Something is wrong with our car.
Jerry hears a miss and the engine light is on. Well, we say to each other, it’s an old car with 200,000 miles on it. We wonder if it’s worth dumping more money into for repair. We each imagine our life in the future if we pay for more repairs, giving us the slightest hope the car lasts a little longer…
I don’t know what Jerry’s imagination came up with, but mine flashed the mental picture of us stranded in a broken down car in the middle of the desert. I’m wandering dazed among the saguaros.
“Let’s look at new cars,” I suggest. After breakfast, Jerry and I head for the Ford dealership. Before we know it, we’re shaking hands with Jake, a red-headed, thirty-something with a Howdy Doody grin. Seated at a bistro-style table on the dealership floor, I look up and see a gigantic banner featuring an Arizona Cardinals football player. It reminds me that football players like Fords.
Jake makes small talk. “Oh, you’re from Seattle? My mom lives there. No, no, that’s my sister who lives there. Sorry, mom moved to Las Vegas. Anyway, I visited there and thought it pretty but I couldn’t live there. Need sunshine. So, I noticed you looking at the Ford Escape. Like it, huh? Fond of the one with the metallic Sunset color? You can drive it home today.”
Jerry says we’re only looking now and not planning to buy.
Jake doesn’t let that stop him from telling us how Ford is the best company in customer satisfaction. “Ford drivers remain loyal because… GONG! …(A gong sound similar to the announcement of a Chinese emperor rings throughout the Ford building. Stopping mid-sentence, Jake raises his hands above his head and claps)… and so where was I? Oh yes, Ford customers love their Fords so much they would think it heresy to buy any other car like a Hyundai or Toyota.”
“What’s the gong all about?” I ask.
“Every time we sell a car, we strike the gong to celebrate,” he says.
He goes on, “Now I need your driver’s license, …Gonnnnn-gggg! (Jake stops, raises his hands, and Clap! Clap! Clap!) … as I was saying, I need it for info, like your address. That kind of thing.”
“Can’t we just tell you? I’m not comfortable giving out my driver’s license,” Jerry says.
Jake acts as if the question need no answer and moves on, “So what kind of payments were you hoping for?”
Jerry says, “It depends …” GONNN-G!
Jake immediately goes into his clapping frenzy, then says, “We’re selling a lot of cars today.” I look around and see car salesmen standing in a group in the corner, looking like junior high boys at the school dance. Other salesmen pace in the car lot, alone, waiting for someone to drive in so they can be the first to pounce. I don’t see any people resembling customers buying cars.
“Let’s take a drive in the Escape. You won’t know how much you will like it until you drive it,” says Jake and soon we’re in the car. Jake mentions, “This car is so popular, my mom drives it.”
This must work for him as who wouldn’t want a car that is so reliable and enjoyable that the salesman’s mother drives it.
Back at the dealership, Jake asks Jerry for his car key so he can check it out for trade-in purposes. Jake says he’ll return after talking to a nameless person, who is off in a cave somewhere, about price and the best deals they can offer. We wait at the table for hours, a wait so agonizingly long the fake potted plants on the showroom floor wither up and die. Jerry says “Look at that. You have to pay for coffee here.” He points to an in-house coffee stand with a menu board of prices.
“You don’t even get a free cup of…(GONG!)…coffee here,” says Jerry. We refuse to clap.
Jerry goes hunting for Jake. He wants his key and is ready to leave.
Jake appears, suddenly back from the cave, and says the nameless guy has numbers for us. He slaps a piece of paper on the table and writes in black Sharpie pen, “Only $20,000 down, plus we’ll give you 10 bucks for your trade-in and you can have the car for $238 a month plus tax for five years.”
We get up to leave.
“What if I drop to $10,000 down,” Jake says.
No, not even at that steal of a deal, we say.
“What’s it going to take to get you into that Ford Escape, the one with the beautiful Sunset color you like? The car my own mother drives?”
Not a thing, we say. Not even a free cup of coffee or that banner with the Cardinals No. 11 football player. Or even the gong itself, although that’s tempting. Nothing.
Can you imagine life if all things purchased were similar to buying a car? You’re at the mall and a sales clerk says, “Ah, I see you eyeing those pair of jeans. My mom wears those jeans. What will it take to get you into that pair of jeans? Just $50 down and only $10 a month on a 36-month contract. If you want Calvin Klein, that’s going to be more.”
At home, Jerry says he has a hunch. “And my hunches are almost always right,” he says.
Jerry replaces all the spark plugs in our car, even though a mechanic had checked that for us only days earlier and pronounced all spark plugs A-Ok.
With Jerry’s hunch turning out to be correct, our old car now runs like a dream. The engine light is out. And we’re happy we didn’t buy a new car.
Jerry suggests we buy a Chinese gong to celebrate.
Clap! Clap! Clap!
♥ the happy ending.