I answered my phone and the voice on the other end asked if I still had my Jeep for sale. My first potential buyer had just driven away after losing interest when the old girl decided not to start.
The man on the phone identified himself as Charlie and he asked me to tell him something about the vehicle I was selling. I went down the short list of all the positive features I could come up with, and Charlie told me he would like to drive over the next day and have a look-see. I told him that would be fine but that there was a small problem in that I couldn’t, at that particular moment, seem to get it started.
“Do you think it’s the battery?” Charlie asked.
“Yeah, the battery, that’s the ticket.”
“Well I’ll tell you what,” Charlie said, sounding like an old horse trader. “I get off work at five and can be at your house between six and six-thirty and we’ll see what we can come up with.”
I was beginning to like Charlie; he had a plan. But the next day, when I got off work, I was tired and didn’t feel like messing with trying to get the Jeep running or fooling with Charlie. I called him and lied that I thought tomorrow would be better because I hated to see him drive all that way if we couldn’t get it started. He said he had already left work and was on his way to pick up the “little woman.”
“That’s great Charlie,” I lied again. “See you when you get here.”
When I got home the god of grease spots must have been smiling down on me because the Jeep started right up. I gave it a good scrubbing and then waited for Charlie and the little woman to arrive.
They soon got there, driving a truck and pulling a flatbed behind it. I definitely had it priced too cheap. They had their grandson with them and after introductions I beamed that the Jeep had somehow miraculously started. Charlie looked at me suspiciously and tried it himself. Dead again. He looked under the hood and asked if I had a hammer. After convincing myself he hadn’t come to murder me for my 9-year-old Jeep with 150,000 miles on it, I went to get him a hammer.
Charlie was under the Jeep and I heard him say “Now,” and I turned the key and it fired right up. Whatever he had done under there had worked. As the Jeep’s loud engine roared, the little woman moved in for a closer look. She began talking about gaskets and headers and emissions and some other words I’d never heard before. The little grandson just stood there with his hands over his ears. I felt like joining him.
Charlie wanted to drive it and asked me to go along in case he got lost. As we drove along he began listing everything that needed to be fixed. He tried rolling down the driver’s side electric window, which of course was stuck. I told him to try slamming the door, and when that worked I smiled at him like I was throwing in leather seats for free.
We got back and I tried some salesmanship, and began talking about maybe just hanging onto it. Then he made me an offer, which was almost a thousand less than what I’d asked, but I was so delighted that my poker face fell away and I blurted out, “Really!” like some 10-year old kid finding out he was going to Disney World. Charlie gave me a funny look and dropped his price a little more. But I came to my senses and almost got him back to his original offer.
He and the little woman got it loaded on their trailer and they, along with the little grandson, took the old red Jeep down the street and out of my life.
Jay Edwards is a freelance columnist who can be reached at email@example.com.