Red Flags

I've been shopping online for cars.

After moving back home to NC from NYC, I lacked a car. There's simply no need for one in Manhattan, but that's quite a different story in rural NC. One of my best friend's Lindsay and her husband happened to have an extra truck they weren't actively using and offered to loan it to me while I was home. At that point, I was only planning to be on leave from NYC for a few months, so I graciously accepted. Well three months turned into six, which has now turned into a year. Each day longer I drove their vehicle I felt more and more guilty. That's when I realized it was time for me to bite the bullet and purchase a clunker.

While conducting a recent search I came across a 2002 RAV4 in beautiful condition for $1000. It had only been posted for an hour on craigslist when I immediately emailed the seller expressing high interest. This was her reply:

I felt like someone punched me in the stomach.

Here I was grumbling to myself all day about my embarrassment of riches and this woman was going through the one of my worst fears. I responded with heartfelt condolences and began bonding with her over this devastating event. After a few emails were exchanged on the subject of her life's tragedy, we got back to the car. I explained I would love to come and see it and could pay her cash on the spot. She said she had moved to Missouri to be with her parents (her only family left). Once again my heart broke for her. She explained that the transaction would be taking place through Amazon. They would ship me the car and let me test it for 5 days.  If it was everything I was promised, I could accept it and that's when she would get the money. If it wasn't what I wanted, the vehicle would be returned to her and I would receive a full refund. 

*Side note:I had been forwarding my Dad the entire conversation step by step and he said it was perfectly acceptable way to purchase a car online (he was in the middle of shopping for a 68 Ford Torino the same way). 

After a couple hours of emailing back and forth,  it was decided that I would buy an Amazon gift card with cash, and begin the purchase through Amazon. However, Dad texted me a few minutes later:

 "I need to do more research at home. Something doesn't smell right. Remember the old adage. If it sounds too good to be true...."

That's when I started to reflect back over the email conversation... but then I stopped myself. Dad was simply being an untrusting Debbie Downer. I believe that people are good. I believed her. Certainly no one would ever lie about something as devastating as that! I wasn't going to let people's unbelief get the best of me.

10 minutes later another text arrived:

"It's a fraud. Sorry Kiddo. Look at these links..." 

He had found a blog devoted to detecting auto fraud and on it was a post written about a scam going around in 2014. There were samples of emails that were practically VERBATIM of what the woman's initial email had said. 

The rest of the story involves me trying to appeal to and then questioning her humanity. Followed up with another email saying a lot of not very nice things... but that's not the point of this post.

You see, it got me thinking about red flags. When you really need something or perhaps even desperately want it, the glaring red flags (the kind that you find offensively bright in other people's lives) seem to fade to a romantic light pink.

Excuses are made, warnings are shrugged off, and you convince yourself you are happy. And perhaps you are. Happiness after all is a choice, isn't it? The most unfortunate can be joyful and the most fortunate can be miserable. But soon enough those flags are going to start appearing darker. You'll be puzzled at their change. You'll be enraged by their shapeshifting. You'll spend hours convincing yourself that those damn flags must have driven to Walmart, bought red dye, taken themselves to the nearest laundromat and dyed themselves. "Because that was not what I signed up for in the beginning".

Weeks, months, maybe even years later, when you're on the ground waving the white flag of defeat, you'll realize that those flags were bright red all along, and it will scare you how blind you were. It will terrify you. 

When a person shows you who they are, believe them the first time. 

With my new "truth goggles" on I scoured back over the email chain between "Jessica" and I. How did I not see all of those flags?! There were loopholes in her story, parts where she had slipped up and completely contradicted herself. I was a street smart New Yorker for heavens sakes! Here's the thing: I was choosing not to look at those flags for the color they were because I so desperately wanted that car to be mine. It was perfect. It would have been more than I deserved for $1000, but I kept thinking... luck is finally on my side!

No harm came from the car experience (thank heavens!) but it got me thinking about all the other red flags in my life i've chosen to ignore. I'm going to stop being desperate and start being smart. I'm going to accept a little pain in the beginning because in the end it's going to save me months and possibly years of anguish. I'm going to start listening to that little voice again. She's brutally honest, but isn't that her purpose? 

Those red flags will pop up in everything from relationships to jobs to purchases to losing weight. It's not a negative way of looking at your life it's an honest one. Think of how much more can be accomplished if we're only willing to look at the cold hard facts. A good long look in the mirror can be the one thing that changes your life. You are worth the fight. You are worth the honesty. You are worth the uncomfortableness of saying 'no' in the beginning.