Leader of the Free* World

* Financing charges may apply.

Happy President’s Day!

With all the snow PLUS a postal holiday, I’ve had extra time to read through the junk mail, including this dispatch from Wally’s Intimida.

Your New Sherpa – Parked Out Back

Don’t miss the President’s Day Sale this year – we’ll have awesome deals on incredible cars of course, including the one-of-a-kind Intimida Sherpa, the largest car on the planet! It’s a mountain of an automobile that’s so massive, it makes its own weather! Come see the car environmentalists call “obscene” and mapping satellites say is “terrain”. That’s right – your new Sherpa could appear in the next World Atlas!

Wally’s Intimida is committed to providing a great car buying experience to everyone who comes in the door. We believe in freedom and equality for all! We totally buy into the time-honored sales slogan “The customer is always right”. And if you shop in February, we make this pledge – The Customer is Always President!

Face it – you’ve always wanted to be Commander in Chief, and you know you’d be a great one.

When you come to Wally’s, our sales staff will meet you at the door with applause, just for being there! We’ll play “Hail to the Chief” and we’ll sit and listen with rapt attention as you lay out your ideas for how everything needs to be. We’ll agree, totally. You’ll get lots of ovations. There’ll be confetti and you’ll have the chance to kiss a few babies.

When we take you out to the lot for your test drive, we’ll have a camera crew following you and a reporter shouting questions that you don’t have to answer. And of course there will be a cloud of security, complete with snipers on the rooftops watching out for low flying airplanes. The manhole covers along your route will be welded shut. After all, you’re President!

Once you get back to the dealership – a press conference. The sales consultant, the sales manager, the financing guy, the woman who wants to sell you nitrogen filled tires and extra rust proofing and the dude who pushes the extended warranty will pepper you with questions. It’s all in good fun and what a great experience – bring your family so they can see how you handle the pressure with confidence. Ultimately we’ll do whatever you say, mostly. This whole thing is part of your legacy and you’re in charge!

And because Every Customer is President during February at Wally’s Intimida, we’ll do some talking behind your back. You can watch on closed-circuit TV as our staff of commentators and bloviators dissects your every move and gesture. We’ll chew the fat about how realistic your goals are. We’ll list your strengths and weaknesses and wonder out loud about your true motives. We’ll develop a plan to get you to compromise. We might even decide to stonewall you. Fun! Do we give anything away by letting you in on it? Of course not – you’re the President! So much of high-level politics is obvious. The players know what’s coming and it always boils down to a power struggle over numbers. We’ll consider shutting down the whole dealership if it looks like, by doing so, we can get you to budge on that paint sealant package. Stare us down. Test your mettle. And bring lots of extra change for the vending machine – we could be here all night!

And when the great struggle is finally over, there’ll be a signing ceremony in the sales manager’s office. It may be years before any of us know who got the better end of the deal. Historians will pick through the remains, and we’ll send you on your way with enough paperwork to start your own Presidential Library!

Here’s the point – when you are Commander in Chief, you are always the most important person in the room. If you want to feel significant, like your actions and opinions matter, then come car shopping at Wally’s in February when Every Customer is President. It’ll be the greatest opportunity you’ve ever had, and the toughest job you’ve ever loved.

I have to admit this letter got to me – I would like to feel like I’m as important as the President, but I don’t know if I have the stamina. And one thing Wally didn’t mention – when it’s all over you’ll still have to manage a crushing amount of debt!

Ever had a great experience buying something big?

69 thoughts on “Leader of the Free* World”

  1. Size is relative, right?

    My ex was… how shall we say it… extremely frugal. Granted, we were young and house-poor, but his struggle to not spend any extra pennies even when we had them was difficult. I remember clearly one Christmas when there were trees on sale at Frank’s Nursery. Scrubby trees, still wrapped in their plastic netting, in a huge frozen pile on the back lot. And I can still see him in my mind’s eye, scrambling over the pile, working to unearth a tree that would even stay up in the tree stand. It was dark, cold and miserable.

