Congress — The car salesman's savior


By Al Vinikour   

Having spent as many years as I did living in Chicago, I became a political junkie and would often find myself glued to the television, taking in all the nuances of the “theater of the absurd,” which is another way of describing our legislative process. I have often wondered just how little conscience one must have in order to be an elected representative.

Truth be told I should be asking how much intelligence it takes from the voters who elected these “champions of liberty” in the first place. With the recently-completed “Operation Fiscal Cliff” I began reflecting on professions that are as seemingly low-rent as being a politician.

The closest I could come up with is a car salesman, particularly a used car salesman. However, dear readers, please keep in mind that I’m old enough to have covered the Spanish-American War in real-time for the newspaper when I was stationed at San Juan Hill, so when I use analogies I’m going back a LONG way.

It’s at this juncture that I must apologize profusely to ALL car salesmen — both new and used — and the new automobile dealers and used car lot owners of the U.S. of A. At one time this element was just that…an ELEMENT. And an “element” is something to be avoided if one values his or her reputation.

When I was a young Hoosier there were some professions that would constantly be held up to us as an example of why it was so imperative to study harder in school, lest I fall into one of those jobs that was the living template of an eternity in Hell. (Oh, sure, I’d be reunited with my Uncle Barney, but I’d also probably run into my ex-wife and that’s NOT an overriding reason to be with my Uncle again until Hell freezes over, which according to Al Gore’s vision of Global Warming, will eventually happen.)

Some of those jobs were the aforementioned car salesman, a garbage man, a cab driver and a mailman to name a few. (Ironic, isn’t it? Being a mailman for three years put me through college.) At the time, being elected to Congress was like winning a gold medal at the Olympics. It was perceived as an honorable profession (operative word in that phrase is “perceived”) and was an opportunity to give back to the community that supposedly meant so much to you. To paraphrase the lyrics of the late, great Dinah Washington’s hit song, “Lord, what a difference a lifetime makes.”

We would often drive by some of Valparaiso’s automotive “bordellos,” where some of the town’s assumed “sewer dwellers” plied their trade. Forget the fact that most of them would buy parts from my dad’s junkyard in the hopes of getting the vehicles to operate far enough from their dealerships so the buyers would be too tired to be dangerous by the time they walked back to the car lot to complain about their “new cars” dying on the highway.

The years passed by and the vehicles became more reliable, which in turn made the car salesmen more credible in their sales pitches.

Local car dealers often became the supporters and sponsors of the town’s social activities like children’s sports teams, charities, etc. Like Ebenezer Scrooge, each must have had an epiphany as they were visited by the ghosts of three irate car buyers.   

So let’s remove car industry employees from the septic tanks of professions. Also, let’s remove cab drivers as well. To drive a taxi in today’s crime-laden urban areas requires the courage of a Medal of Honor winner and I salute these brave men and women everywhere. Garbage men?...can’t live without them. They’re the unsung heroes of the environment. They’re ecological magicians; they can make trash disappear. And as for mailmen, let’s not go there…they’re already on the endangered species list. That just leaves elected representatives, and the tying together of the headline and the theme of this column.

The United States Congress has done more to elevate the credibility and stature of car salesmen than Karl Rove could have during the hey-day of his electoral successes. No matter what your station is in life you can always find a person and/or occupation that is beneath yours.

And so I honor the once-lowly used car salesman; his (or her) elevation to social acceptability by an Act of Congress is the only positive thing to have come out of Washington since they authorized public funds to be used for researching the sex lives of the tse tse fly.