Obsession, Thy Name is Porsche
Credit: Photograph by Peter Yang
I never really stopped to ponder why I wanted a Porsche so badly, as opposed to, say, old Daffy Duck cartoons. Sometimes I think it may be because when I was a teenager, I once went for a hot ride in a Porsche with a buxom blonde far out of my league, and the way she shifted up through the power curve really sent me. I've never forgotten that. But it probably has more to do with unresolved childhood issues of some sort, or maybe a general sense of emptiness, mixed with an impressionable mind that had once been held captive by Porsche's crack advertising team in the 1970s. I remember one bit of copy that went something like, "Porsche. It will always be more than you'll expect." Like me one day, I remember thinking – yeah, like me.

This also plays into something I recently read about collecting in general: "[It's] a basic human instinct; a survival advantage amplified by eons of natural selection. Those of our ancient ancestors who managed to accumulate scarce objects may have been more prone to survive long enough to bear offspring. Even today, wealth correlates to longer life expectancy – and could any form of wealth be more basic than scarce, tangible objects?" Like a classic Porsche? Then again, I have no idea why I so preferred the timid-underdog 912E to the hirsute, virile, roaring 911. I could speculate that it's because I grew up only to become what I expected, nothing more, always, and consequently feel that I don't deserve a 911, but that kind of negative self-talk gets you nowhere, so let's move on.

One day in late spring, I tallied up what the hunt for my first Porsche had cost me so far: $1,300 in prepurchase inspection fees, roughly $100 in books and related media, $40 in insurance co-pays for visits to doctors, numerous conversations with my girlfriend that otherwise would have been pleasant, and approximately 1,100 hours of my life. It had all happened without my really being aware of it. I began to tremble. Fortunately, an end was in sight, in the form of a lovely brown 912E that had recently come up for sale on one of the classified sites.

It was owned by a guy named Hugo, in New York City. He wanted $14,000 for the car, but it would come with a number of extras – including a spare set of original 15-inch Fuchs wheels – that I figured I could sell off, bringing the adjusted total closer to my price range. I offered him $13,250. "That works," he wrote back. "I want someone who will care for the car, and I think you will be the right person for that." I sat there, numbly looking at Hugo's response.

And then, for the next two weeks, Hugo and I exchanged e-mails about the upcoming swap of car for cash. I took my girlfriend out to dinner and toasted the end of the hunt. I ordered new seat covers for the car. I bought a radar detector. I began stocking up on microfiber towels and other car-care products. On a Friday, I went to the bank and took out $13,250 in cash. On Saturday morning, I packed my bags and got ready to leave. In the early afternoon, the phone rang.

"Hey, it's Hugo. Listen, I'm not jerking you around, but I've got a guy coming in from Long Island right now to look at the car and buy it for full price. If he doesn't buy it, I will let you know."

It took me a moment to comprehend what was going on. Then I said, "But Hugo, we had a deal. A deal! Didn't we have a deal?"

"Yeah, but how do I know you were going to show up? Have you ever bought or sold a Porsche before? No? Well, it's full of dreamers who have to sell their stamp collections to get the money and then they don't show up or they show up and try to pick you apart and nickel-and-dime you and – "

"But I've given you no indication whatsoever of being that guy. I've been completely straightforward. We had a deal. My bags are packed. I'm out the door. What you're doing is wrong. It's just wrong."

"Don't try to guilt-trip me, man."

And so down in flames went the deal, leaving me feeling burned up and tooled over. I fired off an e-mail to him, calling him "a calculating arrogant self-righteous nincompoop" and saying stuff like "You sold out your word and your bond for $750. $750! Good God, man, is that all it costs?" and "If I were your mother, I'd say, 'Shame on you, little Hugo. Shame on you and your greed.' " I couldn't see straight. I was furious. And I was still furious a week later, when I saw an ad for his car again appear on the internet and realized his full-price deal must have fallen through. I didn't even smile at the just comeuppance. Instead, I dropped Hugo an e-mail and began bargaining with him for the car again. But I wasn't me now. I was a fictitious guy named Mike. As Mike, I was going to make a deal and then never show up to consummate it. I offered Hugo $12,225. He wanted a phone number. I ignored the request. He came down to $13,000. Then he came down to $12,800, or $450 less than I was willing to pay him originally. And suddenly I found myself hatching a plot to buy the car for real. I e-mailed Hugo agreeing to his price and telling him that I was a college student in Colorado and couldn't come pick up the car myself but that my father could. Then I called my pal Mike and asked him to play my father in the deal. He would go meet Hugo and give him the money. I would tag along, as a friend, but would pretend to be a mute, so Hugo wouldn't hear my voice, which is pretty recognizable. Mike couldn't stop laughing.

In his next e-mail, however, Hugo said he wanted to speak to me and asked again why I wouldn't give him my phone number. He also wanted to know why I couldn't take a few days off from school and come pick up the car myself. He also wanted to know why I had asked so few questions about the car and yet seemed to know so much about it. He wanted to know all these things. I started freaking out. He was getting suspicious. I wondered what Kim Jong-il or Phil Collins would do in my situation, then decided to back out and e-mailed him a note saying he had made the deal too complicated and I was no longer interested. In his final e-mail to me, he said, "You are one of 3 things: a scammer, a dreamer and time waster, or someone trying to proxy buy my car for someone else. I think it's the latter so piss off…'Mike' or Erik or whoever the fuck you are…You clown."

I sat there looking at this. I was humiliated. I felt sick. I was trembling again – I'd gone too far. I turned off my computer.