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Spent most of the day Sunday going car-shopping and couch-shopping with Kam.

Car shopping: test-drove a Honda Civic hybrid. Had been hoping I would love it so I could just buy one and not have to think about it. Sadly, I wasn't especially impressed. It felt just like an ordinary car—which was part of the point, part of what I expected to like about it, but somehow that left me disappointed. Instead of the fancy in-your-face high-tech display the Prius has, it has two simple gauges integrated into the dashboard panel: one showing whether the battery is charging or being used, one showing current MPG. I actually like the fact that it doesn't make a big deal about its efficiency, but somehow it felt lower-tech and less interesting than the Prius. And the driver's seat wasn't very comfortable for me. And the rear seats don't fold down, 'cause the battery is right behind them.

I gather that the Civic is basically a Civic with a hybrid system shoehorned into it, whereas the Prius was designed from the ground up to be a hybrid. So the Prius gets a little better mileage, and has a somewhat higher-tech feel.

So we went and test-drove a Prius down the block. And it wasn't as bad as I'd expected. The small split rear window is easier to get used to than I expected, as is the speedometer being far away. (Though the speedometer seemed oddly distorted and wobbly; not sure what's up with that.) I seemed to have enough head room (though I hadn't really when I was sitting in the back seat during Lola's test drive the other week). Kam and I were impressed with the nifty high-tech navigation system (much to the dismay of the salesman; I think he got really impatient with us, though he did a good job of hiding it). Unfortunately, the seat of the Prius also wasn't comfortable for me.

I'm beginning to think my torso is an odd shape; I know plenty of people taller than I am who don't seem to have any trouble with car seats. But almost every driver's seat I've sat in (other than my Metro's) in the past many years has been uncomfortable: there's a semi-pointy bulge outward at exactly my shoulder-blade height (I would think it should be at neck height), which makes me hunch forward, and there's another bulge outward in the headrest at a height that always hits the back of my head; the headrests can't go down low enough to be at neck level, or up high enough to be above the back of my head. I suppose it's possible that this is an intentional design, to prevent drivers from relaxing too much, but I find it really annoying. A two-inch-high seat pad would help with the headrest problem, but not with the shoulders problem. I suppose I could just remove the headrest entirely, but again that doesn't help with the shoulders. I'm a little baffled by all this; I would think that lots of people would have the same problem, but apparently they don't.

Anyway. So I'm not thrilled with either choice. A couple of people have pointed out that I don't have to get a hybrid at all, but hybrids are the only cars that I've seen that even come close to getting the mileage I was getting with the Metro, and that's important to me. Kam pointed out that I could get a used car; dealers keep telling me that the 2005 Prius is precisely identical in every way to the 2004 model. (But then they keep saying "Except for . . ." and listing a couple of small things that aren't the same, which makes me wonder if there are more such things.) And though the Prius's high-techness is cool, the coolest part is the navigation system (and the Bluetooth phone system), and that costs $3000 more than the next-best package (which I probably don't want) and $5000 more than the base package. And the 2004 model doesn't have the navigation package.

I'd still like to rent both a Prius and a Civic (on different days, of course) and try them out a little longer than a test drive allows for. But none of the nearby places are renting them.

Received word this morning, btw, that my car was indeed totalled. Alas. I'll post photos at some point. Kam's loaning me her car for this coming week, while she's off in Hawai'i with family, but I should still make a decision soon if I want a Prius, 'cause the waiting period is still about six to eight weeks.

We hadn't quite had enough of salespeople, so we moved on to couches. I was pretty much planning to go to Levitz and decide to buy the couch I had looked at with Mary Anne a few weeks ago. But Kam pointed out that there was an Ethan Allen not far from the car dealerships, so we stopped there first. The saleswoman there fairly quickly got me to a couch I liked, and then helped me pick fabric I liked (with Kam's help), and worked out how much it would cost.

She let us borrow fabric samples overnight—three samples, maybe two feet square apiece; we just had to leave a deposit. And then we went to Levitz and looked at the couch I'd liked there, and they let us borrow a whole pillow to see how it looked at home.

The upshot of all that is that the couch and loveseat from Levitz cost half as much as the couch and loveseat from Ethan Allen. But I like the fabric better for the Ethan Allen one, and it's significantly smaller, and so would fit much better in my smallish living room. (The Levitz loveseat is bigger in all dimensions than the largest size of the Ethan Allen couch.)

Oh, and the Ethan Allen furniture would take ten to twelve weeks to deliver, while the Levitz furniture would take two or three days.

Kam and Mary Anne both independently pointed out that there are other furniture stores, and that I should probably take a look at some of them and see if I can find something midway in price between the two options. So I'll try and do that later in the week. Frustrating, though; I'm impatient to have all of this resolved. Of course, given the necessity of getting a car, I'm also concerned about trying to keep cost down. So I don't know.

(And M, you were right: Marshall Field's doesn't have stores out here. Don't know what I was thinking of. I'm looking at the Crate&Barrel catalog online, but so far it mostly looks too modern for me. But there may be a couple of them that would work for me. Suppose I should go to the store and try them out.)

Don't think there's any other news to speak of. I've given up on getting professional massages, after last week's left me more tense afterward than when I'd started out. Have an appointment to get a physical next week, though I'm pretty sure there are no injuries from the crash. Also have an appointment to see a counselor, though after Jay's description of his experience I'm dubious about the prospect. Kam, as mentioned above, is out of town for the week (she'll be back next week, on her birthday); Lola's taking her students on a field trip out East this week; I intend to spend my evenings at home catching up on magazine stuff. And maybe writing some long-delayed journal entries.

. . . Oops, I was gonna post something in honor of J. M. Barrie's birthday today. May do that later, or tomorrow.

. . . One more unrelated addendum: no sign of the mice, except in my dreams. I keep having dreams in which mice figure prominently. I'm sure this symbolizes my anxiety over something or other, but I ain't complaining; they're much better than some other dreams I've had lately.


Just watch for mice with power saws.

Are they selling turbo diesel Volkswagens yet in California? I know a few years ago they didn't, but that might have changed (as I understand it, there was a more or less blanket ban on diesels even if they otherwise met air quality standards). You'd have to be more careful about where you buy gas, but they might still be worth looking at. Even if they're not selling them in California (and a few years ago even out-of-state dealers weren't selling them to known CA residents), you could probably find a way to get ahold of one. And you could test drive the regular Golf or Jetta to see if the seat's any more comfortable.

When I test drove a (non-diesel) Golf a little over a year ago, the sales guy told me that VW would be introducing a new diesel engine shortly and that they expected to be able to sell it in California.

Worth checking out, anyway - the Golf is a really nice small car, and while it's not as high tech as the Prius, it's got a very nice "Ooooh, shiny German engineering" vibe. (I didn't end up actually buying the Golf, however, so I can't really speak to its virtues beyond that.)

My experience with contemporary Volkswagens in general is that they're very good cars provided that they're new and you're prepared to make use of your warranty coverage.

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