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Baby You Can Drive My War

July 21, 2004
By Rick Hamel

I knew a fella once… Fred was his name. One day an acquaintance told him of a dandy red sedan for sale at the dealership his Daddy had bequeathed to him in a nearby town.

This acquaintance, who folks called "Junior" because he shared a name with his Daddy, told Fred that he really ought to buy that car while it was still available, because it was bound to go "just about any day now!"

Now Fred knew, as did about half the folks in town, that old Junior didn't know diddly about cars - but he did hang with that crowd of employees of his at the car-lot who were widely reputed to be automotive experts.

Fred tried explaining to Junior that he didn't really need a new car. He didn't have all that many places he needed to go for one thing, and he couldn't afford it for another.

Fred figured that oughta pretty much close the case but Junior just wouldn't let up about that car. Seemed every time he turned around, there was Junior or one of his expert employees talking up that danged car and showing off pictures and drawings of it.

Fred allowed as how the pictures weren't all that good, but Junior just kept pointing at 'em and saying "Look closer, Fred! Ain't she a beauty?"

Fred admitted that when he squinted a little it didn't look half-bad, at that.

"It gets near 50 miles to the gallon, that car! And that price just can't be beat!" crowed one employee. "It has all the latest features… dual-zone climate control, CD player with a 30 disc changer, front and side-impact airbags, onboard navigation system, it's just loaded!" cooed another.

Old Junior chimed in "And don't forget, Fred… it's red. Your favorite color! I'm tellin' you right now, you'd best go down there and buy it before it sells because I've had a number of offers. If you let this one go you'll be making a big mistake!"

Now this went on for a number of days, then weeks, then months. Human nature being what it is, old Fred finally succumbed to the sales pitch of Junior and his car-lot cronies and took the bus down to the dealership, and there sat the car they'd been showing him all the pictures of these last few months.

Standing there in front of it, Fred couldn't help but notice that it was indeed red - just not as shiny as he'd expected from all the talk and those poor-quality pictures. One thing was certain, though - for all they'd said this car promised the price was pretty darned good. Them neon green stickers on the windshield said "$1000" sure enough, and that was a relative bargain.

To be sure though, Fred double-checked it with Junior.

"Just a thousand bucks for this car that gets 50 miles to the gallon and has all that neat stuff?" he asked.

"'Zactly what it says on the windshield, ol' pard!" said Junior reassuringly.

"Why in the heck did it not sell yet?" Fred asked suspiciously.

"Well shoot, Fred," drawled Junior. "I guess you're just a lucky guy, because I'd have sworn it would have gone faster'n that. I gotta warn you though, you need to jump right now because I can't hold 'em off for another day."

Fred thought long and hard, and looked at his checkbook and shook his head. "I just don't have the cash, Junior."

That old Junior - he never even stopped grinning. He was ready for that one. "Just let me have a credit card number, pal… I'll let you charge her on account of the hurry we're in because of imminent customers and all."

Fred thought just a second more then fished out his Mastercard and handed it to Junior.

Junior handed Fred the key and strode off towards the office. "Whyn't you take her for a spin out the old county road while I do up the paperwork?" he shouted over his shoulder.

"Well, why not?" thought Fred and hopped in and fired it up.

He shot out of the lot and headed right on Main, grabbed the county road at the four-way and once he was out of town opened up the throttle.

"Hot dawg!" he thought. "This thing flat steps out!" He settled back in the seat and smiled, pretty pleased with himself. It was getting a bit warm. He looked around for the climate controls, but found nothing but a slide control for the heater and defroster.

He rang up Junior on his cellphone. "Hey, Junior… your folks said this car had dual-zone climate controls and it don't even appear to have air!"

He heard a mumbled conference between Junior and his employees. Junior came back on and said "See that crank on the door panel?"

Fred looked. "You mean the window crank?"

