The Art of the Close




A couple of weeks ago the clutch went on my car and I came to the difficult decision to put my old, faithful friend of the last 147,000 miles on the market and get what I could for her, rather than put in the $1500-$2000 it would take to get the car back into working order.

I began my car search with a somewhat bittersweet, reluctant excitement. At once sad to say goodbye to that old, familiar . . . thing . . . but more than a thing, really, as a car becomes an extension of one’s home, of one’s private space . . . of one’s safe man-cave into which all who wish to enter need to know the secret handshake . . . and happy to find what new and exciting mix of technology and machinery lay ahead for me.

There is a Toyota dealership close to my home, so I took a stroll onto the lot and immediately was taken by the Scion Tc, a car and brand that is made by Toyota. Of course, long before I had the time to exit my car and walk up to the sporty coupe, a car salesman, we shall call him, Mr. Felix Morone, was kind enough to make my acquaintance and welcome me to the lot.

Felix and I went for a test drive, during which I expressed my interest in the car, going on further to detail my preference for a black car with manual transmission, rather than the baby blue car with automatic transmission that we were driving. We returned to the lot, and Felix came back after stepping inside to check with the manager regarding what colors and transmissions the dealership had in stock. As it turned out, they had no manual transmissions and nothing in black.

“So,” he said, after revealing the information, “you’ll take this one.?!”

Declarative, question, exclamation, I really wasn’t sure.

“Felix,” I said. “After driving that car, I would actually consider buying a car with automatic transmission, but I don’t like that baby blue color. I really like black.”

“Well,” he said, “we don’t have any black ones.”

“Yes, I am aware of that. They do make them in black, though. Perhaps you could get one?”

“Why do you want a black car anyway?”

“Well, because that’s the color I like, I suppose.”

“But black cars get so dirty. Look at this blue one here, you hardly ever need to wash it.”

“Yeah, but I don’t like that color. It’s all speckly and weird.”

“Do you plan to stay in Florida?” he queried.

“For the near term, I suppose, there are no immediate plans to leave, at least.”

“Well then!” Mr. Marone exclaimed (this time I knew – it was definitely an exclamation). “You can’t get a black car. Black cars are two degrees hotter inside. You’ll die in the summer!”

While admittedly marveling at the car interior heat index wisdom Mr. Marone was spewing forth, I felt an irresistible urge to say something, and so I did. It went something like this: “Felix, there is no way I am buying that baby blue car,” as I pointed. “I puke on that car. Good day, Sir.”

Mr. Marone chased me to my car, pleading with me to stay as he suddenly came to the realization that he might be able to get that black car afterall, asking me to just come inside and sit down, telling me that he thought black was was indeed beautiful . . .

I did not and never will buy a car from Mr. Marone. For he and those like him are the reason for Rule #1 of my auto purchasing pamphlet. . . never buy a car from a someone who doesn’t listen (readers of this blog may download, for a limited time, a complimentary copy of my complete Car Buying Pamphlet here).

Rule #2 of my pamphlet goes like this: Never buy anything from someone who lies to you. Rule #3? Never buy anything from someone who wastes your time. I met some of the people who are the reasons for these two rules in the second dealership I entered. The primary suspect is someone we shall call, Ms. Dangerous Liaison.

Ms. Liaison and I made a deal on a Honda Civic Coupe EX (with automatic transmission, thanks to my test drive with Mr. Felix Marone). I was happy with the deal. I told Dangerous that I loved the deal, and I would just need to go home, give it all some final thought, and then return the next day to sign the contract and buy the car. Dangerous really, really , really, really didn’t want me to leave, but I assured her that, barring an asteroid strike, chances were somewhat excellent that I would return the next day.

For all those who think God doesn’t know how to be God, I propose that God is in fact a giving God, for there were no asteroid strikes and I was able to return to the dealership the next day to purchase my Civic Coupe LX.

It was about 11:00 a.m. when I entered the dealership and Dangerous was very happy to see me. However, she was with another client, so she had me take a seat at her office cubicle. I glanced to my right to see a middle-aged woman seated in the next cubicle over, on the client side, looking somewhat worn and dejected. She slouched slightly in her chair and seeing that she, visibly, did not feel good about her deal made me, visibly, feel even better about my deal. I smiled.

Selfish of me, to feel such a thing, in the face of someone else’s misery? Perhaps. But hey, God had spared me from the asteroids so that I could buy my new car from Dangerous Liaison. Today was my day. I was the Chosen One.

