Count on Rodney to ruin a fine romance. “I just thought you should know,” he said as I opened up the lockbox to find the keys for our only four-cylinder, five-speed Probe, “that I screwed your up.”
“You screwed me up?” It wouldn’t be the first time; he’d recently driven a new Taurus headfirst into our “JBL: The Sound Of Ford” display while trying to manuever it out of the showroom, approximately four hours before I was scheduled to deliver it to its new owner.
“No, I screwed your up. The girl sitting at your desk. With the hairy forearms.” Come to think of it, her forearms did have a fair amount of remarkably dark hair on them. “She still thinks my name is Cleveland Washington or something like that. We hit it off right in the club bathroom, like I am known to do.” And yes, indeed, Rodney was rather infamous for anonymous tile-surrounded sex. There were five waitresses who worked the late shift at our local Waffle House. Rodney had violated two of them on the women’s sink over the past year and was working a third with all the patience of a champion bass fisherman. “You know what it means when a girl has hairy forearms.”
“I really don’t.” So he told me. Well, I should have realized that.
The second-generation Probe was probably the best car to come out of the long, difficult Ford-Mazda relationship. In six-cylinder GT form, it was almost ridiculously satisfying to drive, combining tasteful styling, solid interior design, and a lovely snorting sound from the small-bore V6. Even today, one will occasionally see a Probe GT take an SCCA regional autocross win. Good car.
One problem: it was not an easy car to insure. Not only were they stolen at a rate that occasionally exceeded the daily production of Probes at Flat Rock’s AutoAlliance plant, the GT was quick enough to make a big mess when it crashed. Somebody at Ford had the brilliant idea of making a four-cylinder Probe that looked like a six-cylinder one, and the Probe SE was born. We sold them for about fifteen grand, when we could get them. It was a great car to drive, and although it was no Probe GT, it was considerably more stylish than, say, the Escort GT sitting next to it on the lot for $13,100.
We didn’t actually have a Probe SE on the lot, but our locator program said there was a blue one about 100 miles north of us and that it was a “friendly” dealer. Smaller dealerships like ours were usually willing trade partners; the three large Columbus, Ohio dealerships almost never honored a request. Why should they? If you’re “floorplanning” a thousand Fords on your lot, why make your inventory available to the shop with fifty-five cars in stock?
Our general manager, Glenn, was out, so his underling, Tony, was eager to make a deal. There were no real obstacles. The girl was an “A Plan” customer, meaning she paid the employee rate thanks to a father who worked at a Ford plant. She wanted a blue one, and that was the one we could get. Off we went to the finance office. Did I mention that this young woman, despite being rather hairy of appendage, was classically beautiful in a very Armenian fashion? She was so good-looking I had trouble speaking around her, and she made a point of mentioning that she was single.
“You know,” Rodney whispered in my ear while the F&I guy did his magic, “that if you go d…” Here, dear readers, he conjured up what we could call a “chain of custody” involving the order in which his, hers, and my body parts might have interacted and might potentially interact, with the end result being the implication that I would, by proxy, be retroactively servicing him. It is a measure of the customer’s mind-bending good looks that I was not entirely deterred by this.
Thirty minutes later she was out of F&I. “How’d it go?” I inquired of our finance guy.
“Total stone.” This was dealership argot for “credit criminal who wouldn’t qualify for a prepaid MasterCard.”
“Not a problem. Dad called in and signed. All done.” And with that, I delightedly shook my new customer’s hand, looking deeply into her eyes so as not to notice her arms.
Three days later, it was delivery day. I’d worn my better shoes for this one and ironed my pants. The appointed time arrived, as did she… without Dad. Tearfully, she told me that she and her father had been through some personal problems. He had evicted her from his trailer (!!) and was refusing to sign. But she badly wanted the car… so badly! What could I do?
Well, dear readers, I could do nothing. Over the next six hours, our F&I guy called in every favor known to man. Meanwhile, the general manager called me into his office.
“If that car doesn’t leave tonight, don’t come in tomorrow. You let your (worse instincts) lead your head around.” Nine o’clock came and went as the phone rang back with denials. Finally, around ten thirty at night, a West Coast lender called in. The deal was structured in a manner I still don’t understand to this day. I lost my commission, the girl bought a six-year extended warranty, her payments went from $310 a month to $459. The initial disclosure of that payment caused her to run out of the dealership crying, but she was eventually coerced back in to sign the papers.
And all that remained was to get her father, who would not sign any loan documents, to at least sign the “A Plan” authorization. Three weeks later, my wife and I used my “day off” to drive my F-150 demo two and a half hours into the deep Ohio wilderness. Back we went, off the paved roads, to a gravel track and up a steep hill. I was in mild fear for my personal safety as I knocked lightly on the crooked door.
“WHAT DO YOU WANT?” A gruff man’s voice.
“Ah, Sir,” I said, every syllable coming out sounding more and more like the prissy doctoral student I desperately wanted to in no way resemble at this particular moment, “I have this document…”
“GIVE IT HERE!” The door cracked open and a tattooed arm snaked out. There was a pause, a scratching noise, and it was shoved back out at me, with the “PIN code” filled out and, amazingly, an “X” on the signature line. It took me a terrified moment to realize that Dad had made his mark, so to speak. He was illiterate. But how did the numbers get there? “TAKE IT AN’ GIT OUT!” I heard giggling, low, sexy. It had to be the daughter… then I heard the man laugh. Oh boy.
By the time I reached the door of my truck, it was plain that the two occupants of the trailer were having noisy, extremely satisfying sexual intercourse. “Why are you smiling?” my wife asked as I fired up the straight-six and reached into the cupholder.
“Imagine that these two Coke bottles are anatomically correct dolls,” I said to her, “and I’m going to explain what Rodney, in a sense, has had in his mouth.”