Column: The Car Salesman

This column first appeared in the Lancashire Evening Post.

It is Tuesday and I am pretending to know things about cars.

“I’ve found a nice one,” my girlfriend had said, “a red Ford Focus, just out of town. Will you come with me to have a look?”

I am a modern man. I like Great British Bake Off and regularly cry at DIY SOS. But to admit to your girlfriend that you know nothing of cars, beyond the fact they have wheels and that the indicator ticking noise becomes annoying after a while, would be a potentially fatal blow to the limited masculinity I possess.

When it comes to pretending to know what’s going on, I am king. It is decided. There was no hesitation. I shall lie.

“Absolutely,” I said with great enthusiasm, “what’s the spec?”

The path of life has taught me many lessons and one is to always remain vague. Terms like ‘spec’, ‘ratio’ and ‘velocity’ play out well and leave options open.

“I’m not sure,” she said with suspicion and she clicked to the next page on the website, “ah yes, it’s a 1.0 EcoBoost.”

I stroked my chin and looked away into the distance, pretending to ponder these alien words and numbers. Vague is king.

And so here we are. The deep end of a second hand car garage and I am owning it. An earlier google search had armed me with all I need. I was throwing out car terms like a young, less detestable Jeremy Clarkson.

“Nice active suspension system”, “Looks like it’d have good aerodynamic drag” and my favourite of all, “Cracking Axel Tramp.” Which isn’t, it turns out, the name of an American soft-rock band.

But no sooner have I cracked my band name gag than my blagging is pierced.

“Morning guys!” comes a chirpy voice as a young man, his grey plastic suit a little tight around the middle, strides out into the forecourt and cuts through me like a knife.

This is a car salesman. He knows cars. He sells cars. He will smell a fraud a mile away.

One wrong step and this man will surely pull my masculinity from under me like a carpet. He will take my dignity and my girlfriend. He will win her affection with his knowledge of catalytic converters and they’ll jump into the red Ford Focus and ride off into the sunset, leaving me behind in a cloud of dust.

“You like the Ford Focus?” he says and our battle commences.

“Yeah we do,” I say as casually as I can and I reach for one of my vaguest of vague terms, “it’s got good aerodynamic drag.” I grab and hold my hips, like people do when they’re in control of a situation.

“Yes. They’ve really worked on that.” He says with a nod.

I can practically taste the sweet feeling of landing a blow as my girlfriend turns and smiles affectionately at me. That’s right, pal, I know where my hips are and I know about aerodynamic drag.

“And a cracking Axel Tramp!” I declare, striding around the car, owning the forecourt. His forecourt.

“Huh,” he grunts as he pulls back his head, tightens his lips and dips his brow in confusion.

I stop in my tracks. Oh God. This is it. He has me. I am finished. He knows I am a fraud. This car has no Axel Tramp. He’s probably about to tell us that’s an American soft-rock band.

He turns and opens his mouth, ready to land his punch.

“I don’t think…” he begins, then stops. Looks at my girlfriend. He knows this is his for the taking. Then to me. A quick up and down before landing on my eyes. My eyes plead with his. Don’t do this. You don’t have to do this.

“I… erm… I don’t think I’ve checked that bit out yet” he says with a wink and a nod of head.

In the throngs of battle, this great man has shown the ultimate compassion. He has spared me a fatal blow of humiliation.

“It sounds more like an American soft-rock band!” I say and he laughs the hardest.

I think to myself, as we drive into the sunset, perhaps there are good people left in the world.

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By Darryl Morris

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