    Fast forward a few years to our separation. We had only been separated a few weeks and it was the holiday season. I was lonely and unhappy, and even pondering whether I should re-think my decision to separate – maybe being with him was better than being alone. Even my Irish Setter, Katie Scarlett seemed down. It was early on a Sunday morning and as I cracked open the paper, there was an ad for Bachman’s – the same kind of ad they probably have every year, but it caught my eye. I bundled myself up and headed on down. I had never been there before, because my ex thought it was too expensive, so I wasn’t what to expect. Since it was so early and cold, no one else was there. Two teenage boys, who clearly were dying for something to do, took me under their wing. We walked all the way through the whole place while they stopped at every tree, turned each in it’s stand (yes, every tree standing and nothing wrapped in plastic), regaling me with visions of how each tree might look in my house. Did I do popcorn? What kind of lights do I have? Do I have an angel or a star for the top? They made me feel like the queen of the world and that my being there was simply making their day. And, of course, when I did finally make up my mind (lush White Pine that was tall enough that I worried a bit that the star would fit between it and the ceiling), they got the tree on top of my car and tied it down securely. AND, by the time I got the tree home a little bit later, it had started to snow. Heaven.

    I felt warm and fuzzy the rest of the holiday season, not because I had a great and expensive tree ($30, which 20+ years ago was a lot, triple the price of the frozen Frank’s tree), but because I realized that I was just fine alone and that there were still plenty of adventures to be had.

    It may not have been a literal huge purchase, but it was a huge metaphorical and turning point purchase for me!


    1. not good great, it tells the story of life sherrilee. i am glad you were able to figure out lifes direction on a basis that is so simple. what a wonderful formula. my grandfather used to by a new cadalac every year and a flocked christmas tree from bachmans. it was so extravagant and told so much about how different he was from my families suburban station wagon and catholic church warming house existance. it is obvious if you just know where to look.


    2. That’s a great story, VS. It should be included in your Hollywood biopic – a pivotal scene to mark the beginning of a new life.
      Your extremely frugal ex – he’s not the Governor of Wisconsin, is he?


  2. Rise and get out the shovels/snow blowers Baboons:

    Before answering the question, I can’t tell you how much I enjoyed this snowstorm–no place to go, just have to stay home with my Sunday paper and Crosswords. Today we have to clear the driveway and start to function again, but yesterday was great.

    Meanwhile, like VS, after my divorce and after owning a number of malfunctioning cars during the marriage that brought the divorce, I saved my money, then stepped up and bought a 1988 silver Honda Civic. I had to wait several weeks for it to arrive from the factory which allowed more time to savor the experience. No one played “Hail to the Chief” for me at the dealership. But I still felt like such a responsible grown up buying a new car that would work well.

    The two cars that preceded this car were a 1972 Volkswagon without heat or defroster, and a 198? Chevy Cavalier Station Wagon that broke down at every possible opportunity, dying a well deserved death when the engine died.


      1. I did one pass by myself last night because neighbors were away, but tonight I have help coming with the rest of it. Was good for me to “do it herself” one time…

        Jacque – what color was your 72 VW? Mine was new-that-yearTexas yellow.


    1. My family had one of those VWs without heat. I worked evenings as a waitress and would drive it home at about 11 p.m. It was wrong to run the fan. My legs were so frozen by the time I got home one night that I felt like they would shatter as I walked up to the house!


      1. Husband had a 63 bug – hooked up some vacuum hoses in the back where the heat began, which went under back seat and between front seats: one was held in place with coat hanger wire to the rear view mirror for defrost; the other was “loose” and could be stuck in his boot, jacket, etc. or dry his hair!


      2. i had the 69 van with auxilary heeater for added warmth. it took about 1 trip with all that added warmth for me to go buy a propane tank and a catalytic heater form the camping store and set it up with bungies in the back. nothing to owning a vw in minnesota just find your own heat source. love the mentality. yugo must havbe wondered we we picked on them and their bad quality look at what we lived with.


      3. A friend of mine had a bug… ‘Fritz’. He asked me to drive it around the block one winter while they were on vacation. Key didn’t work “Use the piece of wire hanging off the blinker”. They didn’t have much of a defroster either, right? I was looking out this little 1/2″ slot at the bottom of the window…

        The Buick LeSabre my son inherited from the Grandparents; battery is under the back seat… again.


      4. those vdubs were a coathanger paper clip operation to keep running but they responded so well. neat to hear the battery under the seat is alive and well,


  3. Well… my company is OPEN today. Sheesh. So, off I go to snowblowing. I figure it will take about 25 minutes just to get to the garage to the snowblower!

    Have a fun morning all!


    1. the snow hit early enough i had time to go to home depot and get the driveway stuff for the pre snowstorm application and still blow the driveway 3 times to keep up with the new downfall so i get to sit this morning after finishing up about 10:30 last night. warm, fluffy… life is good even with a football field long driveway


  4. Good morning to all,

    Great story or life experience, VS. I think Wally is going to get himself in trouble with that kind of a sales effort, Dale. He might find himself in jail for his spending effort to expand his sales, like another car dealer we know about here in Minnesota.

