Thursday, August 7, 2008

Fear And Loathing At The Dealership

I desperately needed a new car.

My Battle Wagon, my beat to hell, bloody-faced version of Mel Gibson from “Braveheart” was on it’s last leg. Like Sir William Wallace at the end of that film, it was on it’s back, having it’s guts ripped out for an audience.

To compound things further, I had to use it to haul my equally non operational/dependable motorcycle back to Maine. It’s here that I decided I should test the strength, not only of my vehicle’s suspension and chassis, but my relationship with The Lady as well.

We’d been meaning to get to Maine since June. Schedule conflicts, etc, kinda made that impossible. She works in an industry that, in the summer months, doesn’t give a lot of time to take off, whereas I, being military, only have a certain amount of time I can be gone for. Literally, things need to be scheduled well in advance if we want to do anything fun for an extended period of time.

So I asked her a week or so ago if she wanted to come with me to drop the bike and the truck off at my parent’s place, all under the assumption that I would be getting a new vehicle of some sort by the end of the few days we’d be up there. She agreed, obviously not knowing what she’d be getting into.

Because, how better to test your relationship with a woman than by taking an ill conceived road trip to your parents house in a vehicle that may or may not die on the three hour drive there?

The trip started off with drama, of course. She drops her car off at her mother’s, for fear that it’ll be towed if we leave it unattended at the parking lot for too long, and we ride over to our house. I want to be on the road no later than noon, because it’s a haul and especially in my little fucked up S-10, it takes a lot out of me when I drive for long extended periods. The science behind this is that the sooner we’re on the road, the sooner we’re off.

But, The Lady doesn’t want to go to Maine without any cash on her. I don’t blame her. Her boss, however, doesn’t have her pay check ready. Also, apparently, he’s too cheap to have direct deposit.

I mean, it’s only the second half of 2008.

But the situation is fine for now; I still have the business of loading my Triumph into the back of my truck. I head out to my truck and bike, take the ramps out, set up everything. When it’s all said and done, I realize that I’ve really only given myself about ten feet of space to work my bike up the 45 degree angled aluminum ramps, with only about six to seven feet of bed space in the back of the truck. I would literally have to gun the shit out of my bike to get it up the ramp (because worst case scenario would be me not getting enough speed, getting the front wheel up in the bed, but then the ramps kicking out, making me fall backwards and ultimately underneath the 500 lb bike, breaking my spine.). I back the bike as far back as it’ll go, which is on the edge of payment and a grassy area, and start to rev it. I keep working the throttle and clutch, goosing and feathering it, and when I feel the rear tire start to spin on it’s own, with my hand clutching hard down on the front brake, I give it as much gas as I can.

White smoke starts to spew from the tire, as she begins to screech on the pavement under me. I can feel the back end starting to swing a little to the left and I adjust my body weight to compensate. Come on, I think to myself, nice and easy, straight shot up the ramp.

This is the most nerve racking thing I can think of doing. The ramp is so light and the bike is so heavy. My tail gate could literally snap off at any moment and send the bike straight down at a high rate of speed, crashing it’s fairing and forks into the back of the bed and sending me over the handlebars and through the rear window of my cab. With the smoke and screeching building, I drop the brake and clutch at the same time and launch forward towards the ramp.

I hit the ramp, and for a very brief moment I’m fucking airborne. There isn’t even time for me to really register this thought before I crash back down into the bed, my front tire kicking a giant dent into the back of the cab, below the window. The tire’s still screeching and smoking, throttle’s stuck open, and the horrible sound of an engine trying to tear itself apart is filling the air.

I clutch in, kick her down to neutral and straight up before putting down my stand and shutting it down. I look back over my shoulder, breathing heavy, sweat in my eyes, as the ramp is flat on the ground, no longer attached to the back of my truck.

“Jesus Christ,” I pant. I dismount, and shakily put the tie-down ratchet straps into formation and compress my forks for the ride. Behind the truck is a littering of spent burnt rubber shavings from the tire.

