By Greg Clark, June 15, 1940
“How’s the new car coming?” asked Jimmie Frise.
“Not so good,” I replied. “I can’t make up my mind.”
“I suppose you’ve got the new car jitters?” said Jimmie.
“The new car jitters,” said Jim. “You get it from listening to car salesmen.”
“I guess that’s what I’ve got,” I admitted. “I thought buying a new car was as simple as falling off a log. But, dear me!”
“You must just shut your mind,” said Jim, “and trust your eyes and the feel of the car under you. That’s the only way. If you listen to the salesmen, especially these 1940 model salesmen, you will never buy a car.”
“I suppose,” I said, “I could stuff cotton in my ears and start all over again.”
“That’s a fair substitute for strength of character,” admitted Jim. “Which car were you leaning toward?”
“Well,” I said, “it narrowed down pretty well to three. An Eight, a Six, and one of these Slither-Slips or whatever you call them.”
“What were the points for and against these final three?” asked Jim.
“The Eight,” I said, “we liked best because it was a color we have always been wanting, it had a nice wide door for my mother-in-law and it had no do-funny business about changing gears.”
“Why didn’t you take it?” asked Jimmie.
“Well, for example,” I explained, “the salesman of the Six pointed out that this Eight hadn’t the right streamlining, that it didn’t have five-ply safety glass all around, like his, and if you are to believe these boys, the speed on the highways this coming season is going to be so great you are going to be lucky to escape several head-on collisions and five-ply safety glass all around is imperative.”
“M’mm,” said Jim. “Anything else the matter with the Eight?”
“It has knuckle-knees,” I said, “and the Six salesman said this makes it an experimental car.”
“Why didn’t you buy the Six?” asked Jim.
“Ah,” I said, “it was not only $400 less than the Eight, but it was semi-streamline and it hadn’t hush-hush brakes. You might just as well go and drive over a cliff as venture out on the highway this season without hush-hush brakes.”
Why Not a Referee?
“What color was the Six?” asked Jim.
“Oh, various colors, but not like the Eight,” I said. “But as the Eight pointed out to me, this Six has not got a bumpo body. And did you know that if you got caught between two street cars in anything but a bumpo body you were as good as dead?”
“I don’t often get caught between two street cars,” said Jimmie.
“But you see the point of his argument?” I said, “Then, too, this Six didn’t have torque, or syncro-starting, nor did it have air-resisto windows.”
“Dear me,” breathed Jim. “What was the other car you were thinking of?”
“The Slither-Slip,” I said, “or whatever it is. Now, Jimmie, until you have been in one of those Slither-Slips you have never really been motoring. You just ought to bathe your body in those seats! Boy, how they glide!”
“And why didn’t you choose it?” asked Jimmie.
“It had no knee-knuckles,” I said. “And it was really so advanced. Think of the resale value!”
“I thought you were buying a car, not selling one,” Jim remarked
“You don’t understand, Jimmie,” I cried. “When you are buying a car you are doing a whole lot more than merely buying a car to ride in. You are engaging in an investment. You must consider the financial aspect. Now, while all the cars are headed in the direction of complete streamlining they all agree that about the time I would want to turn in my Slither-Slip it would be hopelessly old-fashioned. In three years everything will be ultra-streamline.”
“That’s a funny argument,” said Jim.
“All their arguments are funny,” I agreed. “They have got me weak in the knees, frightened and confused.”
“You’ve got the new car jitters,” said Jim.
“What there ought to be,” I stated, “is a government referee who could attend all car sales to censor any remarks that might enjitter the customer.”
“Or,” said Jim. “car sales ought to be forbidden in private, but should be conducted in a place downtown, like the stock market, where all the salesmen could get at you at once. It would be a riot, but they would all have an even chance at the public. And the only jitters you would get would be that mild sort of stock market jitters.”
“I went through the stock market crash far easier than I am going through this job of buying a new car,” I admitted.
“I tell you what we could do,” said Jimmie. “Why not invite the three salesmen up to your house tonight, all at the same time, and discuss their cars in a sort of committee?”
I was amazed at the idea.
“How perfectly simple!” I cried. “Of course. Why didn’t anybody ever think of that before?”
