Andrea Langworthy's column: Worth the wait
His name was Louis. When I asked if I could help him, he said the words I had longed to hear every Christmas since I began selling cars. “I’m looking for a car for my wife. It’s a Christmas present,” he said. “She doesn’t suspect at all.”
He knew what he wanted — a brand new light blue metallic Oldsmobile Delta 88 with a dark blue cloth interior.
I don’t remember if we took the car for a test drive or if he was so certain of his choice we just went ahead and wrote up a purchase agreement. I do remember how nice he was, though. We chatted for quite a while. Planned how to best pull off the surprise.
His wife had a hair appointment the morning of Christmas Eve. Louis said he could drop her off at the beauty shop and come over to pick up the car. I told him the dealership was closed that day but I’d figure out something.
When I brought the paperwork to Ed, the finance manager, and explained my dilemma, he offered to meet me and Louis at the dealership. “He should sign all the paperwork now so he can get right home Christmas Eve morning,” Ed said. “That way, he won’t be late to pick up his wife and have her suspect anything.”
Louis was pleased with the plan. He told me he was going to back the car into the garage and hang the keys on the Christmas tree. I told him I would have the florist across the street make a huge red bow for him to place on the windshield once the car was safely in the garage. “I’ll put the extra set of keys in a gift box and wrap it so you can put it on the tree,” I said.
I explained the owner’s manual and maintenance schedule to him. We went out to the car to make sure he knew how to work everything and agreed on a time to meet. The evening before our rendezvous, when the car was prepped and clean and full of gas, I backed it into a stall in the service department. I felt like a secret agent.
Mother Nature refused to cooperate in our subterfuge, however. All night long, she dumped snow on our well-laid plan. Even so, I couldn’t let Louis down. I carefully made my way along snow-packed roads and when I arrived at the dealership, Ed was shoveling a path from the building’s front entry to the service bay where I had parked the car. The door to the bay, a manual overhead monstrosity, was frozen in place but with some maneuvering, we got it open.
When Louis arrived, I showed him the bow in the car’s back seat and gave him a roll of tape so he could affix it to the windshield later. I handed him the gift-wrapped box of keys and pointed to the other set hanging from the ignition.
As Louis drove the car out, he had a big smile on his face. Ed and I waved good-bye. “Merry Christmas,” we shouted. I told Ed I had waited a long time for a customer to come in and buy a car for a Christmas present. “I thought it would happen every year,” I said, “but it never did.”
We agreed Louis had made up for the long dry spell. “Such a nice man,” Ed said. I agreed. Louis made a jolly good Santa. Ho-ho-ho!