“DONT PULL OUT”, I shouted, I was in the passenger seat, I did the only thing I could to avert the impending collision and made a grab for the handbrake but it was already on fortunately she had set off with it fully applied, the front-wheel-drive car had tried to pull its back wheels and move us directly into the path of the vehicle that was speeding along the main road towards us, thankfully the One Litre Suzuki Engine couldn’t overcome the drag and we moved about 4 feet into the road before stalling, the oncoming vehicle steered around us, with the driver shaking his fist and cursing, “Wow that was a close one” I thought to myself.
The Driver I was taking out on the test drive was a young lady, she was quite pretty, and very slim, slim to the point of anorexia, she was wearing a Pink Jogging suit and as she had bent over to put her child seat in the car I noticed that it actually said “Juicy” on the back of her sweat pants, before then I had just thought her initials were J Y, my car was £2495 it was a 1 Lady Owner, Very Low Mileage Suzuki with Full-Service History, she had seen it advertised and rang me to say she had £2000 in Cash and an old Fiesta to PX if I could do the deal at that subject to a “Test Drive” she would buy it.
Quick mental arithmetic, if her Fiesta was ok it should retail for about £1295, worst-case scenario £500, When a customer says they’ve only got a certain amount of money you can usually add a good percentage on top, but I thought better of trying to negotiate on the phone, and said “You’ve got a deal, what time can you come for a test drive? “ she arrived a few hours later, she loved my car and I had a quick glance at hers, to say that I was disappointed with her telephone description was an understatement It was a “Shitbox”
I opened the door to appraise it but the smell of Nappies and stale SMA Baby milk overcame my desire to check that it was mechanically sound and that it drove ok, the seats looked like they were covered in every bodily fluid there is, It was littered with Baby stuff and I wouldn’t have been surprised if the child had been conceived in there too, there was no way I was getting into road test it, If I did the deal the next person to get in this car would be a mighty unlucky valeter.
Taking a test drive with a Car Dealer sat next to you must be very daunting, you’ve driven the same car year in year out and we’ve driven different ones every day all of our working lives, we can adapt you can’t! “It’s not a Problem, We Understand, that’s why God put the handbrake in the Middle on most cars, so that we can reach it and stop you doing something suicidal!
That’s most cars with the exception of Mercedes Benz in which I’ve had a lady apply the foot-operated Parking Brake (4thPedal at the left-hand side of the clutch) instead of pressing the clutch, we were on a dual carriageway in the pitch black and it was pouring with rain we were travelling at 50 mph, when she accidentally applied the brake the car did a 180 degree spin and we ended up facing the way we’d come with cars swerving to avoid us.
I had started to put Video test drives on my web site to try and dissuade customers from wanting an actual test drive, I have had some horrendous experiences while I have been “Riding Shotgun”, Test drives should be used as a close and to seal the deal but I think there are so many awful drivers about that they might actually put more people off buying the car.
I’ve heard all sorts of stupid reasons for not wanting to buy a car, the customer always thinks that they are the world’s best driver and it couldn’t possibly be their fault, I try my best to suggest a “subliminal” remedy and to make it seem like they have figured it out themselves so as I don’t hurt their feelings but sometimes there’s no diplomatic solution and when you’re riding Shotgun you have to give them Both Barrels or risk losing the sale.
“Look, the gears crunch when you are driving, but not when I am, so either I have magical powers, or perhaps it could be, and bear with me here “BECAUSE YOU’RE NOT PRESSING THE F****** CLUTCH IN” ………….. recently I had to take a customer out 3 times in a nearly New Aston Martin in an effort to convince him that it was possible to change gear without giving your passengers Whiplash,“ Look, Mate! Jeremy Clarkson drove one of these all the way to Monaco in a Top Gear Challenge, he’s a moaning Sod and he never mentioned word one about it having a jerky gear change, so I hate to break this to you, but it’s your bad driving”
I had decided that the main road wasn’t the best place for this lady so Juicy Couture and I had swapped seats and I drove demonstrating all the cars features and how easy it was to drive, I hoped that she would be satisfied but she wasn’t and despite our near death experience she still wanted to have a go herself, I took her to the quietest place I knew and once I was convinced that she was sitting comfortably and all the mirrors were adjusted to suit her, we set off again, I let the “safety catch” (handbrake) off as she forgot again.
