Over the years, I've heard every "used car salesman" joke in the book. None were terribly flattering. Most gave me pause.
My dad was a car salesman.
As a kid, I couldn't understand the jokes about con artists, crooks, rip-offs and the likes. And I didn't understand the visual that was usually associated with the stereotype because my dad did not wear wild plaid jackets and he never smoked a stinky cigar.
When I was older, I realized there are all types of car salesmen and my dad was one of the good guys. Sure I'm his daughter, but Dad literally sold cars to three generations of families and never, to my knowledge, had an unsatisfied customer. Living in a small town where everyone knows everybody's business, I'm pretty sure I would have heard about it if he had.
There were perks of being a car salesman's daughter. Dad always drove a nice car with that new car smell and he was more than happy to drive my friends and me to school every morning. And my mom always drove nice, very reliable used cars that never so much as had a flat tire.
But there was one disadvantage to having a dad in the car business and that came when it was time to buy my first car in 1978.
Finally brave enough to get my driver's license at age 19, I was sure I'd be able to get a great deal-- ala the "Daddy Discount", on a hip, hot looking, red sports car with the whopping $800 I'd saved.
Dad had other ideas.
In selecting a "good used car" for me, Dad surrounded me with a lot of metal so it was ultra safe and would hold up well in the inevitable new driver fender-bender. That translated to a very used 1972 Dodge Dart.
There was nothing hip or cool about it despite it being red. It was an old person's car. A boring car. With a little rust. And, and, and, it was so very ugly and big and not my idea of a cool car.
I wanted to cry but that wasn't an option. I knew that even though I was 19 and even though I was buying it with all my own money, this was the car I was going to get. Period. Dad had spoken and red Dodge Dart was parked in our driveway.
My family name their cars-- All are bestowed with an affectionate name that the car is regularly referred to. We've had Teddy, Harry, Cosmo, Betty, Madonna, and Big John to name a few. I named my ugly red Dodge Dart-- Unfortunate.
Just to put this in perspective-- Remember Al Bundy's ugly car on "Married With Children"??? A Dodge Dart. (I rest my case.)
I hated that car. Seriously-- I really, really hated it, but my friends loved it! After years of them driving me around it was my turn. Since it was big with four doors it was easy for my galpals to pile in the backseat without messing up their disco dresses.
But.... Unfortunate got me through snow storms, hail, rain and bloody hot and humid Ohio days despite not having air conditioning. It drove me to colleges to visit my friends and to work every day without fail. Other than the (very) occasional oil change, I do not remember it ever being in need of significant repair. And, like Dad said, it even "protected" me in the fender bender I was in-- but was NOT my fault.
By the time the odometer rolled over to 100,000 miles I'd driven Unfortunate for a good five years. It gave new meaning to "it takes a licking and keeps on ticking" but it was one beat up car.
Dad came to my rescue again-- without my even asking. One cold winter night after work, Dad drove home a brand new white Buick Regal and handed me the car keys-- along with the payment book. But it was an affordable payment and the trade-in on Unfortunate was part of the deal.
Dad, being the car salesman he is, knew it was time for an upgrade and a better set of wheels for his second daughter. Honestly, it had not occurred to me that I could afford a new car. But, unknowingly, Dad had been asking me questions and figuring out my finances enough to know that I could swing the cost each month. And he knew I thought the Regal was a "sweet ride".
No, it wasn't a red sports car-- something I've never actually had and eventually didn't want, but it was a dream car compared to Unfortunate and I loved it. As silly as it sounds, I remember this car and the timing as a turning point to "real" adulthood. Not because it was a nice "grown-up" car but because I'd been granted the responsibility of a car loan by a major bank.
As relieved as I was when the Buick was paid off four years later, I was really proud of the accomplishment-- Which I have my car salesman Dad to thank for. Without his insight I'd have eventually driven Unfortunate into the ground and then gotten another very used car purchased with too little cash instead of stepping up and committing to a loan myself. That loan helped me learn how to budget, save and take responsibility of my finances with an eye towards saving money.
So now, when I hear a used car salesman joke, I never take it personally. I smile and think about Unfortunate and the positive experience that car turned out to be for me.
What was your very first car?
Welcome to www.TheFiftyFactor.com - Joanna Jenkins