M needed a new car, and she needed one soon. An unfortunate woman suffering from a diabetic induced moment of attention deficit had run into the side of M’s car, totaling it. The woman had driven on, oblivious to the accident and the damage she had caused. It sounds impossible, but that’s what happened. Lucikily neither M nor the woman was hurt, and within an hour the police had found the ill woman and gotten her off the highway, but it was too late for M, or, more specifically, it was too late for M’s 15-year old Toyota. The old girl was dead.
M depends upon an auto for her work; fortunately her insurance company paid for a rental car. But they were growing restive; it had been a week or two… when was M going to buy a new car? In a sort of twisted, modern Catch-22 M was too busy working to go car-shopping, but had to go car shopping if she wished to continue working. What to do?
As it happened she was visiting another friend in Vermont for a rare mid-week holiday, and so was I. The Vermont friend, H, and her husband had just bought a new Honda, the 4th or 5th they’d purchased from the same dealer, whom they hold in extremely high regard. Nothing would do but that M should look for a new car at that dealer.
They wheeled and dealed (oh ha ha); M had the high ground because she has always driven Toyotas and was perfectly willing to go back where she lives and buy a Toyota there. Poor Dealer! He could see his sale slipping away, in spite of the fact that M had enjoyed her test drive (yes, she got to have a test drive, in the actual car and on real roads. Lucky M).
“Take the car home for the rest of the day and tonight,” he said. I couldn’t believe my ears. What?? Take the car home??! But that is what he really said. This was on a Thursday. “Well, alright,” replied M, “but you understand, if I buy this car I have to be able to drive it out of here tomorrow all registered, insured and with a loan in place, a favorable loan.” “No problem, no problem,” Dealer answered.
So she did. She took the car and she and I drove the 15 or 20 miles back to H’s house. M had said she’d return it the next morning, but we slept late and got busy doing other things. Did the police come looking for us? They did not. Instead we were warmly welcomed when we returned to Dealer in the early afternoon (there was, perhaps, just a touch of relief in his eyes when he saw us stroll in).
The end of the story is that M drove away a few hours later in what was now her car, Dealer having also arranged for the return of her rental car at a nearby branch of the rental agency. Well, okay, it turned out there were a few snags in the weeks that followed, having to do with buying a car in one state and living in another, but Dealer did what he had to do to fix them.
Maybe it has something to do with the economy, but it’s more than that: American car dealers seem much more eager to sell cars than their Italian counterparts, and will do, it would seem, just about anything to succeed. Including letting someone test-borrow the car for 24 hours. I just can’t imagine that happening in Liguria, where, if you are very good the dealer will do you an enormous favor and sell you a car.