My car, now fifteen years old, is literally falling apart. Today, the doors won’t open at all, which is good for fuel economy but not much else.
After I have spent twenty minutes with a screwdriver breaking into my own vehicle I decide to fill up the washer fluid too and then find that the bonnet won’t close.
“Might be time to get a new car?” my son says which prompts a discussion in which I ask him about cars the way that sons are supposed to ask their fathers.
There was a time when I thought I was in control of this conversation but I’m not sure I ever was. He researched cars after he passed his test, he found his car, and I paid for it.
We drove together to look at it and, on the way, I taught him all I knew about negotiation, communicating my pride in never having paid full price for any car I’ve ever bought.
“I remember once I got a different set of wheels and six months road tax. Then when I bought my Land Rover I knocked them down a thousand and got them to throw in a detachable tow bar” I tell him.
“Why did you get a tow bar?” he asks.
I think for a moment.
“You left the detachable tow bar on the car, didn’t you? Then it was stolen wasn’t it?” He adds.
Arriving at our destination we look at the car and I peer under the wheel arches for rust without really knowing what I’m looking for and, when the man flips the bonnet, I gaze at the engine trying hard to avoid saying, “It’s very clean”.
The car is exactly what my son has been looking for. It’s the right model, the right color and we’ve traveled an hour to come and see it.
I make my initial offer but the man won’t move.
I think about the conversation with my son in the car.
“You have to make sure you are willing to walk away if you don’t get the deal that you want”
I try again with a number slightly higher than my previous offer.
The man still won’t budge and tells me he won’t have any trouble selling it at the asking price.
My son looks at me but says nothing.
Driving home I tell my son that I expect him to look after the car.
“I’m always the one to wash yours,” he says.
For a mile or so we are silent together save for the hum of the tyres on the dead straight roman road.
My son speaks first.
“I don’t think he would have moved on the price. I’ve done a lot of research and it seems like a pretty good deal. Thank you, dad.”