I didn?t mean to buy an ambulance.
I meant to buy a regular van. And I didn?t mean to buy it right away, I meant to get the ball rolling and start browsing. See what?s out there and get a sense of what I needed. Like maybe look at a half dozen vans first, take a week, shop around. But no. I bought the third thing I saw.
Third thing I saw.
See, I?d originally responded to the Craigslist ad to look at an Astro. Turns out the guy had a couple Astros. Perfect. There were options. Unfortunately, both options were pretty craptastic. The first looked appealing because of the wood paneling, which maybe meant I wouldn?t have to cut and build my own. But in person, all the shoddy workmanship became obvious.
The seams were bulging with spray foam. Cut wires fanned out from random cutouts. And a gap in the flooring exposed a layer of grime that looked decades thick. I didn?t look forward to the prospect of gutting it and cleaning out all that toxic gunk. The second Astro was a carpeted monstrosity that actually now I can?t remember what was wrong with it except that I hated it upon sight. So when Vinny, the seller, showed me photos of the ambulance he was selling, I was intrigued. (I was also intrigued by the mailtruck he was trying to pawn off on me, but geezus krise, how would I park that thing?)
The ambulance wasn?t such a looker on the outside, but she was a 2006 Ford E350, with a quoted 105K miles (which was wrong, but later), and the insides were already outfitted with shelves, outlets, lights, and standing room. All I had to do was put a bed in there and I?d be set! I consulted with my friend Michael who I?d dragged along with me. Mulled it over for five minutes ? I didn?t want to be tooo impulsive. But the adrenaline was already kicking in. I knew I would get it.
I mean, it seemed like a really good deal.
Vinny said he could probably get more from it at auction where it was going the next day if I didn?t snatch it up right then. Vinny. Who lived in a poolhouse in Canarsie, had better manicured eyebrows than I do, drove a late model Benz coupe, and sold cars out of a sinkhole of a car lot situated next to a wannabe mansion (the lot owner?s) that gated away an aggressive pack of Rottweilers and Pitbull that fully warranted the Beware of Dog sign, times three.
The ambulance, however, was parked in front of his house a few minutes away under a canopy of cherry blossoms, gently cascading to the ground. You understand this contrast, right?
We took it for a spin, listened to the beastly rumble of the V8 engine. The steering wheel had a thing (a catch, a shimmy) which Vinny waved off as me not used to driving a big truck (such a girl!). I should?ve mentioned my history driving PA vans and boxtrucks but I was too distracted by the driving. And the shelves! Did I mention all the shelving?
Those shelves tho.
So yeah, of course I bought it.
And it felt good.
I felt euphoric. One decision toward new life DOWN. We blasted the stereo (in Michaels? car) on the way home. We texted my friend Tina (and Michael?s wife): I just bought an ambulance! There were photos of me smiling happily in front of my new ride. We celebrated over takeout at their place. I biked home, title in hand, with a renewed zest for life.
Then I ran the Carfax.
Which said 225,000 miles. WTF. Why was I so dumb that I didn?t do this before the fact. I texted Vinny. He reported back, Then that?s what it is.
The next day, I was so exhausted from having spent ~30+ hours the previous weekend finishing up all my ceramic projects so I could move out of my ceramic studio in time, that I could barely think. Nonetheless? I called my insurance company of choice ? which only military families can use. But they said they wouldn?t insure commercial vehicles ? even though it was now for personal use. Without insurance I couldn?t pick up the car. The dread crept in like the spray foam on a poorly insulated Astro. On top of it, Vinny texted that I most definitely had to pick it up that night. Sanitation had tagged it to tow since it didn?t have license plates.
It was going to be towed that night.
I explained the insurance situation and he said I just needed to call someone else, which I really didn?t want to do because I wouldn?t get the discount. But I logged onto a major insurer anyway and, surprisingly, it took all of five minutes to get the van insured (at a higher price), with no questions about its commercial usage. Also, it weirdly already knew the VIN ? I guess because I?d been looking in the marketplace already and so my information was out there? Thanks Big Brother.
Since I?d missed the DMV hours, I borrowed an extra plate my roommate had lying around on display and booked it down to Canarsie, a 45-minute bike ride.
Then fumed when I saw the van. Vinny had painted over all the emergency markings with black paint. WTF. I texted Vinny. I thought you were going to tape over it, not paint it. He told me I could get it off with something called Prep Salt or Clay Bar. Neither of which I could ever find, local or online. Basically, it was my problem now. FUCK.
I installed the plates and drove home, noticing the odometer for the first time. It read 232,810 miles after all.
At dinner with friends that night, we toasted my new purchase, but over the next two days, doubts plagued me like a cyclone of scorpions.
Read Part 2 here.
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