Smiley Faces, Tow Yards, Short Tuxedos and Phone Cords

We’ve made it back! Raced off the last plane into the cheering arms of our family at DIA and had a wonderfully special homecoming with loved ones. XOXO!

We’ve now been Stateside for a whole 48 hours and adjusting a bit more with each interaction that we have. Having sold or given away nearly all of our worldly possessions before we left, Bo and I let the boys go with mom and dad back to Montrose for some serious Yaya/Poppie play time while we’ve stayed behind to look for cars. More on the personal adjustments and how hard it was to let the boys go later. Those really are important points that I want to write about in-depth, and with a straight face.

Which means not now.

No, this post is about car shopping and I couldn’t write it with a straight face if I tried.

Keeping in mind that for the past 8 months we have not had a house payment, car payment, insurance, cell phones, more than a small bag of clothes, or any other modern attachment, dropping into the metro area used car world right out of the gate like this proved…eventful.

Determined to carry as much of our recent simplicity into this next American chapter as we can, we are looking to buy much less expensive cars than we have previously sought out. So, we spent the evening before checking out used car lots in Denver that had the inventory we were seeking and narrowed it down to a smiley-face dealer for the first choice and another lot with a man who apparently favors short tuxedos and disco music, judging by his website.  Then this morning, leery but hopeful and with the gracious loan of my Aunt Julie’s car, we took off down the road to Colfax to begin the search.

Smiley face dealer got a bad start as we were hit up for “bus” money right as we got out of our car by a passing “bus user”. Then the salesman helping us spoke in such a thick southern drawl that it was honestly hard to understand him from time to time -and we’re pretty used to straining to understand people. Somewhere between “we dawn’t do our caaars rough ’round ‘ere.  Dawn’t raide ’em hard an’ put ’em up wet, ya know wha’ I’m sayin?” and “Ahh’m frum Boulder, but spent taime en Luuusiana so com by this accent ‘onest” We decided that Smiley Face was not for us.

Feeling a little off-balance we turned into the next big car lot we saw to look around and catch our breath. Amazingly, we stumbled upon a vehicle we weren’t even looking for but that fit our criteria well and so ended up having a nice new salesman named Juan help us test drive it and scope it out. Juan being new and in training had to ask a couple of questions of his General Manager, a kind elderly man from France or Spain (depending on which story he’s telling you) with a strong South African accent and amazingly white dentures. After getting some info on the car, peppered in between a lot of world travel anecdotes from the GM, we decided that we couldn’t pick the first car we liked–we needed to keep looking.

We needed to visit short-tuxedo-man.

Short-tuxedo-man is on the other end of Denver and has 120 cars on a lot that should fit about 50. Seeing the inventory stacked four-deep as we drove up didn’t exactly boost our confidence, but reminding ourselves that we are intentionally doing things differently, and “maybe there’s a real diamond in the rough hidden in there?”, parked Julie’s car and hopped out.

No such luck on the diamond front, but we did endeavor to test drive a few cubic zirconias that made the long drive to short-tuxedo-man’s lot worth it. Unfortunately, most of the ones we wanted a closer look at were not in the front row, meaning that each time we asked for a test drive the salesman would have to call out his small army of ex-carnival-worker staff to move all the cars in front and around it. Picture those square puzzles where one square is missing and you move all the others trying to make the picture correct , that’s what it resembled. While we did find a hopeful candidate for Bo’s car, this “system” being what it was meant that we were at short-tuxedo-man’s lot for much longer than we meant to be.  So, after many rousing puzzle rounds combined with low blood sugar and sensory overload, we told our salesman we needed to think about it and would be back later. Deep breaths and sure steps led us back to where Julie’s car was, not.

Yes. Yes we did get my Aunt’s car towed today.

Towing situation was shady at best, but also impossible to change so we turned ourselves back around and with my cheeks at full blush, asked if we could take one of the cars we were looking at for an extended test drive to pick up our vehicle that had just been towed. They very graciously obliged.

On the way to the tow yard the car we were nearly ready to buy for Bo suddenly had the check engine light turn on, a rain/gravely sound emit from under the hood, and a strong stench of oil fill the car. So, really, the towing was a blessing in disguise that way.

