Debt

Debt: (n) something that is owed or that one is bound to pay to or perform for another

I am trying to determine if I remember if there was any measurable amount of sincerity in me at all.

I’m talking about that first moment, when I was nineteen years old and sat down in a car dealership to buy a five-hundred-dollar, old, beat-up van that formerly was used by the telephone company.

I was so anxious to get this vehicle that I probably would have sacrificed four days in heaven.

I know there was a salesman who was explaining payments, rates of interest—and also that the green-monster-wagon was being sold “As Is.”

I vaguely recall seeing his lips move as my glazed eyes peered over his shoulder at the prize.

I think maybe I was somewhat aware that since I put no money down, that my payments were going to be sixty dollars or so a month for the next year-and-a-half.

Yet I cannot swear to you that any awareness of these factors was actually registered by me, but instead, were later thrown up to me by the collection agency when it taunted me about my promise to make monthly payments.

I think there was a part of me that really thought I was going to try to make good on the debt.

I don’t know how.

I had no visible income.

I was negotiating my quarters and nickels to buy a pound of bologna a day with a loaf of bread and an apple.

I drove fifteen miles every other day to get free day-old doughnuts from my buddy who worked at the “Dunkin’ Something-or-Other.”

But there must have been some little piece of hopeful legitimacy that envisioned sixty dollars being made available for a monthly installment—even if I believed that a bird was going to fly it in from the Bank of Heaven.

Of course, it’s also possible that I was just an irresponsible teenager who couldn’t look beyond the temptation and couldn’t care less about my responsibilities.

Yet I sure do like that bird idea.

 

Dealership

Dealership: (n) a sales agency or distributor

I was a full-grown man, but when our family car blew up, I was feeling a great need to do something powerful. I needed to restore my position of respect with my children.

I had three thousand dollars. It was enough to buy another car if I had shopped well and hadn’t been in a huge hurry to convey a message to my offspring that I was in control.

I wasn’t in control.

I was still reeling a bit from my all-time favorite car giving up—and also way to eager to replace it without missing a beat.

I located the place in our town where car dealerships congregated to practice their “religion on wheels.” Driving among them, I immediately saw a Grand Marquis that was just stunning.

So I stopped in and talked to Bob. I don’t know whether his name actually was Bob, but it seemed reassuring displayed on his nametag. Bob told me the Grand Marquis was thirty-five hundred dollars.

My two oldest sons were with me on the trip.

They still thought I hung the moon after God displayed the stars.

I wanted to appear omnipotent. I needed to negotiate Bob down to the mat and pin him with a price of my choosing instead of his.

So I told Bob all I had was twenty-nine hundred dollars. He rolled his eyes. He said it was “impossible.” He even walked away to talk to a boss to see if something could be done.

In the process of all this negotiating, I actually cracked through Bob’s sales pitch to a real person. I didn’t know it. I thought I was dominating and was gradually getting what I wanted.

When he finally and reluctantly agreed to sell me the car for twenty-nine hundred flat and we were in the last stages of the paperwork, Bob looked up at me and smiled.

I don’t know why. Maybe it was seeing a father with his sons, or maybe he was tired of overstating the quality of the vehicles he sold just to make a buck.

Then he did something I believe he probably had never done before.

He tried to talk me out of it.

Not aggressively. He just said, “Now, you do know the odometer reads 162,000 miles. Right?”

I was drunk on my own cleverness. I just nodded my head.

Now, Bob wasn’t a saint. He wasn’t going to push it further. He wasn’t going to be totally forthcoming. Matter of fact, it probably gave him an aching pain in the head to offer the odometer number.

But I was determined.

My sons were smiling at me. They thought the car was cool. So I drove it off the lot, pridefully believing I had struck the best deal of my life.

We had immediate problems with it.

I called Bob back. He had forgotten how wonderful our interaction had been and was back to being “Bob the Car Dealer” at his dealership.

I took the car in to have it checked out and found out the vehicle had been in a flood, and therefore the electrical system was contorted, and the engine had water in the oil.

I drove that car for exactly three months. It was a classic case of being beautiful on the outside and ugly on the inside.

One night, coming home on the freeway, it caught fire and burned up a goodly portion of the engine.

My complete stupidity and arrogance had played out.

But I always gave Bob from the dealership, grace points because some creeping spider of conscience forced him to offer a kind, but unheeded, warning.

Compact

Compact: (n) something that is a small and conveniently shaped

“I had no business…”

I can recite a litany of mistakes I’ve made, all of which could begin with that phrase: “I had no business.”

In other words, if I sat and thought about it for five minutes, some conscious part of me would have raised a loud objection, or even screamed at me to avoid such a foolish path.

One of these occasions in my life–when “I had no business”–was when I bought a Ford Fiesta Ghia.funny wisdom on words that begin with a C

It’s what they call “a compact car.”

It is adorable if you happen to be a small person, or I suppose even a normal sized person. Then the car would be applicable.

It is not luxurious. It is cheap. (And there might be some place inside where there’s a windup key, but I was never sure.)

I had no business, as a very, very large man, ever purchasing such a car.

But pridefully, because it was on sale and I could actually afford it, I squeezed myself into it at the dealership. The salesman lit up my ego by saying, “Oh, my goodness! You got in there pretty easily.”

That was all I needed.

Actually I did not get in there easily. It was almost like I had to ship my parts in one at a time, before I could finally allow my caboose to arrive in Penn Station.

The steering wheel was too close. I tried to push the seat further and further back, until one day it just broke. Either they didn’t have replacement seats or I was too embarrassed to admit I broke mine, but I decided to prop up the broken piece with chunks of wood. (For a very brief time, it worked–until the metal started chewing into the wood, making my back seat floor resemble the sawdust from a lumber yard.)

I had no business owning a compact car.

There. I said it.

Now I’ve reached an age when, if I was actually able to get into a compact car–if I could struggle to achieve it–I should do so with my last breath … and call it my coffin.

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