So after Ms. Liaison returned and departed several more times, saying how busy the finance guys were and leaving me seated for about thirty minutes, I finally suggested, upon her fourth re-arrival, that I leave and come back in an hour or so. This would give the finance guys time to catch up with whatever they were doing, so that by the time I got back they could have the contract prepared, I could sign it, and then I could drive away with my new car and we would all be happy.

Telling Ms. Liaison that I was leaving swiftly threw her into, well, something I perceived to be akin to convulsions, and something I also imagined to be of the Grand Mal sort, though I am admittedly not an expert, as she begged and pleaded for me to just sit and wait, don’t leave, why would you leave, why would you ever even consider leaving???

“Well, because I have things to do. Why should I waste my time sitting here? I’m coming back, I’m buying the car, so why are you, like, going nuts?”

Finally, I convinced her that I would be back, and I returned at the appointed time, which was a little over an hour later. Once again I was directed to Ms. Liaison’s cubicle (looking to the right, I noticed that the middle-aged woman had sunk about another 18 inches down into her chair and some foamy drool had made its way out of her mouth to run down her face and drip from her chin) and, to make a long story short, after about 20 minutes I learned that the finance guys were still “working with the bank.” All bank details, including payment, were supposed to have been pre-determined the day prior when they ran my credit report, took my income information, etc., yet, here we were, now close to three hours into my second day at the dealership, and they decided to let me know that the deal we made yesterday was, at best, hopelessly tentative.

Obviously, I freaked out, told Ms. Liaison and the finance guy, a Mr. Johnny Wardrobe, to give me a call when they had a payment exactly equal to the one we had agreed upon, and left the dealership (walking like Frankenstein’s monster as Ms. Liaison clung to my right ankle and Johnny Wardrobe clung to my left). As I started driving away, I heard JW screaming as he chased after me, “Sixteen dollars!! I can get your payment down to just 16 dollars more than we came up with yesterday!!”

Idiots? Yes. If they had just given me that number the day prior, I would have happily agreed to it. But they couldn’t control their hard-wired impulse to make an honest deal shady, leaving me no choice but to leave them, following the edicts of Rules #2 and #3.

How do they ever manage to put a deal together? Look to the drooling lady.

So, exhausted and traumatized, and thinking now that God may not know how to be God afterall, as an imminent asteroid arrival was seeming now to be quite possibly not the most disastrous of all conceivable outcomes, I took some time off from the search and found myself, a few days later, on the Nissan lot speaking with a salesperson who shall presently and at all times in the future be referred to as Mr. Ernesto Diaz.

I had seen a car and price advertised on the Web and I asked Mr. Diaz to show me that specific car. It took some doing to get the message through, as English was not Mr. Diaz’s native tongue. In fact, he barely spoke a word of English, so I resorted to using a lot of hand signals and air drawings.

On the test drive, I asked Mr. Diaz several questions regarding the car and he simply nodded each time, saying, “Jes, jes, oh, jes.” Feeling that Mr. Diaz had given me all the information that I needed to make an informed decision, I lit a piece of paper on fire and fashioned of the smoke some symbols that I believed would convey the message that I wanted to buy the car. Apparently, Mr. Diaz had studied the same American Indian Smoke Signal Interpretation book that I had, no doubt translated into espaƱol, as, before I knew it, Mr. Diaz and I were seated across from each other in his cubicle.

He wrote down some numbers on a piece of paper and pushed the paper across his desk to me. I looked at him hard, heard a rattler doing that thing with its tail in the background, followed by the sound of a whip cracking, and then I crossed out the number, wrote down my own, and pushed the paper back across the desk towards him. We performed this exchange several times until, at long last, we sealed the deal with a universally accepted nod of the head, followed by a handshake.

So, who did I finally buy my new car from? A salesman who barely spoke a word of English. A salesman, therefore, who was exempted from rule #1 because he couldn’t listen to me even if he had wanted to since he didn't understand what I was saying, couldn’t break rule #2 because he didn’t know enough words in English to string together a lie, and was unable to break Rule #3 due to his inability to break Rules #1 and #2. Luckily, I barely speak a word of Spanish, Ernesto’s native tongue, save some kitchen Spanish that I’ve learned through the years from working in the place where writers go to get their money (you didn’t think we got it from writing, did you?), restaurants.

Kitchen Spanish is generally not appreciated in polite company. As is not, judging from my recent car buying experiences, an equally offensive vernacular: Car Salesperson English.

Gracias, Ernesto, for not being able to employ the latter, and de nada, for my not showing you my knowledge of the former. (This is not to say, however, that I exclude the possibility of stopping back in at some point to the other dealerships in town to wow them with my Central American Kitchen Speak prowess.)


Godspeed,
LJL


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This post first appeared at The Parody Files


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