Confessions of a Car Man


My Ride With Rudy

Over the course of my career, I sold cars in Oakland, California on three separate occasions. Oakland, to be blunt, is a sad, sad place. The amount of poverty, crime and simple human desperation makes it a tough environment in which to earn a living. That being said, nothing bad ever happened to me during those years. I saw my share of weird stuff, but I experienced no violence or robbery. But there was the time back in the early 80’s I when I went for a ride with a man named Rudy Henderson . . .

Rudy was a drug dealer. I did not know this at first. He looked nothing like the drug dealers you see in the movies. He was not very tall, but he was stocky, and it was all muscle. (I would learn later that Rudy was a weight lifter.) He dressed conservatively; partial to jaunty caps perched on his massive head. He had a disarming way about him: cool, soft-spoken, and almost gentle in his own way. He did not use foul language and seemed like a pretty nice guy all things considered.

Rudy used to launder his money through car dealerships. This is how it worked: Rudy would come in and look at a car, typically an expensive one. “I don’t have time to drive it now, but I’ll be back later to buy it”, he would say. “Could I put a deposit on it?” The time I waited on him, he handed me $5000 in cash as a deposit on a Mitsubishi Starion. He peeled the money off a massive wad of cash extracted from the pocket of his loose-fitting kakis. “Be back later,” he assured me, and as he had done to many Car Men before me, he disappeared.

Sometime later, a week maybe even two, Rudy would reappear. He would tell you that he had decided not to get the car. Could he get his deposit back? Of course the returned money would be in the form of a check. He was happy with this because depositing a $5000 check in his bank account aroused fewer questions than $5000 in cash. That was it. He had used me, but what could I do? He was an Oakland drug dealer, and nice or not, this is not the type of person you can tell to screw off.

Over the months I learned to avoid Rudy, and his attention turned to newer salesmen who were not aware of his con game. But one winter evening, he came in and everyone was busy. I had no choice but to wait on him. He had a friend with him, a nasty-looking thug with two prominent gold teeth. He said there was a car outside he was interested in. He wanted to buy it for his girlfriend. What struck me was that the car he was pointing at was a modest sedan, not the type of car that Rudy usually picked for his scam. And this time he wanted to drive the thing. Whore that I am, the greedy part of me went into gear. Heck, even drug dealers buy cars, I told myself. Maybe this was my lucky day.

Thus began my ride with Rudy.

It was 5:30 on a dark, cold winter night. An afternoon drizzle had left glistening diamonds of water on the windshields of the cars. We closed at 7:00, plenty of time for a quick demo ride and a deal. I got the keys to the car. Here is where I got stupid: I neglected to tell anyone that I was going on a drive. I did not make a copy of his driver’s license. Why bother? I would be right back. Rudy and his buddy got in front seat. I climbed into the back. We were off.

It started to go wrong as soon as we left the lot. I suggested he turn right, but he turned left. Nothing pisses off a Car Man more than a customer who refuses to follow his prescribed demo route, but what was I going to do? It was his town; let him drive where he wants, I told myself.

Rudy glanced over the back seat. “You don’t mind if I make a little stop would you?” he asked politely.

I was reluctant, but I told him that would be okay. He then proceeded to make a series of turns into an area that an Oakland cop had advised me never to venture. It seemed that this neighborhood, an old housing track that had gone to seed, had only one way in and one way out. The perfect place to get hijacked, he warned.

Rudy drove a couple of blocks then suddenly pulled over to the curb. Out of the shadows came a young man. Rudy rolled down his window. The young man handed Rudy a thick envelope. Not a word was exchanged. Rudy placed the envelope in his coat pocket and we left.

Well, that’s done, I told myself. Now we can get back to the business at hand. But when Rudy emerged back on the main road, instead of heading back to the dealership, he took the car deeper into the bowels of East Oakland.

I was not a happy camper.

Rudy made three more stops, each one farther away from the dealership. I sat in the back seat becoming increasingly paranoid; hoping this evening would not have a bad ending. I kept my mouth shut and tried to be invisible. At each stop Rudy collected an envelope, the last one from a lovely young lady who wanted to have a chat, and chat they did for about ten minutes. In this type of situation, ten minutes can seem like a lifetime. I glanced at my watch. It was 6:20. The dealership was going to close in forty minutes. We were probably six or seven miles away. I decided to speak up.

“Rudy, we need to get back. The dealership closes at 7:00.”

Rudy glanced in the rear view mirror as if suddenly remembering I was there. “Don’t worry bro. I’ll get you back.”

Rudy turned and said something to his friend. I did not hear what he said, but they thought it was really funny. He took off in the car, again heading the wrong direction. We were soon in downtown Oakland. I became more than a little nervous, not exactly scared but close. Rudy was heading in the direction of the freeway that could quickly take us back, but a block before the entrance he made an abrupt right and turned down a dark side street.

He pulled over in front of an abandoned house. The two men stared straight ahead in silence. It had started to rain again. Only the rhythmic clapping of the windshield wipers broke the silence. Someone darted out of the darkness and knocked on Rudy’s window. I jumped in my seat. Rudy rolled the window down a crack and a fifth envelope was slipped to him. Then without a word he made a U-turn, turned right, and got on the freeway heading south toward the dealership.

I was one relieved son-of-a-bitch. Rudy pulled back into the lot five minutes before closing. He pulled into the parking slot and said, “See, I got you back.” But when we got out of the car he added, “I’ve got to think about this. Thanks for the ride, bro”. And that was that. The sucker had used me for a money collection run!

Six months later I was back selling cars in Hayward. One Saturday I was standing on the showroom floor talking with my GM, Freddie Martin Jr. Freddie had lived in Oakland for many years and seemed to know everyone in that town. All of a sudden who do I see walking across the lot? I said, “Well, if it isn’t Rudy Henderson.”

Freddie turned to me, startled. “How do you know him?”

I told him briefly about how I knew Rudy and added, “He’s a drug dealer.”
Freddie laughed. “David, he’s not just a drug dealer. He’s THE drug dealer. The biggest one in Oakland. He’s not someone you want to mess with.”

I looked at Freddie. “Don’t worry, Freddie. I’d never mess with Rudy Henderson.”

A few months later Rudy got busted. It was on the front page of all the newspapers, the leadoff story on the nightly news. Rudy was a big deal indeed; a mansion in the Oakland hills, another out in the country. He went to jail for a long time. Oh, did I mention that they confiscated several very expensive cars from his estates?

Well at least someone had made some money on him.

Note: In 2002 Rudy Henderson was released from prison. In December 2006 he was found in a car—shot to death. For more information, click on the link below.



I have an innate hatred for balloons. To me, balloons represent all that is bad about the car business. They are symbols of car salesman slavery; a daily reminder that the sales managers think of you as nothing but lot boys in nice clothes. Balloons should be banished from the face of the earth--unless you are at the Circus.

Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little.

The preoccupation with balloons began when I worked at a dealership that demanded that we put out one hundred balloons each day. These particular balloons came packed in something that looked like talcum powder. You couldn’t help but get it all over you. It used to really piss me off.

Each morning, after unlocking the three hundred plus inventory, the drudgery of the balloons began. You ended up with powder on your clothes, fingers aching from tying up the balloons, and a pissy attitude. A couple of hours had passed and valuable screwing around time had been lost forever.

Goddamn balloons!

Out of boredom we would sometimes get three or four balloons together and launch a coke can. I was always vaguely concerned that the can might hit someone when it came down, but I was comforted with the idea that it would probably fall on one of The Others, so who the hell cared?

We once calculated how many balloons it would take to launch a Nissan Sentra. I can’t remember what the exact amount was, but if supplied with enough balloons and the proper amount of motivational drugs, the job was definitely doable. But being lazy salesmen, we figured that ultimately it would just be too much work.

There was always the helium to screw around with. One big gulp and you could swear at your fellows in a most amusing voice. If you did enough of it, you actually started to feel a little high. I’ve often wondered if any car men were killed by helium overdose. How exactly do you explain that when you get to Heaven?

Are car men welcome in Heaven?

The only cool thing about balloons was launching them at the end of the day. Sending them to balloon heaven so to speak. Watching them float their way to freedom was a little sad, because you were still there; grounded to the patch of asphalt that was virtually your home. As I would gaze up at the disappearing spheres, I would wonder if there were car men angels up there, sitting on clouds watching them ascend. I imagined that if I listened closely I could hear them. And you know what they were saying?

“Goddamn balloons!”

Talk to you later,



Shortly after Henry Ford unloaded his first shipment of Model Ts at the first Ford dealership, a couple of sets of keys went AWOL. The salesmen, who were innocently hanging out in front of the store smoking cigarettes and drinking coffee at the time, were blamed. Thus began the unholy relationship between car salesmen and keys.

Keys are the bane of a car man’s existence. They seem to disappear without rhyme or reason, sometimes only to reappear at a later date usually after the customer has taken delivery of his new car. Why this happens is a mystery. I believe it’s something that should be investigated by paranormal investigators as possible proof of the devil.

Car keys have an almost Zen-like ability to screw with your mind. They seem fiendishly determined to get car men in trouble. Sometimes they will jump into your pocket so they can spend the night at your place. Sometimes you will find the key to one car sitting on the seat of another car. How the hell did it get there?

Keys are a better example of the force of gravity then Newton’s apple. If given a chance to fall to the ground they will—usually without the slightest provocation—and scamper underneath another car to hide.

Something should be done about keys. They are sneaking little shits. Years ago, when car dealerships routinely opened up every car every day, the rule was you had to lock them up each night with a key. That way all the keys would be accounted for. Those damn keys would sometimes play head games with you. They’d hide somewhere, snickering, as the sales manager threatened to call a locksmith, and all the salesmen would have to stay until a copy was made of the missing sucker, no matter how long it took!

