The Cameron Column #58
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     WARNING: The following column contains actual dialogue from inside a car dealership. Children should not be exposed to these words unless they've had prior experience with, say, congressional speeches. Read on if you must, but the writer assumes no liability for sweaty palms or insomnia.


     "Buying" a car differs from being "run over" by a car in that it takes longer and you have to talk to more people. I try to avoid buying vehicles altogether, but a recent conversation with my mechanic, Melvin Walletdrainer, convinced me it would be cheaper to enroll my aging GMC Jimmy in Yale than to fix everything that ails it. Per Melvin, "The engine and transmission is broke," meaning that if I try to address this sad situation I will be in similar straits.

     Seized by some sort of madness, I begin watching local TV ads for car dealerships, thinking maybe I should break from my tradition of buying pre-owned, pre-repossessed, pre-stolen automobiles and purchase one still crisp from the factory. In my favorite commercial, a dealer with a Caribbean tan and a pinky ring stands in a Superman costume and declares, "No one can beat my super deals." Now come on, he has to be honest, right? People might stoop to a lot of lows, but no male would ever, ever besmirch the cape and red "S" of Superman.

     So, my vehicle billowing smoke as if attempting to cremate itself en route, I pull into the dealership, where my car door is immediately yanked open by a young man who appears to place an awful lot of faith in the beautifying properties of hair oil. Looking him over, I decide to invest all of my money in cologne manufacturers and cigarette stocks. He drags me across the showroom and throws me against a new Mustang convertible. "This is the car for you, right? Want to impress the women, right? They love this car. They'll love YOU in this car."

     (Ok, yes, I want to impress women. I've ALWAYS wanted to impress women. However, a youth full of experimentation has convinced me that there is nothing I can do to accomplish this goal short of wearing a red "S" and a pinky ring. Certainly driving a neon blue Mustang will elicit nothing from them but the observation, "there goes another old guy in a convertible." Besides, I've been married for a long time now, and if I pull in the driveway with a brand new sports car, my wife will be a lot of things, but "impressed" will not be among them.)

     The car salesman appears excited to the point of rabies. "Okay, I can see you want this car. How about if I drop my drawers for you, I mean really show you what I've got?"

     "I have no idea what you are saying to me."

     "Okay, I can see you are a hard bargainer. I can respect that, I really can. I tell you what I am going to do, I am going to cut my commission out of the deal altogether, I mean, because I like you."

     "Um... "

     The Salesman rolls his eye in a grand mal seizure expression. "Man, you are really Balls to the Wall on this! Okay, and this is the best I can do, I might be fired for this and probably go to jail, but for you, I will sell this car to you at a five hundred dollar loss. That's it, I can't cut the price any more."

     "But I don't want this car."

     "Okay, look, I might as well lay it on the line, my manager will not, I repeat not, let you leave without buying this car."

     "You mean I'm kidnapped?"

     "Maybe if I apply the rebate and give you the discount financing, I'm not supposed to do both but for you I will, I'm going to give you this car for practically free."

     "Is there anyone here who speaks English?"

     "Hey man, what is this? Are you leading me on or what? You're not a tire kicker, are you? I mean, have I wasted all this time, or are we going to do a deal? Make me an offer, any amount, is what I'm saying. I don't care how low, we'll make it happen."

     "Very well," I sigh. "I'll give you a thousand dollars for this car."

     "Whoa! Okay, I'll talk to my manager, and see what I can do. I'll really go to bat for you on this, but it's going to be tough. Blood on the floor, you know what I mean? But you're my buddy, right? I mean, I'll do my best for you, and you'll do my best for me, right?"

     "I've never had a better friend in my life," I state carefully to this madman.

     He's gone for less than thirty seconds. His expression looks as if my offer so enraged his bosses they retaliated by shooting his dog. "Oh man, I tried, I really tried, but my manager says that even though we value your business, he can't accept your deal. I mean, the guy was literally crying, there were tears and everything."

     "Yes, crying involves tears," I agree.

     "So here's what's up. We're almost there. We are so close, we are pennies away from you driving out of here in the car you have wanted your whole life. Your thousand gets the job done, didn't I tell you I'd go to bat for you? All we need to do is finance the balance, and we got a deal. I've got the papers here."

     "And how much is the balance?"

     "Twenty seven thousand dollars."

     "I'm sorry, I didn't realize that a house came with it."

     "Ha! You're a funny guy, I love you man."

     "I'm going to go to my car and get my checkbook, okay?" I ask, edging toward the door. Two mechanics are gathered around my old car, pondering whether they should fix it or burn it. The engine turns over with noisy complaint-it had understood it wouldn't have to do this anymore. I stomp on the accelerator, pulling out of the lot as quickly as possible. This baby is probably good for at least a few thousand more miles.


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Copyright W. Bruce Cameron 1997
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