The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Saturday, March 17, 2007

Box Chick

by Patricia Parkinson

(May contain swearing, not sure yet.)

On Monday, I'm starting a new job. I'm terrified.

I've been doing my job for twenty-two years. I was a child prodigy and this newness of location should be nothing for a pro such as myself. I had to breathe into a paper bag after writing that last bit. However, I am petrified with fear; was paralysed from the time I heard I got the job, until, well, it hasn't abated.

I'm in sales in the car industry. Big surprise there. I often wonder how my life would have turned out if I became what I told my teachers I wanted to become - a bio chemical lab technician on the verge of discovering the cure for all things that kill us. Instead, I sell paper. Lots of paper. Paper that tells you about warranties and leases and insurance that will pay for your loan in the event you are maimed or injured while exiting your tub and other pieces of paper that reduce the depreciation of your brand new car. How this piece of paper works is beyond me, but there's a 1-800 number provided for your convenience. I also sell undercoating. My husband tells me, "Undercoating will save the lives of your children." I've yet to use this line.

There's no official title for what I do. I've been called an F and I Manager, a Business Manager, a Lease and Finance Specialist, and a Banking Centre Manager. Dealers are creative when thinking of ways to name "The Person who takes your money" and label the position with what they think is a trustworthy title. We must trust who we give our money to.

The only consistent thing about my job is the room in which I conduct it. The room is universally known in the automotive industry as the box. Once in the box, the customer, the up, the moop, who the salesman tells me after negotiating for the past five hours, "Patricia, I forgot their name. So you do your thing, okay?" which is my cue to introduce myself first, extend my hand, and they, the up, the guy/family/student/woman who just left her husband and now needs a car to make her final escape will automatically tell me their name, relieving the salesmen of any embarassment. God.

Anyway, once in the box, you are past the point of no return. Before crossing the threshold I have downloaded your entire credit history, pulled a file on your driver's licence and the plate number of your trade-in and run a five hundred dollar deposit through on the credit card you don't even remember giving to the saleman who has now forgotten your name. There is no turning back.

It's all great and fine that everyone has agreed on price and color. It's my job to figure out how you're going to come up with the thirty-two thousand nine-hundred and ninety-five dollars plus tax to drive that baby over the curb or nobody gets paid. It's a motivating thing.

You either give the money to me or I give you the money.

In order for me to give it to you, there are certain credit criteria that must be met. Criteria. Well, let's just say I've heard more excuses for bad credit than Revenue Canada.

Lamest bad credit excuse (most commonly used by those under twenty-seven and usually involving a cell phone that "wasn't really" theirs): "I moved and like the cell phone company, they like... didn't know I moved, so, like... what was I supposed to do? They didn't send me those reminder things." If used by a client older than twenty-seven, the "moved excuse" denotes the use of illegal substances and increases the likelihood of Family Maintenance Enforcement collections for children that aren't theirs either.

And the tried and true, so freaking boring, excuse for bad credit: "It was my ex."

Ex anything. It could be an ex-dog. Really. A man we sold a car to went bankrupt over unpaid vet bills as neither he nor his ex-wife had official custody of the pet and both refused to pay. The man couldn't understand why the bank declined his request to borrow $65,000 for a new Suburban for his new dog and new wife and new children. Pay your fucking bills and shut up, I want to tell these people, in only the nicest of ways. I eventually got Mr. Happy Pants bought, and he drove off, a bit lighter in his load. Poor man never knew what hit him.

The best stories are the true ones. They're the reason I have been doing my job for twenty-two years, for the stories about people who are just down on their luck.

"If we could have this chance" to get a great job, or go to a school that isn't on a bus route, to take my children to school or the doctors, or "We're having our third baby," and they currently drive a 1982 Toyota Celica they share when they switch from graveyards to days because they can't afford day care and how they actually managed to conceive this child is a miracle of timing in itself. I tell the customers they can keep the Celica and become a two-car family for the same monthly budget as they originally came in for! And we are all delirious with happiness. We are! I am!

These are the best people, the ones I love my job for, the ones I like to think I do help out, that I bend over backwards for to get approved and make my job about more than transportation and all about moving forward. These are the good stories from customers who drop by to say hello when they get their first oil change, whose names I do remember and will never forget, who had a story, a story like everyone else, and only needed someone to listen.

On Monday, I start all over again at another dealership with more paper. After all these years, I'm just as nervous now as then, probably more so, there's more riding on it now than when I was single and twenty-four and and saw my first customers. I'm good at my job, at being a box chick. I like people. I'm genuinely interested in what they have to say, in their stories.

Wish me luck.

P.S. I'm bringing paper bags, the nice ones from Starbucks with the handles.


Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I see some potential for a story or two in some of your more colourful customers. Good luck with the new job, Patricia!

Sat Mar 17, 02:14:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger Nance Knauer said...

thanks for the insider look at this world. and you'll be great, no worries!

Sat Mar 17, 02:43:00 pm GMT-4  
Blogger tamara said...

I love that photo! Good luck with the new job, Patricia. You'll be great.

Sun Mar 18, 12:11:00 am GMT-4  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Congratulations and good luck! With your positive caring attitude you'll wow them all for sure. Loved this story.

Tue Mar 20, 08:05:00 am GMT-4  

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