In 2007 when I before me in bright colors saw the start of a life spending a lot more time in Seattle, I was house sitting in Greenwood for a family I didn’t know. They were in Sweden for the summer (yes, the mother happened to be Swedish!) and I took care of their house and cats.
Close to Greenwood is the Aurora Strip were the used car dealerships lie side by side as a string of interesting pearls. My first visit here was in 1993 on a photo project portraying the dynamic characters owning these places. Later, a hot summer day 1997 a Swedish family just arrived wanting the American experience, bought the beloved Buick 1981, a big silver ship we maneuvered through Seattle for a year. So these were familiar grounds to me.
In this coming fresh new part of my life having my own car in Seattle felt crucial. But how would I do that? To find a car wouldn’t be that hard, but would I be allowed to own a car in Seattle when not being a resident? Could I get insurance? And above all, where would I keep it?!
The family I was house sitting for was a bit unusual as they only kept one car. An absolutely crazy idea came to my mind. Would they maybe like one more, not having to pay for it? Could I possible have shared custody of a car with this family?
Writing this I am still shaking my head on this memory. I emailed David, the dad in the family who I only met once briefly and didn’t know a bit, and popped the question. To my great surprise and joy he respond yes, why not?
Hallelujah! I was over the first obstacle! There would be many more to come though… Anyway, I started walking the dealer lots of Aurora feeling my heart pounding. I was going to buy myself a Seattle car! My 2500 $ limit quickly raised of course and my eyes fell on a Dodge Stratus ES year 2000, charcoal color, leather seats and an openable sun window on the top. Most important, the interior was very well kept and there were no funny smells! And God, was it fun to drive! 5900 $.
I managed to keep my brain in the business though and listened to my friends who told me to check it up. Through the VIN number I got to know it needed a new timing belt and water pump, and a mechanic recommend two new tires but other than that told me it looked like a really good car!
Because of the timing belt, water pump and tires I managed to bargain the prize down (this is a story by itself, I am a really good negotiator…) 1500 $. Shopping dollars with the Swedish krona was a bargain as well this summer (6,70!) and my calculating ended up telling me one month in Seattle for four years driving my own car (insurance included) would equal driving rentals for the same time. And beyond that the car would be for free! As I was planning for considerably more months and years, this was a deal!
Now, the second obstacle, could I own a car in Seattle? According to the now not so friendly dealer (as he felt I was robbing him on his money) in the Frazier’s Auto Sales blue schack, that wouldn’t be a problem. Really? But how about insurance? Still not a problem, call Geico! So I called the insurance company Geico right there, and sure yes, we will be happy to help!
I danced back to my Greenwood home. Is this really true?! Will I be owning my own car in Seattle?! It was true though! After forcing the poor shabby dealer to scrub away some annoying rust on the wheel rims I picked up the lovely charcoal Stratus and it was mine! I was also pretty impressed by my accomplishment and so were my friends.
In about a week Geico called me. So when would I move to Seattle? We can’t insure a car who’s owner lives over seas. I had been tricked into this deal.
Yeah, if things feel too good to be true they most often are.
What to do? The Greenwood family was now back and I had moved over to my friends Maria and Theo’s basement in Ballard. I was sitting at their porch getting the call. I can still sense the panicky feeling of having no idea how to solve this.
I came up with one though. Could I have a co owner? Yes, Geico told me, that would work. David came to my rescue once more. Sure he could be the co owner. That made sense as the Stratus would be on his adress. It might even be a good thing so that he would not drive around a car which wasn’t his.
A couple of days before my departure to Sweden in August David and I spent all morning hours in line at the Department of License office in Ballard. I remember it as we were sitting on the floor. It was like a scene in a Seinfeld episode. In October the title finally arrived and everything was at last in place.
All through the process from scouting the lots for something affordable still attractive to the title arriving, I had no idea what I was doing. What so ever. VIN number, what’s that? Timing belt? DOL (Department of License)? This was a language I didn’t speak. I was panicking. I can’t handle this! Where is the grown up?! Where is the grown up who knows these things, who can help me out and take care of everything? But it turned out I was the grown up. I had put me in this situation, I was the grown up who had to rise to the occasion.