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From Jonathan Steinmetz's "Taking the Long Way Home," Fall '92 I wasn't sure what kind of car I wanted or how much I was going to spend, so I just headed down to the strip where all the car dealers are located and figured I'd stop at each one. First stop: George Bush Honda. I was greeted by an older gentleman in a blue sports jacket. "It's so nice to meet you. My name is George. What can we do to help you today." "Well, George, I was thinking about maybe an Accord." "That is a great family car. You know, the family is disappearing in this country. No, you don't find a mother and a father and two children anymore. We don't even think that a nice family car like the Accord will be around twenty years from now." "George, what kind of financing is available on that car?" "Well, this happens to be your lucky day. For the last twelve years we've run this nifty little program where you put $99 down and defer the rest of your payments so long that you actually pass them down to your children. "That's right, your ears aren't malfunctioning. You can buy the car and have your children pay for it. It's been the most successful program in the car business for the last twelve years." Then, all of the sudden, George's face turned a pale white color, and his head tilted back. His eyes bulged wide, and his head heaved forward at close to the speed of sound. Gobs of vomit landed all over my face. George apologized profusely, but in my eyes he already had one strike against him. His assistant, Dan, came out to pinch hit while George cleaned himself off. Dan quickly shoved a business card in my face. J. Danforthe Quail Hondah Sails Reprasentetive This Dan guy was really getting on my nerves because all he wanted to talk about was how I went to Penn and Murphy Brown went to Penn, and how that was just so neat and did I know she never graduated and that he did so that made him smarter than her? He even told me someday he hopes to open up his own dealership. I told Dan to enjoy it while he could, because in November the dealership might have a sudden downturn in business. I left the dealership without so much as a test drive. My next stop was Bill Clinton Chevrolet-Geo. The moment I entered the showroom, a slick young salesman dressed in a gray suit approached me. This guy looked like a natural-born car salesman "Hi, my name's Willie. What can I do to help you today," he said cheerfully, extending his arm. "Nice to meet you Willie, my name's Jon," I said. "I'm not real sure what kind of car I want. What do you recommend?" "I think you look like you might want a well-built reliable vehicle." "To tell you the truth, Willie, I was looking for a lemon, but now that you mention it, well-built and reliable might be kind of nice." "What do you think of the Corvette Convertible? Sportiest car on the road. I'd drive one myself, you know, but I have a wife and daughter and I really prefer a car with a big backseat. But your young, and single I assume, so this might be the perfect car for you. Unless of course you need that backseat for other kinds of activities." "Nah, Willie, that's what beds are for. The price is a little steep for me. Why don't we try a Lumina and go for a test drive?" "You know, that's an excellent choice. Practical, safe, reliable. Those sports cars are very dangerous. You struck me as a logical kind of guy the moment you walked through the door." Willie and I hopped in the car. I started her up and proceeded to drive around the block while Willie spouted off the attributes of the car. I offered Willie a cigarette, but he declined. He said he tried to smoke once and couldn't get the hang of it. We went back to the dealership and Willie introduced me to his assistant Al. Willie informed me that Al's wife Tipper, and his wife Hillary, helped out at the dealership sometimes. Al then told me how environmentally safe the vehicle was. Having more interest in the stereo system, I turned the nob to drown out Al and Willie. Guns 'N Roses began blaring out of the speakers. Suddenly, Al's face turned beat red. "Al, what's wrong?" Willie asked. "Just thank God, Willie. Thank God my wife wasn't around to see that I had that Guns 'N Roses tape in the car. I don't know what would have happened. I would have paid the price for weeks." "Don't worry Al, if she ever shuts you out, just come to Uncle Willie, I'll give you the number of this great girl I know. Just bring her some flowers and she's yours for years." "Thanks Willie. Hey, Willie, you might want to take those condoms out of the glove box of that Lumina. And that picture of your daughter blown up to 24 x 36 that's on the wall of your office. Neither one is helping us sell any more cars. " Al, I'm going to England next week. I want you to take over. Things could get rough. Auditors are coming to check out our records, and I figure I might as well be out of the country when the shit hits the fan." The next dealership on the strip was Ross Perot Ford. I walked up to the front of a dormant looking dealership, and read the sign. "Ross Perot Ford is temporarily closed. We could open up at any moment, so please wait outside. A volunteer will be glad to serve you some lemonade while you wait." Just as I finished reading the sign, the doors opened. Out popped this short gentleman wearing a suit, and sporting an ear-to-ear grin. "Howdy, muh nayme's Ross Perot. We have just reopened for business. Now I don't run this place -- you as my customer, and these fine volunteers, run the show. Just tell me what you want. "If you want a used car or truck from Ross Perot Ford then you'll get one. If you don't buy one, then we'll have to shut back down. "That's alright with me though. I'm not in the car business for myself. "I'm in it for the American people. Thirteen years ago, somebody stole one of my customer's cars and took it to Iran. That's right, a brand new Ford Escort. So what did I do? I went over to Iran and rescued that car. "I make that same guarantee to you. If your car is stolen and taken to Iran, I'll go over there and personally get it back for you." This Ross guy was just too unbelievable for me, so I took my tired, weary body back to my dorm room. I just didn't have the strength to go to Buchanan-Duke Mercedes, Audi, BMW. Jonathan Steinmetz is a Wharton sophomore from West Palm Beach, Florida. "Taking the Long Way Home" appears alternate Fridays.

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