I am a man who does not generally love things. I love people, and I love pets, but I don’t love possessions. It’s not that I exist on a higher plane of existential enlightenment, I don’t. I enjoy material things, the finer things, as much as your average superficial jerk. I like nice clothes, I like to sleep on nice sheets, and I like my new wristwatch…but I don’t love them. And to conclude this point, if all my possessions were gone tomorrow, I would be OK. I can walk away from just about anything, with little or no remorse.
This is always the truth, with one exception:
…that exception would be my Ice Blue 2003 Buick LeSabre Custom. I love that car. It has been a great ride. I loved the process of buying it, I loved traveling in it, and I loved owning it. I even loved the wisecracks that I got for continuing to drive it. I think it was Gandhi who said, “… even bad attention is attention”. It may have been Gandalf; it doesn’t matter…I’m a whore for attention, and I LOVE THAT CAR!
I traded it in yesterday, because like many co-dependent relationships, our friendship was becoming strained. We probably stayed together a year too long. Sometimes, when the passion is strong between two…umm…things, the relationship will burn out, and in the car’s case, the heater fan burned out too, and the windshield wipers, and so on. But with all the flaws that accumulated over my 190,216 mile relationship with it, that vehicle was still an ice blue monument to perseverance. When I sent it off to the auction block yesterday, I realized how much that car reminded me of who I am.
I need to give you a little of the back story…
I bought the car 5 years ago, just a couple of weeks before I started my current job. I had been unemployed for the better part of 4 months, and I probably should have been unemployed longer as a result of how badly I sucked at the job I was fired from. The nice guy that I worked for didn’t go all “Donald Trump” on my ass; “YOU’RE FIRED!” to let me know my fate, he was actually very kind.
On a chilly October Monday, he discreetly asked me to step into an empty conference room and told me with a broken, stammering, and stressed voice that he was “letting me go”. The official position was that I was being dismissed because our company had a deal go south, and “we need to cut costs wherever we can.” And while his reasons were indeed factual; when you do what I do, companies don’t look at your presence as a cost. If you do what I do, and you do it well, (that’s the key) you are viewed as a revenue stream. Smart companies don’t cut revenue streams. I wasn’t let go because of cost cutting, I was fired because I set new standards for incompetency.
I made the mistake that a lot of sales people do; I thought I could sell anything. I was wrong. I knew it was a stretch when I signed up for it, and I knew I was extending myself. What I didn’t know, was how inept I could be at something. It was a learning experience, a learning experience with a company car.
So, I go home on that chilly Monday, and I tell missus Large Man that I don’t have a job, “… but don’t worry.” I tell her, “I’ll be back on my feet in no time.” She smiled at me and shook her head, and then she grabbed both of my hands and pulled me in close and gave me a consoling hug and whispered softly “My parents always said that you would eventually let us down, so I’ve been sort of expecting this day.”
“They really told you that?” I whispered back.
“DUDE, they told everybody!”
So there I was with no job, no prospects, limited talent (and fan base, apparently), and no car. At that point in my life, the only things I’d ever done with any success was to anger and disappoint people who were close to me, sell industrial supplies, and I almost never ended a sentence with a preposition. And the selling thing, I was only marginally successful at.
Fortunately, my wife was working, so there was enough money for beer and milk (we needed milk for Kahlua), both kids were in elementary school, (Heaven forbid they should find a job and contribute a little) so they were out of the way, and we had the internet. Things could have been worse. I looked for jobs on-line (got one immediately but had to wait until February to start), painted our house (done in 2 weeks), and shopped for cars. (This took a while)
I am not generally a ‘shopper’ with most of my purchases the ‘buy decision’ will take less than 10 minutes – concept to completion. Last week we bought a new chair for our living room and a new dining room ensemble, and the idea came to us as we were finishing up our lunch at Taco Bell. “Hey, let’s go look at chair for the living room.” 20 minutes later, we were doing paperwork for delivery. I bought a computer for my son last month; 15 minutes on line, two reviews, SOLD! That’s how I roll.
