"So, you've got a lead foot?" This was the question the salesman asked my wife as we stood in the car lot. My son was already grinning that very special grin that he makes when he is around a vehicle with more than four cylinders. My wife was smiling too, only more demurely. "Well..." she started.
We had made a pilgrimage a few exits down the highway to find a Ford dealership in hopes of cashing in on the offer my family had picked up at the annual car show. Come in and test drive a Ford and they would give us a fifty dollar gift card. It certainly wouldn't cost us fifty dollars to make the trip to the dealer, so this seemed like a pretty good investment of our time. When we got out of our car, our plan was to talk up our interest in Ford's electric cars. That and maybe take a peek at the Mustang Boss 302 for my son. Antonio, the salesman who must have seen us coming, met us just a few steps onto the lot. "What can I help you folks with today?"
The easy answer, to me, was "Sign this piece of paper so we can get our gift card," but that wasn't in our plan. Neither was the orange beast that sat just in front of the doors to the showroom: an orange 2008 Dodge Challenger. We ran through our list of possible test drives, none of which were available at this location. "How about that one?" My wife pointed in the direction of my son's fixation.
Antonio didn't blink. He looked directly at my son and said, "I'll just need a driver's license. You did bring yours didn't you?" And for a moment, that fourteen year old went fishing in his pocket for any shred of evidence that would make him street legal. When he came up empty, I felt compelled to opt out. My wife was born in Detroit. If anyone was going to tear up the blacktop in her family's name, it should be her. She found her license quickly enough, and that's when Antonio asked about the relative weight of her foot.
He needn't have asked. I took a seat in the back of our quiet little Prius and sent the gear heads off on their adventure. I had brought along a magazine for just such an opportunity, and settled in as I watched the three of them pile in: in the driver's seat, Antonio squeezed into the back, and my son still grinning from shotgun.
They weren't gone long, but they did cover some ground. To hear my wife describe it, the car had a mind of its own. "It wanted to go fast," she insisted. That meant they all went fast. For twenty-some minutes on that January afternoon, all the cares and woes of carbon offsets and fossil fuels drifted away as she piloted that great big American car through traffic down the highway. She came back with the same grin as our son. And a signature that gave us a fifty dollar gift card. It's what she likes to call a "win-win situation." I wonder if they would take fifty dollars down on a 2008 Dodge Challenger.