Many car dealers have thought up ingenious plans to keep track of keys. They are kept on orderly keyboards so they can be accounted for. Kind of like when the jailer takes a head count each day. One Sunday afternoon, I was in the back of the lot showing trucks. I had the keyboard firmly in my hand. There would be no escapes on my watch. When I was finished with the customers I went to put the keyboard away, and the place was locked up. I had to take them all home for the night! At first I blamed this fiasco on lazy managers, but the more I thought about it, the more I believed I had gotten myself involved in some mass key breakout attempt.

One popular method of keeping car keys safe are lock boxes affixed to the windows of each car. Each key is placed in there like a prisoner in solitary until a salesman lets it out for exercise. Of course sometimes when you open the lock box, the key isn’t there. Clever, they are. Occasionally the entire lock box goes missing, skipping town on a dealer trade or hiding in the car for reasons unknown to car men. Sadly, sometimes the lock box keys themselves revolt against the treatment of their brethren, leaving the car men to face an angry dealer who for some reason thinks it’s their fault!

I tell you never trust a key. They are ungrateful and disloyal. They will break your heart if you let them. It’s a lesson every car man bitterly learns. It’s one of the reasons this job can be so damn tough.

Talk to you later,


Christmas Wishes

My Christmas wishes for you are as follows:

May all your ups be big dummies with a way to go.

May the line-pluggers find your front line full.

May all those who park in Laydown Lane have good credit.

May the fireman and real estate agents decide to stroke someone else.

May the Mexicans forget their math and just buy the damn thing.

May the propeller heads decide that asking for a discount is beneath them.

May all your sales managers go in and close the deal themselves if you get stuck.

May the dealer decide that he doesn’t give a flying leap about CSI.

May all the office ladies be young and single with questionable morals.

May you all have the gift of the “Three D’s”: a demo, a draw and a day off.

May they call off those freaking Friday morning sales meetings!

May you never have to stand guard at the front entrance of a Mouse House on a cold and rainy afternoon.

May the customers ask you if tipping is okay.

May your lot be closed on Sundays.

May all your Corvette ups either buy or explode.

May all your new car ups switch to used cars.

May your closer say, “Hey, its 3:00, why don’t you take off and enjoy the rest of the day!”

May you always have the car you need in inventory.

May the finance manager hang all your deals.

May you make enough to support your family.

May all of you dear readers have a very Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

Talk to you later,


I'm Not Ready For A Mini-Van!

Any salesman who sells SUVs for a living has run into people, usually women, whose reasons for buying the behemoth are suspect. Not that this is any of our business. Our job is to sell them the sled. But sometimes in the course of helping people, you realize that the SUV is not going to work deal-wise. The people tell you they have a grand down and only want to pay $400 per month. This does not compute on a $50,000 Suburban.

When faced with the possibility of losing a sale, a salesman thinks in terms of alternatives. You’ve already tried to show them a more affordable used Suburban so you might have a chance at making a decent commission, but they won’t bite. “We want a new one!” the wife whines. You then go to Plan B and suggest a new mini-van. It’s perfect for their needs.

The wife looks at you with horror. “I’m not ready for a mini-van!” she says adamantly.

You shake your head. She’s got three kids and one in the oven, and she’s not ready for a mini-van? If not now, when? She’s not going to tow anything; she never goes four wheel driving. What the hell does she need a Suburban for?

“I want to sit up high,” she tells you.

You want to spend $700 per month so that you can sit up high? Are you freaking crazy?

Why this obsession with SUV’s? I’ve done some serious thinking about it, and here is what I figured out. Back in 1984, I was selling Plymouths. When the Plymouth Voyager hit the market it, along with its counterpart the Dodge Caravan, they were the hottest things going. Young mother’s came in droves dragging their reluctant husbands behind them in frenzy to purchase the perfect solution for their growing family. They were the SUV’s of their day, and from the moment the mini-van was introduced, you couldn’t sell a traditional station wagon to save your life.

These women had grown up in the 60’s and 70’s with mothers who drove Ford Country Squire Wagons. They associated the act of driving a station wagon as a sign of fading youth. They didn’t want a wagon because their mother’s drove wagons. They wanted one of those oh-so-cute mini-vans—with the fake wood paneling on the side.

Just like mom’s Country Squire.

So, the next generation of woman grew up with mothers who drove mini-vans, and when these women grew up they sure as hell weren’t going to buy a mini-van. Hell no! They didn’t want to be like their mothers. Hence the spectacularly idiotic run of SUV sales in the late 90’s and early 2000’s until the fad finally hit the brick wall of high gas prices.

(Ironically, if you look at the configuration of a two-wheel-drive Chevy Suburban what do you have? A V8 rear-wheel-drive---station wagon; the same set up as grandma’s Country Squire!)

I have a firm belief that most of the people you sell cars and trucks to are (How do I say this politely?)—stupid. It’s great when you can use this stupidity to your advantage, but sometimes you can’t. Reason is something they don’t want to listen to. They want to sit up high! So what do you do? Slam them into that Suburban.

What do you care if they can’t make that $700 payment?

Talk to you later,


A Big Dummy With A Way To Go

My Friend Steve turned me on to the phrase, “I’m just looking for a big dummy with a way to go.” This expression incorporates all the things that a salesman hopes for, a way to make a nice lick on a car. These deals are also called “rent makers”. They are the stuff that dreams are made of.

Now I know that The Others are horrified with the prospect of a car salesman making some money, but let me say this: Believe it or not the happiest, most satisfied customer you can have is the guy you made a big commission on. Not only is he happy, he tends to have the best luck with a car. Maybe every other Dodge Stratus is a piece of crap; his runs like a dream and will continue to do so for the next 150,000 miles.

Mooches, on the other hand, are never happy. They stole that new Honda Accord. The salesman made a $75 mini, and he’d prefer never to see the propeller head again. They drive the service department crazy, and give you a bad CSI* report. And for some reason their car happens to be the worst Accord ever built.

The Car God frowns on low grosses.

“Bullshit,” you non-believers say. Well, maybe I’m exaggerating a little, but for the most part what I say is true, and every car man out there will back me up on this.

The big myth of this business, propagated by sales trainers and factor reps, is that we should all strive to make every customer happy. I say you don’t have to make everyone happy. Ten or twelve each month is usually enough! As for the rest of them. . .

Don’t get me wrong. Every customer should be approached in a professional, cheerful manner, but they should be given a short leash. As a manager I once worked for who was Chinese used to say, “The salesman should always be the honorable host, but the customer has the obligation to be a respectful guest.”

So, we all need a couple of big dummies with a way to go each month. These guys supply the grease that keeps the car man running properly and prevents him from going postal on some innocent bystander.

Talk to you later,


*For any of The Others who may be reading, CSI does not stand for Crime Scene Investigation even though murder is sometimes called for. It stands for Customer Satisfaction Index.

Car Language

Ever notice that the more expensive the car, the more the idiot driving onto your lot thinks he has a right to park it anywhere he wants? I guess if you’re driving a big Mercedes or BMW that gives you the right to use as many parking spaces it requires to protect your self-image on wheels. Honestly, when you see this happening, don’t you ever want to go out there and kill the people? Well, since that solution might put a “doesn’t play well with others” notation in your employee file, it’s probably not a good idea.

Car language is an overlooked part of a car salesman’s training. This is because I’m probably the only one who notices this crap, and I’m not qualified to train a dog much less another salesman. But if you look closely at the cars entering your lot, I suspect you might notice it too.

Most dealerships have certain areas that attract a certain types of buyers to park there. I’m not talking about your established customer parking area where most of the mooches park their $500 cars. I’m talking about the other nooks and crannies that certain people are compelled to seek out. I have given names to some these people and places. Let me share them with you and see if they fit where you work.

Line Pluggers. A line plugger is a customer who is drawn to park in any empty hole in your line. My favorite is the guy who shoves his old Subaru in the hole in the front line you neglected to fill, but he will park in any empty spot he can find. Over the years, I have found that the vast majority of line pluggers are liberals or as I like to call them, propeller heads. As I have previously written, these people don’t care about you or your business, so finding an appropriate place to park doesn’t interest them. You have a very slim chance of selling a line plugger a car. They are usually dumber than a bag of hammers.

Asshole Alley. Asshole Alley is a spot where no one in their right mind should park. They will park in a red zone, next to a fireplug, a place that blocks an entrance and in some cases, parking spots set aside for the disabled. These people are usually drive expensive vehicles and usually have severe personality disorders. They are generally really hard to control and are itching for some time of confrontation.

Firemen and real estate brokers love to park in asshole alley.

Laydown Lane. People who park as far a way from your customer parking area and walk in are usually either complete laydowns or have severely bad credit (or both). If it’s the former, they are the best ups you can have. Visions of a five-pounder dance in a salesman’s mind. But jubilation can quickly turn to disappointment when you discover their FICO score is 492.

I worked for many years at a dealership where it was possible for a customer to circle the entire lot. The car would enter the driveway, turn right, head down the used car lot, turn left and circle around the shop eventually emerging on the side of the showroom where he would either park or continue on his way back out to the street.

After watching this happen for a number of years, I noticed that not all people circled the lot. Some people would drive around the corner then stop, too timid to continue. They would either leave the lot from the same way they came, or park in Laydown Lane.

If a customer orbits your lot more than once, it is called a “John Glenn” after the famous astronaut who first circled the earth three times. Some customers also like to stop their cars in the middle of the lot, and exit their vehicle for a quick peek at your inventory. They will always leave the car running and the doors open for a quick getaway. This procedure is called a “Moon Walk”.

