When I was twenty-one, I lived in California for about six months. That in itself a long, weird story, but for the sake of this specifc story I’ll just give the basics: I worked days at a ranch in Portola Valley, and nights and weekends at a bar in San Jose. It was pretty sweet, actually, because I spent my days outside doing physical labor, and the rest of the time making shit tons of money being a bartender to older, grizzled biker guys.
A week before moving back to Boston, I put my busted 1997 Mazda Protégé on Craigslist to sell. I was asking for about $800 but honestly, the car was probably worth even less. It had broken headlight, chewed seats (someone had apparently let their rabid Tauntaun of a dog romp around unsupervised prior to my ownership), and struggled to get up even the milder California hills. My friend and I named the car Baby, as in, “Come on, baby, you can do it. Just one more hill, baby, we’re almost there. Dammit, I’m going to kick in your other headlight if you die on me, baby, I swear to God.” So it wasn’t a prize find, precisely.
For safety’s sake I decided to have interested buyers meet me at the bar parking lot rather than give out the address of the house I shared with seven other girls (insert inane joke about a housefull of girls here). The first guy showed up early and immediately went for physical intimidation. He was about 6’3”, maybe 225-250lbs, and trying to hit every clique simultaneously. He had a style and demeanor that seemed to endeavor for some cross between Mafioso, biker, and the Fonz without actually achieving any of them. Right off the bat I got pissed at the way he got in my face, insulted the car’s quality (fine, he had a point, but there’s such a thing as tact) and offered several hundred less than the asking price. I told him I’d have to consider it against other offers.
Well that made him mad. He pulled out $700 in cash and shoved it into my hand, saying, “Fine I’ll give you this much for your shitty car.” At that moment the second customer, Tom, showed up in time to see me trying to hand back the money and say that I hadn’t agreed to the deal. He sauntered over and said, “Is there a problem?” Mr. Fonzarelli glared at him and said the car was already sold. The other guy, all of 5’10” and (if I’m being generous) 180lbs, asked me if the car was still up for bid. In the meantime, my roughly eight customers, bikers and dealers already on their way to drunk at 11:00am, started coming out to the parking lot sensing I was in danger. There were a lot of sketchy things about these guys, but they definitely had my back.
I told Tom the sale wasn’t final, to which Rocky started stripping off his leather jacket and putting up his fists. Like a true movie gangster he said, “Let’s go. You and me.” Luckily for me (and probably his own kneecaps), he was saying this to Tom. Tom put up his own fists reluctantly and turned to my unsavory entourage. “Listen, I want everyone here to know that I won’t strike first. I’m not interested in fighting this guy. That being said, I am a black belt in karate and I’m going to take this guy down, but I want everyone to back me up that I didn’t take the first shot.” I wanted to laugh out loud at this point but I figured it would just ensure the fight, so I kept my intimidating don’t-try-to-bully-me-into-selling-my-car-you-dick icy stare. It’s a very specific stare.
I guess Mr. Fonzarelli had enough brainpower to recognize that this wasn’t going to go favorably, so he threw up his hands with exaggerated disgust and went into the bar to wait. Then I noticed a little kid staring at us from the Fonz’s pickup truck. He had been doing all of posturing in front of his kid. What an asshole.
Tom and I eventually went into the bar and I served everyone Bud Lights while Tom and Rocky Balboa started a bidding war. Suddenly I was hearing, “I’ll pay $900,” followed by, “Fuck you, I’ll give her $1,000,” followed by, “$1100, final offer,” and Muscles McAsshole ending it with, “I’ll give you $1,200.” Well that escalated quickly. Tom took me aside and said, “Hon, your car just isn’t worth that much,” to which I had to agree. “Look, if for some reason this sale doesn’t go through, here’s my number.” Then he walked out of the bar and drove away.
Beefy McIdiot laboriously wrote out a check, waited a minute, finished his beer, came over with the check, and methodically tore it into shreds before tossing it at me. I assume he had hoped for a more dramatic effect, but the papers floated harmlessly at my feet and I just kept looking at him with my terrifying icy stare of doom. He stormed out of the bar yelling, “Screw you, you made me miss my kid’s dentist appointment!” Father Of The Year, right there. I responsibly picked up the trash and then called Tom. He was back in the bar five minutes later handing me $1,100 in cash.
And that’s how I paid the first month’s rent on my new apartment.