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Meet Jane.

Updated: Sep 16, 2021

Jane rolled into my life on May 6, 2018. I won her in a no reserve eBay auction. I bought her sight unseen.

Risky, right?

I had been without a car for six months. I wanted to own a car with an engine I could learn to work on, one without the electronic stuff that makes life easier but is difficult and costly to repair. Think roll down windows. After doing some research I narrowed it down to a 1994 or 1995 Jeep Wrangler. I scoured Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook looking for the perfect Jeep, careful to follow listings that were within driving distance.

After watching multiple auctions on eBay, I could predict the approximate winning bid based on condition, modifications, and mileage. A 1994, garage kept, hardtop from Long Island popped up. She was sweet. The pictures showed no rust. I figured it would go for $7000 - more than I wanted to spend but she was perfect. With 10 seconds remaining I was the highest bidder at $6700. I lost her by $100.

Several days later, there was an eBay listing for a 2-door 5-speed 1996 Jeep Cherokee located in Maryland. Not exactly what I wanted but it was a no reserve auction meaning no minimum bid. Further research showed that a 2-door Cherokee was somewhat rare. My guess was that it would sell for $6500.

The auction was set to close at 9pm on a Sunday night. I was serving a show that evening and I had just dropped my checks as the final auction countdown began. My co-workers knew of my carless status and my manager, Ben, encouraged me to bid. We huddled around my phone as the seconds ticked off the clock. With a minute left, the highest bid was $3250. Usually bids were placed in the final seconds driving the price to what the market would bear. I expected the mad dash to begin momentarily.

“How much do you want to bid?” Ben asked.

“$3400,” I said. “No, $3401.” I thought there was no way I would win given the value of these Jeeps but that was what I could afford. It was my dream bid.

With eight seconds left, Ben entered my bid as the final notes of the show hung in the air.

7, 6, 5, 4, 3, 2, 1…

“Congratulations! You won!”

“Oh, my god, I won!”, quickly turned to “Oh my god, what have I done?”

My co-workers rejoiced with me as they knew I had ubered and shared a car with my son for the past six months. I paid the $500 deposit and arranged to pick up the car two days later. I planned to take it straight to my auto class later that night.

As I lay awake that night, I worried the car might not even have an engine since there were no pictures under the hood. Either way the car was mine. Tuesday arrived and my son and I drove up to a rural exit just past Baltimore. The address was an old gas station located at the intersection of two country roads marked by a single flashing light. Not exactly promising. Yet there she was, parked out front, looking just like she had in the pictures. I signed the paperwork and gave them my cashier’s check, almost afraid to ask to look under the hood.

She started right up.

As we rumbled down the highway – and I mean rumbled – she has a 4.0 liter inline 6 – I recalled the last time I drove a newly purchased used car home, down this very road. And I remembered what a lemon that turned out to be.

I drove straight to auto class and pulled into the bay with my new ride. Sam, my wizened instructor, checked under the hood. So far so good. We put the car up on the lift. Not one spot of rust.

Not. One. Spot.

She was pristine. Everything was in good working order.

“How much did you pay?” Sam asked.

“$3401,” I said.

“You did good,” he said with a touch of admiration.

I took what some would say was an unwise risk. But my good fortune with Jane marked a turning point in my life. Up until then, I lived under a cloud of belief that things weren’t going to work out for me. There was a mountain of supporting evidence. Yet, Jane was counter proof. Perhaps my belief in ill-fortune could shift too. My eBay adventure certainly could have gone the other way and if it had there would have been a lesson for me there too. But I’m grateful for this lesson and I'm grateful for Jane. Sweet Jane.

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