Like every teenager on the cusp of 16, Haley is FREAKING out to get behind the wheel of a car without having me or Rhonda barking things like "What's the speed limit here?" and "You're following too close" and "When the rear of the car slides like that it's an indication that you're taking the corner just a touch to rapidly."
Haley -- and I have to give her points for taste here -- is fixated on the Ford Mustang. God help us one and all.
My vision of Haley behind the wheel of a Ford Mustang GT -- all eight cylinders and 300 horsepower of it -- includes her being chased by multiple police cars through the streets of Des Moines. It's not that she wouldn't pull over in response to the officers, but that she couldn't hear the sirens with her tunes cranked up so high the car glass bulges out in rhythm with the bass beats.
Later, at the police station, she'd be all like, "What, Dad? So the back end slides a little when I go around a corner? Is that such a BIG DEAL? I have it under control. I do think the left front could use a half a pound more of air, though. Kind of pushes through the apex a little."
I've said before she's a combo platter of IndyCar oval girl Sarah Fisher (on the Interstate) Champ Car World Series street racer Katherine Legge (on the mean streets of West Des Moines) and National Hot Rod Association queen of hyperacceleration Ashley Force.
The only hitch in this whole High-Performance Parade is that Haley has saved up the grand sum of $600 to put toward her ride. Naturally, she originally expected to go to a dealership and pick herself out something in the $20,000 range. So I chatted her up on that deal. Car cost $20,000 and you got $600. Her answer: payments.
So we had to kind of go over that. It was a good real-life lesson. Kids these days think that everything is purchased on payments. Well, for a lot of us it is. $45 a month here, $187 a month there, pretty soon you're talking real money. So Haley thought she could just get in on that payment deal. $200 a month (for the rest of her life).
I was sorry to be the one to derail that fantasy train. "Haley," I said, trying to make this a positive lesson. "Who in their right mind is going to loan a 16-year-old who works very part time at a grocery store for $6.25 an hour $19,000?"
After I said it I thought that there were probably some sub-prime lenders out there who would do just that, at 17% interest, and then bawl for a bailout when the loan went bad. But I digress.
I tried to explain the whole theory of lending to her. The bank would need some collateral, which is often the car itself, but they have to have some confidence, based on your financial history, that you'd pay them back with interest. Most banks (at least reputable ones) are a little careful about who they loan to.
So, with that bubble busted, we've set our sights a bit lower. We instituted the Matching Plan. When Haley was 14 and got her job at the grocery store I told her I would match her savings dollar-for-dollar up to $2000. So that's a max of $2000 out of my pocket. Then, if she wanted a $10,000 car, great, she just had to come up with $8000 of it.
Hey, my first car waaaaaaaayyy back in 1980 was a 1972 Ford LTD two door purchased for $950. Which back then was probably about like $4000 today. My father paid half. I paid for the gas and the insurance henceforth. But my father was an auto mechanic, so I got free labor on any repairs. I did have to pay his cost for parts, though. The car used oil from the day I got it and was light blue and quickly got the nickname around my high school of The Blue Ghost.
Flash back a couple of years when Haley was talking on her cell phone so much she might as well just duct taped it to her head. Back then I said, "You are going to go over your minutes. Then you will have to pay me for any time you go over. Then you will have less money for a car when you turn 16."
You can see what an idiot I was! "I KNOW, Dad." Let the record show, Haley said she knew. She hereby acknowledged my warning statement. I have witnesses.
That was $1000 in overcharges ago. That grand would be looking pretty good now. She also paid $250 for her current phone. Hello. This is all money she made as a sacker at the grocery store. And, as I tell the girls, over and over, repeating a lesson handed down to me by my father who held onto ever dollar with a pair of Vice Grips, "You can only spend it once." If you spend it on the phone you can't also spend it on the car. Free country. She chose the phone.
In the last year, with the rise of text messaging, she hasn't gone over her phone minutes. She does send out a trillion texts per day. (I have had the very stern discussion about how I will appear, as if by magic, at the crash site and scream for upwards of four hours, if she ever gets into a crash because she was texting while driving, provided she's not dead.)
So Haley, who is the family Republican and may yet turn out to be a great lawyer, makes me a counter offer. I become her banker. I come up with the cash for the car (whether I have to borrow it or whatever) and then she makes monthly payments to me. Her line of argument goes that if she gets a car of her own, she can drive herself to work more often, and then she can make more money and she'll have no problem making payments to me.
Hoooooookay, hot shot. That may work, but I don't see the banks lining up to loan Mr. Sporadic Income Freelance Writer $22,000 any time soon. So we're still looking at all the Mustang you can buy for $6K.
Meanwhile, Jena, age 12, is watching all of this and making mental notes, because she'll be all about DEMANDING the same consideration that Haley got when the time comes.
I personally would love to own a bad-ass Mustang. It's been my "someday" car for about a decade. The new version that came out a couple of years ago makes me pee my pants. So there's a real prospect that my daughter may end up driving a cooler car than I do. Although my flamin' hot, black Ford Focus isn't bad. Seriously. It's a sporty drive for a "four-banger" as my father called four-cylinder engines. I kind of dig the looks of the new Focuses (Foci?) But the 'Stang. You can't beat it.
I have my boy Bob on it. That's Emperor Bob, super honcho of Bob's Car Empire, more formally known as Jensen Dealerships in Northwest Iowa. Oh, Bob's a player. A wheeler dealer. Built the empire. He's from Detroit. Living large with Empress Starla and the family in tony Sioux City. If you need a car, you talk to Bob's Posse. Tell them Bill sent ya.
So Bob is on it. I also got the feelers out via Autotrader.com, I'm cruising Cars.com. Haley is also putting Armor All® packets under her pillow and hoping to wake up sleeping atop a Mustang Shelby GT. "DAD! THE MUSTANG FAIRY CAME!" How we'll get the car out of her upstairs bedroom, I have no idea. But we'll figure something out.