Sunday 3 February 2008

Riding in Cars with the Machinist

The time has come for our middle Young Adult to buy her first car. When asked what car she would like, she answers “a red one, preferably automatic. Oh, and it must have air conditioning”.
The weather forecast predicted that it would be cooler, with drizzle. Instead, hot, hot sun, bright and high in the sky. Walking from car yard to car yard, made our shoes smell like the rubber on the parked car tyres themselves. For a couple of car yard inspections, I remained in our car, reading the motor sale ads in the paper. Not many of these ads ended up circled, as price almost always dictates what car most of us will end up with.

I reflected on what extent of subterfuge some car dealers used to make sales. On one occasion, we entered a more popular car yard, checked out the best in stock around the front, and then moved to the back where the cheaper, first car owner’s prospective purchases were parked. Not even Tweety, Lighty, or Twiggy could have squeezed between them, so tightly were they crammed together. (What’s with that mindset? If customers can’t get to see the cars, touch them, sit in them, twizzle the steering wheel, pump the clutch, move the sun visor and play with the buttons, how will they be sold?)

As we were leaving said establishment, a young cocky salesman accosted us.

“See anything you like, Sir?” he asks the Machinist. The Machinist, pre-occupied with checking out older styled cars, muttered “We’re just looking, thanks”

“What were you looking for in particular?”

“A small, preferably automatic car and it must have air conditioning”. The Machinist was too much of a woos to tell him it had to be red. Men don’t bother about the colour of a car. Two out of three. Not bad.

An older, sun scorched prune of a man, with an enormous cowboy hat on his head interrupted “You’ve got two chances of finding a small, automatic car: Zero and Buckleys” he uttered, in a legendary Aussie drawl.

Zero and Buckleys? Zero and Buckleys? Nah. Sounded too much like a chain store. Angus and Robertson. Marks and Spencers. Pick and Pay. My mind wandered..... So did my feet – swiftly off the property. Even if they had a red, automatic, economical, small car with air conditioning for $100, I knew I wouldn’t buy it there.

The Machinist obviously felt the same way. He caught up with me. “Did you hear that, Doll? Zero and Buckleys? I knew straight away I wouldn’t buy anything from them. Just that attitude puts me off. They looked like they’ve just arrived in town from the farm”.

No disrespect to farmers. We really appreciate all they do, and how undervalued they are, but these guys didn’t seem to have an idea about customers, discretion, older model cars, and the plight of a young adult looking for her first car. I constantly find it amusing, though, – the way in which we sort of call people names or use (sometimes derogatory) statements about them when they don’t do or say or behave like we would like them to do or say or behave.

Feeling really hot and bothered and fed up and and and and about ready to beg the Machinist to take me for a coffee, and not wanting to look at another car for the next ten years, I suddenly felt revitalised; for there it was – in all it’s classic glory and splendour; a Jaguar. A white one. I knew it was a Jag, not because I’m a boffin at identifying cars, but rather that I love the classics. (After all, my dad had worked for Rolls Royce in Derby, England, as a coded welder).

“Beautiful, isn’t it?” asked the salesman, from his shelter under one of those enormous canvas umbrellas, wiping his dripping face with a white piece of towel. “Would you like to take it for a test drive?”

By this time, the Machinist had joined me. His eyes turned into Betty Davis eyes and became glassy. The Machinist isn’t a man of many words; his body does the talking. It took Zero and Buckleys persuasion to slither into the Jaguar, inhale the fragrance of aged dashboard, engage the chromed, slender gear into the ‘D’ slot, and drive away. I had this insane split second thought to just drive away and not return the classic piece, but fortunately, it was just that; a split second thought. Insane. The Machinist pulled over and ordered me into the driver’s seat. “You look like you belong there, Doll. It suits you. You suit the car”. Great! Old and classic.

The next few minutes were oblivion, as I took my turn behind the imitation wood, small wheel with power steering. I can’t remember much about that short drive at all, other than the fact that we seemed to float down the side streets of the industrial area. I wanted this car. I wanted it bad...

On our reluctant return, Mick the Irish born salesman, (we were now on a first names basis. It’s common in Australia) kept the engine running a while. “Listen to it purr”.

It wasn’t a purring sound, it was more like the snarl of a lactating lioness. Deep, gutsy and throaty. No convincing necessary.

“If we bought this car, it would be pure indulgence. You don’t even consider fuel saving with something like this”, the Machinist declared.

I know. I want it. I still want it. It’s all about me. Machinist, if you’re reading this, I want it.

And what of the middle child’s first new car? Wasn’t that our priority for the day? What chance did the poor girl have once we clapped eyes on the Jaguar?

Zero and Buckleys.

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