The Magic of a New Car

By Jeffery Cohen

I was perfectly happy with the old Plymouth that I had been driving for more than twelve years. I would probably still be behind the wheel, had it not been for the cement truck that plowed into me, turning my car into something resembling an accordion. In the market for a new car, I headed down to the local dealership.

A smiling salesman met me at the door beneath a sign that read, “Come and experience the magic,” a sleek red, sporty sedan pictured below. He spent a few minutes telling me why his cars were the best and most reliable vehicles on the road. Then he invited me out to the lot to take a look at the latest models.

“Make yourself comfortable.” He smiled as he ushered me into the driver’s seat, then he slid in on the passenger side. It was such a tight fit, I felt as if I had squeezed into the cockpit of a fighter jet.

“Is the steering wheel to your liking or would you like to adjust it?” the salesman asked.

“The steering wheel moves?” I was confused.

“Of course. Guess it’s been a while since you bought a new car,” he said as he hit a lever and angled the steering column up and down like a seesaw. Then he pressed buttons that raised, shifted and angled my seat. “Comfy?” he asked. I nodded. “So, start her up.” He grinned.

“The key? I think you forgot the key.” I shrugged, surprised that a car salesman would be so absent minded.

“Just press the button.” He nodded.

“Button? No key?”

“No key. Just press that button.”

So I did, and when I did, a dashboard that rivaled the control panel of the Starship Enterprise lit up. Gauges and dials all came alive. There were levers and switches and buttons. Graphs bounced, colors flashed. I froze, afraid that if I touched any of these gadgets, or even stepped on the gas, the thing would take off like a rocket, and I’d wind up in the stratosphere somewhere.

The salesman, recognizing the panic in my eyes, calmly began to explain just what all the bells and whistles were for. There was the speedometer marking my speed and total mileage – the things that I expected. Oil pressure was checked, outside temperature was measured, how many miles I was getting per gallon calculated. The car read the degree of darkness, and then automatically switched the headlights on and off. A needle measured the rpms, whatever that was, and a gizmo even let me know how much air the tires needed.

“This car is equipped with USB ports” the salesman explained. Before I could ask what the heck a USB port was, he continued. “Of course all of our models are bluetooth compatible.” I thought maybe he had me pegged for a dentist, when he explained that bluetooth compatible meant that I could answer my cell phone by simply pressing a button on the steering wheel.

I explained that I didn’t own a cell phone.

He looked surprised. “You really should have a cell phone.”

“I don’t need one,” I answered.

“What about in an emergency?” he said. “What happens if you’re out driving and you breakdown?”

“If this car is as good as you claim, why would it breakdown?” He just smiled and invited me to take a look at the engine. Now, I have to admit, I don’t really know a whole lot about mechanics, and I think the salesman saw that. I got light-headed just lifting the hood.

So, he described all of the mechanical features – every nut, bolt and piston. Then his eyes lit up. “Oh, and by the way, this engine is equipped to drop out,” he said with great pride.

“Come again,” I said, thinking I hadn’t heard him correctly.

“In the event that you should have a head on collision, the engine will instantly drop out of the car.”

“And…why would it do that?” I asked.

“Ahhh. If the engine drops out, you avoid slamming into the engine block and being crushed!”

“I think I’d just rather have air bags if it’s okay with you.”

“Oh, you can count on plenty of those, too. The engine drop-out is standard.” He smiled.

All and all, the car seemed to have everything I needed and more, especially the things that were important to me – like a great CD player and an AM/FM radio. So we strolled into his office to negotiate.

Negotiating a car price was something I had learned by keenly watching my father manipulate salesman, car after car, year after year. It was always the same. The salesman would tell you the sticker price. You would say it was too high. He would make a counter offer. You would ask one more time for a lower price. That’s when he would tell you he had to check with his manager. Then he would go into a back room, have a cup of coffee, pretend he was negotiating with a superior, then return in five minutes with a final price. Admittedly, it was a game, but I was ready to play.

“Well, here’s our sticker price,” the salesman said, showing me the actual sticker he’d peeled from the car window.

My turn. “Can’t you do a little better than that?”

“Well, maybe I can take a hundred dollars off,” he said, wrinkling his brow.

My turn again. “That’s just not enough.”

“That’s the best I can do,” he explained, folding his hands on his desk.

I was confused. That was it? No counter offer? “Maybe if you talk to your manager?” I suggested.

“Wouldn’t do me any good,” he said. “This is the best price I can give you.”

I figured he was trying the old squeeze play. It was my move. “Okay, then. I’m still looking around. Maybe I’ll try a few more dealerships.” I shrugged and began to head for the door. As I opened it, I heard him call.

“Mr. Cohen?” I turned around, waiting for that final offer. “Good luck. I hope you find what you’re looking for.”

Trying to save face, I left… only to return the following day. There he was, waiting, as if he were expecting me. So we made the deal. As I drove out of the dealership that day, I couldn’t help but remember the first car I’d ever owned. It was a pale blue Pontiac Catalina convertible that I nicknamed the “Blue Moose.” When my Dad bought it for me for two hundred dollars, it was already ten years old, had over a hundred thousand miles on it, a bit banged up, but it was everything I’d ever dreamed of. I tooled around in that old jalopy with the top down, the AM radio blasting, for two months before I blew the engine, top and bottom. For those of you who know little about automotives, like me, it means the engine ran out of oil and turned into a block of melted metal.

As I set the controls and pointed my brand new “spaceship” toward home, I had to laugh. Even with all of its modern conveniences and state-of-the-art technology, it would somehow just never compare to the magic that my first car had for me.

About this writer

  • Jeffery Cohen

    Jeffery Cohen

    Freelance writer and newspaper columnist, Jeffery Cohen, has written for Sasee, Lifetime and Read, Learn, Write. He’s won awards in Women-On-Writing Contest, Vocabula’s Well Written Contest, National League of American Pen Women’s’ Keats Competition, Southern California Genealogy Competition, and Writer’s Weekly writing contest.

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One Response to “The Magic of a New Car”

  1. Linda O'Connell says:

    LOVE this! All those newfangled doohickeys still confuse me. I couldn’t believe my grandson bought a car without a key.

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