So, how’s your car language? Check out your lot. Do you have an Asshole Alley or a Laydown Lane? I’ll bet you a write up spiff you do.

Talk to you later,


My Bad Attitude

Many years ago a manager told me I had a bad attitude. I replied, “Just because you think I have a bad attitude doesn’t mean I have one. That’s just your opinion.” Now how’s that for being a smart ass?

All my adult life I have been plagued by the urge to be sarcastic. I have to suppress the urge to say something stupid several times a day. My mouth, which can be quite effective in a closing booth, has gotten me in trouble numerous times, and it has spoiled at least one friendship. Is this just a personality quirk, or is it a sign of a truly bad attitude?

The line between a bad attitude and a realistic outlook on life is a fine one. In spite of my vocal miscalculations, I think I have a fairly firm grip on reality. It’s just that this business can beat you down if your not careful. The Others like to complain that we are intent on ripping them off, even though every car man I’ve ever known was just trying to earn a living. From our standpoint it’s The Others that are trying to rip us off! That’s why there’s such a gulf between car people and everyone else.

A guy once told me a great truth. He said, “David, if the car business was easy, housewives would be doing it part-time.” Ain’t that the truth! People see us standing around and assume we are lazy, but we’re just like a swat team ready to jump into action when action is called for. The bottom line is that we are continually getting beat up by people—emotionally and financially. That’s what makes what we do so tough.

I am 58 years old today. I started in the business when I was eighteen, detailing cars, doing dealer trades, handing out brochures when the dealership was closed on Sundays. I started selling on October 20, 1970 a couple of months shy of my 21st birthday. It’s been a long, nasty haul.

Maybe I have earned the right to have a bad attitude, but I don’t think of it as bad. I think of it as being realistic. My attitude may have restricted me from being a great salesman or a great sales manager, but be sure of this: I speak the truth. I know how this all works, its great joys, its great sorrows.

I am a car man and proud of it.

Talk to you later,


Stolen Car Tales

We were all standing around doing what Car Men do best: bullshitting, smoking cigarettes, and drinking coffee, when we heard the sound of sirens. Curious, we moved toward the front of the store that faced Mission Boulevard to see what was going on. As the sirens neared, a car flew by us, a brand new red Nissan 240SX with orange Hayward Nissan happy tags in the license plate area. Seconds later, the first of four cop cars followed in hot pursuit.

There was silence for a moment, and then someone said, “Hey, wasn’t that one of ours?” It was then we noticed the hole in the second line where the SX in question had been parked the night before. Someone had stolen our car, and as we would later find out used it as a getaway car after robbing a bank.

Every Car Man has his favorite stolen car memories. Here are a few more of mine.

We had a new Nissan Maxima stolen. Somehow, the thief managed to get a hold of the keys and during the night drove it over the landscaping, the curb, and was gone. The car was missing nearly a month when we got a call from the police department. It seems that the thief was a student at the local junior college. One day he illegally parked the car in the parking lot of a movie theater across the street from the campus. It was towed to a city impound lot.

Believe it or not the car thief went down to the impound lot and tried to claim it; arguably one of the dumbest car thieves of all time! It reminds me of a line from “Good Morning Judge” a song from the 70’s rock group 10CC. “Saw a car but couldn’t pay/fell in love so I drove it away”.

All Car Men know that one of the most dangerous things he can do is go on a demonstration drive. A wag once noted that a successful test drive is one where they do not find you dead in the trunk. The car dealerships along Hayward’s auto row are particularly enticing for a car thieves. They are located at the base of a steep hill that runs up to the state university. The looping road goes up the hill and around the campus. During my days working in Hayward it was a favorite place for customers to drive a car, especially on the weekends when the commuter college was mostly empty. It was also a favorite place for car thieves to highjack cars. More than one Car Man found himself facing the wrong end of a gun in one of the lonely parking lots on a Saturday afternoon. In the days before cell phones the thief had plenty of time to make his getaway before his deed could be reported to the police. Though it never happened to me, I know of at least three instances where Car Men (and one Car Lady) were put in peril.

When I was a deskman, one of my green pea salesmen went out on a demo ride with a guy in a used VW bus. They got a couple of blocks down the street when customer told the salesman he was really thirsty and pulled into the parking lot of a 7-11. He told the salesmen if he went in and got him a Coke, he would buy one for him too. Well, you know Car Men, always amiable to a free drink, and I suppose you can guess what the kid discovered when he came out of the store, but there was a little wrinkle.

Said green pea was too ashamed to tell the police that he had been snookered out of the car, so he invented a rather elaborate tale about a gun and threats. The cops became suspicious of his rambling story and later charged him with filing a false police report.

Goodbye green pea.

My favorite stolen car story unfortunately happened to me. The car was not stolen at gunpoint thank God; it was a case of fraud. Our dealership was located near a naval station. A young sailor went to his credit union and managed to get a pre-approval letter for an auto loan. He came to us interested in purchasing a new Nissan Sentra, a basic one with no extras. When the deal hit the desk, I called the credit union and verified that the guy was indeed approved for a car. With this information, I gave the sailor a purchase order and rolled him. What I did not know was that he had used the same letter earlier in the day at another dealership. The idiot bought two cars with one approval! The first dealership’s deal hit the credit union first and was funded, mine did not.

Poor me.

The dealer (my brother, Danny) was upset about this, of course, but he did admit that procedurally I had done nothing wrong. But I rolled the car. It was my responsibility. We started to investigate. Apparently the sailor had just been honorably discharged from the Navy. How he had gotten approved for a car loan remains a mystery to me.

I took a very large salesman with me, and we went to his apartment. He had moved out. After calling his references, we discovered that he had given the first car to his girlfriend, and had left town with ours. No one knew where he had gone until . . .

About ten days later I received a call from a Nissan dealer in New York City. Our customer had apparently walked into the sales manager’s office at Manhattan Nissan, handed him the keys to our car and calmly said, “This belongs to Hayward Nissan.” He turned and walked away, never to be seen again. I guess he just needed a ride to New York!

I was in California; the Sentra was in New York. What the hell do I do? I first tried to see if I could sell the car to the dealer. “It’s a stick shift,” he said. “You can’t sell a stick shift car in New York City.” Made sense, I guess.

Danny suggested that I get on an airplane and drive it back. He seemed to think it was a fitting punishment since I had rolled the car. It was the middle of summer. The car had no air, no radio. Did not sound like fun to me.

Then out of the blue I received another call from the manager at Manhattan Nissan. It turned out he had a car stolen too, and it was found in L.A. He had a proposition: he would send a driver out with our car. If we paid for his gas and a plane ticket to L.A., we would be even.

I jumped on this, of course, not believing my luck. The deal was made, and three days later our Sentra pulled into the lot. Three days? The driver must have driven eighteen hours a day! He was dressed in his Manhattan Nissan work uniform, looking as if he had just pulled the car out of a service department. There was something surreal about it. The only thing in the car was a bottle of window cleaner and some paper towels. He had crossed the country in mid-summer without even a radio. What did he do to pass the time, hum?

I examined the car, fearing the worse, but the Sentra was undamaged, though it now had 6500 miles on it. Danny came out, looked at the car, and shook his head. I knew I had successfully dodged a bullet.

I cleaned up the car. All the expenses related to its recovery were charged to it. I put it in the showroom and put a spiff on it. A couple of days later we sold it—and actually made a small profit!

The Car God had shined on me.

Talk to you later,


The Apache Appraisal

I wish I could have met the Car Man who coined the phrase, “Apache appraisal”, but that was long before my time. The saying brings a stirring image to your mind: a handsome Indian brave standing high atop a hill, one hand held stoutly over his brow to shield his steely eyes from the glaring morning sun as he searches for distant buffalo. But in the world of a Car Man it is used to describe a manager who is too lazy to get off his ass. Instead, he raises a hand to shield his bloodshot eyes from the sun glaring through his office window to put a number on your distant trade-in. This is the Apache appraisal.

All Car Men have experienced the anxiety of having a manager appraise his precious trade-in without even going out to look at it. If the car is a piece of crap, this can work to your advantage, but more often than not, an Apache appraisal does nothing but cost you money. Your manager might be stupid, but he is not a moron (at least not normally), so the number he comes up with is usually lower than the sled is actually be worth.

True, an Apache appraisal on an old car leaning to one side might not be too bad a thing, but what if it is a three-year-old car? Who in their right mind would assign a value to a trade-in when he has neither given it a good look nor driven it around the block to see if all the gears work? The answer, unfortunately, is a lot of managers. Over the years, the Apache appraisal has cost me money, but let me tell you a little story about how I once got my revenge...

Al Gracier wore many different hats at Elmhurst Ford. You might remember Al as the manager who busted me for being the early worm that caught the worm. One hat he wore was that of used car manager. All and all Al was a great Car Man, but sometimes he suffered from the same glue-on-the-butt syndrome that many managers are prone to contract once they get used to the idea that they do not have to hustle for customers on the lot anymore.

At Elmhurst Ford, the used car lot was across a side street from the dealership. There was only one way in, so if you pulled a car over to Al’s office for an appraisal the driver’s side faced his window. Al was not dumb enough to do an Apache on a late model trade, but if it were an older car he would rarely go out and look at it closely. Not only that, he would not even let you tell him anything about the vehicle’s merits. He was not interested in your opinions or sales pitch. He would glance at the car and quickly write down a number, a total investment of about sixty seconds of his time.