“There you are,” said Jim, rather proudly. Just tell each one to be at your house at 8 p.m. Tell him to bring a demonstrator car with him. And then you can sit there and let them sell their cars. They wouldn’t dare knock each other’s cars to their faces.”
“Of course!” I said, “You be there, too, in case I need support.”
“Sure.” said Jim.
I telephoned the three dealers, the Eight, the Six and the Slither-Slip, and they all agreed with alacrity to come up to the house and bring the papers with them.
Jim strolled along about a quarter to eight. My family was out to the pictures and I arranged the living-room nicely to accommodate the boys when they arrived.
The Eight arrived first. He started right to work, but I said I was expecting some others in and would he wait a few minutes.
The Slither-Slip arrived next.
It was like roosters in the barnyard. They just stopped and stared at each other for a minute. I introduced them, but they didn’t shake hands. They just thinned their lips and looked at each other. The Six arrived last. He was a boundy sort of young man, he bounded up the walk and bounded in the door and bounded into the room. He took one glare at the other two chaps and then bounded back to the door.
“Some other time,” he said thickly when I detained him.
“But I wanted to hear all three of you at the same time,” I cried. “I have narrowed it down to you three cars, and now I want it threshed out.”
The Six bounded back into the room. The other two got to their feet smartly.
“This was your bright idea!” hissed the Six with a look like death takes a holiday on his face. He was baring his teeth at the Eight.
“Is zat so!” said the Eight, just like Mae West.
“I think,” said the Slither-Slip softly, that if you two birds will just beat each other up. Mr. Clark and I can get down to business with these papers.”
It all happened very suddenly. All three, at the sight of the papers, dashed together. There was a wild mix-up. Jim and I stepped in to touch them on the arm, and remind them of the business aspect of our meeting.
“Maybe,” said the Eight man, seizing me by the collar, “it was his own idea!”
There was a moment of great confusion and whirling about the bumping and thudding. And when it was over Jimmie was sitting on the chesterfield and I was out on the small chair beside the telephone. Mussed up.
And the three salesmen were racing their engines out in the dark, angrily, super-chargedly.
“High pressure,” said Jimmie, rising and straightening his garments. Those boys are suffering from high pressure.”
“Aren’t you supposed to introduce a salesmen to one another?” I demanded indignantly, flattening my hair and retying my tie.
“Not in the presence of a customer,” said Jimmie. “Like feeding lions, you are supposed to feed them in different parts of the cage.”
“They have the jitters,” I snorted angrily. “Flying off like that.”
“Which car do you fancy?” inquired Jim.
“If those birds had waited a minute instead of turning on us,” I said, “I was going to suggest that they stage a three-way fight and the best man get my order.”
“I know a chap,” said Jimmie, “he is by profession an architect, but he has lately tried selling cars.”
“What about him?”
“Well, he has been in business now three months and hasn’t sold a car. He’s sort of shy,” said Jimmie. “Why don’t you let me send for him, and he’ll sell you a car in five minutes, without a single word being spoken.”
“What car is he selling?” I asked.
“I forget,” said Jimmie. “But what difference does it make? They are all good cars. You can’t have several billion dollar manufacturing concerns making cars without them turning out a 100 per cent product. About the only real difference in them is the name.”
“But synchro-suspension and high-compression ventilation!” I cried.
“Different names for the same thing,” said Jim. Let me telephone my friend. He just lives a few blocks from here.”
“Go ahead,” I said.
Jim ‘phoned. In about 10 minutes a shy, gentlemanly chap arrived. He had nothing to say. He didn’t have a demonstrator with him, but he had a few dog-eared sales agreements in his pocket.
He went out with Jim and me into the lane and looked at my car and guessed how much it was worth on the trade-in. Then we figured out the price.
“What color, Mr. Clark?” he asked.
“Dark, lustrous green,” I said.
“If we haven’t a green we’ll make it a nice dark blue,” said he gently.
I signed. We chatted and listened to the radio.
Then Jimmie and the salesman left. I happened to watch them down the front walk. And when they got out to the street they did a funny thing.
Jim and his friend the salesman joined hands and danced gleefully all over my sidewalk.
Editor’s Note: An eight is an eight cylinder car, and a six is a six cylinder car. All of the other types of technologies are made up.