Confessions of a Car Man


Flake Season

Each year from roughly the first of February to the end of March is a time I like to refer to as Flake Season. During this two month period all the FBNs (Flakey By Natures) get their income tax back—usually about $1500 or so—and begin the process of trying to find someone crazy enough to finance them in a car. In my current job that someone is me.

I manage a car lot in a poor neighborhood of a Northern California town. Statistically only 2 percent of the population nationally have credit scores below 500. I’m beginning to think that all of them live within a couple of miles of my lot!

Case in point: yesterday I talked to a woman with a credit score of 428 who had a $1000 down and wanted to buy a car. Now I work a lot of my deals backwards. I run their credit first before they look too closely at a car. In this case the lady had an open loan at a sub-prime lender that was $1250 past due. Since we do not do “buy here, pay here” how in the freaking hell am I going to get her financed?

I run into these situations every day. I had one recently with not one, not two, but THREE repos on her bureau. She was indignant when I informed her that getting her financed had roughly the same chance as monkeys flying out her butt! Well, I didn’t use those words, but you get the idea.

The sad part is that almost all of these people are women. They all have kids, none of them are married, and they all have bad credit. I sometimes wonder where all the flakey men are. In jail, I guess.

Very few of my customers have been living at their addresses for more than a few months. They seem to move from place to place like nomads, probably going through one eviction after another. I bet that the U-Haul business in this town is pretty lucrative.

I get a person with a credit score of 600 or above about every three weeks. It’s a very exciting experience. In my old dealership, only about ten miles up the road, they didn’t know quite what to do with a 600. Here, I want to organize a parade with my customer as Grand Marshall!

Believe it or not I’m able to get most of my 400’s and 500’s done, and during Flake Season I can pretty much clear my lot. But come April 1st, the money dries up and so do a lot of the deals. Almost no one will have any money for a down payment.

Flakes are about a third of my business, maybe half during Flake Season. The rest come mainly from out-of-area Internet sales on cars no one in my neighborhood could ever hope to qualify for. Most of these deals are cash.

Like a lot of car men, I’m looking forward to the economy stimulus checks the government is planning to send out in May. For me it might mean Flake Season II. Given the state of the car business lately, it will be like Christmas in June!

So if you sell cars at a normal dealership (whatever the hell that is), and are confronted with a score of 580, and you’re depressed about it, think of me sitting here in Flake City.

I’d kill for a 580!

Talk to you later,



Spring is here, and I got to thinking about an old car man adage about Babe Ruth. As the story goes the Babe hit 60 home runs in 1927, but he also had another record that year: strike outs. The moral of the story is if you don’t go to bat, you don’t have a chance of hitting a home run.

The car business is exactly like baseball. Just like every young ball player dreams of hitting home runs, the budding car man dreams of the home run grosses he’s going to make. Everyone in the business should heed this analogy, because it works every in just about all phases a car man’s life.

When you’re hot you’re hot, when you’re not your not. Same in the car business as it is in baseball. You can be the sharpest car man around, but there will come times when you can’t sell shit. As my big brother used to say, “Everyone has to spend their time in the bucket.”
Just like a hitter in a slump, a car man will suffer his. Like a ballplayer he will work on the fundamentals: presentation, product knowledge, closing techniques. But try as he might, sometimes the only thing that can cure a slump is time—maddening, excruciating, time.

If a car man can close three people out of ten he’s a superstar, just like a ballplayer playing for an average. His hits will be his grosses: singles, doubles, triples and the occasional home run. A ball player lives and dies on his abilities to handle a ball and bat; a car man lives and dies on his abilities with words and pen.

The car dealership’s team is just like a baseball team. There are many different guys with different skills and different personalities. There are designated hitters, and sometimes you’ll get on base only to be replaced by a pinch runner. The closes are the car man’s pitches. The car man has his own versions of curves, splitters and fastballs. Like baseball, all these skills and strategies come into play when closing a car deal.