One day I was working a particularly difficult deal. Getting the maximum dollar amount out of the old trade-in was critical for me to have enough down payment money for a roll. Unfortunately, the trade had a big bang on the driver’s side front door, and I knew that if I drove it straight over to Al’s office with the damage in plain sight, it would cost me dearly. So, I very carefully backed the car onto the lot so that the passenger’s side of the car, the TV side as we call it, faced his office.

I walked into the office. Al was busy at his desk. He had not noticed my parking maneuver. To cover my ass I said, “Al, I’ve got to tell you something about this car.”

All looked up and glared at me. “I don’t want to hear it,” he said. He looked out at the trade-in, wrote $500 on the appraisal form, and sent me on my way.

I was one happy son-of-a-bitch.

I backed the trade off the lot and parked it so he would not see it again until after I made my deal. Even after I rolled the new car, I waited until Al went to lunch. When I was sure he was gone, I backed the trade into a slot on the side of his office and put the keys on his desk. Mission accomplished.

A half-hour later, Al was back. I kept an eye on him from the showroom across the street. Eventually he emerged from of his office to examine the trade. When he reached the damaged door I saw him shake his head in disgust. At this point I started to panic. Hell, covered ass or not, I might be in serious trouble!

Al started across the street. I stood protectively on the other side of a Ford LTD sitting on the showroom floor just in case things got violent. He walked in, but instead of lunging at me, he continued toward the sales office. As he walked passed, he glanced over and said, “You got me!”

Sometimes life can be good.

Talk to you later,


Mouse House

Back in the days before credit cards, when a big car payment was anything over $100, there was a curious car business institution known as the Mouse House. Mouse House is a slang term for a finance company. I have no idea where the name came from; sure wish I did. Household Finance Company (HFC) and Beneficial Finance are examples of Mouse Houses, but there were many, many more.

Car dealerships used Mouse Houses to get down payment money for customers. (There were no such things as 100% loans in those days!) Car men called these loans “mouse loans”. To “mouse” somebody meant you set up a loan for them. Funny, heh?

Mouse loans were secured by the borrower’s furniture, or “sticks” as they were called. You moused somebody and tied up their sticks, it was said. I remember wondering if they actually repoed someone’s furniture if they defaulted, and I guess that’s exactly what they did.

Mouse loans were touchy. First you had to sell the idea to the down payment deprived buyer. This meant that when the desk gave you a pencil, there’d be two payments on it. The car might be $86 per month for 36 months, and the mouse loan might be $32 for 18 months. The two loans together were pretty high for those times. It was the salesman’s job to convince Billy and Betty Buyer that the almost impossible payment of $118 per month was a good deal, because it was for only half the time of the loan. After 18 months, the payment would go down to a more affordable $86 bucks. This was sometimes not an easy task, especially for a green pea like me.

While the deal was working, the finance manager would call the mouse loan in for approval. If he got it done, and if the salesman closed the customer on the idea, then the fun began.

In those days the sales managers wouldn’t let a customer loose to do anything alone except to go to the bathroom--maybe. So if the mouse loan was approved, the salesman would have to take the customer downtown to the finance company to sign up. The loan wasn’t really done until the customer spoke to the loan officer. Something could go wrong. So you had to coach the customer on what to say and what not to say. For example, you might suggest to the customer that he exaggerate the quantity and quality of their sticks.

I hadn’t been selling cars for too long when secondary loans like this were made illegal. So by about 1972 or so the Mouse House era was over. Or was it? A lot of customers still didn’t have money for a down payment, and the Mouse Houses were still interested in loaning money, so an unholy alliance was set up.

You see it wasn’t illegal for the customer, on his own, to go down and borrow some money. And if he took out a loan, the proceeds could be used for any purpose he chose. So when you were working a deal you still sold the concept of two payments. If the customer agreed, the finance manager would call the Mouse House, give them the heads up, and we’d send the customer down there to apply for a loan.

As a green pea, I still had to go with the customer. No sales manager in his right mind would let the people wander down to the Mouse House by themselves. But when you got there, you couldn’t go in with the customer. Technically, it was illegal for you to even be there, and the loan people were very nervous about that. Instead, you’d have to stand guard outside the front door and wait.

I have a memory of myself, age 21 or so. I’m standing in front of the local HFC office on the corner of “C” street and Foothill Boulevard in Hayward, California. It’s the middle of winter. It’s cold and raining. There is a small overhang over the entrance, and I’m huddled underneath it waiting. . . Those days are gone, of course. In the modern world, there is no longer any need for a Mouse House--

--but every once in a while I really get an urge to mouse somebody.

Talk to you later,


Vampires and America's Favorite Pastime

It is a common misconception that vampires only come out at night. This myth has been propagated by popular fiction for decades, but Car Men know from personal experience that vampires can come out anytime, especially on a Saturday around noon. There you will find them gathering at their favorite feeding place, a new car dealership, searching for their favorite prey, a gullible salesman.

Vampires come from all walks of life, from snooty college professor types to the working class stiffs with faded NASCAR stickers on their trade-ins. The professor has done his on-line research, read his well-worn copy of Consumer Reports, and is ready to “go out into the field” to do some serious stroking. The NASCAR guy does not know how to get on the Internet. He just saw the pictures of the new Mustang in the latest issue of “Car and Driver” down at the tattoo parlor and wants to put the pedal to the metal.

Vampires are not particular about whom they suck the blood out of, but green peas are a favorite target. They are young, naïve, and have a lot of product knowledge that they are more than willing to give away. Whether it is a green pea or a seasoned pro a vampire has this uncanny ability to exploit the salesman for everything he knows without buying the car from him.

Protecting yourself from vampires can be tricky. First you have to recognize them. They are very good at disguising their intent; lulling you into believing you might actually have a sale. They feign ignorance about the vehicle of their interest and want you to tell them all you know about the product.

They will suck the energy right out of you and ruin your day.

Why do they do it? Well to put in bluntly: THEY DO NOT CARE ABOUT YOU! They do not care about the time and effort you put in to make them an informed buyer, it’s price and only price that really interests them. So the Car Man who spends two hours of his life helping them out gets the same chance at a commission as the glorified clerk who just quotes a price over the Internet. Oh how they like that Internet shit! It makes them feel like their screwing somebody, and boy do they like that feeling!

A sales manager reading this might say that if a salesman does his job properly he will get the sale, and frankly he is right in most cases. If a Car Man does a professional job he will either get the sale or recognize a vampire early on in the process and broom the asshole off the lot before he can do too much damage. But sales managers can be a heartless bunch. They want you to go full bore on everyone you speak to. They have either forgotten or fail to understand the effects of a vampire once they get their fangs into a Car Man.

No salesman who has not been snorting something has the energy to do more than two or three proper presentations in a given day. You have to protect yourself, especially as you get older. If you exert too much energy on the noontime vamp, you may have nothing left in the tank for the real buyer at four o’clock.

Vampires are a treacherous breed: selfish, self-centered. They do not care about anything except the object of their automotive desires, and they will stop at nothing to get what they want. So what is a Car Man to do? Murder is usually out of the question, but it is fun to think about.

Over the years I have developed a trick when dealing with them. I give them a brief presentation about the car then bring out the automotive equivalent to holy water: a closing question. I ask them to buy.

“Ahh!” they scream. “I’m melting! I’m melting! Oh, what a world!”

Well perhaps I exaggerate, but you can definitely see them squirm. If they do not bolt immediately, you can then proceed with more fun-filled facts about the car before asking them to buy again—this time a little more forcefully.

Car Men have to be wary of The Others and their intentions because figuring out ways to screw us is America’s favorite pastime. The Others are raised to believe that all businesses have the right to make a profit except oil companies and car dealerships. This belief is handed down from one generation to another for reasons I do not think even they understand. It is as part of our society as teaching your daughter to cook or tossing a football with your son. Any Car Man can tell you stories of customers out on expeditions to teach their young how to buy a car. It works roughly the same as a lion teaching her cub to hunt. They come prowling your lot in the hopes of catching fresh meat. Unfortunately the fresh meat is you.

I cannot deny that over the years there has been considerable hanky-panky at our end, especially in the days before CSI, the dreaded Customer Satisfaction Index. Some Car Men are sharks and you have to be careful when swimming with them, but for the most part we tend to treat The Others they way they treat us. If we feel you are open to letting us earn a little money we are less likely to hit you with both barrels from the automotive shotgun.

There are significant negative side effects from the activities of the vampires and the hunters. It has to do with an old Car Man expression, P.P.M.P., an acronym for Poor People Must Pay. Its primarily meaning refers to people with horrible credit having to pay though the nose to buy a car. That is just a fact of life. If you live a screwed-up credit life you will pay, pay and pay.

But there is also a darker meaning. It is a simple fact that someone has to pay to keep a dealership’s doors open. Car dealers cannot survive if they are selling all their cars and trucks at invoice or below. So those who make it their life’s mission to get the absolute lowest price on a car make it necessary for those not as sharp as them to pay significantly more for theirs. As it turns out vampires suck on more than just the blood of Car Men! I have always found it ironic that the educated people of this country, so sensitive to the plight of their fellow man yet so bound and determined to screw a Car Man, make it harder for the average Joe to get a deal.

I suppose the war between Car Men and The Others will continue unabated forever. They will launch salvos of Consumer’s Reports, computer printouts, and Edmonds Guides at us. We will fight them off as best we can use the time-tested methods that are our heritage.

A customer once told me that he had made many a car salesman miserable. “No one has ever made any money on me!” he boasted. He said this with a smirk on his face that made my blood run cold. I wanted to inform him that he could not stand a chance against a professional Car Man. A real Car Man is so good at his craft that most of the time the customer does not even know what hit him. I did not say this, of course. Why bother?

