Wheelin and Dealin

The wife calls me and says the car is acting funny. Funny. Every time the car decides to get humorous, it means a somewhat lengthy stay at our mechanic’s humor clinic. I had decided awhile back that we needed a means of transportation that had a more serious frame of mind. This latest laugh just sealed the deal.

Since growing up in Minnesota, it has been imperative that anything we drive can handle snow and ice. Noobs from the South bring their whiny 2 wheel drives up North, and are often seen stuck in their own driveway. The quick among them learn, and by the next winter, only 4 months away, they are sporting a 4 wheel drive.

KiaWe’ve owned various SUVs, and they have served us well in all of our wanderings. Our current ride was a Kia Sportage. Truth be told, I had to have my arm bent the wrong way to get this one in our name. The Mrs had gotten a bug up the wrong way and decided our kid needed to buy our old car, so she could get a newer, bigger, better one. Sometimes, all you can do is say “Yes, dear.”  It was newer and bigger, but I was never convinced it was better.

Early on, we detected its yen for chuckles. The cruise control, which I believe is Gods gift to highway driving, decided to only work once in awhile, and then not at all. Turns out, there was an ever so slight crinkle in the left rear bumper area, and those fun loving, whacky engineers had decided to route the wiring of the cruise control through the rear bumper and the left tail light. Funny. This was about a week after buying it, and when the Mrs took it up with the used car salesman, he was all, “who are you, again?” I did not give her the “Told You So” look, ‘cause I probably would have gotten punched. Swedes are so quick to violence.

And so, it became this and that, until I was “up with which I would not put” (ancient family verbiage – never end a sentence with a preposition). I gave her the nod, the Mrs went into car buying mode. Yes, I should have learned my lesson from the last purchase, but sometimes all you can say is “Yes, dear.” She became relentless, scouring the internet. So much so, I had to get my own beer out of the fridge. I know, right?

For the last couple of years, all I have heard is Ford Escape coming out of her mouth, when talking of Dodge-Truckcars. To me, one SUV is like the next. I drive a Dodge truck that I got out of the salvage yard 17 years ago. I am a man of simple needs. She, on the other hand, well who can say really?

Ford-EscapeA Ford Escape was located in the town where we work. Back when you were a kid, and watched those nature shows, the predator lifts its nose to wind and picks up a scent, ever so slight. You know how it ends, a flash of teeth, blood and gore. It was like that, except without the blood and gore part. Earlier, our mechanic had called and said he could not find anything wrong with Mr Funny SUV. We went to pick it up, and I told him I had given my wife a simple instruction. Don’t come home until you have a different vehicle. His concern was, what if it took longer than a day? I told him, it’s cool, I got beer in the fridge. He shrugged and said that was as good as a sammich, so yah, I was good for a day or 2. The Mrs was unconcerned. She had already picked up a scent.

An initial recon was made to a local dealer, and she tried the classic misdirection approach to throw off the prey’s instinct to panic and run. Sadly, she could not make the kill that day, and I let her ride home with me that evening. I’m a big ole softy.

Friday morning comes and we have a busy day planned. The Mrs has her last dental appointment with Jessica at the Rogers Family Dental clinic. The whole bunch are great people and we are considering coming down to Kansas every 6 months to get our teeth cleaned. I have to pick up an image disk of the MRI I had yesterday of my shoulder, and then off to the Chiropractor, and have him laugh at my hunch back ways. Everybody funny, huh, now you funny too. A George Thorogood lyric that gets used in our family quite often.

She heads off to her appointment and has a great time. Jessica was telling her about some psychological mumbo jumbo that goes like this. Men and women are different. Wow, how ‘bout that. Wait, there’s more. Women tend to think and network and do things, and not get drawn in too deeply to any one task. So basically, they don’t get cranky when you interrupt them doing something. Like I said, hand wavy stuff. Men tend to get too focused on the task at hand, like killing the Mastadon and bringing the meat home for the wife and kids, or building pyramids or putting men on the moon, that kind of stuff. Women’s thought patterns are kind of like a ball of yarn or twine, while men put all their thoughts in separate boxes and spend a lot of time opening and closing boxes. Women just smile and say “please try to keep up, there’s a good boy.” What a bunch of hooey. Dear Jessica, I’ll take a variation of the Fence joke, and define myself outside the box.

So, I’m sitting at the Chiropractor’s, getting buzzed and iced, I noticed the Mrs drive up in a grey SUV and thought it was still our old Kia. Nope, she came in and said she wanted to show me something. Oh, fooling me is she? Huh, kinda looks like what we already have. A little more square, bigger and darker gray. Lots newer and lots more expensive. My eyes get squinty when we spend lots of money. Since I was looking vaguely oriental from the last car purchase, I guess a little more squint would just add to the mystery. She said a few more papers had to be signed and it’s ours. She’s a known master of understatement, so I knew better than that.

