This is the true story of how a used car salesman and a talking radish save the world from global warming. There are those who will doubt the validity of this tale, but as a veteran used car salesman myself, all I can say is, “Trust me.”
Hornblower’s Used Cars
My name is Sam Hornblower. I own and operate the oldest used car lot in southern Florida. We have a plaque on the wall that says, “Buy a car from me and I’ll give you my best deal and a nice key chain.” That was my dad’s motto. It was true then and it’s still true today. I’m pretty proud of that.
We also have a sign out front that says, “If the horn blows, we’ll buy it.” I came up with that slogan myself when I was ten years old. I made the sign way back then and it’s still there today. It’s become kind of a landmark around here. I’m pretty proud of that too.
“Used cars, Sam speaking.”
“Hi Sam. It’s Gaspar. I’m having my lab assistant bring the car in this afternoon.”
“No problem Dr. Gaspar. I’ll call the glass company.”
Dr. Gaspar is what they call a plant eco-biologist. I think he knows more about plants than any ten people in the world. What he doesn’t know is how to keep track of his car keys. About once a month he locks them in his car, breaks the window with a rock, and has it brought in for repair.
“Is there an insurance company I should call?”
“Nope. They cancelled my glass coverage for some reason. Tell you what you could do though. Drop the car off later on and I’ll make you a mojito.”
The only thing better than a mojito is one made by a plant biologist who has cultivated his own special strain of mint. I’m fairly sure he bio-engineered the plant by incorporating a few genes from the weed Cannabis sativa. I’m also willing to bet that if you ran out of rum you could smoke one of his mojitos.
As far as anyone knows it’s just mint. I’m good with that. Far be it for this used car guy to stand in the way of science.
“Ok Doc. See you around five.”
The worst thing about being a used car salesman is the boredom. You talk to maybe ten people a week. If you are lucky you sell about two of them. The rest of the time you wait. It’s not the glamour job people think it is. Oh, there’s the occasional time someone comes in and tries to shoot you, but that’s rare. The rest of the time you drink coffee, smoke cigarettes and think. Lately I’ve been thinking about on line dating sights.
Don’t get me wrong. I can get a date. When I ran that add on Craig’s List for a house keeper I got like ten of them. But, I’d like something more substantial. Maybe a girl that speaks English and someone I don’t have to pay by the hour.
Last night I put on a clean Tommy Bahama and took a selfie. I must say that I still look pretty dashing for 50. Of course, my profile shows that I’m 39. It’s not lying. It’s an age adjustment. You have to do it. It’s the “last liar loses” principle. Let me explain.
You start out with a group of 80 year old women who know that they can’t get a date at that age, so they put down 70. Now the 70 year olds look at the site and say,”OMG! I don’t look that old!” so they put down 60. And so it goes. Eventually you have the 20 year olds saying they are like 10, and they get bounced off the site. That’s where the last liar loses part comes in.
I just picked an honest age that fits in with the way the chicks look that I want to date. I’ve been in the used car business long enough to know that it doesn’t pay to lie.
Can you believe that it’s almost noon? I better get something to eat. I could send Frenchie out for something. I don’t know. The last time he carried the pizza back like a suitcase. I think I’ll just see what’s in the fridge. There might be a beer left from last night.
Dam! The phone doesn’t ring all morning and now that it’s lunchtime these assholes decide to call.
“Used cars, Sam speaking.”
“I just have a question. I’m thinking about selling my car and I need to know what it’s worth.”
“Can you call back in an hour when I finish drinking my lunch?”
“It’s a 2000 Chevy pickup with low miles.”
This guy’s an idiot. He waits ’till my lunch time to work me for a free appraisal. Over the phone no less. Well, I know how to deal with idiots.
“I thought you said it was a car?”
“Uhhh…it’s a truck. Mint condition. All highway miles. One owner.”
“What color is it?”
Obviously this guy’s not buying anything, from me at least. Now I’m wondering if I can break my dad’s old record.