    I bought a house not too long ago and it was a fairly good experience. We had a good real estate agent who even treated us to meal after signing. I liked the bank represenative who handled the finance. The people we bought from were very reasonable.

    Still, there are things to worry about with any real estate deal these days. We had to sign a lot of papers. I don’t care what any one says about being careful about what you sign. You can’t be careful when the stack of papers are so tall that you would need many hours to read all of them. I’m sure the very experienced people who were helping us with signing and who I more or less trusted, didn’t completly understand all of those papers. To top it off the banker from the local bank we choose said our mortgage would be sold to one of the big wall street banks that were involved in the bad deals that did so much damage to our economy and then got bailed out.


  5. I had already planned on working from home today as Daughter has no school or release day program to go to…so, good excuse to stay tucked in and enjoy the pretty snow (Husband informs me that this is a record amount of snowfall for February – biggest/deepest snow in recorded ever). I’m sure at some point I’ll be out with a shovel, but for now I’ll just enjoy it through the picture window. (VS – maybe you need to come work where I do…got a broadcast email that basically said, “if you’re foolish enough to try to drive in, the campus is open, but for the love of Pete, stay home if you can.”)

    As for today’s actual question…I think my first mortgage is my answer. Clearly not alone in that. I assumed a mortgage on the duplex I was living in, and was still single – so it was just me signing on most everything (except for one or two that my mom signed on as well as a co-signer – though by her own admission, I could afford the payments, and just needed the boost on paper). I remember after I was done signing my stack of papers my saying something about having to be a responsible adult now. My dad, who was also along for the adventure, told me, “Nope. You just need to pay the bills on time.” When your 70+-year-old dad tells you that you don’t need to be a responsible adult, this is advice you can take with a clear conscience. 🙂


  6. News Flash!

    Got the back door open. It was a sight–me in my robe and slippers forcing the door enough to grab the shovel and maneuver the snow away. So now the neurotic dog can return to her usual poop territory. She has been bewildered by needing to exit the front door to do her business. I’ve worked in nursing homes where one witnesses formerly sane people becoming preoccupied by these basic human functions. I swear the dog is getting like that at age 13. Who knew?


    1. Too funny, I saw most of the neighborhood out in jami pants and parkas coming to the aid of their less fortunate neighors who had to get unstuck and head to work (me, I put the snowpants over the jamis first before I head out for early shovelling).


    2. My prior basset was like that, even in her youth. Onc year the back door got frozen shut in an ice storm – I swear she crossed her legs until about 5 pm that day…every time I’d take her out the front door, she’d look at me like she wanted the *other* outside. By mid-afternoon she couldn’t wait any more for the back door. Poor pup.


      1. Our fair Twixiecat will beg to be let outside, take one look out the open back door, turn and run for the front door and then give me the “I’m so disappointed in you look” when she sees it is no better out there.


  7. Feeling very virtuous as the shovelling was done (by me-s&h has earned a break) by 6am and I don’t have to be to work until 9. Bonus was the little spaniel puppy next door was out “helping” at that hour.

    Up to him belly in snow and happy as a lark.

    No red carpet sales here, but did feel good about the real estate transactions-years later and still no troubles with those. Like Sherrilee’s experience, it was very affirming just to be able to make the purchase.

    Getting the student loan papers back with Paid in Full stamped on all of them was pretty monumental-I suspect that will be eclipsed when the mortgage papers come back in the same condition.


  8. I was in San Francisco just out of college, working the temp. secretarial circuit, searching in vain for a full time teaching job (1970), and had just moved into a rather run-down apartment building on Pacific Ave. just off Van Ness. I’d brought all 10 albums with me from Iowa (Beach Boys, Stones, Beatles, Judy Collins, Mantovani…) and desperately wanted something on which to play them. Saw a sale ad for a stereo system — $100! — and hopped on one of those busses to find the place, on Market Street if memory serves. I remember the shaky feeling of signing the contract – what I could then afford was $10 a month + interest. My first going into debt.

    Then I got it home and tried to remember how they’d taught me to hook it up, which probably took me an hour. Had to decide where to position the speakers… Finally: Success! I will never forget how fabulous that cheap stereo sounded when I put my first album on my own stereo in my own apartment (well, mine and the roommate’s) by The Bay.

    OT: Wow, another neighbor is snowblowing our driveway as I type. Life is good!