All I know is later that day he drove off in a very nice used Chevy Suburban I sold him. As he drove over the curb I had to smile. He did not know it of course, but he had just joined what I like to call the Golden Circle. It is a club I have for the customers that I have made a commission of $1000 or more.

Stupid is as stupid does.

Here is a fascinating fact: It is common knowledge among Car Men that the happiest customers are the ones who paid the most money for their cars. I swear this is true. Those who mooch on a car deal are rarely satisfied and for some reason have the most problems (or at least perceived problems) with their vehicles down the road. What is that all about? What goes around comes around!

Talk to you later,


Unchartered Waters

After writing my last post, I woke up in the middle of the night with two things on my mind. First, I had misspelled the word canon. I had typed cannon. Two, it occurred to me that I am probably the first person in the history of the automobile business to write something about Mexican Math.

This means, my friends that this blog is in uncharted waters. I don’t think many people have ever written about the business as it really is. I believe all the things that have been written up to now have been the complete bullshit view, spewed out by so-called “sales trainers” to appease the consciences of dealer principals.

What does this all mean? Hell, I don’t know. There are probably about five people reading this thing and at least one of them is a relative. Hopefully that may change if you dear readers will spread the word.

What do I want to happen with this blog? Honestly, I never gave it a lot of thought until a friend of mine suggested I ought to try to market it. Maybe I’d get a column in a car magazine, she suggested. First of all, The Others would not make heads or tails of what I write about. And car magazines? Please! Gear heads do not like to be referred to as idiots, which is exactly what they happen to be. Not that I pass judgment on people.

As a failed writer with a plethora of rejection slips to my credit, I have soothed my hurt literary feelings by reminding myself that the rewards of writing is in the act of writing itself. Thinking otherwise, unless you are really talented and really lucky, brings nothing but heartache.

So my only concern is that I can continue to come up with things to write about. When I started the blog, the ideas I have been thinking about for all these years came rushing out, but now they are slowing a little. All writers fear that the well will run dry. So if you have any suggestions, I’d appreciate it. Write to me at

Happy holidays to all of you. May all your ups be big dummies with a way to go!

Talk to you later,


Mexican Math

Any salesman who’s been around for a while has run into the phenomenon known as Mexican Math. It occurs during that critical time of a deal when you get your first pencil from the desk, usually a monthly payment.

You go back to the customer, Mr. Garcia, a nice gentleman in a cowboy hat that has been pretty cooperative up until now. You sit at the desk, turn the write-up sheet around so that he can see the heavy black numbers which say: O.K. deal, $2000 down, $422 X 72 mos. O.A.C.

You then shut up and hope for the best.

Now if you’re dealing with any other nationality, one of two things is going to happen. The customer will either say okay, or “Are you crazy. I can’t afford that!” Now we all hope for the customer will say okay, and even if he doesn’t say okay you can probably deal with the second situation with little good ‘ol would-you-take.

But Mexican’s (and most other Hispanics) do something that no one else ever does. He slides the write-up closer, brings out a pen and starts to multiply $422 X 72 = $30384.

Your deal is now officially dead.

Now I got to hand it to them, because if you think about it, it’s probably not a bad ideal to figure out that the $21,000 loan has $9384 worth of interest. But it’s interesting that Caucasians almost never do this; they’re too anxious to get in their new chariot and drive away with the wind blowing in their hair.

Other nationalities are just thankful they can get financed.

Now I’ve tried all kinds of ways of overcoming Mexican Math. None of them have worked for me. Once they see what the car is actually costing them, you’re done! Mr. Garcia will never pay $9,384 worth of interest, but weirdly enough he might offer you $5000! Many a car man has gone home wounded, another victim of a Mexican who can multiply.

There is one way that works sometimes. It’s called zero percent financing. Sometimes Mexicans get so fixated by interest; they are more than willing to give up a rebate to get zero percent. But that means you have to sell a new car. Yeach!

I am currently in the sub-prime end of the car business, aka flakes. When dealing with a Mexican, once I determine they have some sort of driver’s license, I, too, have to deal with Mexican math. But in this situation I have the hammer. I can tell them to take it or leave it. They usually go for having the car.

My question is this: where do they learn this? Is there a special Mexican Math course they take at school, nuzzled in between Algebra and Geometry? Is it a skill handed down from generation to generation? Is there a secret canon in the Catholic Church in Mexico that commands them to do this?

Before go to that big used car lot in the sky, I would really, really like to know.

Talk to you later,


A Goat Tale

Ed Gonzales thought he was a funny guy and a major league prankster, but most everyone else thought he was a major pain in the ass. That was about to change. After a distinguished career of being an asshole, the second rule of the car business, “What Goes Around, Comes Around” finally kicked in for Ed.

Big time.

Ed worked at Hayward Ford with a fellow named Art Horsfall. Art liked to bring a bag lunch to work with him each day, a practice that was somewhat unusual for a Car Man. For some reason Ed thought it was amusing to sneak into Art’s office, take a bite out of his sandwich, and put it back in its wrapper. Funny, huh? Ed never tried to cover up his crime. As a matter of fact he was proud of it, acting gleeful when he was able to say, “Gotcha!” to a pissed off Art.

After experiencing Ed’s warped sense of humor a few times, Art decided to do something about it. He lived on a small ranch outside of town, and on that ranch he raised goats. Art got the idea to take a little goat shit and mix it into some tuna salad. He then made a sandwich out of the concoction and took it to work with him.
The stage was set. Art placed the lunch sack where he knew Ed would find it. Ed took the bait, sneaking a couple of bites out of the sandwich after which he carefully returned it to the bag.

Later, after Art was certain Ed had done his dirty deed, he proceeded with the second phase of his plan: public humiliation. There was an alcove on the side of the showroom where the salesmen gathered to drink coffee. Art spotted Ed out there bullshitting with a couple of the guys. Art went over, got a cup of coffee out of the machine, and went over to join them. He waited a couple of minutes then casually asked, “So, Ed. How’d you like the sandwich?

Ed grinned and said, “It was great! Thanks a lot!”

“Did you notice anything different?”

“Notice what?”

“I mixed goat shit in it.”

The result was instant. The salesmen went crazy with laughter. Ed paled and ran into the bathroom, suddenly feeling sick. Word spread throughout the dealership and eventually, up and down Auto Row. Ed Gonzalez was now a part of Car Man history.

Ed was highly upset about this, of course, but there was really nothing he could do about it. No one had forced him to take a bite out of a sandwich that was not his to begin with. Management attempted to quell the torrent of ridicule, but if you know Car Men, it would not, could not, end so easily.

Ed had one eye that wandered. When you spoke to him, you never quite knew which one to look at. “One eye on a helicopter, the other on a submarine”, as someone described it. Ed had a favorite place to watch for customers at the front of the showroom. For months when we would see him there, we would hide out of sight, and call out, “Baa! Baa!” Ed would spin around, his good eye desperately trying to find the culprit. Invariably, he could not and would turn and storm off in a huff.

The teasing eventually eased off, not because we did not still think it was funny, but because Ed seemed to be cured of his smart-ass ways. There were no more stolen bites from sandwiches, and he actually became somewhat human. A couple of years passed. Nothing had been said in a long time. And then…

We were working at a new dealership, Hayward Datsun where my brother, Danny, was the general manager. Some of us had followed him there including the infamous Ed Gonzalez. On the weekends we had a young lady answering the telephones. Her name was Barbara Horsfall, Art Horfall’s lovely teenage daughter. Danny had been talking to her about her father and life out on the ranch when he started thinking, “Wouldn’t it be funny…”

It was at a Saturday morning sales meeting. We had all gathered to listen to the bullshit that is the stuff of all sales meetings, but at the end of this particular meeting, Danny announced, “Ed, we have a special gift for you.” He pointed toward the doorway where we spotted Barbara leading a goat on a leash. She entered the office, and as if on cue, the goat crapped all over the floor!

Ed’s mouth dropped. He stammered something and ran out of the building like he was on fire! No one ever saw him again. Even when his final check was ready, he sent his wife in to get it.

Over the years I have often wondered what happened to Ed Gonzales. We had worked with him on and off for a few years, and it was as if he had fallen off the edge of the earth. I think most of us felt a little bad about the incident. Over time Ed had mellowed to a fairly decent guy, but as Car Men sometimes say, “I guess he just couldn’t take a joke”.

A lot of time has passed, and I have shouldered my fair share of guilt. But when I think back on the goat shit sandwich incident, I cannot help but say in my mind,

“Baa! Baa!”

Talk to you later,


Hollywood Man

Detroit and Tokyo have one thing in common: they don’t understand car salesmen, and they don’t have a clue as to how cars are really sold. You see, selling cars is a mystery to most people who have college degrees, and since the factories don’t hire car men as consultants, a mystery it will always remain. The factories maintain a state of plausible denial, forever pretending that the world of a car man—the real world of a car man—is something that doesn’t happen.

Over the years, I’ve had to sleep—sorry, I mean sit—through many factory sales training courses. These courses are usually in the form of videos since the factory has learned they are better off not confronting us directly. No, they don’t have the balls to do that!

These videos portray the Hollywood version of a car salesman. By this I don’t mean the “Used Cars” version, or the completely ridiculous “Cadillac Man” and other movies that malign our business. In this case I’m referring to the version that is what the factory thinks we all should be, a bright eyed thirty-year-old, dressed in a suit and tie, an eager beaver ready to give his all for the company.

This is not to say that car men are not eager. We are, for money. But an experienced salesman concentrates on the most efficient ways to obtain his goals. They do things these videos never show you. Like how to deal with a flake. How to deal with a vampire. How to switch the guy from that new SUV that will earn you a mini, to a used one that will help pay your Visa bill. And the one they will, never, never mention: how to sandbag the desk if need be.

