Mechanical

Vermont: Day 2

I almost died this morning. Today is day three, so I should talk about this tomorrow, but I don't think I'll have Internet access over the weekend.

The incident happened as I was turning right on a green light. I glanced to my left and saw the 18-wheeler who thought he could save a few seconds by running a red light -- in heavy traffic. I hit the brakes and backed up, but I was pretty shaken by that.

I was also shaken by my espresso this morning. Here are the rules: you order a drink, the barista makes it and then you pay for the drink and, if there is a tip jar, you tip the barista! Those of you who live in what "President" Bush thinks of as "forn parts" that do not have the habit of tipping, you're excused. If you're an American, you're not excused. Espresso bartenders don't work for minimum wage doing a thankless job because they enjoy having customers yell at them for putting chocolate in their mocha (yes, I've had this happen to me). They work there because it beats the hell out of flipping burgers and they earn tips. If McDonald's employees earned tips, they would be one hell of a lot friendlier. As for you: if you're too cheap to toss that thirty-five cents in their tip jar, you're too cheap to splurge on espresso. Go buy yourselves some Folgers.

Today marks the first day in years that I have quite willingly not tipped a barista. This barista was the owner of the place and while he was fairly nice (at first), he also charged me $4.45 for a 16 ounce latté. This place charged considerably extra for "to go" orders and, on top of that, I was charged an extra $1.25 for my extra shot. I asked why so much and the man looked at me like I was a simpleton and pointed to the board where it says a single shot of espresso is $1.25. I was robbed, but there was not much I could do about it. Except withhold the tip. This man did not deserve it.

Oops. That was also day 3; we're talkin' 'bout day 2 here. Day 2 was my first full day of driving my rental car. It's a Chrysler Sebring with less than 4000 miles on it. At first, I was happy. The rental agency was out of compact cars so I received a free upgrade to a midsize. That sounded fine. The car even looked nice. Then I hopped in and drove off.

Thinking about buying a car? Are you looking for one with the visibility of an M-1 Abrams tank? Does your current car's maneuverability leave you feeling overconfident? Have you ever longed for the joys of self-induced claustrophobia? Then the Sebring is for you. It's certainly not for me and in my days as a car salesman, I would have dreaded that car.

The major obstacle for car salesmen when selling a car is isolating and overcoming the customer's real objection to buying.

Customer:  I don't like the color.
Salesman:  What if I can find this model in the right color?

Customer:  I don't like that possum embedded in the front grill.
Salesman:  What if I can trade if for some less unpleasant roadkill?

Customer:  I don't think I can afford it.
Salesman:  We'll take your firstborn as a down payment.

You get the idea. It's pretty straightforward. Unfortunately, when the customer is driving and says "I can't see shit", it's pretty tough to overcome. Helen Keller would feel right at home driving the Sebring.

And if you think I'm kidding, check out the rear roof supports. Those fat babies are over a foot wide! It took some clever engineering to increase that blind spot. