers. "We're moving to Virginia."
"Awww, sorry to hear that," I say.
"No, I'm happy about it," he says. "It's a blessing."
Being a spiritual person, I'm always up for a good story about blessings. It turns out that Steve has worked in the software industry for the past 27 years, commanding a six-figure income. Three years ago, he got a master's in teaching, but has never been bold enough to trade in six figures for five. "It's one thing if I tell my wife, 'Honey, I've quit my job to make $30,000 a year,'" he says, "but now she's like, 'Honey are you OK?'" I laugh and congratulate him. "Can I see under the hood?" I ask.
After the test drive I ask for the VIN number.
"Well actually, the 'N' is for number, so you just want the VIN," he jokes.
"Oh yeah, that's what I meant," I say, putting my educated face on. "So, I should tell you," I say, "I just started a new job. If I buy it, can we arrange a payment plan?"
"We'll work something out," he says. "Think about it and give me a call next week."
"OK," I say, "but don't sell my car."
That weekend, I engage in intensive prayer with God, which goes something like this: "God, you know that's my car and I know that you've blessed me and thank you because I know I'm going to get it for a good price and I won't be spending any additional money for major repairs and please bless Steve and his family abundantly and I'll be very good about annual upkeep and I won't drive fast and I'll get to church early and thank you because you're a full month ahead of schedule and please also remember my apartment and my husband and please be ahead of schedule with them too. Amen."
Wednesday night I call Steve with my proposition; he accepts. "There are two conditions," he tells me. "I really love this car, so you have to promise to take care of it and secondly, it's been well taken care of, but if anything happens after you buy it--it's yours." Thursday Steve picks me up from work to go to the DMV. I make my down payment, sign a contract for future payments, and ownership is exchanged.
It's Monday and I've been driving the Benz for four days now. My dating life has not improved (where do people my age hang out?!?), but knowing that I can go out once the dates start streaming in is uplifting. Today, I finally figured out how to open the door thingy that covers the gas cap and I didn't even have to call Steve at 7 in the morning to ask him. In a matter of days, my life has improved well beyond my longest prayer. I'm the owner of a 1983 Mercedes, blue, even if I did buy it on a layaway plan. Meanwhile, Steve and family are soon on their way to a 1920s home, green roof, barnlike, overlooking the Shenandoah Valley, to start a new life of their own.