Obsession, Thy Name is Porsche
Credit: Photograph by Peter Yang
I tend to think that this kind of thing could happen to anybody who is passionate about anything. Saddam Hussein, Adolf Hitler, Kim Jong-il, Malcolm Forbes, Neil Young, and Phil Collins, for instance, with their love of, respectively, fantasy paintings, 18th-century German furniture, Daffy Duck cartoons, Fabergé eggs, Lionel model trains, and Alamo memorabilia. One day you're sailing along, thinking you're a fine fellow of perfectly moderate appetites, the next you're being keelhauled by the dark side of desire. That's what happened to me with those 550 LED calculators now sitting in the basement and leaking battery acid all over the place. You get bit by a bug and start desiring to the exclusion of common sense. You let yourself go. You skip breakfast. You wear your bathrobe all day. You forget to feed the dogs. It's midnight before you know it. You're taking the laundry downstairs only to buy yourself a little breathing room from your royally pissed-off significant other. Your eyes dry out because of all that time spent studying the object of your fascination, so you go to see an eye doctor, who prescribes $30-a-pop Restasis eyedrops that do nothing. You go to see your internist, too, who says you have an obsessive-compulsive personality disorder and ups your dosages of Zoloft and Wellbutrin, and that does nothing, either. The pressure to obtain begins to mount, especially when it's being thwarted, to the point where it becomes unbearable and you've got to do something, anything, to find a little relief.

In my case, what I did was make the lunatic decision to buy a 1976 BMW 2002 – a distant also-ran on my dream-car list – that I found one day on Craigslist, two hours away. I thought maybe it could see me through the tough times, so I got my pal Mike to drive me over. The seller, Bill, was big and bald and had a ton of tattoos and goose-stepped around the car, saying, "OK, the sunroof doesn't work, the doors don't lock, and the hand-brake is kaput, but otherwise, yeah, cherry and, get this, being a California car originally, no rust. Can you believe it?"

It was twilight. I poked around.

Mike said, "Hey, looks clean to me."

"Me, too," I said. The price was $4,500 in the ad. I said to Big Bill, "How's $3,750?"

Grinning, Big Bill hemmed and hawed like it was killing him and came down $250, to $4,250.

Right then I remembered a negotiating tactic I'd heard once: When an opposing party counters your offer, the best move is not to up your counter to his counter but to cut it, cut it deeply, to show you're ruthless and not to be trifled with. Only, Big Bill was exactly that: big and nasty looking. I took another route, one that I felt sure would throw him for a loop and tilt the deal my way. I upped my offer by $3 dollars, saying, "$3,753," and gave him my best game face.

Mike turned away, snickering.

Big Bill rubbed at his chin. "Yeah, right. $4,250. Like I said."

Frankly, that threw me for a real loop. He didn't change his price at all. I didn't know what the gambit meant, but I knew I'd better act fast before he did something weird like jack the price back up to full asking.

"Deal," I said.

"Sold!" he said.

And off I drove, home to my mechanic, who gave the car a once-over, asked me why I hadn't done the smart thing and gotten a PPI, listened to my answer ("I don't know"), shrugged, and presented me with a list of work the car needed – $2,000 worth. I groaned and said, "Yeah, okay, but no rust, right?" He looked at me with his eyes bulging. "You kidding me? It's full of rust!"

But at least the pressure was off to buy a Porsche. I could relax a little. I had something to tinker with, keep my mind busy. In fact, I told my girlfriend the Porsche hunt was over. I now had an old car and didn't need another. I learned how to tune the 2002's Weber carb. I built some old school–looking roof racks. The household lightened up, and I was feeling pretty good about myself. But then I had a genius idea, the kind of idea that obsessives the world over would doubtless applaud and bow down to me for. I gave my girlfriend the car. "Here, take it. I know you like it – it's yours." She was thrilled, and I felt free to go back to my hunt for the perfect 912E…and to drive the BMW whenever I wanted. Win-win. I love that.