The Mast-Head: Car Shopping

    You might think shopping for a new car would be fun. After all, you get to drive lots of them, maybe get a free hot dog, and spend the day tooling around showrooms peering at vehicles you might never consider actually calling your own.
    But after two trips to Riverhead, several hours of sales pitches, and winding up no closer to making a decision than when we started, my wife, Lisa, and I had had it. The two sessions we have had so far were not without their amusements, however.
    A Honda salesman told me a great story about working some years ago as a Federal Express driver. When he knocked on Billy Joel’s Further Lane front door, a woman in a big, floppy hat and a bathing suit came to it and signed for the package. But as the salesman told it, he was unable to make out her scrawled signature. He said Christie Brinkley had been distant to him ever since he asked her who she was so he could key the name into his handheld delivery recorder.
    At the Volkswagen and Subaru dealership, we met a salesman who had once worked at the Madison Market in Sag Harbor, well before it became one of a succession of Mexican takeout joints. I told him that the old market sign still hung on the building, but that it had become nearly illegible.
    As to cars, we drove this one and that one, then looked at the interior space of yet another. Lisa was to return yesterday for some more. The trick is that we are apparently looking for the impossible — a leased vehicle big enough for our family of five that is good on gas mileage but does not cost a bundle in monthly payments. And it has to be safe, of course. Lisa has been spending hours and hours studying Consumer Reports online and combing the federal crash-test statistics without finding a clear answer or guidance.
    If it were up to me, I’d probably lease the Volkswagen, though I guess we need to drive the Subaru first. It looks like yet another ride to Riverhead is in the cards for me, too. I can only hope I get some more good stories out of it.