The Panther

As it turns out, given $1000 to buy a used car goes about as far here in Puerto Rico as it would back home.  But we didn’t have time to complain, we had work to do.

You see, something that we didn’t know about living in Mayaguez and doing a lot of travel to different towns on the west side of Puerto Rico before we arrived was that public transportation is nonexistent. Blake and I spent our first week here just walking places and paying taxi drivers to shuttle us around, but this was neither cost effective nor convenient.

So we scoured the Clasificados online, hoping to stumble across a running vehicle in our price range. We weren’t interested in luxury. We were however, for a brief few moments, interested in buying a scooter to share for the time being. This would have been fun, not just for us riding it, but also for anyone who would’ve witnessed the spectacle of two 190-something pound men tooting down the road together on an undersized scooter.

Eventually we did find something that fit our criteria. As is necessary when buying any used car, we were cautiously optimistic as our taxi cab weaved up through the hills into a location we could’ve never found on our own. We met the owner, Jose (who thankfully spoke perfect English), and checked out the car. It was a 1993 Mercury Grand Marquis, with gray paint fading on the body. The leather seats on the interior wore torn apart. The windows only went up or down if you physically moved them, basically breaking in to the car. The odometer read 416,000 miles (which we ignored because the owner Jose had done work on the transmission and engine and we had to trust him). The AC didn’t work. Window wipers were broken. There was no radio. Neither of the back doors opened. But it ran. In short, it was perfect.

Unfortunately, we couldn’t buy the car right then, because Jose needed to install a couple new parts and we needed to get the money necessary to buy it. So over the course of the next few days, we were in constant contact with Jose. We checked the car out on a Sunday, and that next Tuesday met Jose at a Burger King (this is where we did most of our business our first couple weeks here before we had internet installed) and gave him half of the $900 we had agreed upon before. He needed a deposit to make sure we were serious buyers. And then he drove off.

At this point, most people would think we were stupid and careless, and I would probably agree with those people. However, we didn’t have much of a choice. Jose, however, did have a choice. He could very easily run with the cash we had given him and cut ties, and he knew as well as we did that we would never have been able to trace him… to be continued in Part 2

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