Friday, August 7, 2009

E Pluribus Unum Meets Caveat Emptor

Driving to work this morning I passed one of those brave promises signs, "We Finance Everyone" at a garage that now sells cars. I often wonder if those places are in the motor sales business by design or because of how the world works out. Do people take their cars and trucks to the garage to be repaired and, at some point in the process, realize 'yipes! I can't afford to pay this!', or perhaps the mechanic holds the vehicle for ransom until the bill is paid, or maybe, and least dramatically, he started out selling unwanted or no-longer-needed cars as a favor for customers and now he's hooked.

It's a small garage, a souvenir from a time long ago in the Land of Round Door-knobs when gas stations had two pumps out front: normal and super or ethyl and high-test or regular and premium or Cain and Abel (very popular in the Deep South I'm told), and a lift and service bay. There was an air hose that ran out by the pumps and when you drove over it, it rang a bell, and Buzz or John, or someone with a straight-forward name and overalls with lots of oil stains on them, came out of the service bay and pumped your gas, checked your oil and cleaned your windshield. More often than not these days, you've got somebody at minimum wage watching a doctor or an attorney pump his own gas, getting it all over his shoes or her expensive pants suits or his three-piece suit.

If you're lucky the squeegee bucket has water in it that was changed this month just in case you want to wipe your windshield. All you end up doing is smearing the dirt and bugs across a wider area that becomes evident only at night when oncoming headlights reflect off it and scare the bejabbers out of you because it's so hard to see.

One of those Everyone's who may have been scouting for a car, cut me off coming out without even looking (or caring, I suspect). Based on what he was driving, I couldn't imagine he found anything he was close to affording among their previously-owned inventory. The radio in his car worked, because I could hear it over what was left of his exhaust system, and he had an interesting constellation of tail lights in varying degrees of operating order. In the five miles or so I followed him, he lit and smoked three cigarettes, so the lighter worked great, but the ashtray not so much.

I counted the discards as he flicked them out the open window, putting that bumper sticker, "Jesus Loves Me" below the license plate, to the test. When I first learned to drive, I had a statue of Saint Christopher on my dashboard--I'm wondering if this guy had the Marlboro Man and if he knows the difference.
-bill kenny

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