No, the Hollywood salesman has a neat little appointment book. He makes ten cold calls a day and mails out twenty postcards. He goes 100% on every up he encounters, including guys riding bicycles. And at the end of his day, he goes over his prospects with a wise sales manager who looks upon him as a son.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with a good follow-up ethic (something I seem to lack). But making ten cold calls a day? A complete waste of time. I once worked at a place where the sales manager used to tear out pages from the telephone book and hand them out for punishment. There was a near rebellion.

Today, the car salesman is trapped. Trapped by a thing called CSI, and I’m not talking about the TV shows. CSI, Customer Satisfaction Index, is the bane of all car men. You just can’t beat the crap out of the idiot you’re talking to even if he deserves it. Oh, how I miss the good ‘ol days!

There’s nothing to be done about all this. New car salesman will always be required to watch the bullshit handed down by the factory. They will continue to be deluged by information that is marginal at best. They will always have to rely on instinct and trial and error to learn what really sells cars.

Of course, you could listen to me, the Cynical Bastard. Then you’ll really be in trouble!

Talk to you later,


In Memory Of Ron Showalter

I never got a chance to say goodbye to Ron Showalter. On the day of his funeral, I was attending another one. My mother. Being a natural born ham (I have the gift of gab, my mother used to tell me.), I would have loved to have spoken of my affection for a man who is still bright in my memory two years after his death.

Ron and I sold Chevrolets at the same dealership. When I went to work there, I was a wreck. I had recently undergone a complete economic meltdown, and I was literally hanging on to my sanity by the tips of my fingers. On that first day this is how Ron greeted me: He left a message on my desk. It was a telephone number and a name: Dr. Wang. Call him immediately. I dialed the number. It was a doctor all right, a doctor that specialized in penis enlargements.

Ron was in his late fifties at time. The same age I am now. Apparently he had spent a large portion of the first part of his life being a drunk. As he told me, he had pretty much made a mess of things. But when I met him, he’d been sober for many years, and he had totally redeemed himself. Everyone Ron met, from fellow salesman, to customers, to friends he had helped out countless times, loved him. And I grew to love the man too.

Ron was funny and compassionate. If you needed advice or someone just to listen, he was always there. He was a voice of reason in a profession filled with craziness. Many a time I called on him to hear my woes. Each time he stopped his busy day to lend me his ear.

Ron had many sayings. God, I wish I had written them all down! We worked near a college town, a hot bed of obnoxious liberals. Whenever he encountered one he would ask them, “Let me ask you something. Do your friends know you are on a domestic lot?”

There was a Toyota dealership down the street. Every once in a while, someone waiting for their car to be serviced would wander in. Many were real smart asses, so sure of the superiority of a Toyota over a Chevy--as if we gave a rat’s ass. When Ron would run into them, he would look at them with total sincerity and ask, “Why do they have service departments at Toyota dealerships? I understand they never breakdown.” He said this with such deadpan innocence; I don’t think they even realized they’d been insulted.

There was a manager that occasionally worked on the weekends. (This was before I worked there.) A very conservative man, I guess. When Ron would come to work and see him, he’d turn to the guys and say, “The bakery’s closed, boys. No rolls today!”

Ron would sing this little ditty to the tune of the Nat King Cole song, “Unforgettable”

“Unfinanceable, that’s what you are…”

Me being the smart ass I am made up the rest.

“Unfinanceable, no freaking car…
You may want a new Chevrolet,
But you won’t be taking one home today,
Unfinanceable you.”

Ron got a great kick out of that.

Another Ron Showalter saying was, “The guy must be drinking his own bath water!”

And my all-time favorite: “No dinero, no Camaro!”

Late in his life Ron met a wonderful woman named Linda. He’d been single for many years and was more than a little skittish about entering a relationship. But he fell in love and married her. They were together all the way to the end. They were wonderful together!

Ron died young—in his mid-60s. His death was a tragedy for anyone whose life he touched, a great loss to the car business, and those who toil in it every day to make a living.

So Ron, I never got to speak at your funeral. I never got a chance at a proper good-bye. But I want you to know that I will never forget your friendship. If there ever was a certified car man, an example to us all, it was you, the late, great, Ron Showalter.

Talk to you later,


The Third Greatest Mystery

There is an old Car Man axiom called, “The Three Greatest Mysteries.” The first mystery is how did they build the pyramids? The second, where do elephants go to die? The third and greatest mystery of all is where do the Chinese buy their cars? You see Chinese people everyday driving way too slow on the city streets and highways. They must buy those cars somewhere, but if you ask the average Car Man the last time he sold one, he would be hard pressed to answer.

I have nothing against the Chinese. I love Lucy Liu, beef chow mein and firecrackers, but during my forty years in this business I do not believe I have sold more than a dozen of them cars. I developed a bad attitude toward Chinese people early in my career. After suffering through the green pea ritual of having the older salesman trick me into taking them as ups, I soon realized that I was being put together.

Simply put, waiting on most Chinese people is usually a frustrating and puzzling experience. Frustrating because they make extremely stupid offers and then not budge a dime; puzzling because when it comes to purchasing a car their thought processes run counter to those of most other people.

The Chinese are a people of great knowledge and logic. They make great doctors, dentists, CPA’s. They are brilliant scientists, mathematicians, lawyers, and restaurateurs. Our culture is richer for their presence in both our history and our future, but you do not want to sell them a car!

Waiting on a Chinese customer is usually a nightmare. They are mystifying to most Car Men. Even Chinese Car Men do not like waiting on them. Why? Because when it comes down to buying a car the great logic which is a hallmark of their personalities goes completely out the window.

Example: Chinese people do not believe in factory invoices. Unlike most of the other customers you encounter who are trying to get a mooch deal, you cannot make things easy by offering to sell them a new car or truck for a figure over the factory invoice. They never go for it. You wonder to yourself, what the hell is wrong here? I am only asking for $500 over! Caucasians fall for it every time, assuming you can get them financed, but not the Chinese. If you show them a factory invoice they will look at you blankly then hit you with an offer that is not even remotely based in reality.

This puzzled me for years until one day a Chinese customer finally let me in on the secret. I was selling Hondas, a prime target for Chinese vampires. He had made me the traditional crazy offer on an Accord. I threw up my hands and asked, “Where the hell did you get that number?” Normally any questions about their car-thinking processes are met with deaf ears, but this time the man looked at me and said, “I dreamt it.”

“Dreamt it?” I asked, more than a little dumbfounded.

He proceeded to tell me that he had a dream that he was spending a certain amount of money for a car. So he came down the dealership and made an offer based on the dream.

“You made me an offer based on a freaking dream?” I asked with amazement.

Yes, he nodded.

“So what are you going to do now that you know you can’t buy a new Accord for that amount of money?”

“I will go to another Honda dealership and offer it there.”

I thought, “Goddamn! Do they all think this way?”

As far as I can tell Chinese people do not get the concept of time versus money. They will spend every weekend for weeks trying to save $100 on a car. They will burn that much in gas, but it does not seem to make any difference to them.

“What will happen if you go to every Honda dealership in the Bay Area and no one will sell you a car for that figure?”

“I will then try for a Toyota Camry.”

“And after that?”

“I will look at Nissans.”

And then Mazda, Mitsubishi, and I guess eventually the bottom of the Japanese automotive barrel, the lowly Suzuki. Hell, a couple of model years might pass before he buys!

This situation has frustrated me so much I made a vow never to sell cars that Chinese people prefer to buy like Hondas or Toyotas. If you want to avoid dealing with the Chinese sell Chevrolets. Chinese people do not drive Chevrolets. If you see one that does I guarantee you it is either a rental car or he is running for public office in Detroit.

Many Chinese people are very superstitious. I have had them refuse to test drive a used car because the license plate was an unlucky number. I once worked at a place that had an unlucky dealer number. I could not use a dealer plate when taking them for a ride in a new car!

They do not like even numbers. A smart Car Man knows to never suggest a price like $12,000 for a car. It has to be and odd number, $12,107 or something like that.

With all this in mind, a Car Man on the lookout for a prospect on a Saturday morning will do what he can to avoid waiting on Chinese customers. They are pretty easy to spot. They often travel around in what we refer to as wagon trains, at least two cars filled to capacity for one buyer. A fellow Car Man once told me that they usually like to have a total of seven people because seven is a lucky number. Whenever I have counted six, I wondered if they had the ashes of an ancestor in their trunk.

The upside of selling cars to Chinese people is that almost all of them have good credit. Chinese flakes are few and far between. If you run into one it is usually because of a gambling problem. They love to gamble. If you doubt this just visit your local Indian casino.

I suspect that selling the Chinese cars will always be an enigma. Future generations of Car Men will continue to spend time trying to figure them out, only to come to the conclusion that the best course of action is to simply avoid them. But the mystery remains: where the hell do Chinese people buy their cars?

No one really knows.

Talk to you later,


I Hate Corvettes

Dear Reader: This blog entry gets more hits than anything else I have ever written. I am very curious as to why. Are there that many people out there that hate Corvettes? I would appreciate it if you would write something in the comment section below explaining your thoughts on this matter.

David Teves

I hate Chevy Corvettes. This is a pretty strong statement when you consider that the one of the biggest commission I have ever made was on a ’03 coupe. Don't get me wrong, I can appreciate the Corvette as a classic America sports car, though each year I find it harder and harder to get in and out of one. It is just that I hate the people who buy them.

For me, trying to sell a Corvette is pure agony. It is what I like to call a Haley’s Comet sale: it happens once every seventy-six years. Over the years I have spent an inordinate amount of time showing The Others Corvettes with not much to show for it. That is why I have grown to loathe the suckers.

