I’ve been thinking about switching from the rumblehog to a decent pre-owned car. I’m no longer flush thanks to the wokesters, but I don’t want to get into a years-long payoff deal. So I’ve been looking for a nice little tool-around car. Something older, a dependable brand (Beemer, Volvo, Nissan), well-maintained. Yesterday afternoon I was attracted to a white 2002 BMW, 165K miles, for $2500. The only hitch is that it’s in Palm Springs. But it seemed appealing so I reached out to the owner, and then the weirdness began.

The owner is a dude — I could tell that much. Right off the top he said “no talking, just text me.” He knows autos and does his own maintenance, but he wouldn’t tell me his name or where he lives, and suggested that our initial meeting happen in front of an office building. It turns out the Beemer needs service — the usual tune-up stuff plus new brake discs and pads, which meant I’d be paying an extra $500 or more — figure $3K and change.

The idea was to travel to Palm Springs later today and test-drive the Beemer, and give it to a local mechanic for approval, and then finalize things on Friday. That meant I’d have to take a bus to Palm Springs and take a few Uber rides and pay the mechanic for his time and stay in a hotel plus meals — another $250 or $300, minimum. Now we’re in the $3400 to $3500 region.

I asked the Palm Springs Phantom if I should call him Mr. X. He laughed. I said I was a journalist and explained about Hollywood Elsewhere, and he said “what’s that?” I assured him that I don’t work for the CIA, the Russians, the Palm Springs vice squad, the FBI or the East German Stasi. “Are you really going to do this cloak-and-dagger thing until I arrive?,” I said. “No name, no gender, no nothing? No offense but this feels a tiny bit weird.”

Mr. X: “That’s because that [stuff] doesn’t matter.”
HE: “I don’t mind the spy-movie intrigue. But there’s something existential about this conversation.”
Mr. X: “Are you actually interested in buying this car?”
HE: “Definitely. But you know what I mean. Your identity is going to come out in the wash anyway, right? Bill of sale, pink slip, transfer of title.”
Mr. X: “Yeah.”
HE: “I am 110% serious.”
Mr. X: “Cool. Sounds good…see you tomorrow, man.”
HE: “So when I knock on the door tomorrow at 5 or so, will you be wearing a Yoda mask?”
Mr. X: “That’s not my home address — that’s a business center.”
HE: “Ahh, got it. Well, this is very shadowy but okay. I’ll find a way out there and line up mechanic, and find a decent motel or hotel. This will be, as noted, a two-day process.”

This morning I decided to blow the whole deal off. A guy who won’t reveal his name or address — what is he, a terrorist? A drug dealer? Plus the whole “take a bus to Palm Springs, take three or four Ubers, stay in a motel plus find and hire a mechanic” thing seemed a bit much. When I told him of my decision, Mr. X said, “You’re wasting my time, bruh.”

I wouldn’t say that a majority of people selling cars on Facebook Marketplace and Craigslist are scammers, but a significant portion are. Plus the people who’ve written me about buying the rumblehog are scammers also. Favorite line: “I’m a sergeant in the military, I’m going overseas with my team”…really? Second favorite line: “I’m selling this for my invalid mother.” A guy with another car for sale (2013 white Impala) wanted to meet him in central Watts (just south of the 105) and bring cash…no PayPal or Venmo. Sure thing.