Friday, July 3, 2015

The Square Peg - The Joys of Retirement... or Payback's a Bitch

The Joys of Retirement... or Payback's a Bitch
Copyright S. Bradley Stoner

Wow! I just found out I own a "HIGHLY DESIRABLE VEHICLE" and I didn't even know it. In fact, both my lovely and I own highly desirable vehicles! Car dealers want to give us "CASH" for them. And I have to hurry... it's a "LIMITED TIME OFFER." I need to "HURRY DOWN" and talk to their "FRIENDLY AUTO COUNSELOR." They even attache up to a $6,000.00 check to the bottom of the personalized letter they sent me. Of course, I had to trundle my vehicle down to their "TWELVE ACRE AUTO MART" to cash in.

I'm stunned. I had no idea my Lizzy 13 (she's my 13th vehicle with that name) was desirable, far less highly so. Now, it's no secret that I take care of my vehicles... I keep them well shod with highly rated tires. I keep them well oiled with new 10-W30 every 3,000 miles. I slake her thirst with factory recommended Unleaded Regular with 12% alcohol. At 75,000 miles I had her injectors cleaned and the transmission and cooling system flushed and refreshed. I'll do that again whenever I reach 150,000 miles... I'm at 102,000 right now and it looks like it will be a while before I get there. I don't drive long distances much any more. I fly. I cruise. It's stress-free.

Heck, I even keep her clean by washing her three times a year... top and bottom. Sometimes more if I've been playing in the beach sand down at Port Aransas or frolicking in the mud in the Hill Country. I vacuum her interior. When the hot Texas sun blistered the paint on her roof, I sanded it down, slapped on some primer, and blended a nice coat of matching white paint from the auto store. And when old Sol dried the glue on the headliner, I carefully re-glued it so it wouldn't look like a teenager's jalopy. So, except for a few scuffs on the composite panels in the rear compartment from hauling stone from the Hill Country for my dry creek bed, Lizzy 13 looks and performs pretty much like she did when I bought her in 2005.

Eagerly I read more. They'll put me in a brand new vehicle for "ZERO DOWN" and "LOWER MY PAYMENTS..." as low as $129.00 per month. Geez, that's hard to resist... my car is paid for. Does that mean they'll pay me to take that new car off their lot? Just for giggles, I decided to drive down to meet one of those friendly auto counselors that will treat me "LIKE FAMILY." What have I got to lose?

When I get there, I snake my way through the maze of cars and trucks, find a parking space in front of the Parts Office and pull in. It's pretty dead at the lot. Eight or nine "Auto Counselors" eyeball me as I exit Lizzy, but don't leave the comfort of shade under the Sales Room overhang. They remain unmoved until I start to wander out to the lot. Then they all move at once, like sharks who smell blood in the water. One of them knifes through the rows of vehicles faster than all the rest, circles me and stops, extending a hand.

"Hi there," he purrs, "I'm Vern Vendor... but you can call me Slick. Everybody does."

I shake his hand. Heck, I'm friendly too. And I'm a Texan and that's what a polite Texan does.

"I see you drive an SUV," Slick says. "Are you interested in another one, or are you ready to step up to real comfort."

"Really, I'm just window shopping today."

"No pressure," Slick replies. "How about I show you a selection?"

I'm no novice... I know what that means. I'm not ready to select. "Why don't we wander over an take a look at your SUVs?" I ask.

Slick eagerly leads me to that section of the lot, takes me to his "top of the line" cross-over. "Just look at this beauty," he croons. "Gets an EPA rated 30 miles per gallon on the engine, but the best part is that this is a hybrid... you can drive half way across the country before you need to fill up. And just look at those stylish lines, you'll be the envy of your neighborhood. And the interior? Custom bucket seats up front, semi buckets back seat, and a hideaway rear seat for two extra passengers. You can take the whole family!"

I look at him. "I could put this in the back of my Explorer and have room for that all electric we passed on the way. And I don't think this could tow a fold down Coleman camper."

Slick nodded solemnly. "I get your point. What you want is something with plenty storage and a roomy passenger compartment. Let's look at a king cab truck. We have some beasts that are right up your alley."

