Well, not really my soul, just about one day’s net receipts a month, and not really the company store, but the underwriter for a Honda dealership on the Route 1 corridor — a howling wilderness of mini-malls, gated condo high-rises and no-tell motels, alternating in weird contrast as you traverse the strip-mined-looking streetscape. Halfway there we found ourselves becalmed in a ten-minute traffic backup that turned out to be caused by the grand opening of a Wal-Mart. That kind of region.
This journey to the bunghole of creation became necessary because my quest to buy a car — something I hope never to have to do again, though that may be ambitious — had run aground, locally, on a shoal of pluperfect jackasses. Captain Mushmouth wasn’t the halfth of it. After he got done asking if my engineer friend was my son and exhorting me to lease a vehicle without ever actually quoting me a sale price on the one I drove, Captain M. dropped me like a hot potato, but someone else from the BLUE SALES TEAM called and then sent me an e-mail addressing me by my surname only (as if we were at Prep together) and communicating in Textspeak. (“I’d like 2 call u.”) I replied asking her to address me as if we were no longer in eighth grade and mentioning a price range low enough that I hoped she’d go away or, best case, offer to sell me a car that cheaply. Someone else called and wrote. And someone else. Then I got the week’s sale mail, with a not bad price on the car I wanted. I called and offered just a few dollars lower. “Is that out the door?” asked the bimbette who took my call, meaning the total price you pay after they tack on bullshit surcharges that no one can ever escape (why they aren’t included in the advertised price of the car I’ll never know). “Can you do that?” I said, what the heck. A guy called back and jumped all over me for thinking I could buy the car at that price. With great restraint, I got rid of him. About ten minutes later Captain Mushmouth called me for the first time in five days, brimming over with a pitch for leasing.
I thought I was done with them but yet another person I had not heard from before joined the pursuit over the weekend. She actually seemed interested in selling me a car in a more or less adult way, but the price she finally quoted me turned out to be on a car they didn’t actually have at the dealership. If she could find it, however, she was ready to sell it to me at the stated price. I gently mentioned the car they did have and the sale price in the previous week’s e-mail. I mentioned it in two e-mails and a phone message. I never heard from her again.
And that’s just one dealership here in town.
Meanwhile, however, the dealership a half hour’s drive into the boonies had actually answered all my inquiries promptly, politely and completely. Peter Straub once penned the bleak line (he was talking about prep-school students, in fact) “We were so raw that we could be seduced by decency.” I was getting to that state. Actually they came down on a pretty acceptable price. No one asked any inappropriate questions and the only mild jerk was a ringer the business manager brought in to sell me an extended warranty that ran to four figures. “These new cars have onboard computers that can need attention,” he said ominously.
I turned to the engineer. “How much did Jim at the garage charge you when the computer on the Chrysler went haywire?” I asked.
“Couple hundred bucks,” said CE.
“I’ll pass,” I said.
I pick it up Friday, after they finish installing a couple of things.
We got a little giddy driving home, speculating on the number of warranties the guy probably sells to people roughly my age who feel terrified and helpless every time Microsloth Internet Exploder freezes up. “Open the driver’s side door, Hal,” the Cute Engineer intoned.
“I can’t do that, Dave.”
A gym buddy, hearing this story, volunteered an experience that a female friend of his had at a Subaru dealer hereabouts. I think she wanted one of the wagons or SUV models.
“A lot of lesbians drive this car,” said the salesman as he led her over to the showroom display.
I guess they scrape some of these people from the undersides of rocks. No wonder Detroit is in the toilet.