Confessions of a Car Man


Car Man

Note: If you have just stumbled across this blog, please take a moment to read the entry below. It is the first chapter of my maybe-it's-coming book, "Car Man". It will tell you a little about me, and the world of Car Men. If you find it enjoyable, I urge you to read on. Please feel free to leave a comment.

David Teves

No one ever graduated from high school or college and announced to family and friends, “I’m going to sell cars for a living!” So who exactly are Car Men, and where do we come from? And more importantly, why are we all so crazy? Car Men are crazy? Hell yeah! At least the good ones are. We have to be. What sane person would choose a profession as volatile as this, a profession that does not guarantee a steady monthly income, where you face a hostile world each day armed with only a pen, wits and a strong sense of survival?

A Car Man is a guy who did not want to do manual labor for a living. If he was in one of the trades, maybe he got injured or was just too damned tired to do it anymore. Maybe he lost a business or drove trucks and burned out on life on the road. Maybe life just threw him a curve ball, and he ended up working on a used car lot, a temporary situation that lasted twenty years.

Many Car Men are people who would not have made it in the corporate world. They do not have the personality, the temperament, or maybe they have too many bad habits. We are the dreamers, the failed musicians, the failed writers; too smart to work at McDonald’s but not smart enough to make much out of a college degree.

We are the people your parents warned you about: big talkers, opinionated assholes, egotistical bastards. We are the class clowns, the nonconformists, the ex-hippies, the ones you did not want dating you sister. We are by any standard a motley crew, a collection of offbeat personalities that collectively make the wheels of the automobile business spin.

My life as a Car Man officially began on October 20, 1970 at Hayward Ford in Hayward, California, a city across the bay from San Francisco. I was two months shy of my twenty-first birthday. Actually, my automotive career started a couple of years before. I paid my dues by doing odd jobs around the dealership, going on dealer trades, washing cars. Unbeknownst to me my older brother Danny, the dealership’s young sales manager, had gotten it into his head that he could teach me how to sell cars. I quickly fell into his trap. I was an insecure young man with few marketable skills, uncertain what I should do with my life. The only thing I had going for me was what my mother called “the gift of gab”. Translated that means “natural born bullshitter”. So when Danny offered me the opportunity I took it, though the thought of selling cars for a living scared the crap out of me.

Up to this point in my life my only contacts with adults were my parents, the parents of my friends and teachers. Nothing in my life experiences prepared me for the particular breed of adult known as a Car Man. When I joined the sales force at Hayward Ford I was the youngest salesman on the crew and would remain so for a pretty long time. The majority of the salesmen were old enough to be my fathers. When I began my Car Man journey I expected them to be like all the other adults in my life: respectable, fatherly, grown up. Nothing could have been further from the truth!

On my first day a salesman by the name of Jack Dunne, aka The Silver Fox due to his full head of striking white hair, took me aside and told me this: “David, there is no lie you can tell a customer that is better than the truth.” I never forgot those words because they turned out to be very true. Call it karma if you like, but if you lie to a customer it always seems to come back on you one way or another.

The second thing he said was this: “I want you to get off to a good start so here is a list of contacts you can call.” He handed me a sheet of names and numbers.

“Gee, Mr. Dunne. Thank you!” I said gratefully. It was not until later that I realized he had just laid off his dreaded “cold call” sheet on me!

This was my introduction into the life of a Car Man. Of course I would not be a real Car Man for many years. A Car Man is a guy who has been around for a while, the veteran of many battles, wizened to the ways of the world and the schemes of The Others. That was not me by a long shot!

But I did sell a car on my first day.

Shortly after I started, I attended my first “steak and bean” feed. Steak and bean feeds were a common event in the life of Car Men. Typically, they were the culmination of a month long contest. The crew was divided into two teams, each headed by a captain. The teams competed with each other for the most sales, the prize being a dinner where the winners ate steak and the losers ate beans--and all the cocktails you could drink. They could be wild affairs. I once attended a feed where the winning captain was awarded a hooker!

My first steak and bean feed was a surreal experience. I was a true child of
the 60’s, yet here I was in a fancy restaurant rubbing elbows with a bunch of guys in expensive suits most of whom were old enough to be my fathers. I was not yet twenty-one, but they insisted that I drink with them. I had no idea what to order. A scary, one-armed salesman by the name of Tony Isom appointed himself to help me choose. He suggested a salty dog, a mix of vodka and grapefruit juice with a salted rim.

“Always order it in a bucket,” he commanded in his booming voice. Who was I to argue? One did not mess with Tony. His one-handed grip could easily break your hand or disable a shoulder! I drank salty dogs that night and for many years after.

That night I ate beans much to the enjoyment of the winning team. After dinner we drifted back to the bar for a few more rounds. Later I was ushered into a back room where a group of drunken Car Men was sitting around a movie projector watching porno movies on a wobbly screen. These were my father figures?

When it was over the salesmen, most of who were quite drunk, loaded themselves into their Ford LTD Brougham demonstrators and drove home. It was not unusual for at least one demo bite the dust on one of these nights.

I will never forget that night for it seemed to be my formal introduction to adulthood. Never more would I just be the kid who did the dealer trades and washed cars after class. I was now one of them (or at least an apprentice one of them).

I had entered the world of Car Men.

"The Demonstration Ride"

While going though some stories to place on my fiction blog, I came upon a tale about a psychotic Car Man. I had completely forgotten about, “The Demonstration Ride”. Finding it was a delight. I prepped it for the blog, making only a couple of changes, most notably changing the year of the Yakamura Extra-Van from 1997 to 2011 and tossing in a reference to the Internet. Still, I fear the story might be dated.

Please check it out if you can and let me know what you think. It was posted on 11-1--09. Information on how to get to "unexpected pleasures, stories by David Teves " is on the right.