My first writing job eluded me for more than a year after I graduated. So for about eight months in 1993 and 1994, I enthusiastically and successfully sold Acuras and GMC trucks for Jerry Damson.
It was exactly the right thing for me at the time. Damson was, and is, a top-notch organization; it was an outstanding crash course in human relations; and (most importantly at the time) it paid considerably better than the bookstore I quit to do it. I still think of my stint there frequently and warmly. Nearly all of the guys I worked with are still with the company 13 years later, and to me that’s a hell of a testimonial.
Lots to talk about, of course. I’m sure I’ll come back to it from time to time. Today’s particular story is about the first and only time I ever set foot in a Saturn dealership.
Another salesman had traded for a car that Ken, the used car manager, knew I would want to drive: a 1982 280ZX Turbo with 64,000 original miles. So when we were standing around playing liar’s poker—which was pretty much all day that day, because it was all of 17° outside with a nasty wind—he tossed me the key and pointed at it.
It was a beautiful Z. I couldn’t get my brain around someone walking away from it. The top (gold) surfaces were just a little faded, but it was uniform and not eye-catching. Otherwise it was impossible to believe I was looking at a 12-year-old car. I slid in, and apart from the digital gauges (which I generally loathe), everything looked great. I turned the key, and the video game dash told me there was no gas in it. “Oh well,” I thought. “I’ll just put some in it on the way back; I’m not going far.”
Boy, truer words were never spoken (or thought).
I rowed to first gear and eased out. Like I said, it was a cold day, and it had been sitting a couple of hours. Not a good idea to gun it with any car under those conditions, but turbos especially need a little babying. Took a right at the light, and it was another mile and a half or so to the lightly traveled road I wanted to play on. Probably just enough time to nudge that temp gauge into an agreeable zone.
‘Cept my mistress-for-the-moment was going to stop dead right in front of the Saturn store. Outta motion lotion, baby. I had driven the car a grand total of 200 yards.
Going to need some gas. Got just my Jerry Damson Acura windbreaker on. Hmmm. Saturn of Huntsville is going to give me some gas, is what’s going to happen hee-ah. Mustered some will for the hike to the showroom, opened the door, and started hoofin’.
I walked in, and there she was. She was spectacular. We’re talking shoulder-length blonde hair, bright green eyes, what-is-thy-bidding-my-queen smile, and a form-fitting purple sweater dress. And what a form it was. 98th-percentile beautiful, was the first Saturn of Huntsville employee with whom I interacted.
I was shivering, with my arms folded on my chest. And this angel, in what had to have been a well-rehearsed maneuver, never broke eye contact with me as she nuzzled up to my left side precisely so as to place my folded right hand directly on her right breast.
There she stands, smiling. Thirty seconds after I’ve walked in the door, I’m feeling her up. And for a brief moment I allow myself the thought “you know, I actually came in here looking for a little gasoline, but if there’s an empty office with no windows close by…” Heh.
I wish I’d been a little crasser (like a “save it, sweetheart” or something), but I was only 22 at the time and hadn’t quite grown that yet. I said “um, yeah, I’m Bo with Jerry Damson Acura, and I’m out of gas.”
In much less time than it will take you to read this sentence—like, maybe on the word “Acura” above—she stepped away from me, dropped the smile, rolled her eyes, and sighed. (Turns out I wasn’t a prospect, and it was 17° outside her showroom too, see.) The operator paged someone or another to bring a gas can, and it was all pretty run-of-the-mill after that.
At that time Saturn was the talk of the marketing world, with their customer treatment, no-haggle pricing, and just general touchy-feely (heh heh) goodness. My only experience with the product to date had been with a ’91 SL2 on our used lot, which seemed depressingly cheap to me inside and sounded like a blender full of roofing nails at full throttle. (Easy to get spoiled listening to Honda engines all day.)
All of that super-duper marketing on a mediocre product aside, I’m here to tell you: at least on one cold December afternoon in 1993, in addition to all the focus-grouped-out-the-wazoo stuff, they weren’t above a little old-fashioned hormonal appeal.