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FIRST PERSON

Bound to the Ring of Saturn Owners

April 10, 1994|NANCY WRIDE | TIMES STAFF WRITER

Given my past wheels--a '68 bug and a gas-thrifty Honda Civic CRX--I don't exactly qualify as a Car Person.

But that was before I found myself seemingly driven by an occult hand into the arms of the Saturn sales team leader at the Beach Boulevard dealership. That's what we call them. Team leaders.

Yes, I have joined the Cult of Saturn.

There are two others in my office, but we've been spreading the word, recruiting others in and out of our company bureaus. We three have the same color car--teal green--although that is coincidence. Two of us share a secret Saturn salute as we pass in the hallway. All of us have been converted into car lovers from who-cares drivers happy so long as the stereo speakers and air conditioner work.

On a recent morning I received my personal invitation to Homeward Bound, a weekend hoedown in Spring Hill, Tenn., that Saturn is throwing for every Saturn owner in America.

Like alien abductees, we Saturn drivers are being summoned to an empty hayfield late in June to listen to Wynonna Judd and pore over accessories and demonstration models. They'll tell The Saturn Story, of course. Our story.

Later, we'll be bused to the original Saturn plant for tours of the assembly line that delivered our SCIIs. There is a fee of $34 for adults, $17 per child, and I admit I'm not sure if this covers food and open bar. It appears to include day-care Camp Saturn for 3- to 12-year-olds and evening entertainment.

If I lived in the same state, I'd probably check "I will attend the Saturn Homecoming and would like a Saturn Homecoming Customer Service Representative to call me to make travel arrangements." And "I would like a Saturn Homecoming Customer Service Representative to call me to arrange my hotel accommodations." The hayfield will be made wheelchair accessible, and those with hearing or vision problems will be accommodated.

I get it my way for $34? I hope they bring this show to California.

"We thought it was high time we did something to show how much we appreciate our relationship with our customers," my invite says. "So here it is: We'd like to have you all over for the weekend. . . . We're doing this to give you the chance to meet the people who made your car, see the factory and the town where it was built, and experience firsthand what Saturn is all about--and why it is having such an impact on so many people's lives."

Don't I know it.

Why, I remember my first Saturn encounter like it was yesterday. My sales consultant Cathy was like a birthing coach--soothing, funny, there for me, man. No heavy pressure. No dickering over alloy wheels being thrown in and let me check with my sales manager on that price.

When I signed the contract, I had to wait weeks for my arrival into the Saturn circle. But hey, who wants to join a club that is easy to get in, right? By the time my $15,000 investment in my future arrived and I was given the keys, I looked like I had won an Academy Award instead of a vehicle that mostly delivers me to and from my desk job.

Suddenly, as I turned the ignition, thunderous applause surrounded me. It was my Saturn kin, circling its newest family member.

It was like I had found religion.

"How you likin' your Saturn?" my office cult brother asked soon after my baptism in July. He smiled with a satisfied look. "Oh," I blurted happily, "it is just great ! " I hadn't gushed like this since Springsteen played the Sports Arena in '81.

This is the guy who is convinced fellow Saturn drivers yield to him at four-way stops, as a matter of car bonding. "Once I was trying to get on a packed 91 Freeway when another Saturn owner let me in, giving me a big wave," he said, and he was not even smirking. "Another time, a Saturn identical to mine was pulling out of a gas station driveway onto the street I was driving on. The female driver honked and waved, like I was a long-lost buddy."

A few days ago, my winter edition of Visions--"published for Saturn owners, Team Members and their families," the masthead reads--arrived at my office. I was ecstatic. I am not only a member of the Saturn family but a member of an enviro-friendly family! My club newsletter, as it were, is printed on recycled paper with soy, linseed and cottonseed oil inks on white paper stock that's half wastepaper and 10% "post-consumer waste."

Does this cancel out my exhaust emissions?

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