The Tesla Diaries: 3. Anticipation

(This post is part of a blog series. In case you haven’t read it, here’s the first post.)


The first thing Tesla did when we placed our order was inform us they were giving us a few days to change our mind.

Really, that was smart of them. In the heat of the moment, rash decisions are possible. Buyer’s regret on a high-end luxury car is a serious issue.

We had no regrets. We’d already done a lot of should-we-shouldn’t-we. And there was Deep Blue.

After the cool-down period, Tesla billed our credit card for the down-payment and started sending us emails. “The parts to build your car have been ordered.” “The parts to build your car have been shipped to the factory.” Each one a little tease, a little reminder that they hadn’t forgotten, a little suggestion that we not pester them about when we’d get our car. We estimated mid-December, and tried to go about our normal lives without doing too much Snoopy-dancing. Meanwhile, we fretted about how the car would be delivered.

Tesla does not have a showroom in our state, because our state has a law that prohibits it. The law was pushed through by dealerships in the 1990s, ostensibly to protect them from abuse by manufacturers. Basically, the law requires that any sales of automobiles at a business in New Mexico must go through a dealership—a middle-man.

But Tesla does not use the dealership model. It sells directly to the customer (see Design Studio discussion in the previous post).

Note that this law does not prevent us from buying a Tesla. It merely prevents Tesla from having a showroom in New Mexico. We ordered our car online. That’s how it’s done. The lack of a Tesla showroom in our state simply meant that there wasn’t a place for us to pick up our car (and be showered with swag). We had a two choices: travel to a showroom in a neighboring state (over 400 miles away), or accept delivery from a transport truck. We opted for the latter.

We live in a rural mountain area, with windy, twisty roads. Our driveway is long and steep. Not a good place for a big automobile transport. So we had long discussions about where we should meet the truck. At a nearby community center? At a pullout on the nearest highway? We decided on a not-so-nearby civic building with a big adjacent parking lot, still closer to our house than Albuquerque.

Thanksgiving went by. We tried not to grumble about vacation days. Then, on November 30, we got an email:

“Your Model S Has Entered Production.”

Then, a week later, our friendly “Tesla Ownership Advisor” (concierge) started sending paperwork: “Here’s your purchase agreement. These are your payment arrangements. And oh, if you haven’t watched the walk-through videos, please do.”

And he started talking about scheduling delivery. We told him about the place we had carefully picked out for accepting the car, and they said they’d inform the driver of the truck.

The truck that would have our car on it. Our Magical Space Car!

The driver (who was still in California) called and said, “I have a car for you.” He would be arriving late Friday, and would bring the car to our planned meeting place on Saturday morning.

And then we saw the weather forecast. Snow on Saturday.

Snow is rarely a big deal in Albuquerque, but we live in the mountains. We were concerned about driving our brand new car home in a possible blizzard. We asked the driver if we could get the car early because of the expected storm. He suggested we meet him at his hotel.

Friday evening found us on the west side of Albuquerque, at a cluster of modest hotels on a cul-de-sac, awaiting the arrival of our car. We were like kids on Christmas Eve. Every time a truck came down the street, we thought it might be ours. Every time it wasn’t, we were disappointed.

At last, an unmarked, smooth-sided semi drove in, turned around in the dirt lot at the end of the cul-de-sac, and parked in front of the correct hotel. It was the kind of truck race-cars get transported in.

We got out of the Camry and walked across the street to greet the driver. He took one look at us and grinned. “Excited about this car, are you?”

He must have seen that a lot. If we were kids at Christmas, this guy got to be Santa Claus all the time.

I wish I had thought to bring a camera. It would have been cool to have pictures of our car being unloaded. It was dark, though.

The driver, who hadn’t even checked into his hotel, spent the next twenty minutes unloading the car, removing protective plastic, wiping it down with towels, and making sure everything was in order. We watched our car emerge like a newborn. The process was fascinating.

Finally he asked us to sign for it, and handed us the fobs. Tesla fobs are shaped like a miniature Tesla. They’re smooth and slippery. I held onto mine tightly.

This beautiful, deep blue car belonged to us.

We thanked the driver and headed home. I had the honor of driving the Tesla. Though I’d taken a test drive, this was different. I now had the responsibility of driving this car about forty miles, on city streets, a freeway, highways, and mountain roads, at night, to our home.

I was a little nervous.

Teslas are silent. There’s no engine, nothing to rumble. I glided slowly out of the cul-de-sac, my spouse following in the Camry. He probably laughed at me a lot on our way home.

Because of the way the streets were organized in that area, I had to turn right out of the cul-de-sac, then find a place to turn around. I missed the first opportunity, it being night and an unfamiliar area. Finally I found a turn-around and got going toward the freeway.

It was probably the slowest, most timid driving ever done in a powerful sports car.

Once on the freeway I began to relax. The job was simpler here. Just stay between the lines and drive at an appropriate speed. There were about fifteen miles, with only one interchange, between me and the exit to the next highway.

A Tesla is different from an ICE car (ICE = Internal Combustion Engine) in many subtle ways. There are the usual differences between different makes of cars. The cruise control is on the opposite side of the steering column from the Camry’s, for instance. But the Tesla/non-Tesla differences go deeper.

A big one is the touch screen. It controls a lot of functions, like the radio and climate control. It also displays a live GPS map while you’re driving, and you can program in a destination and have it show you the route.

I did not do this. I was still getting used to where things like the cruise control were. But I did, after about ten miles, have a revelation about just how different this car was.

I had entered Tijeras Canyon, where I-40 passes between the Sandia and Manzano Mountains. Parts of it are long and steep, and it’s a workout for semi trucks and low-powered vehicles.

I was passing a semi, and decided I’d like to go just a little faster so as to clear it more quickly. Maybe five miles an hour faster.

I looked at the speedometer, and I was already going five miles faster.

My car was psychic.

Actually, my car was just very responsive. The tiniest pressure on the accelerator was enough to increase my speed 5 mph, even going uphill.

You know how you can feel an ICE car working when you’re going up a steep hill? Maybe the engine makes a bit more noise, maybe you downshift? You press harder on the accelerator, and you kind of lean forward a little, as if you can help the car by doing that?

Doesn’t happen in the Tesla. That car goes up any hill with no sensation of laboring. It’s not just powerful.

It’s effortless.

(On to part 4…)

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