I give myself a second to relax, breathe in and breathe out, calm my shaking hands. Just then, The Lady rounds the corner and I paste on a smile to try to hide the “Holy Shit” look that I’m sure I have anyway.

“Boss Man doesn’t have the checks,” she says. She’s pissed. If she gets on this ride with me, she’s going to be a total tyrant, if this is the attitude she’s going to start with. She’s already stressed out about an extended meeting of my parents (she previously met them for about five minutes when they came down earlier in the Spring) so with all that going on, I didn’t want an upset stomach from her belly aching, if you dig.

“Hey,” I start. “I don’t want you stressed out. This trip is going to be a lot of stress, and I don’t want you starting off this way.”

She gives me a look, and a sigh.

“I’m not stressed at you, it’s just Boss Man is a douchetard,” and she goes on for fifteen minutes explaining past experiences in how she’s been upended on pay checks and such. She ends with “I love the guy, he’s been great to me, but for all I do around there, all I’m asking is that he pays me on time.”

We go to her bank, and then hit up a Burger King, and we’re on the road.

Things mellow out after a little while. She’s reading one of my Palaniuks, curled up in the seat wearing only a string bikini top and a pair of sweats. I’m in shorts and flip flops, Calvin Klein t shirt, sunglasses, singing along with classic rock hits on the ipod, getting her exasperated looks from over the tops of her sunglasses.

We have to shout to talk to each other, the truck is that bad and loud. The whole body rattles and shimmies and humms when you get to highway speeds. What makes it worse is that with the weight of the bike in the back pressing down on the suspension and whatever else is up under there, the ball joints whistle.

“We’re gonna make it, right?” She asks after about forty minutes into the three hour drive.

“Yeah, of course,” I say confidently. In my heart though, I wonder if it will, and I worry about how the hell we’re going to get a tow with the bike on the back, should we need one. I smile, and this seems to put her at ease, so she nods off. The whole time, like a Buddhist meditating, I constantly chant “a few more miles, a few more miles, a few more miles” in my head.

Apparently the mantra worked, because we eventually pulled into my parent’s driveway that afternoon.

Dad was in the driveway, spraying off a motorcycle engine with a hose. Rain was due any second, and with his giant fox tail of a beard, he squeezed The Lady with one arm while battling me back with the hose in his other hand. We embraced as well, and got to catching up on things, as we all began cleaning up my Shit Wagon.

Time was of the essence, while on the road, I had called a local Honda dealership because I found a pair of Ridgeline pick up trucks on their website I was very interested in seeing. I thought that maybe calling in ahead of time and setting up an appointment would be the best way to go. Give them an idea of who I was, what I wanted, and how important time was to me. If I was the type of person who made appointments to see vehicles, I would obviously be treated as a person who took time as money.

Or so I thought.

We made our appointment on time, and checked in with the receptionist at the front desk. What amazed me the most about every dealership we’d go to from here on in, was how busy they were. Every where you go, you hear about car dealerships crying for help from the public. They’re basically giving cars away, because no one wants to spend money on a gas chugging SUV or pick up. I’m surprised that it hasn’t disintegrated into “buy one get one free” extravaganzas.

So, the place had more than enough people walking around both in the lots and inside the show room. We were told by the receptionist that the salesman we made the appointment with was with a customer, but was wrapping things up. We were allowed to take a seat in a small waiting area, and someone would be with us shortly.

From the jump, as soon as we walked into the place, The Lady was on edge. She glanced upward nervously, and when I finally asked her what the hell her problem was, she simply pointed to the balloons.

You see, at these dealerships, they want to present a festive and party atmosphere. They, those in charge, think that they, the customer, will not buy a vehicle if the scene is similar to a funeral home. They play up the celebratory, party vibe, thinking that if consumers think it’s a party, they’ll want to drop hard earned cash - and potentially fuck up their credit - with a new or certified pre-owned vehicle.

So it was the balloons that were making her nervous. I forgot to mention The Lady has a crippling allergy to latex. This has somewhat been the bane of our relationship, if you’d believe it. Most condoms are made of latex, and the non-latex varieties are extremely tight fitting. Imagine trying to stuff a week’s worth of clothes into a tiny gym bag, and you’ll get what it’s like for me to get myself into one of these specialized prophylactics.

