I mused before about how, in the very core of my being, I’m a stationwagon. The 2004 Honda Civic Coupe was a front. Give me an Odyssey and I’m wit’ it. My first car was a 1986 Dodge Aries stationwagon. I loved that car so much. It’s abilities were limitless. It died, tragically, on North Loop 289 in Lubbock, Texas. Appropriately, it was a stone’s throw from Resthaven Cemetery. I missed him even when I acquired through the generosity of my parentals, my second car, a Buick Century which I named Gaylord.
Well, after buying and driving two separate Honda Civic coupes and regretting daily having to contort my body into the backseat to place and remove my beautiful daughter Ellison for her trips off the premises, I have returned to the motherland. As dust inevitably returns to dust, so hatch returns to hatch. I have joined the Subaru Brotherhood and I’m now the proud owner of a Subaru Legacy Outback. No way I could afford a new one so it’s an ’07. Gently used. Black with “sparkles” as my lovely wife put it. All-wheel drive. Manual/automatic transmission. Tint. Luggage rack. Room for Ellison, two beagles in the hatch and one incredibly lovely wife.
I love buying cars. I wish I could do it weekly. There should be a Wii game called “Car Lot” and you just hit up car lots, gaming salesmen, badgering with the sales manager, coming up with clever ploys to take ’em for their cash. This one wasn’t easy. This was like level five complicated.
Boggs, my poor Civic wasn’t showing very well. He’d seen better days. And even by Honda standards, I knew I had some work ahead of me. I vacuumed him out earlier of all the beagle shorthairs, dust, gravel and mint wrappers. Get him looking like I was at least interested in selling him. The back seat had precisely eight baseball caps in it. All of which have been shrunk about a quarter-size from that great West Texas heat. Yeah, that’s how long they’ve been back there. Since, at least, the hot summer months. So, got him cleaned out. Not cleaned up, however. Dude hadn’t had a car wash in, hmm, maybe more than a year and a half. He had grime on there from dust storms two summers ago. He’s a manual transmission. His tires were needing replacement. He was about two hundred miles out of the extended warranty. There was a subtle but noticeable jarring sound on the front passenger side. He had an after-market stereo which was not exactly flush with the console. He had a few hail dings not fixed. There was a huge football size door ding on the passenger side from some (commentary) mongoloid cowboy who apparently has no control over his dually’s two-ton driver’s side door which was flung recklessly into Boggs’ side. There was a noticeable brown hue to him from months of that West Texas dusty wind. There was a slight warp in the moonroof’s interior cover. The wipers were needing replacement. There’s a small rattle behind the glovebox. He was due an oil change. He was due his 60,000 mile check up. The inspection is up in April. He had about an eighth of a gallon of gas in him and even his keyless entry remote was needing a battery change. Yeah, Boggs wasn’t having his best day on the lot, but he was all I had. And he was paid off over three years ago.
So, here I am. At the Honda used lot only because I’ve done a lot of business at the Honda lot in the past. There’s one freaking car I’m interested in and that’s the Subaru. I gotta 2004 Honda Civic Coupe. I know what terms I wanted. I knew what were dealbreakers. I had seven scenarios already in mind and I was just looking for a salesman that was easy enough to push around for a couple of hours until I got what I wanted. That man would be the first hand I shook on the lot that day. From first glance at him, I thought my chances were really good today. Like taking candy from a baby, man.
We’ll call him Larry.
I act like there’s nothing in particular that I’m looking for and then walk towards the Subaru. “What about this one here?”
“Been here for about two weeks. Nice wagon.”
“Yeah, nice wagon indeed. Mind if I look inside?”
I check under the hood. Size it up on all corners. We fire it up and I listen for any peculiar sounds under the hood. Unlike every freaking monster truck in this town, the sound of a Subaru engine is like the purr of a dying cat. It’s soft. Gentle. Soothing. And not soothing because the cat’s dying, although…nevermind. It just kinda…hums. I swear every automobile, moped, motorcycle or other form of transport in this town has this deeply terrorizing and emotionally scarring roar, scream and growl that is damn-near deafening and completely unnecessary. I’m a jazz guy. That’s why I like quiet vehicles. Hondas. Subarus. New Balances.