I went back to work in my old dusty, noisy Dodge, and she zoomed off with her latest trophy. About 20 minutes later, I get a call and it’s her saying “Um, they need a copy of your drivers license.” Uh, huh. This is how it starts. I said fine, and headed over to the dealership. I’m at an age where just about everything that comes out of my mouth is bemused sarcasm. Actually, I’ve always talked that way, but now, with a little gray around the ears, I have gravitas. It tends to melt the special snowflakes among us and annoy hipsters. You have to find your joy in life where you can, and what’s better than that.

It was a lady car dealer. Sometimes you have to watch those kind, from the safety of your box, (see above) more than likely. She noted my accent as she took my license. I had the voice track in the Northern neutral position. It is easier to deploy Minnesota Nice from a position of power. We parried back and forth until she announced that we now get to talk to the magic man. This being Kansas, I was half expecting the Wizard of Oz to pop out from behind a curtain. No, just the loan guy. I sort of tilted my head to the side, to check for flying monkeys, as he walked up. Nothing yet. He gave me a questioning glance and then hustled us into his office to begin the transaction. While he chatted us up, he was putting document after document in front of us, “just sign here.” We got to a pause, while he printed all the forms and popped out with, “How ‘bout that movie Fargo?” I dropped the voice track into full Minnesotan, north of Bemidji, and put the shift lever into low lock.

All native Minnesotans are bilingual. What I mean is, we can talk all normal, with just a lilt of north in our voices. When called upon, at a moment’s notice, we can drop into a most brutal brogue of an amalgam of Swede, Norwegian, Finlander, German and few Pollocks thrown in for color. It frightens mere mortals into a respectful silence. So when the great and wonderful Oz, the finance guy, dropped the Fargo comment, I responded with “Fargo’s in Nort Dakota, Moorhead’s in Minnesota. Da whole movie was an ironic joke on those dat watched it.” He was taken aback and a bit more subdued in the next few documents. But how do you live in perpetual snow and cold,” he asked. “A good dog, a warm woman and bottle of peppermint schnapps to keep the snow snakes from biting,” I responded. He glanced at my wife, just now noticing she was still in prey mode, and decided to not make any more sudden movements.

The golden moment arrived, the one where our mechanic said to choose wisely. What type of warranty did we want to burden ourselves with? The platinum plan, gold plan and some sort of dingy copper thing. The platinum plan covered everything, up to almost driving it for us, but added about a dollar a day to the cost. The gold and copper deals didn’t come even close to wiping your nose for you. The Mrs was pensive, wanting to close the deal, but Swedes can be dithery at moments like this. I gave her a moment of dithering, and told Oz “we will do da platinum ting der den.” The mechanic in my head smiled, Oz smiled, the wife let out the breath she was holding, and I caught a movement just out of the side of my vision. I thought the dude’s got his flying monkeys queuing up, and I gave him a look that told him I knew. He played it cool.

Well, we signed a rather large chunk of blood, sweat and tears for this new-used set of wheels. The upside was I would never have to invest in my mechanic’s retirement again. The down side is more car payments. Could be worse, I guess. We got up and headed for the door. I heard something about pictures and I gave a look to the wife that I was rollin’, and she nodded and ran with it. As they were slapping her on the back and handing her the key, I was unloading stuff from our old car into the new car. I had just closed the lid on the new car and everybody was coming down the steps. I headed resolutely to my truck and some dude, with a camera, put his hand up to slow me down. “Hang on, we’ve got to get a picture” he was saying. “No pictures” I said, “the witness protection program is harsh on pictures, dude.” The look he got on his face was just about worth the price of the whole deal. His eyes got big, and he almost stumbled as his head tracked my movement past him. I saw him mouthing “witness protection program” as I breezed past. It was hard keeping a straight face, but I made it to my truck without loosing it. I fired up my old pickup and headed out of the lot. I noticed the Mrs getting a huge box of fireworks put in the new car and wondered what that was about.

The deal was, if you buy a car, they throw in a large box of fireworks. When she got home, first thing I didFireworks was lug that box out of the car. 45 pounds of things that go boom, and payments on a vehicle for a bit longer than I wanted. A bit of ying for a bit of yang. We’ve got a better vehicle, the dealer has a boat load of stories to tell about the last sale they made. I think it was a fair trade. You don’t always get what you want, but almost always get what you need. And now we can use our Ford to Escape Kansas.


  1. Wahoo for the Ford to Escape Kansas! i think I know a dental staff that would be willing to make house visits to Minnesota if there were some sort of fishing/outdoor excursions in exchange!

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