Baseball teams have aloof owners and cranky managers, just like a car dealership. If the dealership’s team performs poorly, it’s the managers who suffer. They might get blown out, but usually appear on another team down the street. Good managers are hard to come by! Sometimes they come to management not by having been a superstar player, but a good utility man, familiar with all the basics and knows how to use them.

The only difference between baseball and the car business is that there are usually no away games—unless it’s the occasional “special sale” at the local Wal-Mart parking lot. Car men always have to have the home field advantage.

As I said, it’s exactly the same—but I sure wish we could get every winter off!

Talk to you later,


Sales Managers (Part 3)

In my opinion the number one thing that all good sales managers possess is the ability to place themselves mentally in front of the customer from the information provided by the salesman. They can look at a deal, quickly come up with a plan of attack, and work it to a successful conclusion.

The trick here, of course, is making sure the salesman knows how to write a deal up properly. Many a car deal has gotten off to a shaky start or blown completely by a salesman screwing up his commitment or paperwork. A good manager trains his salesmen properly, but if they screw up he must still be able to weed through the bullshit and find a deal.

Good sales managers have even personalities. They are not quick to anger or panic when things get tough. This is especially true during busy times. Can he work one, two or more deals at the same time and be able to transition back and forth in a competent manner?

Good sales managers do not make dinner dates at 7:30 if the dealership is open until 7:00. This is especially true on the weekends. He has to have a life outside of work, but he must bear in mind that the livelihood of his crew is dependent on him. When he leaves the house each morning, he has to be prepared for the possibility of a very long day.

Good sales manages know what they can take from a customer, and take when they can get. You don’t want to push a customer to the point where they get pissed off and leaves or torches you on the CSI, but on the other hand you don’t want to leave any money on the table if you can help it.

I’m a firm believer that you work every deal to its maximum and take every deal unless it doesn’t make any sense at all. For instance, you don’t want to take a short gross on a nice used car, or a new car that is hot on the market. But if it’s a car or truck that is easily replaced, you take every deal! Do not let a customer go if you have a gross! Do not get yourself in the situation where have to you ask your salesman to call a customer back because you have now decided to take the deal! This really pisses off the Car God. Besides, the customer is probably in F&I at another dealership at that very moment!

The bond of trust between a sales manager and his salesmen is paramount. When a salesman puts his write up on the desk, he should have the feeling that it is in good hands.
If he doesn’t, bad vibes and chaos will commence.

A desk man is in the eye of the storm. If things go well, he makes money for the dealership, the salesmen, and himself. If things go wrong he looks like an asshole. It is sometimes a no win situation. Caught between the dealer and the salesmen, it can feel like he’s caught in a vice.

But, hey. That’s why they pay you the big bucks, right?

Talk to you later,


Sales Managers (Part 2)

Sales managers come in all kinds of different packages. I have mentioned before that the best car men are all a little crazy. This is great when you’re selling, but a little crazy can be disastrous when the car man is placed in a position of power. The same craziness that can make him a formidable force when selling a car can backfire when he’s the one in charge of working a deal.

Some managers make things more complicated then they need to be. As a salesman you are taught to distill the deal to its simplest form. Customers are either price buyers, difference buyers, or payment buyers. Your job is to try to present the deal to the desk in a way that best represents what your customer is trying to accomplish.

I worked briefly with a guy named Art. Now the rule of keeping things simple was lost on Art. You’d bring in a deal with a relatively simple commitment like “customer will buy today for $250 per month with his trade in as down”, and Art would do his best to make sure his pencil was as complicated as possible, working the customer on all the angles on the deal when all we had to do was arrange an agreement on a payment. It used to make me crazy. Art did not last long as a manager.

