The car was rusted. I swear to you as sure as today is Monday the car was rusted. It was new, on the lot, positioned next to the other cars and this one was rusted. Down the aisles, near the rusted car, it was soon apparent that the other cars were also rusted. Some worse than others, but rusted. The dealer had the cars under lights, different lights at different angles, each aiming to present the highlighted car in its best possible light. If one car had a very nice front grill, there was a light shining brightly right on it. If a car had a huge dent in the driver side fender, that side was made to face away from the people, away from the street and away from the light.
The lot went on and on; it was a big lot. On this Saturday, there were people everywhere. The people looked at the cars closely, but never too closely. One family of four saw the car with the pretty grill and stood in front of it, focusing on the light and the dazzling chrome that sparkled like so many diamonds. The salesman saw this interest, and before I could watch more closely on the conversation, the deal was done. The hands were shook. The family loaded into their new car and eased toward the roadway, content with their shiny grill. As they pulled from the lot, the back bumper came into view, or more accurately stated, the area where the back bumper should have been came into view. They drove down the road, oblivious.
I thought this was odd, that someone would spend some money to get from A to B without finding concern in how that trip made them feel. I looked at the crowd mulling through that lot, focusing on the shiny bits that were lit and waxed, I watched the salesman talk about miles per gallon. In the distance, I saw one car with lights on all sides, wax on every piece of exterior, chrome on all of the edges that should have been chrome. This car was beautiful, and everyone knew it. Some thought it was too beautiful, too shiny, too waxed and too bright. Most took a walk by it, and many marveled at it, but just as they’d pause and gawk they’d keep walking down the lines, towards that car on the end, the one with the beautifully curved windshield and the dented passenger door.
I thought it odd that so much attention was being paid to such compromised cars. I thought that maybe, just maybe, it was because the cars with the dents and the mud were cheap, and the one with the perfect everything was just too expensive. I thought maybe the crowd that had gathered simply lacked the financial willpower to purchase the shiny one, which is why they were more attracted to the other ones. It wasn’t that they didn’t like the shiny one, maybe they just didn’t want to afford it, or maybe they couldn’t afford it. I watched and guessed, and thought that this must be the reason that the other cars were selling while the beautiful one sat.
One couple pulled up in a car that was as shiny and beautiful as the one that sat at the aisle end, positioned so that all sides were on display. The couple walked directly through the litter of dingy cars directly to that car that so closely resembled theirs. They knew what they were looking for, and as they walked to it I leaned in to listen, to watch, to observe. They walked around the car, admiring each side and angle, complimenting the designer, wishing that they had known of it sooner. They touched the graceful curves, and when the salesman opened the engine compartment they just shook their heads in awe. I saw in the salesman’s eyes the shimmering excitement of an imminent sale.
Just as the couple was about to shake hands on the deal, the wife noticed the car next to the perfect one, she was undoubtedly drawn to it by the fiberoptic lighting that washed reds and then blues and whites against the fine trunk area of this car. It was memorizing, I had to agree. She told her husband that they should at least consider the car with the sharply painted, smartly polished trunk and rear bumper. The husband turned from the perfect car to consider the other, and he asked the price difference between the two. For that sort of savings he could buy the car with the nice trunk and also go on vacation that winter, to those islands that they so like that are so very far away.
They hemmed and they hawed, and I watched the salesman’s eyes turn dim. They decided to buy the other car, the imperfect car, and once the deal was done and they rolled from the lot, I heard the brakes squeak through the next several lights. They had saved money, all right, and subjected themselves to the squeak that may or may not be fixed. The rust that had been hidden from view in the lot was covering the front bumper, and was slowly expanding its reach to include the two front fenders. The car would get them from A to B, the husband said, and he was right.
If A to B is all that matters, rusty cars find their buyers. If A to B is the goal, a dent in the fender is fine, and it will not get in your way. If you simply wish to spend your Saturday jumping from some boat into some water for the purpose of getting wet. Any old lake will do.