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Andrea Langworthy's column: The cold reality

My husband, who had back surgery in October, is anxious to get back to work. My mother had a better word for it. “Antsy.”

“Why he wants to go out and kick tires with customers in this kind of weather is beyond me, “I told my daughter last week. I went on to tell her about the first winter I sold cars. A winter so cold that the only reason I got into auto sales at all was for the free car.

My then-husband and I had moved back from New Jersey two months before. His new position didn’t provide a company vehicle so the orange VW I had called mine became his. When I got a job at a nursery school 17 blocks from home, I told him, “You can drop me off on your way to work and I’ll walk home. It will be good for me.”

He gave me a look that said, “Are you crazy? It’s December. In Minnesota.”

The plan worked until the first week of January. A day so bitter I stopped at Tom Thumb to call and ask if he could come get me. The receptionist said he was out on calls and wasn’t expected back for hours.

By the time I got home, my hands were so stiff I had a hard time removing my mittens and unlacing my boots. “There’s got to be a better way to make money,” I told myself as I scanned the want-ads in the newspaper.

The rest is history. I was hired to sell cars, the first woman in the Twin Cities to do so.

During my interviews, I paid attention to how the men dressed. Suits and ties. Starched shirts. Shoes polished to a high gleam. I would need to wear suits, too, I told myself. And dresses suitable for a woman in the business world.

It never dawned on me that I would have to go outside. What I was thinking? That I would be like one of the models at the auto show? Spinning round-and-round atop a display, pointing towards the newest model of Chevrolet?

I realized that wouldn’t be the case on my first day of training. The seasoned salespeople had overcoats hanging in their offices. Hats with ear flaps, too. Below them were black rubber boots; the kind that zipped over a pair of shoes to protect the shine.

There were no galoshes like that for women so I bought pretty leather boots with heels; knee-high so my legs would be warm when I wore a dress. As for a hat, with or without the ear flaps, there was no way I could pull on anything that would flatten the ’do I worked so hard on every morning.

I spent a lot of time in the cold that first winter. Walking between rows of vehicles and scraping windshields to find the stock number of one a customer wanted to check out. Standing in piles of snow at the storage lot while a potential buyer hemmed and hawed over color choices. Moving cars to retrieve one in the back for a test drive.

The next year, I bought warmer boots. Ear muffs, too. A thicker coat. Put them on my charge card, convinced I’d pay for them with the commission check generated by people buying cars for Christmas presents.

I waited 12 years to hear, “I want to buy a car for my wife this Christmas.” His name was Louis. But that’s another column. Watch for it, will you?

Happy holidays!