I want to wander, after all, I'm window shopping. I'm retired. I want to kill part of the day. Slick gets paid by the sale, though, so time is money. He herds me to the line of pickups and marches me to the biggest beast on the lot. "Holy crap," I exclaimed.

"You bet!" Slick returns excitedly. He opens the door and says, "Climb on in... get a feel for this baby."

Baby? This monster was born full grown. I sink into the big leather bucket seat. Everything from cruise to the windows to the climate control to the sound system can be managed from the buttons on the steering wheel. Very convenient. The dash looks like one continuous flat screen TV. Slick lets me soak in the new car smell while he surreptitiously runs to the office and returns with a dealer plate and a key. Well, it's not really a key... its the biometric electronic device you have to have on your person to start the truck. There's a dash button for that. I don't know why they didn't put that on the steering wheel, maybe they're afraid you accidentally press it and turn the engine off while driving down the highway.

Slick climbs in the passenger seat and hands me the electronic biometric thingy, explaining that it's universally programmed, but when I get mine, it will be synched to me, whatever that means. "Let's take her for a test drive! Careful, though, this has a big diesel and if you tromp on the gas you're going to peel out."

For just a minute I considered doing that, but I exercised self-restraint. When I started the engine, that dash lit up like the cockpit of the space shuttle. The GPS came on, showed me where I was on its map, and asked me where I wanted to go.

"Rides like a luxury car, doesn't?" Slick asked as we pulled out of the lot. "Just imagine yourself driving down the road hauling that fifth wheel RV AND a boat.! Man that's the life... I can't wait to retire."

'You sell three or four of these and you can do that this year if you stay out of the casinos.Besides, I don't own an RV or a boat,' I thought, but I said, "It isn't quite Cadillac or Mercedes smooth, but for a truck it's nice. Let's head back."

"But you haven't had her on the highway... don't you want to open her up?"

I don't know if they teach them to use sexual similes, but I've noticed they use them a lot to seduce you into taking something home you had no intention of buying. Seduction doesn't work on me... well at least when it comes to buying a new vehicle it doesn't. Tools are a different story. I turned the truck around and parked it in the lot.

"Let's go inside and get a cool drink," Slick said, removing the dealer plate.

Once inside, he took me to his office, sat me down in a comfortable chair and disappeared... to get us a cool drink, I presumed. Those drinks must have been hard to find. He didn't come back for twenty minutes and I had just stood up to leave when he entered the office breathlessly with a couple of cans of pop (soda for you easterners). I popped the top and took a swig while he rounded the desk and sat down and pulled a sheaf of paperwork from his inside jacket pocket. I should have seen that coming.

"Now down to business... we've looked at your car and we are prepared to offer you $3,500.00 trade in."

I stopped him right there. I pulled out the letter with the $6,000.00 check at the bottom. "That's about half of what you offered in your letter," I returned shoving it at him.

"Well, that's subject to appraisal of your vehicle... it says so at the bottom of the check."

The print at the bottom of the check is miniscule. It would take a microscope to read it, but this wasn't anything new and, like I said, I'm retired and had time to kill. I decided to toy with him a little. "Well, what about those $129.00 a month payments?"

Slick looked a little panicked, but to his credit it didn't come through in his voice. "Well, if you were interested in that little electric car, that's what they'd be, but this truck is forty two thou... and a steal at that... way below MSRP. Now with your trade and, say five K down, we can get those payments down to around four hundred a month."

"My first house cost less than that, Slick."

"In 1960 dollars, maybe, but look at what that would cost today."

I nodded. "Yeah... inflation's a heartless bitch. Think I'll pass."

"Tell you what... let me talk to my manager... I think we can do better."

"Uh huh, I've been down this road before, and I don't have all afternoon. I've got an appointment at the hardware store. Besides, I think there's at least another hundred and fifty thousand miles in Lizzy."

"It'll only take a few minutes," he pressed, desperation setting in. He could see it slipping away after spending two and a half hours with what he thought was an easy mark.

"This ain't my first rodeo, Slick, but I enjoyed the ride while it lasted. See ya." I didn't feel a bit sorry, either. After having spent hours upon hours with guys like Slick trying to negotiate the prices that should have been on the cars in the first place, car salesmen were due a little payback.