But, I’m not so impulsive when it comes to cars. My automobile needs consideration because it is the vessel that transports my person to revenue generating events and activity. It needs heavy research because I am not a new car buyer; the loss of equity the minute I drive that brand new machine off the lot weighs too heavily on my fiscally conservative soul. At this very moment, my palms are sweating at the thought of it…loss of equity. Also, I can’t afford to buy new because I’m so impulsive and undisciplined in every other money matter…so there you go.
So as my employment start date draws ever near, I consider the things that will be required of my new mode of transport. Of course there is safety, reliability, fuel economy, and other BS that I never really think about; I give those factors about 10 minutes of my valuable time before I start focusing on important things. I have always been a fan of leather interior, polished wooden steering wheels, nice, shiny rims, and a bitchin stereo system. I have also always enjoyed being in a car that has an abundance of cup holders, and I think power seat adjusters are simply the coolest. Because this would be a work car, I could only accept 4 door candidates; this ruled out the Corvette (amazing rims & sound systems available with that car)
I believe that I spent the entire month of January searching for cars – shopping on line, shopping in the newspapers, and visiting every dealership within a 50 mile radius of my Missouri home. I easily sat in, or drove over 100 cars, and not one spoke to me, not one felt like it fit.
The first week of February found me in desperation mode, if not ‘desperation’, I was at least coming to the realization that I was going to have to settle for something. I was going to start my new job on the 11th, and I thought maybe…just maybe, I could possibly force myself to mature beyond the point of inanimate things ‘speaking’ to me. Maybe I should just buy a car, and be done.
Then fate stepped in…
I needed a large, 4 door, American labeled, business sedan; Chevy Impala, Ford Taurus, Buick anything, and that was going to have to be it. I wanted heated leather seats, satellite radio, in something other than black or white, preferably silver, or champagne gold. I wanted a certain look that said “I want be professional, but I’m here to have a good time.”
Despite all the ‘wants, needs and likes’ I was faced with some simple realities: COBRA insurance payments crippled our single income household, and the State of Missouri’s unemployment checks didn’t exactly encourage anyone to stay out of work. I was broke, our credit rating had suffered, and I was going to have to finance the purchase at a ridiculous rate. All my wants and likes had to come in at a number that just didn’t support those wants and likes.
I was on my way to a dealership to work out a deal on a black Taurus that was OK…cloth seats, 45,000 miles, and a price that was within budget. It was a nice, clean car. Just as I was leaving the house, I decided to do “one last search” for exactly what I wanted. And as if the Universe were just waiting to reward me for being mature about the situation, I found a silver blue (I call it “Ice Blue”) 2003 Buick LeSabre, leather seats, clean as a whistle, 18,000 miles, single owner, (I think it was a little old lady who only drove it to church on Sundays) and it was only 30 miles away, advertised as “Just Listed Today!!” I saw it, I loved it, my kids loved it, and I bought it.
The last stressful decision of unemployment had been made; I was done. I would be getting regular paychecks in a couple of weeks, and we could start buying groceries again. To celebrate, I turned on the furnace, and we spent an evening in our home without jackets and hats, or burning our furniture in the fireplace. The car had nothing, directly, to do with these things, but the car was an ice blue trophy awarded to me and my brood for making it through a very troubling time. How could I not love that car?
In fact, I loved that car so much that even though I was trading it in, and its trade in value had already been negotiated, I still spend $30 at a high end car wash in Lancaster PA to make sure it looked its best when I turned over the keys.
That car kept me safe and comfortable, and warm for about 160,000 business miles over the course of 5 years. It took our family to Mt. Rushmore, to the Outer Banks, to Grandpa’s house, and to our new home in PA.
It was more than just a car. It was a business partner. It was a connector to the people I love. It was a reminder that I’m a survivor.
It was a trophy, an ice blue trophy…
Thanks for reading.
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