I’ve just spotted new car salesman Junior at the car dealership. I am at least fifteen years Junior’s senior and about twice his size. If you were to compare our faces and forearms you would conclude that I was either unusually hirsute, or that he was in grade three. If you called me a bearskin rug you would have to call him a bare skinrug… or at least a piece of fleshy-colored linoleum. If I was a Gorilla he would be one of the several small females in my harem. If he was a naked marmet…
…anyway, physically he is my breakfast and in most circumstances this would offer me an initial social advantage but we’re surrounded by several hundred formidable beasts of a metallic nature and I know nothing about them except for the fact that I want a large, reliable, cheap one. I am also unskilled when it comes to money and bartering and when I look into Junior’s eyes I see a love of bling-bling and a zeal for spin. I feel large, hairy, out of my depth and as antagonistic as hell.
‘RD?’ he asks, extending his hand, ‘You’re here to see the Tarago?’
To test him out I lean forward, smirk and offer him the most unfunny line I can think of, ‘Only if it’ll see me.’
When he throws his head back and laughs I get two things – an awareness of what I’m dealing with and a cheesy after-taste in my mouth. I decide to just throw this out there and see what happens – ‘Look, I know the price you’ve got on the car but before we do any trading in or anything like that I’d like to knock five grand off the starting price.’
‘I’ll bring the car around,’ he says, patting me on the shoulder and cutting me off.
A few minutes later Junior returns in a second hand Tarago from the year 2005. It’s large and silver. When I sit in the driver’s seat I feel like the wrists of Wonder Woman inside their shiny bullet-deflectors. I’m protected and powerful. I want this car so bad I’m trembling.
Junior climbs in beside me and I edge the Tarago out into the constant stream of traffic on Whitehorse Road. ‘I can’t even hear the engine,’ I say.
‘Yes, it’s very quiet,’ he says, before starting on some salesman spin about this and that, but I can’t hear him because I’m counting inside my head.
‘Eight fucking seats, Junior,’ I say, laughing in sheer amazement as I think of my boys moving their arms and legs and seeing strange airy gaps between each other. ‘The kids’ll think they’re kings!’
‘So this is an upgrade then?’ Junior asks. ‘Are you planning on lots of children?’
‘We have three boys. And another due in October,’ I say, as we merge and pick up speed.
‘Congrats,’ he says, directing me toward the Eastern Freeway. ‘Not long to go then.’
‘It’s getting close,’ I agree. ‘But we know the drill now. Wait for the mucus plug to show. That’s our signal to saddle up for the ride.’
When I look at Junior’s face I use my Stay-at-Dad experience to decipher that he’s about three steps away from actually vomiting. He’s a lightweight.
‘That’s right,’ I tell him. ‘It forms on the cervix to stop bacteria getting into the uterus. Looks like a big glob of snot… ’
Several minutes of silence pass as I fang the Tarago down the Freeway. Despite doing my best to conceal my need to squeal with excitement a high-pitched whimper escapes me. When I turn to see if Junior heard it I can’t help but notice the terror in his eyeballs and it suddenly occurs to me that I have considerable strengths that could turn negotiations my way. I know nothing about cars and have no bargaining awareness whatsoever but I am a freak and I’m sure this young buck hasn’t had to deal with too many of us this early in his career.
I maintain my silence until we’re back on Whitehorse Road and heading back to the dealership. Junior regains some composure and tries to soften me up with some salesman spin, ‘It’s only done 80,000kms,’ he says, ‘Which is remarkable for this model…’
I interrupt him to say, ‘I really like this steering wheel. It’s so round.’
‘Also, if you buy today it comes with a three month warran…’
‘And it’s so turny!’ I say, amazed, fishying between lanes for a few hundred meters before slamming on the brakes at a set of red traffic lights. ‘Does this have a slip-of-the-whiff-diff?’ I ask.
When he releases the dashboard I watch the blood return to his knuckles. ‘A what?’ he says.
‘Oh, I don’t know,’ I say, frigging the inside of my ear with my little finger. I do this for a full minute until the lights change. My eyes are crossed in feigned pleasure. ‘God, I just can’t get it, Junior,’ I say, before before holding up my pinky and saying, ‘How small are your fingers?’
Junior whispers, ‘The lights have changed,’ just as a driver honks behind us and so I whack both hands on the steering wheel and slam the accelerator down hard.
‘Hey, if I’d just broken into a bank…’ I yell, even though the car is the quietest I’ve ever driven, ‘and was getting hunted by the pigs… maybe a few divisional vans, a police chopper and… I don’t know… A Current Affair… do you think I could escape and, like, blend in? I mean, how many Taragos are there, Junior?’
‘There’s the dealership,’ Junior shouts, as I drive right by it.
‘Get the fuck out of my Tarago,’ I say, as I slam the breaks on again at the next lights.
‘What?’ he asks.
‘I said it’s a fine Tarago. But just a little pricey.’ I spot a MacDonald’s drive-through up ahead. ‘I mean, it’s clearly a good people mover but will it cater to the romantic side of a relationship? Oh stuff it, there’s one more test I need to perform.’
When I pull out of the drive-though I have one large coke zero with two straws. It fits nicely into the drink holder on the dash. The ice clinks romantically as I find a small dead-end alleyway behind a Car Wash off Whitehorse Road. I dawdle up to the end, put the Tarago in park and let the engine idle. When I pull a 5 CD MegaBox of 80s Classics out of my jacket pocket and hold it up to Junior he looks so white I can almost see through him.
‘Here,’ I say, as I take CD 4, slide it in to the Player and shuffle through to track 14. ‘This is I Got You Babe by UB40 and Chrissie Hynde. It’s a very good song. The lyrics speak to me of that early, lust-driven attraction that makes the rest of world seem like nothing more than a back-drop to the desperate, consuming need that new lovers have for one another.’
Junior is pressed up against the passenger door. After I engage the central locking to prevent him from escaping, I shrug, ‘Anyway, you probably know it.
‘I do,’ he whispers.
‘Good,’ I reply, sharply, as I lean in towards him. ‘So let’s sing it together and really test this Tarago out. You can be Reservoir Mum and I’ll be me. Do these seats fold down?’
Junior says this next line so quickly it takes me a moment to work it out. ‘I’m pretty sure that if we head back right now I can talk to the boss into letting the price down.’
‘That’s excellent, Junior,’ I say, as the music fills the massive interior of my shiny new Tarago…