The Worst Plan with the Best Execution
From the very beginning, our plans have been shaky at best. We bought our plane tickets and reserved an Airbnb about a year in advance, decided to road-trip across the country so that we could actually make it to our ridiculously cheap flight, and then bought an everyday commuter car that also happened to be long enough for me to sleep in. Basically our attitude has been, "We'll cross that bridge when we get there!" all the way down to where we would sleep on our first night of the trip--something I decided approximately 23 hours prior to our departure. Wildly (and not really all that shockingly) this style of adventure has proven exciting and mostly effective, with minimal discomfort and distress. Honestly, I don't think most people plan their whole year out to the T. At any rate, we have been patting ourselves on the back for much of the time, and chalking it up to bad luck whenever things don't pan out perfectly.
Of course, there was one thing that we really, really didn't think about.
Always, it had been our intention to sell our beloved Honda Element at the end of the road trip. We knew that we wanted to be in Martin, Tennessee for Thanksgiving, and that we wanted to be in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for... another Thanksgiving (eating excessively has been an unforeseen trend on this trip), and that we would want to be in New York for at least four days prior to our flight. I think the underlying assumption was always that there wasn't really much to be done about our timeline, and that we would do with our days what we could.
Essentially, at the core of this, we gave ourselves about 4 full days to sell our car in Winston-Salem. We didn't want to sell it in New York, because then we would have to drive it there... and park it... and we couldn't sell it in Martin, because we needed it to get to Winston-Salem. So, through no fault of our own short-sightedness, we had a very short time to sell the car. Or maybe we could have foreseen our desire to be with family on Thanksgiving. Either way, we made our beds long ago. And oh, what fitful sleep those beds would wrought.
We arrived in Winston-Salem, looking like crap and smelling of potato chips as usual, and immediately took a glass of wine each. There was company at the Lyons residence. Uncle Dave offered his assistance with the sale of the car, and I assured him that once we had the car seats, we would sell easily! After all, I had had the car posted for some time on the local Craigslist, along with brilliant pictures and an impressive description. Just that day I had received two messages! Really the only issue was the seats.
There were many issues with the seats. Two months prior, I had wisely selected Greyhound Shipping as the courier for our 100lbs box of car seat. Such a large package was absurdly expensive to ship across the country and Greyhound was the only service in our budget. (Our "budget" was mostly based on what I personally felt was too much to spend on such matters.) At any rate, when we checked on the status of our package one month later, we could see that it had left Dallas, Texas about a week after we'd shipped it, but hadn't been updated since. I called Greyhound, and a few hours of calling around later, was on speaker phone with someone, in a well from the sounds of it, who assured me in poorly constructed sentences that my package was safe and that these larger shipments just took time. I was also told that the tracking number would not be scanned until it reached its next major hub.
Some weeks after that incident I called again and was assured once more, by the woman working at Greyhound in Winston-Salem, that it was normal for packages to take more than a month to reach their destinations. I was pretty busy at the time, finding places to sleep and not having cell service, so I left this with powers that be. The day I finally found myself at the Greyhound station in Winston-Salem--a pained and exasperated brow framing my anxious but hopeful eyes--the man working the counter explained that no, this was not actually normal. I contacted more people, who also assured me that it was bad.
This was good, we were all in agreement, and that's helpful for my anxiety. Within about 24 hours, it became apparent that Greyhound would probably find the seats but, probably, not any time soon. I lowered my price, and sighed underneath my ever furrowing brow, which at this point felt as though someone had attached small fishing weights to it... with hooks... always dragging further down.
Craigslist is miraculous. Really, an ethnography on the culture of Craigslist would develop into an academic drama that captures both the best and absolute worst of humanity. This time, Craigslist provided some very odd humanity. While I was in Martin, one week prior to my arrival in NC, I received a text message from an interested party. I responded with my whereabouts and we exchanged briefly. To be continued.
Following that moment, the silence was palpable. Despite listing our ad a month early, Jill and I had not been getting any interest up until the very day that we arrived in NC, upon which I received a slew of texts and calls. Only one stuck. A gentleman by the name of Daniel. He inquired the day after we arrived (Saturday), by phone call, as to the condition of our car. I told him all there was to tell, including such details as the branded title, the camping bed, and the potentially missing seats. After everything, he was oddly interested, and we set up a meeting for the following day. He then said, "Unless there is a pipe coming out the side, I want it." Alarmed, I said, "Surely you jest?"
Sunday afternoon, it was time to meet Daniel. Ticking across the room in time with the hands of the clock, I paced frantically. We really needed this to happen. With the fervor of those men in old movies waiting for their children to be born, I lit a cigar in uncle Dave's living room, and paced some more. The second hand hit zero, four o'clock was upon us and my finger was on the dial button. The line rang out; I left a message. Drenched in sweat, I waited another five minutes before calling again.
Daniel picked up. Apparently he had fallen asleep and would not be making it today. Still interested? That's what he said, at least. I told him we could meet again but that I wasn't holding my breath. Monday and Tuesday passed by, and every single buyer flaked. Either the lack of seats was a deal breaker, or the timing was bad, or this, or that. Feeling desperate, we took our car to a local consignment dealer to find out what they would give us. Something like $2000-$2500 (less than half of what we paid for it) and they weren't keen on the seat issue. Things were looking down. On the second to last day of our time in Winston-Salem, I told Daniel that it was now or never. If he didn't buy it, we would have to sell to the dealer and take a serious hit. Weirdly, he said he could meet. He lived all the way in Charlotte, so Statesville was selected as an appropriate meeting place. Jill and I put the car together, and headed out. We were not going to be late for this!
On our way there, Daniel moved our meeting time back. He did not have a ride to Statesville, which would make it difficult to drive the car home--or something, his issue was unclear, though he tried to explain. Nevermind, Jill and I sat at a local deli, Groucho's, and had some surprisingly good coffee.
A lot happened at Groucho's, but I will cut to the chase. Daniel couldn't make it for traffic reasons, so he called his mom, Jodi. Remember that text I got back in Martin? That was Jodi. You can imagine my surprise. Naturally, all three of us--myself, Jodi, and Daniel--discussed over three-way-call how this would go, and it was decided that Jodi would buy the car. Next was payment. Rapidly it became clear that neither Daniel nor Jodi were logistically prepared to buy this car today. At the very same time, it became abundantly clear that they both very much wanted us to sell it and make our deadline. I couldn't figure out why they were going to such extreme lengths to buy this old car with lots of miles and no backseats, but that was it: they were excited about the cause. (At least thats how I have come to interpret it.)
We called around to find a bank that was still open, and let Jodi know where we could meet. Our phones directed us to... you guessed it! Walmart!! The generic parking lot that we had always thought of as a backup place to sleep, but had never actually used, was now offering us a glimpse of true divine intervention. We met Jodi, who was fabulous and warrants an entire post to herself, and walked into the rays of fluorescent light to meet the surly bank tellers. She paid us in twenties and hundreds, and the paperwork was signed.
Since then, we have come a long way. New York, where Jodi overnighted us our forgotten USB stick to cousin Aleigh's apartment; a flight across the ocean; and the present, where we reside in an apartment near Place De Clichy in Paris. We may write about those things, we may not. But still, even when we are surrounded by beauty in The City of Lights, we think the sale of that car was our worst plan, with the best execution.
A photo of our last moments with the Element, as shitty as our overall plan, this photo really captures the nature of the moment.