That’s one. Dad’s record was ten. The next nine get exponentially more difficult.
“Give me a sec to put down my lunch. OK, how many miles on your…what color was it…truck?”
“It’s blue and there are 115 thousand highway one owner miles.”
“I just thought you said it was a low mileage red truck?” That’s two. Now it starts getting sticky.
“No. The truck is blue and they are highway miles.”
“Ahhhhh…highway miles. That makes a difference. OK, my phone is acting up. What color did you say it was?”
“The fucking truck is BLUE! Does that make a huge difference?”
I’m only at 3 and this guy is already getting henky. I need to get creative.
“Is it a 2 or 4 wheel drive? And just for the record, what color is it?”
“It’s a 2 wheel drive and just for the record, asshole, it’s a blue truck.”
Usually 4 is about as far as it goes. For the life of me I can’t figure out how dad got to ten. I think I need to settle him down, maybe get another beer.
“Inside the glove box there should be a little white plaque with a bunch of numbers and letters on it. Think you could go out there and look for me? I’m mostly interested in the first set of numbers, which would be the color code.”
Silence. All I hear now is silence. It’s that sound someone makes when they stop breathing, or maybe he just vapor locked. Either way, this conversation is over and I can get back to lunch.
OK. There goes the phone again. I hope this time it turns out to be a real citizen. I really need to catch a fish.
“Used cars, Sam speaking.”
“I’m calling about an add you have in the paper for a 2005 Chevy van conversion for $8,000.”
“I’m sorry sir, we sold that truck last night.”
“I know. I bought it. The problem is you sold it to me for $12,000.”
I hate it when this happens. Lucky for me, I’ve already cashed his check.
“Thank you, sir. I’m so happy you brought this to my attention. I’m going to resolve this problem just as soon as I finish my lunch.”
“Good!…Great!…I was worried this was going to be a problem.”
“No problem at all, sir. Customer satisfaction is the foundation of our business. You can stop by anytime tomorrow to pick up your retraction.”
I really am all about keeping my customers happy. That’s why I didn’t just hang up on this asshole. Besides, if I didn’t make a few bucks on a deal the juice wouldn’t be worth the squeeze.
“Retraction? I thought I’d be picking up a check.”
“Look pal, you’ve already bought the truck. When the paper makes a mistake on an add they issue a retraction. Happens all the time. Other than that, how do you like your new van?”
“Ok, I guess.”
“Great! You know me, I could sit here and talk all day but I have another call coming in. Have a good one.”
I should probably call the paper and get that retraction. Nah, at 5 miles per gallon, I doubt that clown can afford to drive all the way over here tomorrow anyway. Besides, I’ve had so many retractions this month the press is starting to get a little squirrely. What I really need to do is walk back to the wash rack and check on Frenchie. I haven’t seen him all morning. I hope he made it to work.
Actually, I saw his U-Haul in the back lot so I know he’s here. He might still be asleep though. Hmmm…It’s 1:00. He’s probably up and most likely in to something. I better check. I haven’t had time to give him any jobs yet. He’s not exactly a self starter so whatever he’s doing can’t be work related.
Frenchie lives off the grid. More specifically, he lives in the parking lot of the White Rock, his parent’s driveway or the back of my used car lot. Even more specifically, he lives in the back of his U-Haul. He’s converted it in to a kind of a motor home. There’s a bed, cooler, several space heaters and a TV with an 8 track tape player. What it has in charm it lacks in oxygen. I’ve never been able to hold my breath long enough to see the whole thing.
I think the real value of living in a U-Haul is how it cuts down on the number of DUIs. After a hard night at the Rock, he can crawl out to his sanctuary, pop in an 8 track and sleep it off. It works. Frenchie hasn’t been arrested since that mechanical bull riding thing last year. It was my birthday and he insisted on taking me out for a drink. Then he insisted on showing me how to ride a bull. I was impressed. He got all the way up to level 6. I was also impressed that he could still sort of walk after losing most of the skin on his inner thighs. I’m sure the tequila helped out with that. What he couldn’t do though was drive in a straight line. Anyway, these days he lives in a U-Haul.