She was without doubt the worst driver that I have ever been with (a title that stood till about 6 months ago, when she was narrowly beaten into 2nd place by the guy I was with who nearly ran into the back of another car when he was doing 110mph on an A road and texting at the same time) she seemed to have some problem with, spacial awareness, distance perception, judgement of speed or all 3, her feet only had 2 positions, On and Off with no in-between, no gentle acceleration and no feathering the brake to slow down, it was full speed ahead and then emergency stop, I don’t know how we made it back in one piece but we did and miraculously she bought it.
When she came to pick the car up I went through my handover procedure, speaking very slowly and familiarising her with all the controls, I lingered on the Handbrake and its function, she had brought her baby with her and when she set off I felt as if I should give the baby a St Christopher or do the sign of the cross and wish them a safe journey, sure enough as she tried to join the traffic on the main road the car bunny hopped until she released the handbrake then she set off like a scalded cat, I had a feeling it wouldn’t be long before I heard from her again.
I took the keys to her part exchange over to my valeter and asked him to clean it, within a few minutes he came back to tell me that the car was a death trap, it was a Fiesta automatic and apparently, the only way you could get it to move was to press the accelerator to the floor then all of a sudden it would lurch forward and the servo assistance on the brakes was faulty and you had to slam the brakes on to get the car to stop, this went a long way to explaining the previous owners driving style, there was no way that I was going to sell something that dangerous so I rang the scrap yard and asked them to come and take it away, worst case scenario wasn’t £500 it was £45, I should have got a seat cover and driven the car I would have been better off keeping the Suzuki.
It was a lovely day and I was sat in my office with the Air Conditioning turned up to the max so it seemed rather strange when I saw a ginger headed guy walk on the forecourt wearing a black anorak and leather gloves, he was moving with “purpose” he was out of place and I could tell by his body language that it wasn’t going to be beneficial for me he wouldn’t be wanting to buy a car, he was savvy enough to turn his face away from my CCTV cameras as he approached and I guessed that he had chosen his attire to try and look as menacing as possible, but in this heat it actually made him look a bit silly, he banged on the door, as I opened it to let him in, just to make sure he was aware that his SAS get up wasn’t fooling anyone I asked him “If he was warm enough” It wasn’t the best Icebreaker.
For some reason, I don’t get on with Ginger people at the best of times, let alone when they’ve come to threaten me but I decided to hear him out, he stood in my office with his shoulders back and his chest puffed out he was either ex-Military or he was trying to make himself look bigger than he actually was, he didn’t answer my question so I left my Air Con set to Arctic, and he blurted out “I’m here on behalf of “Juicy Couture” she’s had an accident, there was £1500 damage to her car, she’s only insured 3rd party, it was your fault, and you’re going to pay for it”
I assumed as he hadn’t mentioned otherwise that the driver and her baby were all ok, which was a relief, but again my “People” skills deserted me and I asked “Just to be clear, which bit do you think was my fault, Do you think I caused the accident, was it my Fault Parts for Suzuki’s were so expensive or was it my fault she was only insured 3rd Party, was he intending to make me pay financially, or did he have some fiendish plan for revenge?” he was a tough audience, again my humour and irony fell on stony ground and he went on to say that the car had stalled as she was pulling out of a junction and added that if I didn’t reimburse the cost of the repairs, he would blow all my cars up, he even did the noise and raised his arms to simulate an explosion, I found it hard not to smile, First of all I told him that he would be doing me a big favour because it was a struggle selling them, but the seriousness of the situation brought me to my senses and I tried to make him see reason.
I pointed out that even if the car had stalled (which I doubted) it was obvious that when she had pulled out she hadn’t given the oncoming traffic enough time to brake and avoid a collision so the blame was fairly and squarely on her, if it had happened any other way she would have been entitled to claim the money for the repairs to her car off the person who had run into her, or if it was no one’s fault it would be “Knock for Knock where the drivers claimed off each other.
