Monday, May 4, 2009

My Nissan 200SX


Yesterday morning my little red Nissan 200SX popped into my head while I was reading the New York Times, watching Stephanopoulos followed by Meet the Press and sipping coffee.

I was hardly making enough money to buy that new car in 1985 so I didn’t. I leased it. Leasing was still a relatively new concept then but made perfect sense for salespeople like myself who were going to put lots of miles on an automobile and need a new car every 2 or 3 years anyway. Plus it didn’t require a down payment.

I needed a new car. I had been driving a 1977 Chevy Camaro with no air-conditioning. Yes, NO air-conditioning. Sounds a bit like the Stone Age now, but at the time I bought the Camaro, air-conditioning seemed an unnecessary luxury, one I could do without to save the money.

While I had managed to survive the first summer driving around the Philadelphia metro area selling ads for the country music station, with only the breeze from the window when traffic was moving fast enough to create one to keep me cool, another summer seemed unfathomable. I was supposed to look and be my best when I showed up at my clients. I was there to close a deal, not to look like I needed emergency care. The Camaro sans air-conditioning was not going to cut it. While a new car was not in the budget, my fledgling career seemed dependent on it.

The philosophy of those I worked for and around was to overextend yourself financially just enough to make you stretch. While they never called it the Law of Attraction the idea was the same. Envision yourself making more than enough money to afford what you want and it will happen. Which in my case was a brand new fire engine red, Nissan 200SX with a little voice that told you when the fuel gauge was low. Then go for it.

I don’t remember the sticker tag on that car but I remember my monthly payment was $250.16 which seemed a ridiculous amount for what I was making. But not only did I need an air-conditioned car, I had my heart set on this one.

My father, while he never said it, thought I was crazy. He had that same look he had when I told him I was leaving teaching to go sell radio ads. The one that said, I love you, but do you know what you’re doing and why are you just not getting married and having children. Despite the look that said a thousand words, he drove with me to pick up the car and did agree to co-sign the lease. I had no assets in those early days, except my enthusiasm and willingness to go for it.

This is what came to mind Sunday morning as I was multi-tasking and half listening to a conversation about the stimulus bill.

My little red Nissan.

My reminder that sometimes we need to spend money we are not really sure we have. Be it the stimulus bill or the Aeron chair I bought so my back does not hurt when I write. We have to take giant leaps of faith that the money spent is money invested and it will pay off in the future. I wound up making more than enough money to pay for that car. In fact I went on to have a very successful career in advertising sales. Although it was not at all clear at that moment I was signing the lease for the red Nissan 200SX that would be the result.

I never got to see what my father’s face would look like as my career and income grew. He died in September of 1986. I imagine he would have a big grin and laugh to go with it and tell me he knew I was doing the right thing all the time.

(the Nissan in the photo is not MY Nissan, but the closest I could find to the one I had)
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