"Yup!" said Junior. "My experts here tell me that at one time that could have been used for air… is there one of them cranks on the other door?"

"Well, yeah," stammered Fred, "but… but…"

"Yup!" came the reply. "Just like we told you. Dual zone air!"

Fred was of a mind to get good and mad about now, but had other things to think about because the engine started to sputter and then stalled. He looked in disbelief at the needle on the fuel gauge. When he'd pulled out of the lot it had been pointing proudly at the "F," but now after barely ten miles it sagged dispiritedly just below "E."

He called the car-lot again. "Dang it, Junior! I ain't gone but ten miles and I went through a whole tank of gas! What about all that 50 miles per gallon talk?!"

"Easy, Fred… that was based on some earlier estimates which could have understandably been off because we haven't been able to actually take the car out and verify 'em. None of us can drive a standard transmission."

"Why didn't you ask someone to check it for you?" demanded Fred.

"We started to, Fred, but then we figured they'd probably do the dang math wrong. We decided we just couldn't trust it to someone else."

Fred heard the dialtone next.

He called the number for the auto-club and informed them of his predicament.

"Sounds like you got yourself in a real mess, sir. You should have been more careful. Tell you what, we'll get there if we can, but no promises, hear? Your policy doesn't cover actual stupidity."

There came that damned dialtone again. So much for outside help. The auto-club guy was right though. He'd brought it on himself so he was stuck with working it out.

Fred decided to listen to his CD player while he waited for a passerby to bail him out. To his dismay he found nothing but a radio… AM at that!

"Damn it all, Junior!" he shouted into his cellphone. "Where in the blue blazes is that CD player you told me this car had?"

Junior was starting to sound testy now. "You take that radio outta that dashboard and you'll see a rectangular hole with a mess of wires, Fred… anyone could tell you that's what experts call a 'dual-use' hole! Any idjit could see that!"

"Well where's my on-board navigational system?" Fred sputtered.

"Map in the glovebox," came the reply.

"What about the safety features? I don't see no airbags!" shouted Fred.

Junior snapped, "Do me a favor, Fred. See if the horn works."

HONK!

"I could hear it plumb over the phone, Fred."

Fred yelled back "That ain't no airbag… it's a damned horn, Junior!"

"Correction…" Junior said. "That there's a safety feature. Ask any of my automotive experts."

Old Fred was fuming now. "You know what, Junior? I've played this game about as long as I care to. I want my thousand bucks back!"

"Ummm, Fred… about the bill. After you left we discovered a few 'zero' stickers had blown off the windshield. About four of 'em, actually."

"WHAT!" exploded Fred. "You're trying to tell me I'm paying ten million dollars for this piece of crap?!"

"Not 'trying to tell', Fred… 'told'. All sales are final. That's just how it is. You should've read the fine print."

"But - but Junior… my grandkids will be paying for this car years from now!" moaned Fred.

"No problem, pal… I know they're good for it! Look, don't get too down over this. You're just looking at the negatives. Think about the positive stuff," said Junior consolingly.

"What positive stuff?" wailed Fred.

"Just look at the big picture. My car-lot's a better place now that sedan is gone… and no one can deny that the car's not red!"

Fred hung up. Junior had said that last so convincingly that Fred started to admit to himself that it was a pretty nice shade of red after all.

Just then there was a flash of lightning and the rain started to pour down in buckets. Fred watched sadly as crimson rivulets ran off the sides of his once red but obviously soon to be flat black jalopy.

"Hell… even that turned out to be a lie."

He turned his back on the evidence of his foolishness and started the long walk back through the rain, leaving his once flashy wheels for the buzzards… if they'd have it.

The moral of this story of course is meant for those among us who would buy cars, or for that matter wars, from Junior and that cracker-jack staff of his. It's too late to do anything about that 2003 Baghdad, but take my word for it… Junior and the boys have a 2005 Tehran and they'd just love to put you behind the wheel. Caveat emptor.

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