Some managers can be entertaining. Hugh Curly was such a guy. He was bald and had an amusing way of working deals when he was busy. You’d bring him the write-up. He’d look at it briefly while working another deal then he’d slap the write-up sheet on top of his head and say, “Let me think about it for awhile.” The sheet would never fall from his head. When he was ready to look at your deal, he’d grab the write up from his head and stick the deal he was working in its place. There was something endearing about this, and I never tired at the sight of Hugh Curly sitting behind the desk, white short-sleeve shirt and tie with a piece of paper stuck on his head.

Managers can be vain and have an overblown image of themselves as part of the food chain. I once worked for a manager who considered himself quite a lady’s man. And I guess he was since he was married and banging an office girl twenty years his junior. He strutted around the dealership like he was a stud. He was, in fact overweight 40 year old. He wore those garish rayon shirts popular in the 70’s. The shirt was always unbuttoned half way down, exposing his “sexy” hairy chest, a gold chain or a puka shell necklace around his fat neck like a disco rosary.

This guy used swear words as a second language and was a veritable tyrant in a sales meeting room. He used to swear so much we would make bets before meetings on how many times he would use the “f” word. One time in a half-hour meeting he used a form of this word 34 times!

Some of the great deskmen suffer from the same problems that befall a great salesman: addiction. George T. was such a man. A big, overweight man with a shock of jet-black hair combed back in a wild pompadour, George was a sad case. Immensely talented, great to work for, but he used to toot cocaine like there was no tomorrow. After a few months working at the dealership it was determined that George was “liberating” cash deposits he happened to get to the tune of $8000! (Twenty-five years ago $8000!).

When discovered, George was fired of course, but the guy was so talented he didn’t have to look very hard for another job. In a couple of years he was dead, the victim of his own excesses.

My last story is about a sales manager named Mike. Now I will admit to you up front that my opinion of this man may not be 100% justified. I never worked for him as a salesman. I was a manager in a different store, both owned by my brother, Danny. I won’t go into details, but I resented Mike’s influence over my brother. There were certain types of personalities that I thought took advantage of him, and Mike was one of these types.

Let me describe him. He was skinny, about 5’ 10” and bald. He work jogging suits (most of which were made out a sort of crushed velvet) every day—with cowboy boots. Now how does a guy get away with that? I’ll tell you how. I used to call Mike “The Silver Tongue Devil”. He could talk anyone into just about anything and was a Houdini at getting himself out of jams. I used to muse that if you walked into a room and saw him standing over a dead body, a gun in his hand pointed downward with smoke coming from the barrel, he’d look up and without missing a beat give you a plausible explanation as to why he didn’t do it. Given enough time, he might even convince you that you did it!

I was obsessed with getting rid of this guy, and one day the opportunity presented itself. Mike used to go to the local car bar most evenings after work where he had a reputation as a prodigious drinker. One morning in the middle of winter, I was driving past the bar on my way to work when I glanced over to see Mike’s convertible demo in the parking lot with the top down. It was raining. He’d gotten drunk and left it there the night before.

“I’ve got you, you bastard!” I said to myself.

The next week Mike went to Vegas with my brother!

Talk to you later,


Sales Managers (Part 1)

The salesman had just gotten a bump from his customer. He picked up his write-up, and started back toward the sales manager’s office. As he rounded the corner at the receptionist’s desk, he grabbed his chest and fell to the floor. He was having a heart attack.

The other salesman gathered around, gawking. 911 were called. The sales manager came out of his office and saw his salesman lying on the floor, the write-up still clenched in his hand. He hurried over, knelt down and grabbed the write up. “I need a turn!” he said to the salesman gathered around their fallen brethren.

You see in the car business, the deal always comes first.

Sales managers; what are you going to do with them? If you’re lucky you work for a good one. If you’re unlucky, you’re screwed. They can be tyrants. They can be friends (but watch your back). They sometimes think they’re God, a state of being that I have yet to verify. They can be yellers and screamers; they can be inspirational. They can help you make your deal; they can also do what they can to screw it up.

