It happens every year.




Just when I least expect it, someone knocks at the front door, inquiring if my 1972 Chevy Blazer is for sale. There is no "For Sale" sign, no colored balloons fluttering in the breeze, no used car salesman lurking behind the fence, no public address system calling for me to answer line 8, no good-guy, bad-guy team, no finance manager who always offers a no-sweat low interest loan, then changes it to an all-sweat interrogation as minutes groan into wasted hours, no bait and switch, no misleading fraud-laden extended warranties, no last minute discovery that your trade in car has terminal rust in oil pan.




Despite all of my non-intentions, I got shepherd-hooked out of the shower and pulled to the curb, there to meet with a great unknown.




A rental van with tinted windows idled in the middle of the street. The prospective Blazer owner was busy outlining an endless laundry list of mandatory repairs, which, when subtracted from the unsolicited offer, would require that I write a check to close the deal.




The new upholstery was found a fifth of a shade off the original, so, of course, everything would have to be ripped out and redone. The new paint, as I soon was to learn, would crack, shatter and tingle to the ground should I try to remove the fiberglass top. The hubcaps, apparently gone missing 35 years ago, would be difficult, if not impossible, to locate or reproduce. The new sound system, which was the subject of instant ridicule, became a non-issue once I showed him the original radio tucked and snuggled in a cardboard box.




Now that you have a flavor for it, I will spare you all the other reasons why my Blazer was destined for the scrap heap. Thankfully, he offered to spare me the one-way tow to the wrecking yard if I would, without further comment or delay, sign off the title and permit him to get on with his busy day.




When I balked, he put his arm on my shoulder and asked me to discretely look toward the back seat of his rental car, tucked behind the aforementioned tinted glass. I was then informed, in a sob-laden whisper, that his 17 year-old diabetic daughter was in tears, for the Blazer was not for him, rather it was for her. She was going to drive it to impress her friends just as soon as his estimated four-year restoration was completed, assuming she was in a condition to drive by then.




I was the speed bump on her road to happiness. How thoughtless of me.




On one hand he told me that the engine needed to be replaced, the frame was flimsy, the metal pot-holed with "Bondo" (not true) and the transmission long overdue for his fatherly touch. At the same time he painted a picture of his daughter being towed in her iron lung behind the Blazer, while smiling and winking at her procession of envious friends.




I felt like a cad, a wretched lout, an imperious, nefarious thug. In an attempt to make things right, I mumbled, then stated:




"I've run the numbers and allowing for your identified deficiencies I will sell you the vehicle here and now, assuming that you have $50,000 in cash and five photo I.D.'s."




In retrospect, this man was no mere mechanic, though I say this with the highest deference to those who can make things work. He was really a quarter-mile, nitro burning dragster driver. There was but a nano-second between the slamming of his car door and his complete disappearance. The only thing left was thirty feet of hot rubber and a cloud of smoke.




Lance was last seen trying on a zoot suit, fedora and white patent leather shoes. The colorful auto lot flags are on order. You may call him over the P.A. system by flying your fingers to lance@journalist.com.