How to get everything you want without working for it — a true story

The story of how The Office got us a car in New Zealand

“It goes to show that everything you want in life, you get. And you can’t work for it. It just happens to you.”

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That quote’s from Michael Scott. If you know who that is, you know The Office. And if you’re reading this blog your probably know me and Berna’s concerning need to watch it.

Here’s something you probably don’t know: The Office doesn’t air on NZ Netflix.

Our faces when we learned this:


Let’s read that first quote again, “It goes to show that everything you want in life, you get. And you can’t work for it. It just happens to you.”

The “it just comes to you” is what we’ll focus on for this story.

Now we’re in New Zealand. It’s hot. Muggy. Sun’s up for 16-hours each day. Endlessly green. People sound vaguely Australian but “e”s are softer and no kangaroos. We’ve been in country four days, realizing the optimistic we’ll-just’take-public-transport-everywhere dream was exactly that. We need a car. Preferably cheap, reliable, and big enough to sleep in.

Our usual Craigslist and eBay triaging skills were ineffective — Craiglist only turned up drug offers and insanely priced hot rods; eBay wasn’t much better.

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After doing that to our computers, apologizing, resetting ourselves and our browsers, we typed in the website we all spend too much time on, probably have a love / hate relationship with, and was the parent company of where Berna worked: Facebook.

Turns out Facebook’s NZ Backpacker’s marketplace is as verdant as NZ itself. Dozens of posts a day for used cars. Camper vans with bed and toilet and stove. Cars well loved and ready for more adventure. Camping gear and backpacks. Happy hours to exchange stories and pints.

It was time to start messaging and end our four-day dry spell. We put out a post with our price range, preferred model type (wagon), and dates we’d be able to meet up around the Auckland area.


Facebook delivered: within 24 hours of posting we met our first potential cars.

The first was a 1996 Subaru Legacy a 21-year-old from England was trying to sell that day because he had a flight back home in three hours. He was very enthusiastic about us potentially buying the car.

It was a manual gearbox. We’ve only driven automatic. Couple that with the steering wheel being on the opposite side we’re used to and literally having to drive on the opposite side of the street, we figured looking elsewhere would be easier than testing out NZ health care via some vehicular fiasco.

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The second was a 2001 Mazda Familia sold by a guy I (Peter) was a little hesitant towards. The ads we looked through had to be by a private seller, not a commercial one (like a car dealership with lots of other options). When we looked at the car, while it was clean and drove well through the parking lot we met in, the price seemed about 50% too high.

Mentioning this, all of a sudden he had an entirely different car he was selling at the same price. It was newer, bigger, and apparently was his fathers for the past few years and taken care of like a family member. And if we didn’t like that there’d be even more choices the next few days. Hmmmmm.

Right before leaving, we let him know we’d be in contact if there was still interest.

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Feeling a little deflated, we went back on the FB groups to see if there was anything new and credible.

This is where the quote comes into play. Remember, “it just comes to you.”

There was an ad for a 2001 Honda Accord Wagon, pearl white, low miles, in the Auckland area. It was posted just an hour before we stumbled upon it. Nobody had replied.

We freaked and did what we all do when someone on Facebook seems too good to be true: creep on the profile to make sure they’re real, have non-bot friends, show more than one profile picture, and make sure those pictures aren’t reverse-image searchable.

Once we did all that, we were pretty sure this person couldn’t turn the meetup into an episode of Locked Up Abroad – Kiwi Edition.

There was even something that proved her as a certified gem of a human upon first glance: for place of employment, she put Dunder Mifflin Paper Company. The exact place where this guy works:

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We messaged her.

“Hey there! Saw your ad for the car. But wanted to say first of all we’re huge The Office fans! It’s hard to survive when it’s not offered on NZ Netflix.

About the car: it looks great! We’re hoping to get into Auckland this week. We’d love to get a test drive in your car and take it to a mechanic and make sure everything’s okay.

Would you be able to meet up this week?”

She replied.

Hey! I’m really happy to learn this! 😀 Life long fan of Michael Scott and all his team!

I agree, we should take it to a mechanic. When do you arrive in Auckland?

We can meet tomorrow if you want!

And so we did.

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The place we met was the Central Park of Auckland, called The Domain.

It had lots of winding roads, challenging hills to test the car’s climbing ability, and not a lot of stress-producing traffic that drove on the opposite side we’re used to.

The seller, let’s call her “Pam”, met exactly when she said she would, 10AM. We had a scheduled appointment with a mechanic in a half hour, and we spent those 30 minutes each taking turns driving the car, getting a feel for how it drove, getting to know Pam, her French accent, and all fawning over The Office.

Once that half hour was up we took it to the mechanic, where they’d do a Pre-Purchase Inspection. We had some time until that would be completed, so we treated Pam to lunch and learned more about her NZ journey.

We got awesome recommendations, tips, things to avoid, encouragement, and a friendship born out of show we all loved.

Inspection done. Turned out the car needed some love — new tires, transmission fluid regulator, spark plugs could use replacing, and a regular oil change to keep things running smoothly.

All those things came at a price, and with Pam there hearing all the things needing fixing we negotiated and used the cost of repair as what we’d like the car discounted by so we’d come out close to the original asking price, but slightly above so Pam wouldn’t feel cheated.

After some pretty tense moments of contemplation, she agreed and Berna and I wanted to basically sprint to the bank and make the transaction final.

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After checking off the things you need to do in NZ to change ownership of a car…

  1. Make sure you have a valid drivers license (US is great for 12 months);
  2. The Warrant Of Fitness is valid (a displayed card that says the car’s road ready);
  3. You’ve completed a MR13A form (which changes ownership) at the post office (which doubles as country’s DMV);
  4. You pay the agreed upon amount for the car (which required withdrawing money from a local bank and calling Schwab, ensuring them it was actually us withdrawing this large amount and needing a one-day limit raise to fulfill this four-wheeled dream).

…after all that, we became car owners!

Pam handed over the keys and we dropped her off, braving this new, mirror-flipped driving experience at the hostel she’d be staying at before heading to Thailand in three days.

Then, it was just us in this new car.



Sitting back in our chairs, taking it all in.

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Realizing all the new adventures that became possible. Heads whizzing from a day packed full of change. Brains struggling to make right the oddly trafficed roads.

We drove the 40 minutes back to our WWOOF host cautiously; triumphant and nonplussed. Our map  of potential NZ suddenly far-reaching and accessible.

As we got out we looked back upon our newly ordained car, realizing at the heart of all that happened was a shared love. Love for a show and characters that span countries and languages. A show just as beloved five years after it stopped airing as its pilot episode 13 years ago.

The whole exchange seemed curiously effortless. Cookie-cuttered into our lives, somehow.

We could question it, try to figure out odds, or simply marvel. For us, at least for that day, Michael was right:

“It goes to show that everything you want in life, you get. And you can’t work for it. It just happens to you.”

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