I’ve been thinking about this subject for a long time. This blog entry is the beginning of a discussion that might take up the next couple of entries. Future writings will deal with different types of managers, from the incompetent to the weird, and finally I’ll have a few words to say about good managers. Today I will get the bad stuff out of the way by concentrating on the worst type of manager: SALES MANAGER’S FROM HELL!

My two worst managers were both from the Middle East. I don’t think this was a coincidence. I know I could be accused of being racist, but I’ve come to the conclusion that these guys always look at you (and therefore treat you) as an infidel. You are never worthy in their eyes. This doesn’t mean I haven’t worked with Middle Eastern guys who weren’t okay. I have. But the managers. . .

One went by the name of Joe. I can guarantee you that his real name wasn’t Joe. He had a thick Syrian accent and seemed to be incapable of using the word “a” in a sentence. Joe was a yeller and screamer. His pencils were illogical and damn near impossible to get. His abilities were strictly controlled by his emotions, and he was pissed off nearly all the time.

We worked in a dealership that had no sales meeting room. The so-called meetings were held in the showroom within earshot of any customer who happened to wander in. This didn’t seem to concern Joe. At least once a day he would gather the troops to vent his frustrations. He used to shout this phrase: “IF YOU WANT TO BE PRO, BE PRO!” over and over. H demanded 100% attention to his rants, and he would threaten anyone who didn’t appear to be hanging onto his every word. These crap-out sessions would sometimes go on for nearly an hour. The result was a sales crew that was part desponded and part pissed off.

Here’s the weird part. When Joe started the job, he took me aside and asked me (very nicely I have to say) for advice on how to handle our temperamental GM (another psycho). I gave him my take on the situation and offered suggestions on how he could best deal with the guy. I believe Joe was shocked at the depth of my insights and instantly considered me a rival. Within a month, he fired me.

The second manager from Hell was a man named Eddie. He was the worst sales manager I have ever encountered in my life. Eddie was Iranian, the son of an exiled military man who had fled Iran after the fall of the Shah. After working for him as a closer for a couple of months, I came to the conclusion that he was evil incarnate. He was tyrannical, no sense of humor whatsoever, and had a way of looking at me with his angular face and black eyes that gave me the creeps. There appeared to be no emotion in him. I was no more than a piece of meat in his eyes.

In late 1995, my father collapsed and was taken to the hospital. He had a ruptured aorta, a condition that would eventually take his life. On that frightening evening I was up all night at the hospital with my family. I was deeply worried and extremely stressed. Early in the morning, I decided to go down to the dealership and explain the situation.

I will always remember standing before Eddie, tired and sad. I told him my story of woe. Eddie did not react. He did not say, “Gee, David, this is a tough break. I’m so sorry for you and your family. Get your ass out of here and get some rest. Take all the time you need.” Or something like that.

Instead he looked at me with his blank, executioner face and he said, “Do you have any deals working?” Deals were the furthest thing from my mind, but I believe I managed to stammer out a no. Blood was rushing to my brain. I thought, “This cocksucker could care less about me or my father.”

Eddie said. “Be at work on your shift this afternoon.”

At the time, I need that job. I was not in a good place in my life. But thirty days later, I was gone.

Side note: A friend of mine who also worked there felt the same way about him. A few weeks after he departed he found himself in the same line as Eddie at a bank. Eddie didn’t notice him, but my friend told me that just seeing the guy so unnerved him he left the bank without doing his business.

So I guess it wasn’t my imagination!

Talk to you later,



bury (‘beri) vt. 1. put underground, inter. 2. conceal 3. to be laid away by a car man (‘buried, ‘burying) – ‘ burial n./a. bury the hatchet, become reconciled, owe more than a car or truck is worth

Scenario number 1: He’s driving a 2002 Chevy Suburban. Man he’d sure like one of those new ones! The only problem is that he owes $6000 more on his trade then its worth. Why? Because he was buried in the 1998 Suburban he traded in to buy this one. His credit was good, so they just added the six grand onto the new loan. But man, he’d sure like a brand new one! Someday he’s going to buy a boat. He’ll need the Suburban for that! He just had his third kid, his wife likes to be up high and she sure as hell won’t drive a mini-van! There are a lot of reasons to get a new one.

