97: Take a Man

97: Take a Man

From Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Empowered Woman

Take a Man

You only have control over three things in your life — the thoughts you think, the images you visualize, and the actions you take.

~Jack Canfield

“Take a man,” she said, when I announced to an acquaintance at church I was going car shopping the next day. Good advice, I suppose, but I didn’t have a man, or any credit, or a down payment, or a stable work history or a co-signer.

What I had was an ancient Chevy Corsica with high mileage, peeling silver paint and a high loan balance. The Chevy broke down at least once a month, leaving me with costly repair bills I couldn’t afford and no way to get to work. I did not have a man.

The man had left our twenty-four-year marriage in pursuit of an alternative lifestyle. I was not sure I wanted another man. Even if I had wanted another man someday, it would not be soon enough to help me then — when I needed a new car. I needed a car I could trust to take me and my disabled son at least as far as the county line.

I went to the Chevrolet dealership with my head down and my shoulders hunched. I tried to stroll casually around, looking at all the latest models. Too soon, I was accosted by an eager salesman. He immediately devalued my trade-in by $1,200 because of its high mileage and peeling paint, a manufacturer’s defect. He let me fill out a credit application but I didn’t think he was taking me seriously.

While I rubbed my hands across the shiny metallic finish of the new cars on display, sat on the plush leather seats and inhaled the seductive new-car aromas, I could see the salesman and his boss drinking coffee at a desk behind a glassed-in cubicle. They were having way too much fun to be seriously trying to get me a loan. “No way,” they said when they came out, “unless you get a co-signer. Maybe your ex-husband will co-sign for you.”

My brain, previously sharp and focused, failed to see things clearly in its newly dazed, single state. I had left home without a plan. I did not have prepared rebuttals for why I did not qualify for an auto loan.

The next day I was prepared. The largest multi-make auto conglomerate in Portland, Oregon, was having a sales extravaganza at the Portland Expo Center. Every brand would be on display under one roof. I walked in boldly with my shoulders back and my head held high past the Ferraris and Fords, the Mercurys and Mazdas, the Jeeps and Jaguars to the center of the gigantic Quonset-shaped building where the Chevrolets were displayed with their polished hoods propped open.

“What kind of car are you looking for?” the salesman asked.

“I’ll be trading in a Corsica, so I guess I’d like another Corsica,” I said.

“That doesn’t mean you have to buy a Corsica. Of all the cars you see here, which one do you really want?” he asked.

Wow! A trick question! I had never thought beyond a Corsica. I looked around and spotted the car of my son’s dreams: a “Polynesian green metallic” Geo Storm. “That one,” I said, walking over to it and caressing the sleek lines of its curving fenders.

“Let me see what I can work out for you,” he said.

I filled out the loan application and waited. This time, I was prepared. When the dealer wanted to devalue my trade-in because of the peeling paint, I handed them a copy of an article documenting the defects of the factory-applied paint. When the bank questioned my work history, I said, “As you can see, all of my positions have been in my career field, and there have been no lapses in my employment.” When the lender questioned my lack of credit history, I explained my recent separation and pending divorce. When they asked for a down payment, I offered to make a balloon payment with my tax refund. When the finance company asked for a co-signer, I said, “I don’t need one.”

It took several hours. In fact, it was dark, and snow had covered the ground by the time I was ready to leave the Portland Expo Center. It had been several years since I had driven a car with a stick shift. So I took a couple of laps around the nearly empty parking lot to get used to the clutch before I attempted the snowy drive home in my new Geo Storm.

It certainly wasn’t a great deal, not even a good deal to most people. But it was a deal. My deal! It was the deal that gave me the confidence to begin looking forward instead of back.

~Mason K. Brown

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