With nowhere to pull over on the highway and running late for tutorial, I roared my way into the quiet little town and parked at the hospital, red-faced and thoroughly distraught. At that time, I didn't even know what a catalytic converter was. All I knew was that my car was broken.
The Real Deal came out to the parking lot and helped me look it over during a break. We determined that it was part of the exhaust system and he called a friend of his who came swooping in to the rescue. This wonderful gentleman dropped everything he was doing and came to the parking lot to assess the damage. He then left his car for me to drive home later and drove Pinelope off to his friends to weld her back together, no charge.
You don't get much more awesome than that.
With Pin patched, I drove her to the NC the next day to celebrate a belated Easter with my family and have our trusted mechanic complete a thorough repair of my car. This, it turns out, was my great undoing. Upon receipt of the car after $600 of repairs - she sounded worse than when she had only been 3/4 welded together. In fact, the next day, she drove into the parking lot at school with smoke coming out from under her hood.
Needless to say, I was fuming a bit myself, too. Having lost faith in the car (and to some degree, my mechanic - although the jury is still out), I made the executive decision to retire Pinelope and go find a new set of wheels.
Now, there's a few things you need to know about this decision:
1. It's likely to break my grandmother's heart because Pinelope was originally her car and she gave it to me to use while I was in med school. She LOVES that car.
2. Despite Nana's accumulation of very little mileage, the car had to have several major repairs before she was road worthy again. Battery, alternator, thermostat, radiator, and now exhaust and catalytic converter. It just didn't make any sense to pour more money into a car that was already sucking my bank account dry with its cavernous gas tank and lousy fuel economy.
3. Buying a new car meant reliability and longevity. It also meant a little more safety (hello, airbags!) and a stereo for those 10 hr round-trip drives home.
4. Buying a car meant a big chunk out of my line of credit, which has caused no little amount of nausea when I consider the state of my financial situation.
So, as you can see, I had to select my criteria for a car carefully. It couldn't be too expensive but it also couldn't be a wreck and require any immanent repairs. I needed a car that will last me through residency (8 years, min) and I had about 10 hrs to look for one while I was home for the weekend.
And look, I did! With the help of the endlessly patient and supportive Penguin, we drove from the West end to the East end and just about everywhere in between. In total, we visited 10 dealerships and test drove 8 different cars. In the end, I settled on a 2007 Honda Fit, manual txn, 15 000km, and comprehensive warranty until 2012 or 120km.
I will admit that it was a little over budget (and by a little, I mean about $2k) but it was still less than a year of tuition and I really feel like I made the right choice. There are still a few strings to tie up to finalize the deal - my mechanic is giving the car a good check to make sure there aren't any hidden faults, the dealer is going to do some body work to touch up a few scratches, and I've got to finalize the payment through my bank and insurance companies. Other than that, though, I should be picking up the new car on Friday.
My very first car! EEE!
So thanks to everybody who helped me nurse Pinelope through her final illness, look and learn about new cars, and put up with my occasional panic attacks throughout the whole process. I'm very, very grateful.