Saturday, April 23, 2011

Safari Car Salesman

The other day my wife and I went out shopping for a car. I was thinking about a Jeep because it's very basic, nothing fancy or gimmicky about a Jeep, a no nonsense kind of vehicle. It does what a car is supposed to do, get you to your destination without all the overindulgent extras which, frankly, I find embarrassing and confusing. None of those little clicker things to start the car; real keys for a Jeep. If Henry David Thoreau were alive today and he needed a car, I'm almost certain he'd chose the simplicity of a Jeep. And they're made in America by good old hard-working auto workers in Ohio.

So we paid a visit to Randy's Wrangler Land, as pitched on late night TV by the always enthusiastic Randy with his cowboy hat and his endearing liquid speech mannerism, encouraging viewers to "wasso a deal at Wandy's." I secretly applaud him for having the temerity to appear on TV, dressed for a rodeo, all the while knowing he sounds like Elmer Fudd, so I'd promised myself that one day, in honor of Randy's unabashed pluckiness, I'd purchase a car from him.

It appeared to be our lucky day: it was Wrangler Round-up Day, and Randy was there to emcee the festivities. There was free beef jerky and coffee for everyone at the "chuck-wagon" (a cafeteria table with a cactus plant), and to top it off, a lanky guy with long sideburns and a black cowboy hat was performing rope tricks on the hour.

We were met in the showroom by a stout fellow whose every step was a swaggering dare to try and knock the imaginary chip off his shoulder. He wore khaki shorts, a khaki shirt with epaulets, and a safari hat; ready to bag some big game. He shook my hand and squeezed it like he was trying to get lemon juice out of it. He said to call him Safari Duke. My wife whispered how pleased she was to meet an actual Duke, regardless of the adventure, while I was trying to decide if we were on a round-up or a safari, but I let it go, figuring any costume is better than none at all.

Right away he asks what we do for a living. My wife tells him she's an art teacher. Then he jumps into this whole story about how he's an art teacher too. He teaches martial arts, and goes on to explain how he can throw a guy like me over his shoulder and twist my arm and have me yelling "stop" in a matter of seconds. To which I casually mention that he could urinate on my shoe and get the same effect with much less trouble. The Duke was not pleased and got a little red in the face, and it was all too apparent his day would be complete if he could not only make a sale, but practice some of his martial arts moves on me.

I tell him that I want a Jeep because it's the kind of car an Amish family would drive if they bought cars. Then he puffs his chest out and tells us that this is the car that won the big one, WW Two. "A Jeep has guts," he says, and continues, "Those Amish, they don't fight, do they?" My wife tried to explain that when they don't like someone, they shun them. Then he says everyone in his martial arts club abides by a code of strength, leverage, and unbridled patriotism, and they all have Jeeps, and offers to arm wrestle the both of us for a big discount. I suspect this is just a ruse to make me look bad and hold my wife's hand. Or maybe he'd let me win and make me feel like I'd gotten a discount when, in fact, I really hadn't. Either way, I wind up looking like a goof. Besides, I'd absentmindedly left my safari hat at home, a big disadvantage.

Then he points outside, "That's my rig, the one with the over-sized tires." And I'm reminded of the old addage, "big tires, little feet; little feet...," but I erase the thought and, instead, ask about the free "Color Me Beautiful Makeover" with the purchase of a Jeep, and he doesn't think it's funny but offers to take us on a test drive in the big mud pit out back. Feeling that the offer is more like a threat, we decline. Then he brazenly implies that maybe we aren't Jeep people. "Jeep people," he says, "Make up their minds in a hurry and support the old red, white, and blue." But I tell him that I'm just a flush toilet shy of being Amish; I don't even like power windows and would just as soon have the roll-up kind. My wife pulls my arm and begins to walk away, and The Duke asks where she's going.
"Shunning," she says, just as the rope trick guy is warming up.

So we're sticking with our present car for now, but I would have liked to have stayed to see the rope trick guy. His name was Lasso Larry from Laredo, and Randy was just about to introduce him as we walked out the door.