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Wheels of misfortune

September 4, 2009

Although there are people who don't believe in luck, I'm not one of them.

Simply put, good luck is being in the right place at the right time; bad luck is being in the wrong place at the wrong time. And when it comes to bad luck, someone who's had more than his share is Houston's High Priest of Screech, Ignatius Lindenhauer III.

Fortunately, Iggy's bad luck is concentrated in one area alone - his car: It's a Chevy Cavalier, which in the eight years he's owned it has been wrecked six times.

And when I said it's been wrecked, that's the literal truth - every time it was in a collision, he was at a complete stop; twice at a stoplight, twice in a parking lot and twice on a street.

And if getting his car trashed wasn't bad enough luck, his insurance company insisted on not totaling the car but repairing it instead. As a result, he had at least $20,000 worth of body work done on a rig that has a Blue Book value of $900.

All this finally got to the lad and after Fender Bender Numero Six, he decided enough was too much. He was going to get rid of his Cavalier and buy an upscale set of wheels, one that'd make him the envy of his Armani-clad, Gucci-shoed, Burberry-wrapped, status-obsessed friends.

And being the soul of frugality, Iggy had stuffed so much loot under his mattress, he could pretty much buy any car he wanted in cash.


Living large and lovin' it

A few weeks after he'd announced his search for a new car, I got a call about his final choice.

"Well, baby, at last I've decided," he said. "I hope you can handle it."

"OK, lay it on me," I said.

"A Mercury Grand Marquis!" he crowed.

"A Grand Marquis?" I said. "Well, for someone with royal pretensions it sounds just perfect."

"And it is," he said. "It's a gorgeous burgundy, rides like a dream and has every option except hot and cold running cabana boys."

"So when do you pick it up?" I asked.

"I've already picked it up. I'm talking to you right now from the cockpit as I cruise the sweltering streets of summertime Houston, my A.C. keeping me as cool as the proverbial cucumber."

I heard music in the background.

"What's the music?" I asked.

"Oh, my favorite chanteuse, Miss Edith Piaf, pouring out her magnificent heart on La Vie En Rose, which literally means The Pink Life, but figuratively means The Beautiful Lifejust like the one I am now living."

"And may you continue to live it," I said.

It was a sincere wish on my behalf, but since the only luck Iggy is with vehicles is bad luck, I knew he was doomed to failure. And it wasn't long in coming.

The next afternoon my phone rang and when I picked it up I was blasted with a falsetto shriek.

"Iggy," I said. "What is it?"

"My magnificent Grand Marquis!" he gasped.

"What about it?" I asked. "Did you wreck it?"

"Would that I had," he said. "At least then it would've been moving."

He then explained his latest beat-down at the hands of Lady Luck.

The previous day, everything had been copasetic with both him and his car. He drove hither and yon, picking up and dropping off friends, all of whom were in various states of awe at his new ride (at least according to him). In the wee hours, he put both his car and himself to bed, visions of leather upholstery and wire rim hubcaps dancing in his head.

The next day, he feasted on a fine breakfast and then headed out to his parking lot to begin vehicular adventures galore. Unfortunately, one thing stood in his way - the car wouldn't start. In fact, it wouldn't even click when he turned the key.

He called the dealer, who sent a mechanic and tow truck, but to no avail. The mechanic couldn't get so much as click either, so he did the only thing he could: He called the manager and told him he was towing the car back for a thorough going-over.

At this point, Iggy asked to speak to the manager and told him he was stopping payment on his check until they'd solved the problem of his newly-deceased, now-not-so-Grand Marquis.

As soon as the manager heard that, he went ballistic, screaming at Iggy, questioning his sanity, his virility, even his ancestry.

Iggy refused to be baited.

"We shall," he said, his voice as glacial as the Grand Marquis' air conditioning when it worked, "discuss this further when I arrive."

Then he hung up.


The death of a salesman

When he got to the dealership, he was met by the manager, who for obvious reasons - like 30,000 of them -?had assumed a whole new persona. Instead of the obscenity-spouting freak he'd been on the phone, he was now a virtual pussycat, purring apologies and explanations galore. He ended by asking for Iggy's understanding, saying he'd been having a hard day.

"Oh?"said Iggy, one eyebrow slowly arching.

It was a trademark Joan Crawford expression that Iggy'd spent years perfecting, but the manager didn't know that. However, he did know he was now looking at Scorn Personified.

"So let me get this straight," said Ig. "I gave you a year of my take-home pay for a car that won't start and you're having a bad day?"

The manager made some more attempts at salving Iggy's pain and salvaging the sale, but in vain.

Furious, the manager stomped off, his place taken by the salesman, who now tried to work his smarmy magic.

"Look," said the salesman, "didn't I treat you well?"

"Wonderfully," said Ig.

"And didn't I give you a road atlas, free gratis?"

"Indeed," said Ig.

"So how about it?" said the salesman.

"How about what?"

"How about keeping the Grand Marquis?"

"I'd rather keep piranhas in my bathtub," said Ig.

"But why won't you deal with me?" said the salesman, unable to keep the desperation out of his voice.

"Oh, I'd love to," said Ig, " if you were the boss. But you're not. And since your boss is a total idiot, the only person who'd agree to deal with him would also be a total idiot which I am not."

"You just caught him at a bad time," said the salesman. "He's really a great guy."

"I'm sure," said Ig. "And Hitler loved dogs and little children."

The salesman frowned, not getting Iggy's sarcasm.

"Besides, face it," Iggy continued. "If this is how your boss acts before my check cleared, I shudder to think how he'd act after he had my money."

Then, drama queen that he is, he shuddered.

After that he stood and held out his hand.

"The keys to my Cavalier, please," he said.

The salesman started to speak, but Iggy cut him off.

"If not the keys, then hand me your telephone so I can call my attorney and the local television stations and newspapers. Both would love to hear about this, I'm sure."

Knowing defeat when he was on its losing end, the salesman gave Iggy his keys.

Then while Iggy drove away, the salesman looked at the Cavalier but saw something else - his fat commission, now as far and fully gone as The Lost Continent of Atlantis.

Luckily, he couldn't see Iggy's face, covered with its huge, sardonic, triumphant grin.



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