Trying my best to find an amicable solution where I didn’t get blown up I offered to get the repairs done at cost for her, There was no pleasing the ” Andy Mc Nab” wannabe and he still wasn’t happy with this offer, he threatened me again, by saying “Funny things happen to cars, and people” then he pointed his outstretched hand towards me, Palm to the floor and aimed his Index and Middle Fingers at me, tucking his Ring and little finger into his palm, he let his thumb fall to his index finger, and mouthed “Bang” even simulating the recoil of a real gun.
His hand (pretend gun) was sideways, you see Gang Members firing their weapons this way for added “Badness” effect in American films, but if “Andy” had ever fired a real gun in anger, he should know that the recoil forces you’re arm, and the gun back pivoting from your elbow, firing this way there was a chance that the gun would recoil into his face and knock his teeth out, the effect of the bullet travelling down the rifling in the barrel turns the gun and your wrist, these have to be counteracted in order to fire a second shot on target.
You can’t use the sight’s accurately if they’re sideways, he was left-handed so if his imaginary gun of choice was a semi-automatic the spent cartridge would be cleared through the ejection port and straight through his field of vision causing a distraction and further destroying his ability to aim, I wasn’t impressed and seen as he’d started playing “Charades” first, to exaggerate my point I held the back of my hand up to my wide-open mouth and stifled an imaginary Yawn.
If your aim is slightly off target along the vertical axis but you aimed centre mass and not between the eyes you still have a margin for error with a chance of hitting your intended victim anywhere from their head to their feet, too high and a sky shot will keep going until gravity takes effect but if you miss low a ricochet of a hard surface can still get them, people are usually a lot taller than they are wide except for some parts of the United States, so firing sideways increases your chances of missing the target as a foot out either way and you miss completely, if “Juicy Couture” turned sideways you could hardly even see her let alone hit her with a bullet, only a real numbskull or a pretend “Gang Man” would fire a weapon like this, I satisfied myself that he was of the former before I told him that he’d better make sure his fingers were loaded next time he aimed them at me.
As I stood up he opened the door, and said, “I know where you live!” I sauntered after him as he made his way off the forecourt, I was trying hard to conceal my amusement as he again did his blowing up and shooting actions again, I watched as he walked up the road and round the corner then I got in my car and went after him, he got in his car and I followed him all the way to his house, as Imaginary SAS Members go his counter-surveillance techniques were rubbish, I followed him for 30 or so miles and he never noticed that I was behind him until he had parked up his drive, was getting out of his car and I shouted “That Makes Us Even, Now I know where you live too” I have to admit that before I shouted I had checked first to make sure that my handbrake wasn’t on just in case he had a real gun in his Car and I had to do the “Shepherd” thing and get the “Flock” out of there.
When I got back to the garage I googled his address and found the names and ages of the occupants on the voters roll, he had the same Surname as the girl I had sold the car to, so he was a relation and had not been “Hired” which was a bit of a relief to me, Not letting on that I knew who it was, I rang “Juicy Couture to tell her that I had just had a visit on her behalf from a “Tough Guy” who had threatened me, and demanded money, she apologised profusely for his actions and explained that the accident had been totally her fault she had pulled out in front of someone, but she couldn’t admit it to her Dad, not knowing how he would react, she had made the excuse that there was a problem with her new car which he then interpreted to be my fault, Not Suzuki’s, but Mine!.
I have to say that I had a certain amount of sympathy for him I thought his actions had probably been brought on by a misguided sense of Paternal duty, but I didn’t think any sane person would go around trying to extort money or threatening to Kill people with an imaginary gun and explosives, “Juicy” promised to straighten the matter out with her Dad but I still couldn’t take the chance that he would do anything to my cars so I reported the threat to my Insurance company and they told me that I had to t tell the Police, Mr “McNab” was on first name terms with the Police and had been a very naughty boy all of his life, he would be more likely to fall into the category of “Gang Man” than numbskull, I just hoped for my sake that “Juicy” was a hell of a lot better at getting around him than she was at driving, if she wasn’t I must remember not to zig zag when he was shooting at me!