Something horrible happened to me at a car dealership, and I'm not just talking about the experience of being at a car dealership. No, I'm talking about something so awful, embarrassing, confidence-crushing and possibly criminal I intended to leave the dealership and never speak of it again. I then planned to change my name and number, leave my loved ones and live out my days in a small yurt in Central Asia, far away from cars and the people who sell them.
But that seems like a lot of work and I'm kind of lazy, not to mention really bad at secrets. So here I am, humbly asking that you not judge me for what I'm about to reveal:
Recently, while test-driving a brand new car, I kinda, sorta backed into another brand new car.
Allow me to explain. I'd been car shopping for a while and was pretty familiar with the whole test drive rigmarole. I expected this one to be no different than the others. I would show up, make awkward small talk with someone who is curiously unable to answer the most basic questions about options and packages, go on a comically short drive around the dealership hitting a max speed of about 30, be pressured into sitting at a desk and talking numbers even though I'm not ready to make a decision and then receive a call from this person between two and five times a week for the rest of my life.
Also, for the rest of the day, I'd catch a whiff of the dealer's cologne and wonder how he could have so strongly imbued the air right around my nose with his scent, which felt like an aromatic violation, in such a short time.
So my fiancé and I show up at the dealership on this day and instead of making a copy of my license, the dealer literally throws me a set of keys, like we're buddies in a cop movie, and says, "Let's drive!"
The car I'm test driving is brand new, so new that it still has plastic film covering all the upholstery. I assume the dealer will remove it so I can experience the car without feeling like I'm driving Dexter's kill room, but he doesn't. After the aforementioned short, slow test drive, we drive back onto the lot. Instead of saying, "Just stop anywhere, and I'll park it," as I've come to expect, he suggests I back it into any available space so I can experience the backup camera.
"Are you sure?" I ask, more than once.
"Sure!" he trills. "If you're comfortable with it."
I'm not really, but I defer to his can-do attitude, deciding, in that moment, that I've been selling myself short.
Who knows how many experiences and opportunities I've missed out on because I'm holding myself back? Well, no more. Yesterday's me wouldn't park the car but today's me? She's parking!
"Actually, why don't you back into that one up there," he says, pointing to a smaller and narrower space a little further down. "Then you can see the car side-by-side last year's model."
This is definitely a bad idea, but his positive attitude is so contagious! As I back into the space -- a parking maneuver I never use in real life as will soon be apparent -- I look at the backup camera with all its lines and squiggles. Indecipherable! Then I look up, to make sure I'm not too close to the car in front of me, which doesn't even make sense, and then I hear the sickening sound of metal scraping along metal.
"Did I just hit a car?" I ask, as if through a mouthful of vomit. "Yes," say both the dealer and my fiancé.
Now look, obviously I'm the one piloting the car like a drunk four-year-old, but how did the two other people in the vehicle, who presumably were witnessing the slow speed collision, not happen to give me a heads up or a warning or a, "HEY, YOU'RE ABOUT TO HIT THAT CAR!"
"You seemed awfully close, but I thought you knew what you were doing," said my fiance, to which I responded, "I NEVER know what I'm doing! Never assume I know what I'm doing!"
Then the dealer piped up: "Don't worry about it, I didn't see anything. I promise, I didn't see anything."
I gingerly got out of the car. I looked around for cameras, convinced I was about to be arrested. Then I thought about how frequently these cars are driven. "This must happen a lot, right?" I asked, hopefully.
"Actually, this is only the second time it's happened in 10 years," the dealer chirped. He asked us to come back to his desk and have a seat. On the way, he got pulled aside to deal with another customer at which point I realized that I pretty much had to leave right then because nothing good was going to happen if I stuck around. I hastily made up a reason why I had to leave but gave the dealer my phone number.
He called me once, and seeing his number pop up on my phone caused me to nearly wet myself. But he was just curious if I was interested in the car, which I wasn't. He didn't say anything about a suddenly remembered, "You break it, you buy it," policy which is what I was afraid of.
But mostly I take it as a sign the universe wants me to be chauffeured.