Have you heard of Trinity Car Company? They’re new, and they claim to have a much more sensible approach to car buying. They’ve eliminated the showroom, and you go right to the factory. A friend of mine, whom I’ll call Frank, told me about his experience. For his college graduation present, Frank’s father made the down payment. Frank wasn’t sure that Trinity was the right car or that now was the right time, but he went along.
Frank was greeted in the lobby by the salesman, a clean-cut young man with a big smile.
“I’m amazed you’re so quick,” Frank said. “I just put my order in a week ago, and yet here I am.”
The salesman carried himself as if he had found his dream job. “We treat every car for the miracle it is,” he said. “‘Every Design has a Designer,’ after all.” He pointed up to the large plaque on the wall that carried the same motto. “Well, let’s go see your baby.” The salesman ushered Frank into a large room that appeared to be empty except for a car’s engine block on the floor. It lay on a fuzzy pink blanket. The pistons hadn’t been installed, and the six shiny cylinders were empty. “There you are,” he said. “You’ve made a nice choice. She’s a beaut! Five days ago, it was just a schematic.”
Frank looked around. “Where?”
“Right here.” The salesman took a step closer to the engine block and pointed.
“That’s not a car.”
“It is a car.” He put his hands on his hips and smiled, looking back and forth between Frank and the engine block. “Well, if we’re done here, let’s go wrap up the paperwork.”
“For what?” Frank said. “It’s not finished.”
“It will be.”
“Then get back to me when it is. I’m not paying $21,000 for that.”
The salesman cocked his head to the side like a perplexed puppy. “I must say, you seem to have a cramped definition of ‘car.’ Think about how fun it’ll be to drive.”
“But it’s not a car!”
“Of course it’s a car. What else would it be? It’s not a flower. It’s not a dinosaur. It’s a car. You’re just not familiar with the development process.” He walked over to the engine and pointed to the front of the block. “And take a look at this.”
Frank walked over and knelt next to him.“See? It even has your VIN number—it’s unique.” The salesman ran his finger gently over the small engraved characters as he read out the number. “You can touch it if you want to.”
Frank stood and waved his hands. “Look, this is not what I wanted.”
The salesman said, “Getting a car is big step, I’ll grant you, but I’m sure you want to see this process through.”
“I do not.”
The salesman’s smile dissolved. “I can show you what it’ll look like next week and the week after that and so on. Let me show you the pictures.”
Frank held up his hands. “Hold on. Maybe this is my fault. To me, a ‘car’ is what it’ll be when it’s finished, but I don’t want to debate definitions. A car that won’t be finished for months simply won’t work for me. This isn’t a fit.” He took a step toward the door.
The salesman ran his hands through his hair compulsively, erasing the clean-cut façade. “You knew about this when you signed up.”
“What’s the big deal? Sell it to someone else.”
The salesman looked at Frank as if he’d vomited on himself. “That’s not the way it works here. You saw the VIN. This is your car! Do you know what happens if you don’t take it?” He paused to catch his breath. “Let me show you.” He took out a small packet of photos from his jacket pocket.
“No, that’s okay,” Frank said, stepping back.
“I insist.” The salesman stood between Frank and the door. “They come with a crane with sharp tongs. They pick it up. They drag it out.” He flipped through photos of these steps. “They put it in here.” This photo showed some sort of grinding machine with enormous teeth. “Is that what you want? Can you live with that?”
Frank feinted to one side, and the salesman blocked him. Frank dashed around the other side and ran to the door. He looked back as he yanked the door open.
The salesman was holding up the photos as if showing a cross to a vampire. “Murderer!” he said, his eyes glistening. “Murderer!”
I was not;
I am not;
I do not care.
— Epicurus’s observation on death
(This is an update of a post that originally appeared 10/2/13.)
Image credit: Don O’Brien, flickr, CC