On Saturday he goes down to the Chevy dealer, and by the end of the day, he’s driving the new Suburban home. No money down, trade in paid off. His payments are only $745 per month for 84 months. Life is good!

Scenario number 2: He’s had his new Suburban for a little less than a year. His payments are $745 per month for Christ’s sake and it’s killing him! The spike in gas prices has made a bad situation even worse. Propeller heads in Priuses are flipping him off. His daughter is accusing him of being the sole cause of global warming. He can kiss that new boat goodbye! And this torture will continue for another six years? No freaking way! He needs to trade the sucker in and he needs to do it now! But there’s one little problem. The ghosts of loans on Suburban pasts have caught up with him. The dealer informed him he’s now buried $15000 and new needs a lot of money down. He’s broke! What’s he going to do?


It’s a situation that repeats itself every day in car dealerships all across the land. A lot of people, and I do mean A LOT of people are buried up to their eyeballs in cars.

Its America’s other loan crisis; a crisis no one talks about openly. No one is demanding the government for a bail out. No one is calling Rush Limbaugh up and bitching at him. But a crisis it is. Like houses, repossessions are up, and the newly minted flakes are walking among us like zombies. The auto auctions are loaded with repossessed SUVs, that no one dealer will buy unless they can flat-ass steal them. It’s had a ripple effect that has disrupted the automobile business and the economy as a whole.

Who’s to blame for all this? Don’t say the car man because he’s just trying to earn a living. Don’t blame the dealers because they are just working with the financial tools that have been given to them. Car people are like junkies. Give them a lot of dopes with money and they will do what they’re there to do: roll cars.

Like the sub-prime housing mess, the blame falls directly on the back of the banks and stupid consumers.

When I fist started selling cars in 1970 most auto loans were 36 months. You could sometimes get 48, but no one wanted to pay 48 months for a car. I sold Ford’s. Fords wouldn’t last 48 months! Back in those days the banks financed invoice plus fees. Your down payment was your gross. If you had $800 down your maximum profit was $800. (In those days $800 was a HUGE gross.)

The deals were all recourse. Essentially this meant that if the car got repoed, the dealer was responsible for any deficiency. Sully Sullivan, one of the owners of Hayward Ford, used to call it intercourse. The dealer could get really screwed, so he had a vested interested in making at least reasonably sure that the person he was putting out in the street could pay for his new car.

If your customer had filed for bankruptcy, he couldn’t finance a car for ten years. That’s just the way it was. But it’s not the way it is now—not by a long shot.

It all started with 60 months financing. It revolutionized the business by keeping the payments down when car prices were on the rise. Then it was 72 months! Six years to pay for a car! Who in their right mind would do such a thing? Plenty, as it turned out.

Over the years the terms for financing cars got even looser. Recourse contracts were essentially gone, so the dealers took no risk rolling a car as long as he hadn’t broken any laws. Financing only invoice and low book went away too, and down payments for people with good credit went with it. Any big dummy with a way to go could buy just about anything, figures and common sense be damned!

For car men the late 90’s and early 2000’s were like a feeding frenzy. No down. Roll over a burial. 84 freaking months! We all made enough money to get one of those zero down house loans! But we’re paying for it now--big time. Sure, we can still get the goofy financing. It’s just a little harder to find the asses to put in the seats because so many people are so completely buried.

So we are all now paying the price for the good times we enjoyed. That’s just the way it is. But as the Car God decrees: What goes around comes around. If you look out at the street that runs past your dealership, they’re still driving those cars, trucks and SUVs around, and they can’t last forever—especially the Fords.

All we have to do is wait them out.