A brutally negotiated $230 later and disappointed that we have to turn down the car we were about to make an offer on, we dropped the test-driver car back at short-tuxedo-man and decide to try and salvage the day by heading back to the lot that had the vehicle we liked, ready to drive it home as soon as possible.

Juan was out with other customers when we arrived so the friendly GM from this morning helped us get started. And that’s when the day got Really fun. This sweet older gentleman has led a fascinating life that I now know all about. Every question we asked about the car, every attempt to negotiate the price, was responded to with a lengthy tale that was based out of some connection he made between our car talk and his time traveling Spain with his brother when his father died, or his “frugal, not cheap, frugal” Scottish wife, or his two hip replacements, no – 3 hip replacements because one was done wrong and he had one leg shorter than the other, or how different it was working cars during the Carter administration, or how lucky he is that his Scottish bride doesn’t like jewelry so he buys her a rose each anniversary, or the difference between an English pub breakfast and what he ate growing up in South Africa.


The real kicker being when he was calling a tire company to ask a price for replacement tires on the car we’re looking at, had to put them on hold (by placing the phone on the table, no idea how to use a hold button), then returning and picking up the phone upside down. Cord coming out of the phone by his ear, speaking more and more loudly into the earpiece now at his mouth, explaining that “they don’t make phones as clear as they used to” and “sometimes these folks forget they’re on the phone, maybe they left” and “hello?” “Hello?!”

I made a break for the bathroom before exploding into laughter while Bo, who is more than ready to just get some straight information at this point, held it together and helped the man see he was talking upside down through a series of hand signals and demonstrations.

After all of that we drove home…

in my Aunt Julie’s car. Resting up tonight and preparing to brave the used car world again tomorrow.

When Bo and I turned in for bed tonight he wrapped me up in a hug still chuckling from dinner and said, “This was a really fun day.” I smiled and agreed and knew I had to come write this all down.

Bo and I did have a great, memorable, and fun day today. There is no way today would have looked like that to us before our Sabbatical. Had Pre-South America Jamie written you this post it would have had a much harder, more down-trodden, and I hate to say it, even cynical tone to it. Hopefully that is not in line with what you just read.

We didn’t lose our tempers, we didn’t turn on each other, we held hands and laughed until we cried and worked it out. Just took on the next thing – which is a strategy we had to use in South America early and often. Recounting the tale over dinner with my aunt and uncle and cousins tonight left us all breathless with mirth.

What we’ve just done isn’t for everyone and we would never suggest that it was. But it was so very much for us. And when people ask me if  it was worth it I will smile and say “Yes”, and think back on today as Exhibit A.

I am certain that there are challenges ahead for us that we won’t meet quite so cheerfully. But for tonight, as I wind this down and head to bed my resounding thought is,

it’s working.

Categories: From Jamie | 9 Comments

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9 thoughts on “Smiley Faces, Tow Yards, Short Tuxedos and Phone Cords

  1. Rosie

    Fabulous! Thank you for my cup of “Morning Mirth” … The best!

  2. Abby Kunes

    I agree Rosie—much laughter from my heart as I read this story. Don’t we wish we could look at what life throws at us with such “lightness of heart and laughter”? I love your writings Jamie–its a gift. Look forward to hugging you and the family soon. Love ya

  3. Nan buxton

    Jamie, you are wonderful!! All your posts have been excellent—some scary, some teary, some beautiful descriptions, some explanatory, but this one was too funny. Thanks for sharing your gift of words. Hope to see you in December.

    • kelly berg

      Hi, the adventure continues 🙂 on your ‘home’ turf! Perspective…it puts things in place–like what matters and what doesn’t–separates the important from the trivial, you have a really good handle on that–given the multitude of experiences you’ve had on this journey–you are both ‘wise beyond your years’!!! I’ve so enjoyed your ‘book’ from one ‘chapter’ to the next–you’re a wonderful writer!! XOX K.

  4. chire

    Oh my goodness Jamie. I laughed out loud. And I cried. YOur blog is my fav thing to read always. Glad your home. ANd happy.

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