Over our heads were giant-sized balloons in patriotic color schemes of reds, whites and blues. Over sized balloons hanging low over our heads had The Lady ducking and sinking nervously into her vinyl seat. I tried to distract her with some strategy talk:

“Ok, hey, listen,” I began. “When we get in there, and start haggling over price and payments… don’t like, hit me, or get shocked if I start acting like a total asshole towards the guy. I’m not saying I’m going to insult him or anything, but if I start to get a little weird, don’t show our hand by making it seem that that’s not how I am all the time, you know?” And she got it without me having to explain it at all.

“Oh I know,” she says, “I know how to act in public.” And I smile and she sinks a little more into the seat, looking skyward.

After about half an hour, the other side of the time-table I gave the salesman on the phone (when I called and made the appointment, I stated “between four and four-thirty,” and what I was told was “perfect.”.) we were both getting antsy. No one had even approached us, not another salesman, not the receptionist, and certainly not the guy I made the appointment with. I made a big deal out of looking down at my watch, and our conversation about how long we’d been waiting grew louder and louder.

All the guy had to do was come around from his office and say “hey gang, sorry, this is wrapping up here, thanks for waiting, why don’t you get a cup of coffee I’ll be right with you in ten minutes,” and we’d been fine. I was very much interested in looking at these Ridgelines, and possibly purchasing one on the spot, to hell with haggling over price. But no one, in this entire PRIME HONDA DEALERSHIP paid us any mind.

As we were considering just getting up and leaving, my cell phone rang and it was my mother, who was just getting off of work. I explained the situation to her, how we’d been sitting for so long without anyone even talking to us, and she couldn’t believe it.

“You wanna see them jump,” she said, “just stand up and head for the door.”

“I know, I know, but,” I glanced back down at my watch, “I’ll give them a few more minutes,” as the time closed in on the 45 minute mark.

The final straw came when, off the street, a pair of Somalis walked in and were seen immediately by a sales person, as two well dressed and respectable white persons sat in total disbelief!

“That’s it!” Started The Lady, “we’re out of here,” and we both stood, walking out the door. I let loose a pissed off tirade about how shitty a business PRIME HONDA, ON THE SACO AUTOMILE, US RT 1, SACO MAINE was. I was also crushed, because I had set my heart on those Ridgelines.

Being that there were about a hundred more dealerships within two miles of where we were, we simply climbed back into my sad and pathetic truck and started driving north bound. On the right hand side of the road a little ways down from the Honda dealership, was a Toyota dealership.

Before I go any further, I want to make clear I wasn’t solely in the market for a foreign car. It just so happens that the deals I saw online, and the things I heard about certain manufacturers made it easier for me to check out their inventories, say, than that of a domestic car maker. And besides, all the vehicles allegedly made in the US, by US car manufacturers, are actually manufactured in Canada and Mexico.

So we pull into the Toyota Dealership, which was also owned by the Prime Auto Group, and started to just mill about in the lot. They had a lot of 09 Tundras, V8, all-time four wheel drive that they were doing everything but just giving away to every swinging dick that stepped foot on the lot.

We were soon approached by a very rat-like in appearance man named Richard, or Rich, or Dick, however you want to slice it. He had a prominent uni-brow with one long hair sticking about half an inch from the center of his face. His eyes were dark and beady, teeth a horrible mash of stained ivory in his mouth, with a badly gelled comb-over, onion breath, and all the charm of bloated pig stomach. He asked me, as any salesman would, what I was interested in.

“Well, I’m looking for a full sized truck, 2006-08 maybe … it doesn’t have to have all the bells and whistles, you understand, but it has to have some of the basic modern conveniences, like, … power windows, doors, .. keyless entry, … oh and it has to be black. That’s important.” And he took this all in, nodding, and he started to immediately push the $31,000 2009 Tundra, as if what I just said floated out into the atmosphere and missed him completely.