Talk to you later,


Kimo Vaba & The Redwood Camper

It all started with a camper made out of redwood, designed to be mounted on the bed of a Ford Ranchero. It looked as ugly as it sounds and was just about unsellable. When I started at Hayward Ford in late 1970 there were three or four of these suckers in inventory, and they were crazy to get rid of them. They carried a $200 cash spiff, a lot of money in those days. So begins the story about the redwood camper, a stolen ‘63 Chevy, and a customer named Kimo Vaba.

Looking back on it now I suppose Kimo felt pretty lucky to get me as a salesman. Here I was a young and dumb green pea around whom he could spin his web of bullshit. As I remember, he was pretty vague about what he wanted to buy until he saw how badly I wanted to stuff him into a Ranchero and a redwood camper. It was as if he could see the spiff money dancing in my eyes.

Kimo was a Filipino man: short, stocky, about thirty-five and talkative as hell. He claimed he was the executive chef of a restaurant at Sea Ranch, an exclusive housing development on the northern California coast about a hundred and fifty miles from our dealership. Kimo was proud of his position and made it a point to tell me how great a chef he was. The way he bragged I should be honored to even talk to him!

He had a woman named Linda with him, a tall, listless lady with stringy brown hair and large breasts. Together they made an odd-looking couple, but as they say, love is blind. She did not seem to care much what Kimo purchased as long as he purchased something.

It was late afternoon by the time I finished writing up the deal. Kimo wanted to trade in his ‘63 Chevelle and pay cash for the difference. He did not ask for much of a discount, always a plus when dealing with a hungry, budding salesman. A rent maker deal, as Car Men like to say. My brother, Danny, was equally delighted at the thought of making a big pop and getting rid of one of those damned campers. He promptly sent me out to Hal Nelson to get the trade appraised.

The blue Chevelle had Texas license plates, funny because Kimo had not mentioned anything about Texas. Hal asked me to fish around in the glove box for the registration. I discovered not only the registration but also a signed title for the car. The title was not in Kimo's name. I was ignorant about the implications of this, but Hal's kink antenna went up immediately. His negative reaction to the Chevelle made such a big impression on me its Texas license plate number stuck in my mind!

By the time I got back to the sales desk the luster of the deal had dimmed slightly. Danny sent me back to inquire about the trade. Kimo quickly explained that he had recently bought the car from a sailor over at the naval base in Alameda and had not yet gotten around to registering it. He was a busy guy being an executive chef and all.

Danny met the explanation with skepticism, but he still had his hopes up. I was selling one of those cursed campers for God’s sake! In those days unless the deal was completely crazy you rolled the car and worried about the details later. Getting this deal done would not be a problem. Kimo said he would write a check. The problem was the check he showed me was not imprinted with his name and address.

The deal was now getting far too complicated for my green pea mind. I did not have enough experience either in the car business or in life to determine if Kimo Vaba was a buyer or a crook. Danny decided to turn the deal to John Hurtado. John was perfect for the task. He was a big guy who looked as if he could snap you in half with one hand. He would figure out what was going on.

I introduced John to Kimo and Linda then stood back and watched a fascinating game of cat and mouse between the two men. John was familiar with Sea Ranch. He casually asked Kimo several questions about the development and the restaurant where Kimo was supposedly the executive chef. (An inquiring phone call placed by Danny to Sea Ranch had been inconclusive, but it was determined that Kimo had worked there at one time.) Kimo was very glib and really turned on the charm. John’s bulk did not appear to faze him. They talked for maybe fifteen minutes before John excused himself to report to Danny.

A conference was held in the sales office. I stood on the sidelines keeping my green pea mouth shut. John said the deal had bad vibes, but he could not tell for sure if he was dealing with a cook or a con. He was leaning toward con. Danny was rapidly coming to the same conclusion, but hey, the guy was on one of those damn redwood campers!