Ask most Car Men and they will confirm that Corvettes are the biggest mooch magnets on the market. The reasons lie deep in the psyche of every red-blooded American male. The Toyota Camry may be the number one selling car in America, but no guy has ever dreamt about driving down the highway of life on a beautiful summer’s day with a blonde beside him in a Camry. The Corvette is an icon, the fiberglass version of “The Field of Dreams”: If you have one, she will come.

The problem with a ‘Vette is this: When you are young, more than likely you cannot afford the payment. Heck, you probably can't even afford the insurance on it. When you add those two payments together it is almost always a deal buster. And when you finely do find your blonde and marry her, a Corvette is out of the question. You can't put your honey along with a stack of groceries and a child car seat in a Corvette, but this still does not mean you would not give your left nut to have one. For some it becomes a life-long obsession. Unfortunately, the usual victim of this obsession is a Car Man.

There is an army of idiots out there that spend a good portion of their spare time lusting over a car they will never be able to pull the trigger and buy. They search the classified ads and car magazines. They do their unholy research on the Internet, and they pester Chevy dealers endlessly, trying desperately to find the Perfect One--the Corvette that has their name on it; the perfect seat for their obsessive ass. If by chance they happen to actually come across the perfect Corvette, that is when the trouble begins.

I am of the opinion that for a lot of people the act of looking for a Corvette is almost as satisfying as actually owning one. Just the mental pleasure of wanting one makes you a kind of surrogate Corvette owner without the burden of a high monthly payment. “I’m a Corvette guy!” you can say to yourself. You are looking for one, right? Looking is just one step away from buying, right? Therefore, you are a Corvette owner who just does not happen have a Corvette at the moment.

The Corvette mooch will never buy a car from you because the car he has captured in his twitchy imagination is a gleaming gem of automotive perfection, and no Corvette he will ever find can match up to this image. Even if he stumbles across one that is dangerously close to the Corvette of his dreams, he will have no choice but to make up imperfections. Because if he found that perfect, affordable ‘Vette it would mean he might actually have to buy it, and he certainly cannot have that!

This does not stop a mooch from coming onto your lot and wasting your time. He is as attracted to the siren call of the Corvette as a moth is to a flame. As he walks around the car, his heartbeat elevates, his palms become sweaty. He will try to bait you with hints about his high-paying union job. To further spice things up he might mention that he may even pay cash for the car. (Do not be fooled. He has $300 in his checking account.) This is all designed to achieve his ultimate goal: taking the plastic sled for a test drive. For if he takes the car for a drive and people see him driving it, he can pretend he owns it.

If he successfully lures you into his trap all is good until you get back to the dealership. That is when the excuses begin:

“Ah, gee, I wanted a 6-speed, and this one’s an automatic.”

Or, “I really wanted an automatic. Too bad this one’s a 6-speed.”

“This one is blue. I really wanted a red one with the optional wheels.”

“It has to have under 30,000 miles on it,” he insists. “This one has nearly 40,000. Just my luck!”

And if you could somehow magically produce one just the way he wants it, he would say without missing a beat, "Oh why couldn’t it be a convertible?"

“I’ll call the used car factory and have them make one up for you!” you want to scream.

Now I know there are guys who successfully sell Corvettes, just like I know there are guys who successfully sell Volvos. They must be steely-eyed Car Men, in my view. And I realize I have a bad attitude about this particular subject. God knows I have been accused of having a bad attitude about a lot of things on more than one occasion. But for the average Car Man, I speak the truth.

I hate Corvettes, and my advice to you is: stay away from them.

Talk to you later,


The Three Rules

Over the years I have pondered the rules that govern the automobile business. Of course, each dealership has its own set, but it seemed to me that there must be some universal truths that are common to Car Men everywhere; sort of like the Ten Commandments with white walls.

There are a myriad of conventions that control our activities, but I have managed to whittle them down to three basic rules. The Three Commandments, if you will. Understand the three rules, and you will better understand the business, and your life will be a hell of a lot easier. So here they are, the Big Three, in ascending order:


The third rule is a simple one: for every car on your lot there is an ass somewhere that will eventually fill its cracked leather seats. Some cars go away quickly, driven over the curb by a happy ass to live out a happy automotive life. Other cars are problem children. They can sit, sit, and sit, an ass seemingly nowhere in sight. But Car Men are harkened by the fact that an ass will always eventually appear. This means that the ’02 Ford Taurus gathering dust on your back line has some buns waiting for it somewhere. All you have to do is to be patient. The anointed ass will come.

Many dealerships will hang on to a car no matter how long it takes to find an ass for its seat. Others go into a panic about their aged inventory, especially the used cars. Thirty days after the sled hits the line they start to get concerned. At sixty days it has a nice spiff on it, and at ninety days the offending vehicle is going down the lane at the auto auction. However, this does not break the rule. The seat may not have found an ass on your lot, but it will on someone else’s.


The sucker skated you. It was your afternoon off and like a fool you took it. He got your customer, sold him a car, and your name is nowhere on the deal. “He didn’t ask for you,” the perpetrator claims with all the smart-ass sincerity he can muster.


What the hell do you do? After considering murder or planting dope in his desk you make the decision: “I won’t get mad. I’ll get even!”

Get even, that is what you will do! What goes around comes around. Better yet get him twice! That is what h e gets for for messing with you! And it will not be on some low-commission new car. No, sir. It will be on a used a car with a big fat gross!

What goes around comes around also applies to a Car Man’s relationship with customers. In our eyes The Others are the biggest liars going. As the saying goes, “How can you tell if a customer is lying to you? Watch his lips. If they’re moving, he’s lying!”

As a budding Car Man I was taken advantage of by a lot of customers who preyed on my youth and unguarded enthusiasm. Back in 1971 (and I swear this is true) I had a customer by the name of Barry Tideman. He worked for a company called Moore Business Forms. Mr. Tideman stroked me unmercifully about a new Ford Torino. He took full advantage of my green pea status; milking me for as much information he could only to buy the car someplace else without even giving me a chance. I have never forgotten this offence, and I pray that someday I will run into him or his progeny to extract my revenge.

Sometimes what goes around comes around can affect you monetarily. Many years ago I was involved in the sale of two cars to a man who turned out to be a pimp. (He purchased the cars for couple of his “ladies”.) Because there was fraud involved, the cars were repossessed, and his large down payment was not returned, yet they still charged back my $500 in commissions. Needless to say I was pissed! But keeping “what goes around comes around” in mind, I kept my cool and waited.

Two months later it happened. I got my month-end commission check and noticed it was too high--about $500 too high. They had made a mistake and paid me twice on a deal. Did I say anything? No freaking way! The Car God had spoken. The universe had righted itself.

So if something bad happens to you, if that pipe-smoker has wasted your time and made your life miserable, take heart. The Car God sees all, and he deals with it--eventually. As for my friend Barry Tideman, your time is coming, my friend, and you will be mine!

Oh, yes, you will me mine.


There is not too much I need to say about this rule. It speaks for itself. It is the Big Kahuna. Numero Uno. It is the one that controls our business as surely as the sun controls the solar system. The car business is not fair. It never was, and it never will be. If you want fairness go get a job at the post office.

Over the years I have learned that if you can accept the lack of fairness in our beloved industry you will be a happier Car Man, but many times that is not an easy thing to do. You are working with a bunch of snakes and quite a few of them are members of management. There are all kinds of ways they can mess with your head. The rule is toughest on the guys who come to the business later in life from jobs that had, let us say, more ethics. When you are selling iron for a living, there is no union to go to and file a grievance.

“Hey, I got screwed!” he says, looking at his lowered “adjusted” commission voucher. That is right buddy. You got screwed! Oh, well. The car business is not fair.

So if you are a Car Man keep this and the other rules in mind. There is an ass for every seat. The car business is not fair, but what goes around comes around. Remember this and you will be reasonably happy and stay somewhat sane.

Now that I think about it there is a forth rule. It is a minor one, but it is a rule just the same:


For some reason people from India do not like you knowing whom the car is for. They will, for reasons known only to them, try to hide it from you. I once sold a used truck to a group of Indian gentlemen. One guy did the talking, a second took the truck for a test drive, a third filled out the credit application, a fourth gave me the down payment, and a fifth guy drove the truck off the lot. I asked they guy doing the talking who the truck was for. He looked at me and said, “Guess.”

Talk to you later,


Hal Nelson and the Green Dodge Van

My first months at Hayward Ford were a trial for me. I was scared to death most of the time. That is probably the reason why my memories of those days are so vivid. My introduction into the world of Car Men was burned into my brain as surely as an image on a photographic negative. The salesmen were not exactly mean to me though Bill Keith referred to me as “summer help”. For the most part they ignored me. Hoping, I suppose, I would just go away. Looking back on those days I have come to realize that I was a harbinger of the next generation, and I do not think they particularly liked that fact.

My first used car manager was Hal Nelson. Hal was a man of average height with thinning salt and pepper hair and a dark complexion. He was a sharp dresser and always had a cigarette in his mouth. Hal had been around the business a long time. You had to be sharp to be a used car manager in those days, and Hal knew his job well. He was definitely a Car Man of the first order and not the sort of guy who would take any guff from the new car manager’s little brother.

I would not say that Hal disliked me. He was too busy a man to give a green pea like me much notice, but when I had a trade-in that needed to be appraised I would head toward the used car office with trepidation. Hal Nelson was a man of many moods, and it appeared to me that I did not make that mood any better. I was usually greeted with a growl.