“We have a great buyers allowance on these,” as he leads me over to a row of brand new OPEC supporting machines. “You can get up to 6,000 off the sticker, with 0 down and 4.9% APR financing, if you’re credit’s good.”

“Ah huh, but uh, that’s still pretty much out of my price range, Richard,” I say to him. He nods and invites us inside.

We sit for a while, hashing out what I want. I mention how we were at the Honda dealership just before hand, and how shoddily we were treated over there. I even show him the internet print-offs of the Ridgelines, saying that’s what I was most interested in seeing.

“Well, you know Jim,” he begins, leaning in smugly from his side of the desk, “being that this is a Prime dealership, I have access to those Ridgelines, it’s all just a matter of finding which lot their at…”

“Really?!” And the hook gets set. He gets up and says he’s going to have them located and we can go check them out. I feel renewed, thinking everything’s going to work out. I smile at The Lady, who’s psyched that I’m in line to get what I want. While the salesman is off dicking around, I get another call from my mom:

“Yeah, we bounced over to the Toyota Dealership up the road. Come by if you want,” I tell her. My whole plan is this: My mother is a tenacious negotiator when it comes to car buying. Her last three vehicles she purchased, she sent the salesmen away crushed and crying and unemployed in that order. She’s a heavy hitter who takes shit from no one. She’s my big gun, my secret weapon, my Ace in the hole. I’m calling her in to lay down heavy artillery while I get my captured comrades out of the POW camp.

The salesman, Richard comes back with some print offs, keys and a dealer plate. I let him know what he’s in for when my mother shows up.

“You don’t even understand,” I begin. “My mother is like the bad cop to my good cop. You thought I was bad… you’re gonna wish it was only me you were dealing with when she shows up,” and he thinks I’m joking. He laughs, and at the same time, an actual Saco cop walks through the show room, short, pointy face, Mediterranean skin tone.

“Hey,” the salesman calls after the cop, “which one are you, the good cop or the bad cop,” as he plays on the joke. The cops stops, completely unaware of the conversation we’re having without him, and shrugs.

“I’m usually the bad cop,” he says. Under my breath I add “He’s probably also the bottom, too.”

At about the same time we head outside, my mother shows up. She’s an unassuming, gray haired office drone, who smiles every time she sees me. We hug in the dealership lot and then she turns and hugs The Lady. We all collectively climb into a waiting Buick Skylark and go across the street to the Nissan dealership where the Ridgelines are waiting for us.

“Your mother hates me” says The Lady out of no where when we’re away from my mother’s hearing. I look at her stunned.

“What?! What makes you think that?”

“Body language. I also accidentally called her ‘Mary’ on the phone a little while ago. I think she’s holding that against me.” My mother, pleasant as she is, is very old school. I had told The Lady about this previously, that she should address my dad as ‘Charlie’ and my mom as ‘Mrs. N-’ until told otherwise. The Lady claims I never told her this, or told her something different entirely. I know for a fact I brought this up months ago. I glance back at my mother, smiling, staring off at different cars, holding her bag and walking around the lot somewhat pigeon-toed, with an oblivious smile on her face.

“Don’t be so damn neurotic,” I hiss at The Lady, “make nice with my mom!” And the asshole salesman comes back, as he’s located the Ridgeline I wanted to see.

It’s an ugly gun metal gray and looks nothing like the print off I got from the computer. The inside is plain, and although minimalist is what I go for, this was just … too… minimalist for me. There was just a lot of empty space on the inside. And for it being an 2007 model, it already had 67K miles on it.

I almost half expected lemonade to drip from the exhaust pipe.

“I can’t say that I’m all that impressed,” I tell Richard. Truth be told though, the center console was fun to play with for about a minute, because it morphed and transformed into different configurations. One was like a cd case rack. Then it donned on me, that no one keeps the thick cd cases in their vehicles anymore, let alone actually listens to cds. I was heartbroken again over the Ridgeline.

“That’s ok,” he starts. “Let’s just drive it over to our other dealership and we’ll see if there’s anything over there that catches your eye,” and we take off down the road some more.