Finally, Danny decided it was time to speak to Kimo himself. It was now close to
7:00. I had been with Kimo Vaba and his girlfriend for over two hours. I listened as Kimo and Danny verbally sparred. In the end, my brother made a deal with Kimo. There would be no roll that evening. Instead, he agreed to get the Ranchero and camper mounted and ready for delivery in the morning. We would take the Chevelle in trade, but Kimo would have to produce either cash or a cashier’s check for the balance. Danny figured that if the money was real, the story about the Chevelle was probably real too.

Everyone appeared to be happy with the arrangement except for me who did not understand a hell of a lot about cashiers checks or suspicious trade-ins. I just wanted that $200 in cash! To put that much money in perspective I was renting a furnished, one-bedroom apartment for $185 per month! Kimo assured us he would be in around noon the following day with the money. At least for the moment my spiff appeared to be safe.

The next morning I showered and was listening to the morning news on the radio as I prepared to go to work. The broadcast was interrupted by a special bulletin. Someone had attempted to rob a bank in South San Francisco claiming he was armed with a bomb. Something went wrong; the hold up was thwarted. The perpetrator fled but not before a bank employee got a good look at the getaway car. It was a blue Chevy Chevelle, the newscaster reported, with Texas license plates. The plate number just happened to be the same as the car driven by Mr. Kimo Vaba.

I freaked.

The newscaster advised that anyone with information concerning the robbery attempt should contact the FBI. My spiff dreams were now shattered, but I managed to get myself together and report to work. My brother received the news grimly. Always a Car Man first, he called the shop and halted the mounting of the camper on the Ranchero. The second thing he did was to call the FBI.

By 10:30 six FBI agents pulled into the dealership in two nondescript Fords. They interviewed my brother, John Hurtado, and me. The lead agent, a fatherly-looking man named Bill Miller, informed us that the Chevelle was a stolen car. Seeing my nervousness he assured me that I would be in no danger. They would nail the sucker the moment he stepped out of the Chevelle. Somehow that did not make me feel much better.

So we settled in to wait for the arrival of Kimo Vaba. Noon came and went. I imagined him driving around the Bay Area looking for another bank to make a quick withdrawal. At 12:30 he called. With agent Miller listening in on another line he told me he had been delayed. He gave me some sort of cock and bull story as to why. All I remember is that he assured me that he would be there by 2:00.

“Is the Ranchero ready,” he asked. “I’m in kind of a hurry.”

“Sure”, I replied.

In the meantime I was showing Agent Miller new Pintos. He declined my offer of a test drive.

2:00 came and went. No Kimo Vaba. I was mostly relieved, though the thought of him in handcuffs appealed to me. That bastard had wasted my time and cost me a lot of money! I was just hoping all this would end soon so I could go out and find another customer. Kimo called again. Do not worry, he said. He would be there as soon as he could.

That was the last time I heard from him.

What scared Kimo Vaba off is a mystery. Maybe he heard fear in my voice; maybe he had been watching us from atop the hill across from the dealership. I will never know.

I have often wished that this story had a more exciting ending. It would be cool to write about a shoot out or perhaps a hostage situation, but alas, it did not happen that way. There was plenty of tragedy for me though. Since I did not sell the Ranchero or the redwood camper I did not get a commission. I did not get my freaking spiff! The whole thing had been a definite bummer, but it was not without a couple of high points. A week later I sold Agent Miller a new car.

About six months later, Agent Miller came to see me. He had something he thought I would find interesting. He placed a couple of mug shots in front of me. Was this Kimo Vaba, he asked? It sure as hell was. Apparently Mr. Vaba had been arrested in Chicago after attempting to blow up a bank. They traced him back to where he was living—with a group of domestic terrorists violently opposed to the Vietnam War. Since Kimo was an executive chef I suppose they were a well-fed bunch. Kimo had also found a temporary home for another one of his talents—making bombs.

When you think about it, it is too bad things worked out as they did. Considering his lifestyle, I bet that Rancho and redwood camper could have come in handy.

Talk to you later,