  9. i did a house deal a couple of years ago where the premise was that i would buy this fistfull of lots , start an association and sell of 3 twin homes so i could own the fourth for cheap. the buying and selling of the lots and houses was a big deal and the first one felt special, the 8th one didn’t anymore. ended up with a situation where i didn’t wnat to live in an association i had created so i sold the last twin home and bought another hose instead. a final meeting that was good one and havn’t had another since. they cow tow to you and make you all important and then do the same thing to the next guy. its kind of a neat premise. make everyone feel special for an hour as you are getting them to commit to the next major obstacle in their life. the mortgage signing of dorian gray…. i can see it now. come get big cash for your soul. we will give you a glass of champaigne a pretty girl on your elbow for the signing and a seat at the head of the table and all we want is your soul. you can drive a car and live in a house that will match the beautiful presentation you make walking down main street and then have the dorian gray scenario come in… the car falls apart and rust as you do, the house begins to crumble, the elbows on the sports coat need patches, resole the shoes and send the kids off in goodwill parkas to the winter playgorund.and the picture of the house and your image in the mirror decline in rapid succession. where is dr kyle or his cousin larry from the basement?


  10. It felt great when we bought our Toyota van new in 1998. It is still with us, at 195,000 miles and going strong. The mechanics tell us it will make it to 300,000 miles, no problem. Our daughter wants to bring it with her to college (still more than two years away). She says she feels safe in it since it has taken her safely to Bismarck for lessons since 2001. She has yet to get her driver’s permit and isn’t real interested in doing so, so I don’t know when she will get to drive it.


  11. A couple of years ago, I bought what was for me a really expensive piece of art. I’d been shopping for a nice piece from this artist for 6 years. Found one on Belgian eBay. The seller was a bit of a nudge to deal with, which never helps with buyer confidence. It arrived in a package made of cardboard and wood lath strips. I had horrible visions of the lath have scratched or punctured the art but, in spite of the lath pieces having slid around inside the cardboard, it managed to arrive in one piece. As I unbundled it, I found that it had been glued down to a slab of matte that had been damaged. My heart sunk. But I peeled up a corner of the art and found that it came away from the damaged board. The glue they’d used was the same type of rubber cement that magazines use with subscription sheets. So, I slowly and carefully peeled it off, then gently rubbed the adhesive off the back of the art. Fortunately it hadn’t been on long enough to start discoloring the art, as that stuff will do. Dodged two major bullets with that art, which is more of a relief ‘whew’ but it still made me feel good. I actually sold it earlier this year for 1/3 more than I paid for it, which was a nice ‘farewell.’


  12. My wife and I do most things by impulse, including sometimes the big purchases. 1969 I took a job on the North Shore. We went up to find a rental. Drove by a cabin on the shore with a for sale sign. Cost a whopping $10,500, and I do mean whopping. Had to scrap together $1500 down payment that we could “prove” was really our money and not money someone loaned or gave us. The banker, a small town old man who had squired many a poor family through debts and crises including my parents (where are such banks and such people today?), told me how to prove that half the money was not a loan from my parents (still astounds me they did that; where did we get the other $750, cannot remember). Lived there for 24 years, rebuilt it two years after buying it. Did not have that wonderful liberating feeling a few of you have described. I think some of that comes from living with parents who were the children of the depression who always had to worry about money.
    But I hate doing the big purchases; just hate it. I was always willing to to take intellectual professional risks, but not the money ones. Cannot say any car purchase pleased me. Renting an apartment last week has me on edge, but the day I am free of Efrafa will be a great feeling. One of our motivations for going to rental is to free our kids of the burden of having to sell a house, which could easily be a good distance from both of them.


    1. This tale reminds me of the feeling of being young. My sister and husband and baby were moving from Duluth to St. Cloud that summer. So I rented a truck from a private garage in St. Paul. I picked it up at 6 a.m. and drove to Lindstrom, where some HS kids were waiting to help me load it. Got out of there about 10. Got to Two Harbors about 3 (slow truck). My b-i-l and I threw the stuff in our new home and drove to Duluth to load their stuff. We left there about midnight and took turns driving to St. Cloud by 5 a.m., where we threw the stuff in the little home they had bought there. I got the truck back to the garage about 11 a.m. The owner had had a big fight with his son the night before and had been up all night drinking and was still drunk. He was all maudlin and belligerent and charged me $35. When I tired to explain it was much lower than the price to which we had agreed (I think about $95), he got angry and told me he was deducting the price of the gas. At that point another son came in and took my $35 and got his father to agree to go home to bed. So we moved the two of us in 29 hours for $35 plus gas at 35 cents a gallon. I do not regret the loss of those prices as much as the loss of the body that could do that.


