Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Rusty Pails #5
Smilin' Jack Makes Lemonade

by Rocky Macy

Don’t bother coming to Sprung Hinge auctions if you’re looking for a car. Cars do sell at our local auctions, but seldom as bargains. And when one does go too cheap, it’s always to Smilin’ Jack Retread, the Kind of Cars.

Smilin’ Jack owns “CARS! CARS! CARS! and Salvage” – where just a few dollars down can put you behind the wheel of a pre-owned deluxe vehicle, guaranteed to make it off the lot and most of the way home.

Jack and I have been kicking tires together at sales since the days when my old “Rust Bucket” was mostly original. Over the years I’ve learned a thing or three about cars just by standing in the wash of his endless sales pitch. I’ve also learned a little about Smilin’ Jack.

The most poignant lesson was the summer before last. Smilin’ Jack got himself into a fierce bidding competition with a youngster over an old crate that didn’t look towable, much less drivable. To the utter disbelief of the auction regulars, Jack eventually captured the beast for several times what it was worth, sending his disappointed adversary home to the showers.

That evening as we sat around his small office whittling away life’s cares, I ask Jack just exactly why he had been so eager to squander his money.

“Heck, Rusty,” came the reply. “The kid’s getting married. He doesn’t need that car, he needs a good one!”

“Won’t he make the same mistake tomorrow, somewhere else?” I asked.

“Maybe, but next time may not be at an auction. We both know that sometimes bidding excites people and drives prices out the window. Besides, tomorrow’s car would almost have to be better than this one.”

“You did save that kid from a mistake,” I agreed, pointing through the screen door at what Jack had dragged home. I thought about adding, “Now who’s going to rescue you?” But I didn’t. Smilin’ Jack makes a habit of never losing too badly.

That weekend after carefully salvaging the few items of value that still clung to the old car, Jack set it out in the middle of his lot and held Sprung Hinge’s First Annual Semi-Serious Car Bash. The urge to plop down a dollar to swing a sledge hammer at the old heap was durn nigh irresistible. But I held onto my money and watched the other fools throw theirs to Jack. I’m a great watcher!

As the dust settled that evening, Smilin Jack Retread had turned a few dollars profit, added some pieces of salvage to his inventory, and still had a mutilated car to sell for scrap metal. To frost the cake, he had even sold a couple of used cars to people in the crowd. Smilin’ Jack had taken his lemon and used it to make lemonade!

Are you listening, Ermine?

Auction Tip: When the auctioneer holds up the item that you’re after, don’t appear too eager. People who have an interest in increasing the sale price may intentionally “bump” your bid if they have the sense that you must have what is being auctioned.

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