He takes us to their Ford dealership and shows me again, the gas hungry V8s. One he shows us even comes with it’s own plow rig and blade. At this point I’m getting tired of his ineptitude.

We drive back to the Toyota dealership and I off-handedly mention something about a sedan, because I heard the Camry’s were good on fuel. This started a whole new … dialogue with this fucking greasy asshole. He tours me around his lot, showing me over priced Corollas and Camrys, one pair being three years old, dented and scratched and showing visible rust. I let him know in plain language that I’m not awed with what he’s showing me.

“Let’s just take this one for a ride,” he says as he pulls out the keys to the Camry without the massive driver’s side door dent in it. We all climb in, and I make it a special point to drive like a total asshole around the back roads that I used to patrol (the dealership bordered the town I used to be a cop in, and the little ‘test track’ lapsed into the outskirts of said town.).

We get back to the dealership and again, I yawn and complain that he’s not impressing me at all. I then go on to tell him that we’re getting tired, we three, and I’d been on the road for three hours and had just spent three hours dealing with him, so we were calling it a day.

This asshole. He gets this look on his face like I just broke up with him. As if, instead of “hey, we’re tired of your fucking miserable excuse for cars, and you’re epic failure as a salesman, so we’re going home to rest now,” we’re saying “hey, this isn’t working out, we can’t see each other anymore, we’re breaking up.”

I have never before seen such a lack of professionalism.

“Why?” He says to me, almost in half a whisper. I stare at him, wide eyed in disbelief.

“Because, you’re not showing me anything that I want.”

“Well, how do you know what you want?” He asks, as if he’s trying to get some psychological leg up on me.

“I know what I don’t want,” I say, “and you’re showing me a lot of that. I told you what I wanted: A full sized pick up, 2006 through 08, modern basic accoutrements, V6, and it had to be BLACK. You haven’t even shown me one black vehicle yet.” He nods absently.

“Ok, I got one last car to show you, just give me five more minutes of your time, and you can go.” And I look back at my family, the two most important women in my life, and I sigh and say ok, and walk over to a display with him., leaving them to wait and starve a little while longer.

He walks me over to a black Scion TC, the equivalent of Pampers Pull Ups for autobuyers. The Scions are Toyotas geared towards 18-21 year olds who love a lot of flash and don’t care about substance. We both stare down at it with different expressions on our faces; his is adoration or some form of it, and mine is general boredom.

He starts his pitch script “What do you think, rad right?” Rad?!

“Uh, sure.” I couldn’t sound any more uninterested.

“Now, here’s what I want you to do, what would be an ‘Awesome Deal’ on this vehicle” he pitches. I pause for drama, and give him my pitch.

“Awesome deal? …I’ll give you 9 for it.” It was stickered as a 2009 for 16900.

“Whoa, well, wait, I mean, let’s be realistic.”

“Ok, realistically, I’d give you…. Maybe… maybe, 9-5.” And he develops heart burn.

“Let me go talk to my guy in the office and see what he thinks,” and he starts to walk back inside.

“Look, let me save you the trouble, Rich: I’m not interested in this car. When I woke up this morning, my mind set was on a full sized pick up. In the very far reaches of my mind, I was thinking sedan, but that was like, the outer most limits of my thinking. I wasn’t even thinking Scion this morning. So don’t try to shoe-horn me into this car, I don’t want it.” And I get that look from him, as if I only just said “I’m not taking you to the prom.”

“Ok, well, I’m sorry then, but… you still have to talk to my manager. I won’t get paid if you don’t talk to him.”

When I was in high school, we had a substitute teacher named Mr. Finley. Mr. Finley worked at a car dealership full time and subbed part time, for a goof. On one day, when he was supposed to be handing out a test or something, he instead gave a lesson on car buying. What not to fall for, what a good deal looked like, what was bullshit, etc.

One thing Mr. Finley talked about was the “let me get my manager before you leave” trick; which is when they bring in their heavy hitter, their big gun, their bad cop. It’s not really a manager they bring out, but their high pressure salesman. The back breaker. The guy who’s going to make you feel like a total shitbird for wasting “his employee’s” time by not buying a car. When you have a tough nut to crack, you break out the big nut cracker.

