Thursday, March 25, 2010


The neighbor kid, Jimmy, a scruffy-looking 19-year-old, who seemed to favor faded black T-shirts with numerous holes and well-worn dirty jeans he liked to wear for a couple of weeks before washing, came over to borrow a rake. He couldn’t help but notice again, the care I was giving to detailing my car. At the beginning of every Spring and Autumn, I give my ten-year-old Toyota its biannual spa treatment, inside and out. It may have its car door dings and parking lot scratches, but it still has that showroom shine and no rust. An accomplishment I take a bit a pride in.

And then there’s Jimmy’s car. A prematurely aged ’98 Ford Fiesta, a British import. Dirty, dented and rusting, its cherry red exterior had oxidized to the point that the cherry had abandoned the car a couple of years ago. Jimmy’s idea of taking care of his car was running it through the $2 car wash once a year, at the end of winter, “whether it needs it or not,” he liked to say. This despite the fact that Jimmy works at a car wash.

Jimmy liked to think that people shouldn’t make judgements based on outward appearances. And while I agree that people shouldn’t make judgements only on outward appearances, first impressions are inevitably made on what people, places and things look like.

Jimmy thought it was a waste of time, money and effort keeping my Toyota looking and running as well as I could. I tried previously to explain the value of maintaining an investment but it mostly fell on deaf ears. He kept insisting that a car just gets you from point ‘A’ to point ‘B’ and it shouldn’t matter what others thought.

This time I thought I’d try a different approach when he asked me why I work so hard at “keeping up appearances”.

I asked him why he always borrowed his dad’s ’06 Dodge Viper (yes, a red one) when he went out on a date.

“Dude,” he said, “It’s the snake, man. Look at it. Girls love it and I look so good in it.”

“But why not just use your car,” I asked. “All you need is to get from here to there, right?”

“Mr. E, you can’t be serious,” he said. “I’m not gonna impress a girl in a Ford Fiesta. I don’t want her to think I’m a total douche on the first date.”

“So on what date do you want her to think that of you,” I asked.

“None,” Jimmy said emphatically, like I was some kind of nut for even suggesting it.

Suddenly the candle flickered inside his brain, signaling some activity. I think he finally got it.

A couple of days later, he asked if I could give him some tips on “restoring” the finish on his Fiesta.

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