You really need to wonder why they call it a wash rack. There is no rack. I’ve never seen one with a rack.What it is, is a bay in the garage with a couple of pressure washers and a bucket of soap. Oh, and usually a car to wash. I’m not seeing a car. What I do see is a porter, grinning like a cat eating briars, vigorously power washing something he’s holding down under one boot.
“Hey! Good morning boss. Look what I found in the trunk of that last trade. It’s still perfectly good, just needs a little cleaning.”
Frenchie has a smile that could sink a thousand ships. I used to encourage him to brush his teeth, but then, you know what? It would be like putting perfume on a pig. I mean, once he had a couple of bright teeth, he would have to bathe, change his clothes and shave. By that time he would regain his sense of smell and be compelled to move out of his U-Haul. Next thing you know he’d be back in jail for another DUI. Mother Nature has her order and I believe it’s best we don’t mess with her.
He sure is getting in to that power washing though. It looks like he’s holding down a python with his foot and washing its face. Nope, it’s not a python. It’s a dildo. There are things I don’t know, things I don’t need to know and things I’m afraid to know. This is all of the above.
“The glass guy is replacing a window in Dr. Gaspar’s car. Think you could rinse it off when he’s done? I have to deliver it to his house this afternoon.”
I’m not expecting an answer. Frenchie is totally absorbed in his work. It doesn’t matter though. He always takes good care of the doctor and the doctor takes good care of him. He always gives me a bag of mint tea leaves for my porter. The fact that Frenchie doesn’t have water in his “home” never seems to be a problem. I’m sure he enjoys the tea.
It’s just unbearably boring. I walk the lot, sit here at my desk looking out that cloudy window, walk the lot again and then drift back to my desk. I feel like my life is slowly fading away. It is safe though, kind of.
“Hey Sam, the windows done. Next time the doctor locks his keys in the car you might want to suggest breaking out the rear side window. It’s 50 bucks cheaper.”
“Thanks. I’ll pass that along. Just toss the invoice in that basket and I’ll have a check for you in the morning.”
They say a cluttered desk means a cluttered mind. If that’s the case, I wonder what an empty desk means. I could just scoop some of this stuff in to the waste basket, but first I’d have to empty the basket. Nah, this is fine. Anyway, I think the customers like it when I write up their deals on the hood of a car.
“Hey boss, the car’s done. Want me to follow you over to the doc’s house?”
“I was going to straighten up my desk, but that’s good, we can go now.”
You can’t really see Dr. Gaspar’s house from the road. The driveway looks like a beaten path into a jungle. If you look closely though you’ll notice that every tree, shrub and weed in this jungle is tagged. The neighbors see, and vigorously complain about, the landscaping as chaos. Bob sees it as a gateway to understanding the perfect order of nature.
Yes, I said “Bob”. No one know it, but Dr. Gaspar and I go way back. We were actually roommates in college. His path took him to world renowned eco plant biologist. Mine took me in a different direction. Always, for me, in public he is Dr. Gaspar. He’s earned that distinction.
“Hi Sam! Thanks for bringing over the car. Can I get you something to eat?”
“No thanks. I had a late lunch.”
If you think it’s a jungle on the outside of Bob’s house, you should see the inside. The only difference is that the plants aren’t tagged and the sunlight is provided by countless grow lights. The kitchen table and chairs, the only visible furniture from this vantage point, are constructed from massive tree stumps. Bob brushes off a piece of lichen from a stump and offers me a seat.
“Well Sam, how are things on the big lot?”
I can smell the faint aroma of mint in the air. Right now I’m more interested in a mojito than reliving the drudgery of my day.
“It’s all good. How’s that new crop of mint doing?
What I’m hoping for is a tour of the garden and a chance to get outside and have a smoke. I always learn something interesting when he walks me around the yard.
