Mon 30 Mar 2009
The younger son, Jack, is in the market for a good used car (his first) and found one on the internet from a Private Seller. I called to get directions. The voice on the other end was some flavor of middle eastern, delivered in heavy accent. “Is very good car,” he said confidently, “very good car, yes. Very good.” I asked him if he would accept a personal check. “No check, no… cash only…. no check… cash!” he verbally hammered back. I think I caught his drift. He wanted the legal tender. Fair enough.
I got directions from him and asked if the address was his home. “No, not my home. Place of business.” So we set a time when we would drive out to the Personal Seller and see his “very good car… cash only.”
Jack and his parents crawled through early rush hour traffic to the place of business in Buford, Georgia, a goodly haul north. We eyeballed the addresses carefully looking for the Personal Seller’s “place of business.” Well, get a load of this– his place of business happened to be a used car lot! What an incredible co-inky-dink! World, you are one funny place.
We approached the car as our Private Seller approached us. “Is nice car, yes?” he said as we stared at the 2004 Acura RSX that sported a body that was the metallic equivalent of a 15-year old boy with acute acne and a jones for gobbling sugary and greasy snacks. “Can I take it for a test drive?” I asked (the car was a manual and Jack didn’t know how to drive one– yet). “I get key,” Private Seller said scurrying to a beat-up trailer.
I opened the door and sat in the driver’s seat and noticed a hunk of plastic missing from the steering column exposing a cluster of wires. Jack sat in the passenger seat and noticed a hole in the dash where a radio once was, and a big crack in the plastic of the passenger side door. Private Seller was back toot sweet and handed me the key. I inserted it in the ignition, turned and… nothing. No engine turning over, no pistons pumping, not even a click. Silence. Quiet as a mime in a library.
“The battery’s dead,” I said (I’m no mechanic but I know when the doohickey won’t start it’s usually the battery thingy).
“No problem. We jump car. Wait one minute,” Private Seller said as he ran to the trailer. Soon the hood was popped and he hooked up a portable battery booster and instructed me to turn the ignition. I did, the car wound up and started. I immediately noticed the fuel gauge warning light was illuminated. “Hey, it’s almost out of gas,” I said.
“No problem. Is good for 30 miles, easy. No problem,” he said confidently. I nodded my head thinking but of course, ‘is good car’ and fuel is merely suggested, not required. I went to fasten my seat belt and the belt stretched maybe eight inches.
“The seat belt’s broken,” I said.
“No problem. We fix. Get new seatbelt, no problem. We fix seatbelt. Make like new.”
“Right,” I said. I put the car in reverse and we began our test drive; me driving, Jack passengering. The car drove fine, the brakes seemed O.K. I didn’t punch the engine for fear of running out of gas. I told Jack the car model was a good one, but this particular car was not a good choice. Not to be critical, but I’ve always believed a car should start. Jack stubbornly agreed this might not be the one. We returned to Private Seller’s “place of business” and he was anxiously awaiting our review.
“What you think? Is good car, yes?” he asked like a proud papa as I got out of the car.
“It drives O.K.,” I said, “but it needs a lot of work– the driver’s side seatbelt, the radio, battery…” Just then Jack crawled out through the driver’s side door. “What are you doing, Jack?” I asked.
“My door wouldn’t open,” he replied. I continued my punch list of problems.
“And the passenger door doesn’t work…” before I could say anything else, Private Seller pointed at my car (a 2005 Acura RL) in the parking lot .
“Look at car you drive,” he said accusingly, “of course this car not going to be as nice as that car!” His tactic worked, I was confused, I didn’t know what his point was–– that I shouldn’t expect luxuries like engines that start on command, radios, operating seatbelts and passenger doors. “I fix all for $700 more,” he said confidently.
“You’ll fix all the problems for $700?” I asked.
“I fix everything. No problem. You want car, I fix– $700. You want car? ”
“Let us think about it,” I said herding the family back to our car, the one that starts, has seatbelts, doors that work and a radio.
“Is good car,” I heard him shout as I shut my door.