Forget the stereotype of teen-age boys tuning up car motors in their garages, customizing a chassis and building a Lamborghini out of spare parts. Our sons are not good with cars. They barely know where to insert the key.
When they buy a secondhand car, they always get the one formerly driven in a car chase by Starsky and Hutch, Rockford, Clint Eastwood or James Bond. The uniqueness of these clunkers is twofold. One, there were only two of them manufactured, so parts are not available, and two, anyone with an ounce of sense would not buy them in the first place.Within weeks after they have purchased the vehicle, reality sets in. They will never be able to support this car and a wife at the same time. They can never plan children, take a vacation, afford a graduate degree, buy retail, get sick or eat out. The upkeep of this car will take all of their money and their energies to keep it running. The decision is made to unload it.
First, they sit around the kitchen table composing an "eye-catching" ad. This becomes the catalyst for one of the strangest tribal rituals in America today . . . the Used Car Dance.
Now comes the weird part. The first day the ad appears, there will be 200 phone calls from people who want to know everything about it. They will take down the address and tell you they will be right out to look at it. Some will even say, "Don't sell it until I've seen it."
No one will show up. I don't know why this is so, but there is an entire generation of young people who do nothing but read car ads and pass the time by calling about them. They do not want to buy a car. They don't need a car. It's just part of the dance.
Cars are usually bought at a traffic light when one guy will eyeball yours and yell, "You wanna sell it?" At the next traffic light, if both cars are stopped again on red, the other driver will answer, "Maybe." If it's destined to be, there will be a third stoplight and a deal is made. If not, hey, there's always the ads.
If a buyer sells his car, he is depressed because he made a bad decision to sell. If he doesn't sell, he is still depressed because he knows something else will fall off or die before the week is over.
A couple of days ago our son picked up the paper and read, "Classic foreign sports car, mint condition, must sacrifice."
"I'm going to call on this one," he said.
"It's the ad you put in for your own car," I said.
"I wasn't going to buy it," he said. "I just wanted to see if I was willing to come down on the price."