I only wanted to buy a pickup truck. That's no big deal in America. All you need is a couple of bucks down and a promise to pay. Employment is essential, but a graduate degree, while no doubt personally satisfying, is not required.
"Now remember," my wife said to me as I left the house, "don't let the sales people push you around. Zipper up and off you go."
I've been having trouble lately remembering to zipper my fly. I'm not that old so I doubt that senility has anything to do with it.
"The problem," my wife said one day, "is that you're not concentrating."
"I've got better things to think about than my fly," I said.
"Then," she said, "you will someday turn into an old man who walks around unshaved and unzippered, mumbling to himself."
"I just hope to God I don't drool."
About the pickup truck.
It has been years since I bought a new vehicle, but it seems to me that at one time when you wanted to buy a car someone was only too anxious to sell it to you.
You walked in, bought the damned thing and they gave you a pound of coffee and a transistor radio.
That's not true anymore.
I stopped off at a Nissan dealership and began looking at trucks. A salesman bustled up and introduced himself as Peter.
"What can I do you for?" Peter asked, looking off.
"I'm thinking of buying a truck," I said.
"What kind?" he said, searching the distance.
Peter had not looked directly at me yet. I followed his stare. He was watching a couple on the other side of the lot who were also studying a pickup.
"An orange one," I replied, moving around to block his field of vision. "What kind you got?"
He stepped to one side to continue looking at the other couple and said, "Well, just poke around, I'll be with you in a moment."
He stopped abruptly, still staring off. "Yes?"
"How in the hell can I buy a truck if, one, you won't look at me and, two, you won't sell me one?"
He sighed, continued to gaze longingly at the other couple and said, "What do you have to know?"
I didn't answer, I just left. Peter didn't care. As far as he was concerned, I had never existed. So long, Pete.
Then there was Bucky.
I am not in the habit of purchasing anything from someone named Bucky, but he was panting and wagging his tail with such enthusiasm that I felt Bucky would at least be willing to concentrate on selling me a truck.
I was right.
We walked through truckland, Bucky and I, almost hand in hand, checking out king-cab trucks, long-bed trucks, bucket-seat trucks and trucks that smiled as we passed. So far, so good.
"Tell me, Bucky," I said, "how much for that one?"
"Would you like to test drive it?" he asked.
"I want to know how much first," I said.
"Give it a drive," he said again.
Perhaps I hadn't made myself clear. I formed my words carefully and pointed as I spoke:
"We never go by sticker," he said.
" Start with the sticker."
"You might get the wrong impression."
"You won't tell me how much the truck is, for God's sake?"
"Test drive it. She's a sweet li'l honey."
"I don't care if she's pretty Punky Brewster, I'm not trying anything I don't know the price of."
"I'll be right back," Bucky said.
That's the last I saw of him. Au revoir, Bucky.
I'd try one more dealership. That's when I met Ferman.
"No wonder you had problems with other salesmen," Ferman said. "Look at you."
I was wearing my favorite old brown corduroys, a T-shirt that says "Stay Sober 'til Sunset" and Apache moccasins without laces.
"I didn't know there was a dress code for truck-buying. I could be a rock star."
"With your fly unzippered?"
Sometimes it unzippers on its own. It is either because the trousers are old or my fly is haunted. I don't think that I am into psychic unzippering, but I suppose anything is possible. I zippered up.
"What else did I do wrong?" I asked.
"Well," Ferman said, "you can't say to a salesman that you're thinking about buying. You've got to be firm. 'I want to buy a truck, Peter. Today.' Try it."
"I want to buy a truck, Peter. Today."
I couldn't believe I was taking lessons on how to convince a salesman he ought to sell me a truck.
"Don't ask the price until after you have selected the truck," Ferman said.
"I'm beginning to regret the whole thing."
Ferman did his job superbly, even swearing that he was offering me a price so low his commission would only amount to $37.50.
"But," he said with a kind of brave-soldier smile, "I'll do it for you, kid."
So I bought a Nissan and I took it to my wife and said, "Ain't this a sweet li'l honey?"
She looked at me closely and said, "I believe you're drooling."
Wouldn't surprise me a bit.