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Sunday, December 28, 2014
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Published: Thursday, 2/26/2004

Good plan is a casualty of surprise

Checking the wallet, I discovered that the coupon for the $14.99 oil change for the car was still in place. It's amazing how often the little pieces of paper that I have carefully put away disappear. This time I was lucky.

Coupons must disintegrate after I clip and tuck them in that special pocket in my purse or wallet. I jump on clipping bargain coupons far ahead of when they will be used. The car deal is an example. I can't say the red car gets as dirty living on the beach in east Florida as it does in the spring in southern muddy Michigan, but sand and seagulls take their toll, as did the long drive getting here. It was past time for a shampoo and shine.

I have been faithful to on-time oil changes since I got my first car in 1955, which may account for Gladys' longevity. The 1991 treasure is back home in the cold, waiting patiently for our spring reunion. I miss her. She needs and will receive a new gas line. After it is installed we can hit the country roads and should reach the 200,000 mileage mark soon.

Maybe it's because I have never been attached to Irene, the red car, that I neglected to have the oil changed soon after the long drive here.

Thus, I planned a maintenance day: Have the oil changed using the $14.99 coupon and the car washed at Bubbles, where $11 is the lowest price for an interior and exterior wash.

The oil change would be first, but finding the address on U.S. 1 was not easy. Chasing back and forth on the busy highway cost me about $2 in gas. Once there, the coupon was presented and I pushed it proudly in front of the attendant's face. Yippee! He honored it, even though the sign out front posted $19.99 for an oil change.

Digby stayed in the car and I went into the waiting room to relax and read the daily newspaper while pondering where I might have lunch using the $5 I had saved on an oil change.

In minutes an oil-change technician, if there is such a position, came in to suggest emphatically that because I had gone over the 3,000 mile limit for an oil change, an engine cleaner was needed for good performance. The cost was $9.99. How could I argue? Back to the newspaper when another oil technician interrupted. This one was carrying something he had yanked from my car.

Imagine that, because I had driven beyond the recommended limit, I desperately was not only in need of the engine cleaner, but an air cleaner too, and he held the old dirty one under my nose to prove it. It would guarantee a smoother running engine, he said, and far from home, a sick car is something I don't need.

The cleaner was $19.99. Why didn't it surprise me that they just happened to have the right one for my car in stock? Oh yes, there was also a $1 environmental fee. Before I got out of there the $14.99 coupon was a $51.89 bill.

I chalked it up to experience and drove to Bubbles to have the smoother-running car washed.

Bubbles' prices ranges from $11 to $24.99. I went for the lowest price, or thought it was the lowest until the attendant checked the car and said, "If you want the bugs removed from the front of the car that will be another $2."

Now what proud owner of a smooth-running car would want to leave the bugs on the car to save $2?

Despite my careful financial planning, I spent nearly $64 instead of the $26 I had allotted.

I had leftovers for lunch at home.



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