In Search of a Deal on Wheels

Yesterday, at the car dealership, the car salesman acted quickly.

What do you do? Where are you from? What are you interested in?

I knew from the internet not to tell him what we did — that he was trying to suss out what kind of money we had. But responding to a direct question with a polite answer is ingrained in me. How could I look away? There was a window to look out of, but, still, I said, “Oh. I’m a writer and he’s in marketing.” I said marketing because it sounded potentially lucrative. But then Dustin went and ruined it. I imagine he did not like this idea of himself as a marketer without “book” in front of it, to neutralize the raw capitalism of it.

“I work in publishing,” he said. Dammit, I thought to myself.

“The wife of my colleague does writing for the blogs,” the car salesman volunteered, “She does surprisingly well for herself.”

Did he call his coworker a colleague? It was something like that. “My buddy in the office.” It wasn’t coworker. It wasn’t competitor.

“It’s worked out really well for her,” might have been what he said. Something to mean ‘she actually does make money,’ or, ‘this field sounds embarrassing but she is happy and successful.’ Maybe I knew her, I thought after. But I didn’t tell him I write for ‘the blogs,’ too. I thought about other occupations I could have assigned myself. Maybe a copywriter. Maybe he didn’t care what I did. Maybe I was the mom. I thought about this as I stuffed a pacifier back into my son’s mouth.

Dustin effused about the car and I wondered if we weren’t supposed to do that. These dynamics are exhausting, where you are at odds with the other person and you both know it. When we were done, having accomplished nothing, I felt like I needed a nap.

Afterward I asked Dustin if he heard me tell the guy that we weren’t sure yet if we were going to pay cash or do financing. He said no, which was disappointing. It was my big victory. We will be paying cash, I know that. But I read on the internet that you aren’t supposed to tell people that so I, crusher of the patriarchy, holder of the power, said, “Oh, we aren’t sure yet.”

“Oh, you aren’t sure yet,” he mirrored back.

“Yes,” I said.

We avoided each others’ gaze, staring out into our respective corners of the parking lot. I’m sure I hesitated in a way that showed my hand. I’m sure by saying, “We don’t know yet,” it was clear that we would pay cash but had read on the internet that you aren’t supposed to say that. I keep wondering when we will say it. I have heard of the four quadrants of financing and I almost want to engage in it, to take it to the mattresses (does this mean murdering someone?), and then to wave my hand on the showroom card table, swiping the paperwork off of the table. I want to take a swig of the water bottle and say, “GOTCHA! WE’RE PAYING CASH!”

When he showed us the cars I wanted to jump in and fiddle with things in a way that showed I knew what I was doing, that I was a discerning car person. “Oh, I see this KNOB isn’t up to snuff,” I wanted to say and then cross my arms over my chest.

“Yes, well, that’s fair,” he’d say, and shake my hand. “I can see you are a discerning car person. Nothing gets by you.”

This did not happen. We rode around in the car and we liked it and I said to Dustin, “Of course we aren’t buying this.” Why? I don’t know. Because if we don’t buy it, we win the power struggle. He tried to sell it to us and we said no. I liked that feeling.

Plus what were we doing anyway, putting thousands of dollars into a thing we needed and liked — but did we really need it and like it? How the hell should I know. I am not a discerning car person.

Today though, I want to be done with it. I saw one car, I want to throw money at it. I want this problem out of my face. I came out of the bedroom just now and asked Dustin for the car salesman’s business card. As I was feeding the baby I was strategizing how much I’d offer him. Ten percent less than I want to pay. This is like negotiating for a salary in reverse, but the beauty of it is I never have to see this guy again. I am not afraid of him, I don’t care if we get this car. It’s not urgent. What’s urgent is that I don’t open another goddamn tab about cars.

Of course this is not what we’ll do because Dustin will save me from myself. He has the business card so I can’t sneak off and make a major purchase with the impetuosity with which I do all big things. “Okay,” I said, “But I don’t want to Google this for the rest of our LIVES.”

What I want to know is: How much will we drive this car; how much do we need it; will it break down; will I five years into the future kick myself for not buying a newer one; will we bankrupt ourselves in the coming months; will I kick myself, thinking of the money we spent on this car — this station wagon? Will I do well for myself on the blogs? Should we have financed? How much is a warranty worth? What are the 120 points in the 120-point inspection?

Photo: The Library of Virginia

Support The Billfold

The Billfold continues to exist thanks to support from our readers. Help us continue to do our work by making a monthly pledge on Patreon or a one-time-only contribution through PayPal.