I saw this coming a mile away.

“Ok, Rich, I’ll be right here,” I said. He gives me his most professional rat-faced smile and goes back into the show room. I turn and bolt for my truck.

The Lady is sitting with the passenger side door open, smoking one of her American Spirits, and she looks up at me through her giant round sunglasses.

“What’s the matter?” She asks with a look on her face that really wants to ask “did you just hold up a bank?” …That sort of panicked, catch-me-up look.

“We gotta go, get in,” I spit. She tosses out her butt and stamps it with a sandal, and we tear ass out of the dealer’s lot, presumably with Richard running after us, yelling for us to stop.

I wouldn’t know, I wasn’t looking back.

That night, feeling utterly disappointed in my lack of ownership in a new car, but feeling triumphant that I was able to stave off the advances of a dipshit salesman, we all sat around eating Chinese from a local restaurant. My mom and The Lady had a chance to talk, as did dad and I. And then we switched when The Lady needed a post dinner smoke and dad followed her outside (it might have been the low cut shirt and bra combination she was wearing…)

Feeling the tension from earlier still coming off The Lady, I straight up asked my mother what she thought of her.

I knew this was a dumb thing to ask my mother, because mom is in the business of making her only son happy and content, even if that means lying to his face. Unfortunately for my mother, I’ve become quite adept at picking up her tells when she’s lying and when she’s not.

I mean, I was a cop for Christsakes.

“So mom, really, what do you think of The Lady?”

“She’s wonderful,” and I squint, looking at her face. “What?”

“Nothing, go on,”

“Well, she’s beautiful, and smart,” still all very generic, nothing specific. “I like her aura, how she looks at you. She loves you James. You two have such a good chemistry together, it really shows through. I catch her looking at you when you’re not paying attention and she doesn’t realize it. She adores you. It’s all over her body language.”

My scans for deceitfulness in my mother’s face find none. I let the skepticism go from my face. At the same time, The Lady and my dad return from outside, and we do the dishes together. When that’s done, we both call it a night and retreat into my old bedroom, now my father’s room.

We watch a little tv and I offer her a backrub. We’re very at home with the door closed. I lean in for a kiss, she rolls on to her back and we start to do what couples do with the lights off.

“We have to be quiet,” she whispers up to me between kisses.

“No, I know,” I whisper back.

“I really don’t want your parents to hear us having sex,” she hisses, all seriousness in her voice.

“I. know.” I say back in the same seriousness. My cock poking her through her PJ pants. We kiss and disrobe each other.

We both agree over breakfast at a little Main Street Diner called Jonsey’s the next morning, that there is no way in hell my parent’s DIDN’T hear us going at it. Twice. In my father’s bed.

Hell has a special section for sons like me.

While at Jonsey’s we play a game of hangman on a sales flyer for a Ford Dealership up in Westbrook, about a twenty minute drive. While The Lady tries to decipher “I Like Big Butts And I Can Not Lie” I notice that this particular dealership has 2009 Ford F-150s for 200 bucks a month, as advertised. Fuck it, I think to myself, what’s the worst that could happen?

As if she read my mind and answered for the both of us, The Lady says “We’re so not going back to The Cape in your ratty S-10.” And I realize then, that we’d better check out this dealership, stat.

We arrived on scene a little after nine in the morning and wandered around the lot. We were met by an older grandpa type named Bob. When I showed him the flyer (discretely covering the hangman phrase with my hand) with the circled stuff I was interested in, he brought us over to where they kept them.

“They’re very bare bones,” he starts in a grandfatherly way, “no power anything, manual stick, no carpeting. They’re really designed for Government and Commercial use, you know?” I think back to my rotting S-10, and decide that there’s no way in hell I’m going back to a similar situation. Stick shift? No power anything?

So I lay it on Bob, the same way I laid it on Rich: “Well, I’m looking for a full sized pick up, 2006-2008ish, power doors, locks, keyless entry, that whole bit. I’d like it to be a V6, maybe an extended cab… you know? Oh, and it has to be Black. That’s important.” He nods along.

