It still hurts.

I was 17, looking for my first car. Very tight budget. Test drove a bunch of 150k+ junkers and also a Chevy Corsica. Then one afternoon I was flipping through the local wheel deals and saw a print-only ad for a 1976 Toyota Celica in my price range. I spent half an hour waiting for my dial-up internet to provide me with a picture of it and immediately loved it. But we lived 50 miles from town and couldn’t go look at it until the weekend.

That Saturday I begged my parents to drop me off to look at it in between garage sales. My dad and I spent a while looking at it and it was better than I could’ve wanted. Low miles, everything original, garage kept, mechanically pristine, 5 speed with louvers. I wanted to buy it right there but my parents wouldn’t let me. (Too old, they said.) So I asked the guy if he would hold it for me while I convinced my parents, and he agreed.

I spent the next six hours pleading with my parents and finally, probably to get me to shut up, they finally agreed. So I called the guy from a payphone (remember those?) At a grocery store and told him I was on my way with cash. He said that was great and would see me in a few minutes.

We drove over there, me giddy with excitement. I walked up to the guy's door with an envelope of cash and wait. He opens the door and his face has this look I can never forget. He to a deep breath and said, very quietly, “Kid, I’m sorry. My wife sold it while I was at work.”

I ended up pity-buying a 1993 Pontiac Grand Am with 172k miles and a transmission problem a couple weeks later.