Saturday, March 3, 2012

Better Naive and Wrong than Suspicious and Right?

This week we had a fairly innocuous experience of petty theft that felt nevertheless violating. Electrical wiring and cardboard, as well as some stuff that was randomly in the front area of our house, was taken (3 times- each time except the last I stopped them partway), each time with the person somehow getting through our locked gate. I saw the person making away with the stuff, and it was a guy I know who stops by our house a lot. I felt my guard go up as I saw other people living on the street on our street with addictions, and I couldn't give anyone any grace.

It had me thinking of this video we talked about a couple of times with a group of friends:

Where the key theme is "the triumph of intellect and romance over brute force and cynicism."

And then, today (Saturday), we bought a car:

The process of buying a car here was very intimidating- I'm naturally suspicious and I also hate spending money. Which made both Gumtree (Our Craigslist) and Dealers daunting. While I'm not advocating that you buy a car without due diligence, I wanted to share our experience.

The options (more cars on Gumtree every minute) and dangers seemed limitless. Our budget was small. We don't have any brand loyalty. There was a strong spiritual dimension- we've been fighting discouragement and asking for people to pray for us, and given those things, we sensed a car was a good idea. Car shopping had the potential to take all of our time as we searched for the car that was "just right". And the creepiness of some sellers on Gumtree made me want to become ever-more guarded.

Yet it felt as though the paralysis that comes with excessive choice and self-protection was worse than the consequences of a bad deal. Suspicion and guardedness, while sometimes protective, seemed to make life miserable. I know some of this is personality type, but I think some of it can be choice. Naiveté seems to open up relationships where suspicion does the opposite.

So we decided on Friday we'd take the day to buy a car- whatever car we could afford with R40-R45 000 (which was the amount provided by my scholarship after university fees were paid). We called a few people on Gumtree, drove by dealerships and gasped at the prices, and just one car was available for viewing. We went to see the car, test-drove it, and decided we liked it. The family selling was kind and Noah liked their tortoise. Today, we had to trust the seller and transfer money without having any keys to the car (though we did have a police document to say that the sale had taken place). We did trust. We got the car an hour later, and the car feels remarkable- by far the best fit that we've seen in the last few weeks. It's a fairly new Tata Indica, which is a small car with good fuel efficiency.

It could have gone badly wrong, and maybe sometime in the future a similar deal will. But the process- where we feel as though we got a car from God and not from scheming- was really good.


leah said...

I am reminded of the prologue to this episode of This American Life:

A couple buys a house that turns out to be a bad deal and it kind of like ruins them emotionally and morally. I think that preparing not to be scammed can be spiritually draining, and I also think that recovering from a scam can be ruinous spiritually.

So goodonya for keeping up optimism, and congratulations on owning a car!

Concrete Gardener said...

Thanks Leah. I thought after I wrote the post that it's kind of sad that we tied our happiness so much to the car, which was in itself damaging and idolatrous. Anyway, so hopefully I'll learn something from the process about being happy in God.

Thanks very, very much for praying for us.

Luke said...

I dig it, and not just because I love the video, which I do.

When I find myself in haggling or other business/competitive situations I have similar thoughts. Am I getting all that I can from this person? From the world? Am I leaving money on the proverbial table by not being assertive enough? Am I being robbed/conned/taken advantage of?

My general fallback answer tends to be: Maybe. Maybe I could have saved $10 on this Craigslist deal by being more alpha-male aggressive or something. Maybe I got a raw deal from this mechanic or whoever. But I tend to like myself better this way. I'm happy having made this choice to not treat people as adversaries whenever I can help it. If that costs me a few bucks here and there, to be the sort of person that I'd most like to be, then I can live with that.

This does nothing for people taking stuff from your yard, though, you need a dog or a robot or something.