“Well, let’s see what we got out back,” he says. He gestures us to follow him down out back to where there’s a whole row of F-1- and 250s. My eyes immediately lock on to one in particular.

“That one.” And I point to it. “Tell me about that one.”

“Well,” Bob starts, “it’s a 2005, uh, only 24K on it, power everything, regular cab, flare side, all weather tires,” and he goes on. What’s got my attention the most is that it’s all black.
“That’s it, that’s the one,” and I look at The Lady. “That’s it.”

She’s happy for me again, and we go inside where I’m slapped in the face and stabbed through the heart at the same time. In the middle of their show room, inexplicably, there’s a Triumph Daytona 990, a 2009 model, just hanging out. My knees buckle a little and I drag myself over to the negotiation table.

We hash out some numbers, mostly what I’m looking for for payments, etc. He goes over to his boss and comes back with a slip of paper and slides it in front of me.

“Well ok Jim,” he begins, adjusting his glasses as he talks, “with 3000 down, and the 800 we’re giving you for your truck on the trade in (about 1000 more than they should’ve given me… figure it out…), you’re looking at this for a monthly payment, which is right where you want to be,” the only problem with that was I had nothing to put down.

That’s not entirely true. I had about 800 dollars in my savings that was exactly that, savings. I just didn’t want to touch it.

“Well, I wasn’t uh, you know, planning on putting anything down…” I say sheepishly. I start to feel a slightly tinge of panic, thinking I might be in over my head. Without hesitation, The Lady speaks up.

“He has 1600 to put down,” she says with confidence. I was about to turn to her and say ‘Bitch, you know I ain’t got no 1600 dollars!’ But it then dawns on me, that she’s going to float me the cash for the down payment right out of her pocket.

Looks like my mother was right after all.

I protest for a second, and she kicks me under the table, hard, right where the calf muscle and tibia meet. I wince and smile.

“Uh, I actually have 2200 I can put down,” I say, after I figure that if she’s going to put up 1600, I might as well put up 600 of my own. Bob goes back with the new figures and I shoot The Lady a look.

“You better know what you’re getting yourself into,” I say to her.

“I do. I’ll just make you sign a promissory note… say, you have to pay it back over the next two years? That way, I get to keep you around for the next two years.” She smiles.

I can’t help but be in love with her.

Bob comes back with the updated figures. We all agree that it looks good and we should get the financing started. I tell him that we’re going to need to hit up my bank to get the cash for the down payment, because she left her check book at home and needs to wire transfer the money up. Bob’s so cool that he lets me take the truck I’m going to buy with me to do these errands.

The Lady calls her bank and she’s told that she has to be present at the bank in order to make the wire transfer go through. I think this sounds a little odd, but I don’t say anything, and we happily drive down the highway back from Westbrook to Biddeford. We get to my bank, and she calls her bank back. Now she’s talking to someone else, and they’re saying she has to be present at HER bank, not mine. We’re left standing dumbfounded in the bank parking lot, looking at my new truck slipping away.

“You sure you don’t have your check book in your bag at my parent’s house?” I ask her.

“Yeah, no I know it’s in the apartment. I left it on the nightstand, or your desk.” I curse. I suggest we drive the truck over to my parent’s house to show it to my dad and see if he’s got any suggestions. And by “suggestions”, I mean “money.”

We get back over to my parent’s house and dad gives the truck a once over. He’s impressed, though being a Chevy man, he won’t admit to it.

“If I were a Transformer, this is what I’d transform into,” I tell him, about the truck. I then tell him about the story of the down payment and he nods solemnly.

My dad has a weird knack of being condescending at the wrong times and not knowing it. I probably do the same thing, but being that one’s unaware when doing it, it’s hard to tell if I do it at all.

“Well Jim, maybe it’s just not meant to be, you know?” He says this right in front of the truck. We all decide that I should call the dealership and let them know the situation, oppose to just stealing the truck outright.

