“You have to. Just go in and tell him,” my friend urges me. “It’ll be okay.”
I walk into the glass-walled lobby and scan the crowd, palms sweaty, heart pounding, and then I spot Joe. He walks toward me, his smile warm, his face eager.
“Hi there,” I say, then stammer out the rest. My voice is higher than usual, my tone pleading. It’s not you, I tell him; it’s me. And I’m sorry.
Joe’s smile fades a little, and the light dims in his eyes. I waver.
“I am really sorry,” I tell him. “I would almost buy the Camry just so I don’t make you feel bad. You’ve been so nice.”
“I would never want you to do that,” he tells me. “You need to buy the car that’s right for you. Even if it is from another dealer.”
Joe refunds the money I put down on the Camry. We shake hands and part as friends.
I drive the three miles to the other dealership where Alex is waiting for me. I hurry because I don’t want him to worry that I have changed my mind. He had been reluctant to let me leave. Even the $500 I gave him did not seem to set him at ease about me having another encounter with Joe.
I walk through the glass doors, and Alex appears in a flash.
“I told you I’d be right back,” I say. “I fixed things up with Joe. I’m ready to sign the papers.”
Alex is clearly relieved, and I am glad. I pay the full price for the car because it doesn’t seem right to dicker. Money is really just numbers. Alex is a human being, and I don’t want to make it harder for him to do his job.
I slide behind the wheel of my new car and take a moment to check my phone. I find two texts and a frantic voicemail from my nephew, who works for a car dealership. He is positive Alex has robbed me, and he is concerned. I text back assurances that all is well, but later, when I am home and in bed, I begin to have flickers of doubt.
I wonder if maybe I have a problem.
I wonder if perhaps there should be something like a medical alert bracelet for people like me. Chronic people pleasers. People who can’t bear to hurt other people’s feelings. People who can’t say no.
I wonder if there should be laws to protect people like me.
What if I could have marched into that dealership with a stainless steel warning badge dangling from my wrist? A badge that let Alex know it would be immoral to take advantage of me because I am a pathologically easy mark. Then he would have said, “The price on the window is for the benefit of normal people, but the real price is $3000 less.”
That would have been nice.
But I won’t think about that. I love my new car, and I am glad that I made Alex’s day. I am glad that I did something to help him send his daughter to Keene State so she can become a nurse.
I am still a little sorry for Joe, but his kids are young. They won’t be going to college for many years yet. Probably right around the time that I’ll be in the market for my next new car. When this car dies, I think I will go find Joe and make it up to him.
Yes, that will be nice…