“Ah! You haven’t been over here in a while. This new strain exhibits a phonotypical potency that I can only describe as mind blowing! It’s hard to believe that a single gene from a Colombian…ummm..ancestor, could produce such a dramatic outcome. Then again, plants are the world’s best chemists, so maybe I shouldn’t be so surprised. Come on, let’s go outside and gather some.”
You have never seen mint plants like this. No one has ever seen mint plants like this. These guys must be seven or feet tall. The leaves are as big as my hands and the buds look like pale green sunflowers. I’m just in awe.
“If you want, Sam you can go ahead and have a cigarette while I look for a good blossom. Do you remember that haiku from the movie “The Last Samari”? ‘I’ve spent my life searching for the perfect blossom. In the end, they were all perfect.’ That’s basicly what we have here, but I’ll look for one that is a little more perfect.”
The smoke’s definitely what I need right now, but I can’t relax. Bob’s reference to samari warriors worries me. His mind is like a three dimensional chess match. He thinks several moves ahead and several layers deep. I know there is something more here.
“What is it, Bob?”
“When I bought the Colombian ancestor I may have attracted some attention. It’s probably nothing, but I was wondering if you could check it out?”
“I’ll look in to it.”
“Hey! Would you like to know why you are addicted to nicotine? It has to do with the tobacco plants defense system. It also involves wolf moths, horned worms, wasps and hummingbirds.”
Normally I’d be all up for one of Bob’s garden lectures, but suddenly I’m worn out. I think I’ll just go home and relax with a beer. Maybe see if I got any responses from that on line dating site.
“Sounds fascinating, but I think I’ll just head back home. It’s been a long day.”
“What about your mojito? I can make one to go if you want?”
I just gotta know that Columbian mint plant would totally finish kicking my ass. There is something in his garden I could probably use though. I’m in the mood for a salad.
“I’ll take a rain check on the mojito, but are those radishes?”
“Sure, take some. Just don’t eat the leaves. They have carbon nano tubes in their mitochondria.”
Don’t eat the leaves? Who eats radish leaves? Carbon nano tubes? Maybe I’ll just stop at the crockery store.
“It was an experiment with nanotechnology. You can infuse carbon nano tubes through the stomata on the underside of the plant’s leaves and they go directly to the mitochondria. The plant’s electro-connectivity increases by an order of magnitude. It makes it in to, what I guess you call a bionic plant. I still haven’t figured out what, if anything, it does though. You could probably even eat the leaves, perfectly safe.”
A bionic radish? What the heck. Everything this guy grows is probably bionic.
“Frenchie is out front waiting to take me back to the lot. I should get going. Thanks for the salad stuff. I left the invoice for your window and 5 extra sets of keys on the passenger seat. I’ll let you know what I find out about that other thing.”
It was just another day in the swamp. Frenchie dropped me back off at the lot and I locked the big bitch up. By now he is undoubtedly at the White Rock and I’m sitting here staring out another cloudy window. Sometimes I just don’t know how I keep up with this pace. I didn’t sell anything today, but at least I got some good salad stuff.
Salad sounds good right now. I think I’ll make one and then check out my dating site. Who knows, the love of my life could be just a click away. On second thought, I’ll have a beer now; check the site and then the salad. I’d hate to keep my true love waiting.
There it is! “Used Car Stud” has one profile view and one message. I’m definitely on a roll. This is the most action I’ve had all week. Should I read her profile first or first her message? What if I love her message and then look at her picture and she turns out to be a pig? Or what if she’s a hot babe and then the message is something like, “Nice try Stud, but I wouldn’t date my dad.” I’m going with the message first. After all, how bad could she be? Worst case scenario, I’ll take her to the White Rock.
Let’s see. Here it is. Message for “Used Car Stud”:
“Hey buddy, I’m stressing out here. Think it would be too much to ask for some water and maybe a little dirt?”
(Chapter 2 to follow)