We check out the back. Fold the seats down. Perfection.
“Let’s take it off the lot,” I demand.
“All yours,” he returns.
I take it off the lot and drive to pick up my lovely wife who had the whole schtick planned out in the case that we had a salesman with us. She’d play the interested but not too interested wife who keeps the checkbook and is leery of big transactions. Alas, though, no salesman with me. So we drove around and pushed buttons for about fifteen minutes. I tried a little Fred Wesley through the stereo to check out the levels. All’s good. I head back to the car lot after dropping her off.
I walk into the office and say, “Alright, let’s see what we can do. I like it but it’s not about ‘like,’ it’s about ‘price.'”
We sit there. He makes a terrible offer like I’m some sixteen year old with no equity or credit. I tell him he’s nowhere close to where I need to be monthly and I show him a picture of Ellison on my phone. “You’re gonna have to do a lot better, man. A lot better.”
Just then, a salesman comes into the office and snags the keys to the Subaru off the desk. “I’ll be right back with these.” I follow him out the door and across the front of the building out to the lot and he tosses the keys to another customer who then hops into the Outback and takes off. Great. Now I’m not only competing against Larry, I’m trying to outbid another buyer. I knew the second he left the lot in that thing, he’d be in love. But I got my budget and I’m not gonna play Ebay with this car.
Minutes become an hour and an hour becomes multiple. We inch down $25 at a time and I keep telling Larry that twenty-five bucks becomes a thousand over the course of the loan. Try again. Frustrations begin to mount as I’m sitting in the lobby next to the other cat looking at the Outback while he sits there watching golf. My eyes pierced through the back of his head. This car was gonna be mine. No way this dude’s driving off the lot in this thing today.
I clumsily talk football with Larry as we wait on the sales manager to review numbers. I’m just trying to portray what he wants. A God-fearing, beer-drinking, football-loving West Texan with an eye for cars and money to spend. I try to remember key Dallas Cowboys and past UT quarterbacks. I suck. I even lied and said I liked Aerosmith. It appeared, though, that he was buying everything from me. It was working. My buffer between offers is a phone call or text with my lovely wife. My “man behind the curtain.” She’s at home with Ellison and I keep firing off texts to her. Most of it is for show. Not a lot of crucial information is going back and forth except I get her approval as the house banker and budgeteer on an additional $10 a month and an extra six months on the term. That’s as far as we’re willing to go. The rest is her sending me pictures of Ellison sleeping. Small talk. Just to give me some sort of “this just in” sensation in front of the salesman. My lovely wife worked it well.
It’s about 5:30 and I’ve now been on the lot for about three hours. I’m growing tired. This is the game they play. You just have to outlast them. Don’t break and give in. Stick to your guns. At one point, Larry asked, “Are you sure there’s nothing else out on the lot that you like?” That’s usually not a good sign, but I had a feeling he was just poking me a little to see if I’d come up. He was baiting me. There were a couple of Accords. One had too many miles for my comfort level and the other was a manual. My lovely wife would rip my head off and ram onto a stake if I came home with another standard transmission automobile. We wanted the Subaru. I emphatically told him neither would work and pulled out the last card that I had to work with and that was a minimal but possibly effective down payment.
Larry walks back to the sales manager’s office. Two minutes later, my competitor, who was waiting in the lobby leaned forward as his salesman approached him. “They sold it,” he said to him. “Sure you don’t wanna look at one of those CRVs?” My competitor slumps over slightly on the long leather couch. I assumed for a moment that “it” was the Outback and “they” was my salesman. Suddenly, Larry appears from the back and walks towards me with his congratulatory hand out. “You gotta deal, Mr. Wyrick.”
Done. Stolen right from under his nose. We now became the proud owner of a Subaru Outback.