    2. I got help from my Dad buying our first house. He was a little suprised when I ask him for a fairly large amount of money for those times, but he did it with hardly any hesitation. I am certainly very grateful for his generous help.
      The house was not in good shape, but we were able to sell at a fairly good price, so that turned out good.


      1. i forgot about the first house. i was 20 had been looking for a while and found a nice house and got the paperwork all done at the bank, went home jumped in the moving vsan full of furniture and had my buddy help me move it in. we got out of the truck , went to open the doors and found that the keys had been lost had to kick out a window to break into my house. havn’t had a key to my house since. the ceremony on the outside was not so much, inside it was a big big deal


  13. I bought my brand new 1992 Honda Civic off the lot at Burnsville Honda in August 1992 and paid cash. It cost $10,000. They were flabbergasted. It was “ma’am” this and “ma’am” that! What fun! I drove that car until 1997: 16 years and 247,000 miles.

    I bought my first house in 1993. It was an estate. The woman, Eleanor, who had owned it was single, had no kids, was a singer and piano player, had been the original telegraph operator in Faribault, and was a member one of the Lutheran churches. Her only family member, a sister, had preceded her in death. She had been placed in long term care and wasn’t able to represent herself anymore. She needed the money from her estate for her care. The father of a friend of mine from high school (Paul) represented her as a member of her church. She had no one else.

    It was a great experience for me, and a sweet little house with a Kasota stone fireplace. Paul was eager to sell the house so that she would get the money. I got a great deal on it. Signing the mortgage papers was a positive experience because everything was going my way. There were lots of antiques in it, most of which weren’t all that valuable except for a couple of cool old lamps with opalescent glass shades. I put new siding and windows on the house, repainted and remodeled, bought some new appliances and sold the whole works for twice what I’d paid in 1999.

    My second house has not been so sweet or easy. I’m pretty sure it won’t sell for a long time and I may even lose on it.

    It’s still snowing here!


      1. I regret selling it now. It was so much easier to maintain and Faribault is my home town. I moved to Waterville because it’s 2 miles from work and 17 miles closer to my St. Peter friends. I’ve tried real hard to fit in with the Waterville people, but they still don’t accept me. (“You ain’t from around here, are ya?”)


    1. I believe what we are getting right now in St Paul is sneet or the equally disgusting wintery mix-I can see a lot of something coming down, but nothing but a glaze of ice accumulating on the cars in the parking lot out my window.



  14. Morning–

    Done snowing here, just windy yet… got maybe 5″ with a sleet coating on top… East Wind got our driveway pretty good; made a path this morning so Kelly could get to work and son could get to tech rehearsal for his play at school. Means Daughter and I get to hang out all day!

    I always have a minor case of buyers regret; TV, tractor or car… the next day I’m wondering if I did the right thing…but then it’s OK.
    Purchasing this house wasn’t any big deal; bought it from my folks with very agreeable terms so it was fairly easy….
    The tractor I was just using to blow snow this morning… that was a little scarier; down payment and contract w/ the dealer / manufacturer…. but it was a good thing. It’s a nice tractor…

    (…still chuckling at tim living in his hose….)


      1. I am partly from Dutch heritage. I asked an old dutch guy if he agreed with the saying, “If you aren’t Dutch, you aren’t much”. He told me that he never said that out loud, but he might have thoughts like that.


  15. OT: I have had Madeleine Peyroux’s song about the summer wind (“my fickle friend…the summer wind…”) stuck in my head all day. If it weren’t such a pleasant song, I might be annoyed by the irony.


  16. Greetings! I don’t remember a specific buying experience — and car buying is just too intimidating. I just assume the sales folks have a good chuckle and make their quota along with a hefty profit after we leave the dealership and that we were ripped off.

    But I did have a particularly wonderful experience (how could you not) at The Hotel Del Coronado in San Diego, CA. I was working one of the Pillsbury Bake-Offs held there many years ago and a couple adorable bell hops and the bell captain were assigned to the Bake-Off to take care of whatever we needed — miscellaneous tasks, mailing packages, finding contestants, etc. They were extremely solicitous — “can I get anything for you, Ms. Jensen?”, “shall I call a car for you, Ms. Jensen?”, “let me take care of that for you, Ms. Jensen.” Granted, I was a lowly secretary who never traveled or stayed at nice hotels, so I felt very important and like I was queen of the day. It was nice that I could delegate to someone else for once.

    If you’re ever in San Diego and have money to burn, I highly recommend The Hotel Del Coronado — such an amazing place right on the beach. And the food and service is to-die-for, too.


  17. I missed the Rock Bend broadcast the first couple of times, so I am tuning in now. I’m pretty sure I heard it starts at 7 tonight.


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