Monthly Archives: June 2008

Random Observations: Buying a Car

I’ve said before on this blog and in person to anyone who’d sit still long enough to listen that one of the biggest rules I try to live by is that of simply telling people the truth. That ranges from, “Dude, you really smell BAD and people are SO making fun of you behind your back” to “Honey, you are simply incredible and I’d do anything to keep you in my life.”

I was reminded on Monday, however, of my one exception to this rule. Car dealers are exempt from the necessity of honesty and deserve as much spin and deception as you can possibly throw at them. Case in point… on Monday I went to trade in my wife’s van towards the purchase of a smaller commuter car. The first car dealer I went to was very accommodating; we haggled out a reasonable price and I was quickly on my way. Ever interested in getting the best deal possible, however, I made my way to a neighboring dealer to perform the same task. After countless delays and negotiations this dealer arrived at a price $4,000 more than the other dealer. Seeing that this situation was clearly hopeless I thanked the salesman for his time, let him know that his price was $4,000 short of the offer he was competing against and made ready to head home. Before I could complete my exit, the salesman asked me to be patient and said he could work out a better price with the sales manager. To facilitate this he wrote out a little miniature contract in his awkward left-handed scrawl:

For the price of $XX,XXX plus tax, title and destination, I, _______, will buy this car today.

X ________________________

Then he asked me to sign his little contract. My reaction to this was a simple, direct, and blunt, “OK, I’m not signing your little contract; can you get me a better price or not? If you can, I will buy the car today but if you can’t then just forget it.” His response was to say simply, “Alright, I was just trying to help you out. I’ll see what I can do.”

After another 5 minutes of “seeing what he could do” he came back with half-priced all-season floor mats, a grand total of $121. So again I thanked him for his time and made ready my exit. However his bag of tricks wasn’t done yet. He went on to enumerate all the reasons he thought I should buy from his dealership in checklist format:

Salesman: Well, you live on the south side so shouldn’t you buy from us? We’re closer.
Me: I can drive to the west side quite a few times for $4,000.

Salesman: You’ve used our service department before, shouldn’t you buy from us?
Me: I bought my last Honda somewhere else and you didn’t refuse to service that one.

Salesman: How about I throw in the floor mats for free?
Me: Um, $4,000 worth of floor mats?

So finally after 90 minutes of entertaining but pointless dickering I was left with my original offer. Why, simply, can’t they say honestly, “we can’t meet that price, thanks for shopping” and be done with it? Why must my time be wasted by these yahoos?

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Cormac McCarthy – The Road

On Wednesday I did something that I hadn’t done in the previous 6 months. Yes, you guessed it, I actually finished a book! Isn’t that AMAZING?!!? Somehow the whole beginning of the year got sucked into a black hole of various matters professional, personal, and generally miscellaneous. All this consumed me to such an extent that I barely managed to open a book let alone finish one. At any rate… McCarthy…

Firstly let me say that about half-way through this somewhat slight slip of a book I was non-plussed to learn that it was an Oprah bookclub selection. See previous posts for my counter-cultural tendencies but in this case the content was dark enough to justify breaking my own rules. In short, McCarthy’s “The Road” is the story of a father and son as they make their way across the U.S. after an unspecified apocalypse. The details of the plot in and of themselves are not all that interesting but the book does make several interesting points about the human condition.

On the surface, the book is a simple admonishment to the reader to appreciate the state of the world under the orderly governance of human law. The unnamed protagonists are assailed by cannibals, faced with the possibility of starvation and constantly on the alert for an untimely end to their fragile lives on the planet. All this is relatively standard for the post-apocalypse genre. What is very slightly unusual is the idea that in such a situation pockets of benevolence will persist. The father and son travel in search of “the good guys” who, we presume, will take them in. What is not clear is how the couple knows that such people even exist given that they haven’t fallen in with them up to this point. Further, it’s ironic that despite their claims to being on the side of “good” (whatever “good” can really mean in such a situation) they demonstrate benevolence towards the other human beings they encounter only begrudgingly.

To sum up, this is a fine example of the genre but not really one that introduces any grand new ideas. The standard plots and subplots apply in the same expected ways. A good introduction to the idea for those who may not have read the 1,000 books on the same topic which preceded it or been blessed with having watched the 20 TZ episodes that deal with the situation…

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The Neighbor’s Gift

As I sat outside my house today I glanced over at my neighbor’s house and realized there’s an incredible irony just across our yard. Here; see if you can see it:

There! Isn’t that awesomely ironic?! Oh… You don’t…? OK; let me be a little more specific then.

My neighbor’s done a lot of work on the exterior of his house and gone to a hell of a lot of trouble. I’ve seen him out there for hours pulling weeds and putting in borders and keeping everything watered. That’s no small task let me tell you because I’ve watched him do it all. Note, however, that from his house he can’t see even flower one. It’s all on the other side of an opaque fence that’s on the other side of a brick wall. If he wants to see the fruit of his own hours of labor he has to go and plant himself in the least comfortable place in his entire property, the drainage ditch that straddles the property line. But I, the lucky neighbor, get to enjoy his work every time I look out the window for absolutely nothing. I can sit on the patio and read a book and enjoy his hours of labor in complete comfort. In a very real way, those flowers are his selfless gift to the people around him because he certainly can’t enjoy them very easily.

In a way, my neighbor’s gift is an allegory for a larger life lesson. Just as my neighbor decorates his home with beautiful flowers he can’t see, we all decorate our own lives with similar trappings that don’t really benefit us directly. A kind smile shared with a stranger is utterly invisible to the giver. Kind and patient counsel given to a friend in need is an investment that may return nothing to the one who spent the time giving it in the first place. Ultimately, we must each decide if we’re going to live our lives like my neighbor, erecting bowers of flowers for the enjoyment of others or letting our lots grow wild and weedy.

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Since Last We Wrote … June 1st Edition

Alrighty then… it has been very nearly four months since last I wrote in this public missive to no one and to be QUITE frank and QUITE honest, if I tried to encapsulate the missing time and present it for your amusement I’m sure it would be utterly and completely unbelievable even to *ME*. At any rate, it must be said that I look back on the last few blog posts from January and February and rate myself a “right wanker” as they might say across the pond. I seemed to have been utterly consumed in a cloud of self-pity that’s really quite disgusting to behold from my current position. Looking back on the blog posts of the past though, it is regrettable to me in the extreme that I don’t keep a more private journal of my life’s goings on as I’m pretty sure I’ve utterly forgotten those details that I failed to “belabor my readers” with so many months ago.

Today begins a new chapter; see if YOU can tell the difference…

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