Encarphalitis. This disease, more common among men, is known colloquially as “car fever.” There’s no known cure for either of the two major strains—newitis and useditis–except to spend a ton of money. Both variations of encarphalitis are dangerous, but the symptoms of useditis are particularly virulent.
Since Bruce Bleat is all about truth and transparency, I will admit to being a non-infectious carrier of useditis. I probably have newitis, too, but I don’t have a high enough credit score to inflame the virus.
A re-occurrence of the disease is imminent when I find myself staring at a particular brand/model of car. The early symptoms resemble what afflicts an eighth grade boy asked to judge a cheerleader camp (the technical term for that malady is lotsa-infatuation). When I see the car, a dampness moistens the brow, the heart pounds, and I am drawn trance-like to Autotrader.com and car lots. In time the dream vehicle is identified and the symptoms of diminished eyesight and confused thinking appear.
On the hazy frontier of my consciousness, a man with large, yellowed teeth enters my space. This would be a good time to run, but my feet have grown roots. I am now a prisoner of war. The used car salesman speaks:
“Greetings, my friend! My name is Bob. And to whom do I speaketh on this fine day?” (Why do they always seem to talk in a King James dialect?)
I’m smitten but trying to act disinterested, so to keep him off balance I only give him my name and social security number. ( Okay, that was a mistake, but I know he’s going to need both eventually to secure financing.)
“So I see you looking at this beautiful 1977 Pinto,” says Bob. “What a sweet set of wheels, eh? Just came on the lot this morning. What’s your time frame on buying a car?”
“Oh, I don’t know. Just out looking, today.” (Does he notice that I just wiped sweat off my forehead with a beach towel?)
“If you’re interested, I can grab the keys and we could take this little beast for a test drive?”
“Well, maybe. Do you know how many miles it has?”
Not so sure, but I’m guessing around 300,000–but all driven on smooth pavement on sunny days by a retired mechanic–treated this car like his only child!” (Salesmen don’t use that “little old lady” bit anymore—so lame! I mean, who could possibly believe that line anyway?)
Bob gets the keys and ushers me behind the wheel. We drive the city streets, and then I wind the little metal love-child up on the Interstate. (This car is everything I’ve ever dreamed of, but I have to not let Bob know that I’m interested.)
Back at the lot, Bob extracts the keys from my clenched fingers, and with that amazing denture-powered smile asks, “So Bruce, can we do a deal on the Pinto today?”
“Well, I don’t know. Could I take a look at the engine?” This is a telltale sign of useditis—wanting to see the motor. Inexplicably, Bob opens the trunk first, and I stand staring into the cavity. My mind is mush. I forget where I am. All I can think is…I want her. “Is this a four cylinder or six cylinder?” I ask.
Toothy-smile Bob chuckles and says: “Well, Bruce Buddy, let’s go up to the front of the car and see what’s under the hood!”
I’m toast—with butter and jam.
Turns out it’s a four cylinder. I point and count, “One, two, three, four.” I sound like Lawrence Welk striking up the band.
The next thing I know I’m sitting in a Bob’s small office, sipping a delicious and free Folgers latte from a small Styrofoam cup. I notice that Bob has a large King James Bible on his desk. (I love this guy—he’s obviously a Christian.)
“So Bruce, what’s your budget—can I send you home in the little pony–HAH, HAH?”
(I’ve done my homework; these Pintos are selling for about $4k. Max.) “Well, maybe with my trade-in, I would like to stay at about $4000, Bob.”
Bob’s demeanor collapses. A look resembling fear or terror rises like a storm on his face. I have definitely disappointed him—Bob looks hurt, even offended. “Bruce, that Pinto is in really good shape. We have a price of $9500 on it. I can go try to squeeze the boss, but I don’t think we can give more than $750 for your vehicle. That leaves us pretty far apart, I’m afraid.” He sighs, shakes his head, and taps the cover of the Bible.
I’m devastated. All I can think about is the little old lady mechanic who loved that Pinto so much she only drove on sunny days. I can’t let her down. What am I to do? [To be continued.]
Next: “The Fever Breaks”