“Hey,” I call Bob’s personal cell phone, “it’s Jim with the truck. Yeah…. Yeah… Yeah, well I just wanted you to know that we’re coming back, but that we couldn’t get the wire transfer from her bank on the Cape. She has to be there in person I guess? Yeah…. No yeah, I’m coming back with the truck. I am. Yeah, like right now. But could you tell the guy doing the financing that the numbers are going to be a little different? Also, tell him I’m coming back with the truck right now. Like, right now.”

When we get back to the dealership, Bob’s super understanding. These things happen, he says. It’s the finance guy who’s shitting a brick.

Apparently this isn’t the usual finance guy. He’s like an understudy, he’s short, slimy-looking like Richard was, highly caffeinated and likes to shake hands a lot, and all weird, with his hand cocked out to the side, which requires me to look at his hand to line up the shake, oppose to looking him in the eyes, like I’m used to. All of this makes me increasingly nervous.

When we finally get down to it, we’re crushing out numbers and it comes down to about fifteen dollars more a month than what I want to pay. But I suck it up and pick up the pen. I’m literally a breath away from owning this truck (or at least holding it while the bank owns it) when this shark starts talking about the Extended Warranty.

“It covers everything, from tire blow outs and towing, to broken glass and mechanical malfunctions. You can bring it back here for almost everything, all for what I like to call, the cup of coffee a day,”

“Well, what’s the price of a cup of coffee these days?” I ask.

“About 2.55,” he says. I laugh.

“That’s some cup of coffee. No wonder Starbucks is closing stores.” The humor is lost on him.

“When you add it up, your monthly payment, with the extended warranty, which covers your truck for the next three years, is going to be X” and “X” represented about 75 dollars more a month than the 15 dollars more than I wanted to pay, period.

“No, I can’t swing that. I still have to pay gas and insurance on this thing. That’s not do-able.” I tell him.

“But you’re protecting your investment,” he starts.

“But this is redundant. I have insurance for a reason, as well as AAA. And this dealership’s policy is a lifetime warranty anyway, as long as I bring it back here when something goes wrong. You’re basically asking me to spend money on nothing.”

He gets noticeably upset. “I don’t think you understand, Mr. N”

“No, I don’t think you understand. I Don’t Want It. How can I be more clear?” He swallows hard, shut down and then prints off a page with all the things the warranty would be covering. With a big green magic marker, he rights DENIED across the front of the page, then under it, he strikes a line with an X next to it for me to sign on. With a lot of strain in his voice, the midget says:

“This here is just for our records, to show that you were offered this program, but have denied it.” And I sign extra big.

There were a few last loose threads, like getting the car detailed and a window button looked at, but after 6 hours, I was done. The truck was in my name.

We left the dealership, exhausted by victorious. The truck got a professional detailing and I had a guilt free conscience. I was flying so high that I even let The Lady smoke inside the truck on the drive home.

Unfortunately, my mom had to work late so we didn’t get on the road til much later that night. She didn’t get a good look at the truck because it was dark out. So I made sure I had The Lady take a picture of me and the truck that afternoon after I got it home. I then took the picture and made it her computer’s desk top wall paper, and shut the computer down, so she would get a surprise when she turned it on.

Here’s the picture:

Also, The Lady hates that t shirt. Yet she was the one who packed it.

Epilogue: It turns out, her check book was in her
bag the whole time too. Oh Well.


Jake said...

A country of consumers...way to buck the trend James. At least you got to write a good blog entry.

Angry Ballerina said...

“You sure you don’t have your check book in your bag at my parent’s house?” I ask her."


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad you got your truck!!! It would have been a long walk back to the Cape with Angry on your back.

You did good, James. Mathman and I suck ass at negotiating and we get fucking rooked each time.

And it sounds like you guys did great with your parents, too. I'm glad. I'm trying to imagine my son bringing home Angry.

I'd love her, but she'd scare the shit out of me.

Matthew said...

that's a pretty sweet ride, guy. granted it doesn't have rust spots and wasn't made by "people's car", but sweet none-the-less.