The Squirrel Close

by Scott Bradley


The sun was just setting over the West Hills, revealing the last glimpse of a day punctuated by intermittent rain showers and forced gray sunlight.

“Just one more drive, really.” The voice on the other end of the phone continued, “That should be enough. Most certainly, then I’ll be able to choose between all wheel drive or rear wheel drive.”

Weary with the day, and looking forward to its rapid demise, I still could not believe that I hadn’t helped my customer to answer this question sooner. Was I getting weak? His traction control dilemma had yet to be resolved, belying the multiple test-drives, multiple cars, and several hours together. Sigh…perhaps tonight would find the answer and another car deal for what had turned into a long and challenging month.

Few words were spoken as we wheeled the car into the late afternoon traffic. What could we possibly talk about, his indecision, the weather, the same old test route? Not tonight. I was determined to turn this prospect into a client.

“Hey, Paul, let’s cut through the park.” I suggested, “It’ll be perfect, no one there on such a nasty night. No runners, sight seers, walkers, not anyone to worry about hitting.”

He smiled knowingly, primarily because his own sick sense of humor only barely bested mine. The past several weeks had been a forum for some interesting conversations, many of which had little or nothing to do with cars. We discovered that we had shared some previous experiences, he in his current career, I in a former, had crossed paths. This realization offered us terrific fodder for some indignant observations about past employers. The great thing about car sales, or I suppose any kind of sales, is that you get to work with some interesting individuals. The insight that one gleans can not only be quite fascinating, but can also prove to be extremely valuable.

As promised, the park was deserted. The lengthening shadows, now visible in the sun¹s final hurrah, were the only distraction as we turned onto the final hill. The intermittent rain showers had proven to be a blessing. The road surface yielded the right opportunity to experience the standard traction control.

“Can’t break it loose,” he offered, trying repeatedly to put the car in a controlled skid. “Are you sure that this isn’t the all wheel drive?”

“Most clients make the same observation,” I countered, “Many soon realize that the all wheel drive isn’t necessary in this kind of driving situation.”

Long pause,then he asked cautiously, “If I do decide that I can live with rear wheel drive, which colors do you have in stock?”

The squirrel appeared to be out for one last foraging run before total darkness overtook the park. Peering into the oncoming headlights, it was neither alarmed nor in much of a hurry.

Paul slowed the car, anticipating that the squirrel would continue on its determined course. Slower now, the car’s headlights clearly offered the little beast daylight conditions to escape from the asphalt jungle. Who would have thought it would change its mind and run in the opposite direction? We could discern first the front and next the rear wheels, as they drove over the hapless squirrel, the headlights jumping ever so slightly in sequence against the treed backdrop.

The only sound to punctuate the silence was the mechanical slapping of the windshield wipers. It had begun to rain again, just a few stray drops to break the monotony. Having stopped the car, Paul had his head in his folded arms against the steering wheel. Not a word was spoken. Had I lost the sale? Heck, if I had been behind the wheel, I certainly wouldn’t be very interested in looking at colors now. What to do? Do I suggest that we reconvene, perhaps tomorrow, perhaps never?

I waited for what seemed like an eternity, leaned ever so slightly towards my prospect still draped over the steering wheel, and softly said, “Let’s go around and get it one more time, you never know.”

Still silence. Did he hear me? I had nothing to lose. So, who’s the sick one now?

A slight smile etched across his face as he turned to look at me. Slowly putting the car in gear, I sensed that not another word was to be spoken regarding the incident.

That evening, Paul took delivery of his brand new, blue, rear wheel drive automobile.


© Copyright 2002 by Scott Bradley and Bottom Line Underwriters, Inc. All rights reserved.