When Hal appraised a car it was not enough for him to look the sled over and give you a number. At least with me he itemized all the things that were wrong with the car in agonizing detail. Sometimes the total estimate of reconditioning was more than the Blue Book value of the car! I once got an appraisal for minus $150.00! I was too intimidated to say anything. I would just take the appraisal to my brother who would sigh and call Hal up on the dealership’s intercom system. “Why are you screwing with my little brother?” Danny he would ask with humor in his voice.

Over time I figured out how to work Hal Nelson. It seemed to me that if he were in a bad mood, you would surely receive a bad appraisal. If he was in a good mood you still might get a bad appraisal, but at least he would not make you feel guilty for making him look at the trade. What I started to do was to tell him a joke every time I visited his office. This was not always easy because I have never been one to remember jokes, but getting Hal to laugh was the key to leaving his office unscathed and with a halfway decent number on your car.

Hal always wore expensive suits. The worst thing you could do was to bring him a really dirty car. If the dirt level passed a certain threshold Hal would not get in it. He would write a figure in large numbers on the appraisal sheet and underline it three or four times.

“This doesn’t say fifty bucks, David,” he would say, stabbing his pen at the appraisal pad. “It says fifty cents!”

A few minutes later Danny would have to call him to get the real number.

One day an event occurred that changed my relationship with Hal Nelson forever. It all started when I waited on a guy driving a mid-60’s Dodge van. He was probably in his late twenties with long, unkempt brown hair. The thing I remember most was that he was a bundle of nerves. Throughout the course of working the deal I had the feeling he might bolt at any second.

He sat in my office twitching nervously in his seat, stammering as I asked him questions for the credit application. I do not remember what he was trying to buy, but he did want to use his van as a trade-in. Things went reasonably well--until I asked him for his keys to the Dodge. He did not like the idea that I was going to have his vehicle appraised, but after some coaxing he finally agreed on the condition that he could first remove something from the van.

We went out to where the Dodge was parked on the street. It was an ugly military green. He opened the side doors revealing a wood-paneled interior with green shag carpeting. 70’s chic. The only seats were the two up front. Mounted on the paneled walls were framed black and white photographs of major figures of the day. There was a photo of Robert F. Kennedy, a second of Martin Luther King, a third was the poet Allan Ginsberg. The van was empty except for a thick brown photo album on the carpeted floor. He scooped the album up and hugged it to his chest as if someone might grab it away from him. I was too dumb to be curious. I was just relieved that it was now okay for me to take the van to Hal.

Even after my clever warm-up joke Hal Nelson did not react well to this particular Dodge van. Perhaps he sensed something was up. He walked slowly around it shaking his head. The interior made him groan. We got in and went for the appraisal drive. Part way down Mission Boulevard Hal asked me to open the glove box and find the registration. I did so—and came up with a handful of color Polaroid photographs of my customer having sex with men.

Oh. My. God.

Hal took a glance at the photos and handed them back to me. I threw them back into the glove box as if they were on fire. This was 1971. I was twenty-one years old. I knew what a homosexual was, but I had never had contact with a gay man in my entire life. My face paled. Hal did not react well either, though I think he found my reaction amusing.

“Don’t worry about it,” he said. “We’ll handle this when we get back.”

When we returned to the used car office, Hal got Danny on the intercom. They talked for a couple of minutes. Hal had this amazing ability to look serious as hell while chuckling through the events of our drive.

“I think we’re going to have to turn this deal to another salesman,” he advised.

“Hell yeah!” I thought.
From that day forward my relationship with Hal Nelson changed. Our experience in the green Dodge van had somehow bonded us. Gone was the gruffness, although I still got a lousy appraisal if he was in a bad mood. This relationship continued for many years afterward until his passing. He became an auto wholesaler, and I was now all grown up and a sales manager at a Nissan dealership. Occasionally we would cross paths. We would always greet each other warmly, exchange a joke or two--but we never spoke of the Dodge van again.

What happened with the deal? Well, my brother turned the to our best salesman, Tony Batarse. Tony B., as he was called, was from El Salvador, a very intelligent man who spoke with a soft Spanish accent that belied his remarkable sales abilities. I nervously took him to my office and introduced him to the customer who was sitting in his chair still clinging to the binder.

I left the office quickly hoping Tony could do his magic. A half a deal was better than none! As I walked away I heard Tony say this, “Sir, I will give you an extra $100 off this deal if I can look in that binder!”

The Others

My friend, Pablo, first turned me on to the term “The Others” to refer to non-car people. I was immediately taken with it for it perfectly describes the disconnect many car men feel when dealing with those who are not in the business. And to make things worse, the longer you sell cars the gulf between you and them grows wider and wider.

For me the gulf began shortly after I started selling cars nearly forty years ago. A friend of mine asked me, “But what do you really want to do with your life?” Now in retrospect the decision to get into the automobile business might have been a crazy one, but I was making more money than any of my friends and was driving a brand new car for free, insurance included. (Alas, the demo days are gone!) Life was good!

But that was the beginning of the rift between me and The Others that continues to this day. You go to a party, maybe one with your wife’s business associates, and you don’t want to tell them what you do for a living. How could they possibly understand? Anyway, the fact that you sell cars for a living is usually met with a combination of disdain or horror. Even those who are not turned off by your profession like to revel you with stories about how they screwed a car guy.

Years ago I worked with a guy named Eddie Alexander. Eddie told me he wanted nothing to do with non-car people. Couldn’t stand to be in the same room with them. I didn’t totally understand this at the time, but boy, I do now! They don’t understand us, and we understand them all too much. We deal with these idiots every day, and we certainly don’t want to go out and have a drink with them!

The down side of all this is that many car guys become isolated from the outside world. We spend all day talking to people, why would we want to spend our off-time talking—especially to people who do not understand us? Give us solitude, a beer, and a baseball game on TV!

Many auto rows have a bar that caters to the salesmen. (There was a place in Oakland that was called The Bluebook. I don’t know if it’s still there.) These bars are places where a car man can go and relax and exchange war stories with people who accept and understand them. It’s kind of like a group therapy session with martinis! Unfortunately, some of these guys develop an aversion to going home.

Selling cars, especially if you do it for a lot of years, can be damaging to a your psyche, and might negatively effect your family life too. The Others beat you up everyday, and you are the one who is considered the bad guy!

For a car man life is tough—and then you die.

Talk to you later,


A Suck Is A Suck

His name was Bill Blount. He was a big guy, about 6’ 1”, well over two hundred pounds. He claimed to be a WWII veteran. And he was an ugly, obnoxious son-of-a bitch. In other words, Bill was a Car Man.

I used to call him the “Hunchback of Hayward Nissan” given the prominent rise on the top of his back. He had no ass, buck teeth, and couldn’t sing. He would use his flat, baritone voice as a weapon, standing in the middle of the showroom, arms extended like a big band crooner singing,

“You picked the wrong time to leave me, Lucille,
Four hungry children and crops in the field…”

He would sing this ditty over and over with unmitigated abandon until you wanted to grab a sharp object and stab him in the neck.

I worked with Bill Blount on and off for about ten years. When I was a green pea he got great pleasure out of terrorizing me. He would stand outside my office window when I was with a customer and mouth my words as I spoke, attempting (successfully) to throw me off stride. He was one of those guys that reveled in conflict. Pardon my French, but he just enjoyed fucking with people.

Bill was a single man with a murky past. He had no apparent family of his own, but there were rumors of a son somewhere. His main preoccupation was cruising the bars with his wingman Roger Marvel. He reveled in grossing me out, telling me stories about picking up older women, who he referred to as “old stoves”.

“I took her back to my house”, he would explain, his face alight with the memory of his most recent conquest. “We had a couple of Manhattans. Then I took her into the living room, put her down in front of the fireplace and grabbed her …

“Stop it!” I would plead. I couldn’t bear the mental image of Bill Blount screwing.

Bill had a soft side. He had four of five little dogs that would get on their hind legs and dance around as he crooned to them in a voice that could peel paint. Every Christmas he dressed up as Santa Claus and visited the house of the salesmen with little children. He seemed to get more of a kick out of this then the kids.

His favorite expression was “a suck is a suck”. There was something curiously disgusting about the way he would say it. For years I ignored the expression, until one day I asked him about it. He told me a story I would never forget.

“During the war I was a bomber pilot,” he said casually.

I couldn’t believe my ears. Bill, a bomber pilot? That crazy bastard? I called him on it. He looked at me and smiled.

“They looked for guys like me,” he explained. “You had to be a little nuts to fly one of those flying coffins into combat. The guys that were straight would never do it.”

I had to admit, it made a crazy sort of sense. If anyone had the ability to throw caution to the wind, it was a young Bill Blount. He told me about getting shot down over the Pacific. Fortunately, he was near an island. He had his crew bail out, and he ditched the plane. He then proceeded to have a mini nervous breakdown. He was taken to a hospital that specialized with guys like him, soldiers that had seen a little too much of the horrors of war.

One day Bill was in the swimming pool. He was sunning himself near the shallow end, arms spread out along the edge, head back, his eyes closed. All of a sudden he felt something. He opened his eyes and looked down. A guy was giving him oral pleasure. Bill’s first reaction was to hit the guy. He raised his hand to strike, then stopped. He thought to himself—

“What the hell. A suck is a suck.”

This revelation shocked me. Was Bill a sick puppy, or a guy so comfortable with himself and his environment that making a fool out of himself was no big deal? I never figured it out.

Bill Blount eventually drifted away. He had quit or had been fired many times over the years. I can’t remember what preceded his last exit from the dealership and therefore my life. He’s passed on now. He’s only a memory. I’ve often wondered to whom. He was a man full of life, but strangely empty too.

So long, Bill. I miss you. I guess.

Oh, well. A suck is a suck.

Talk to you later,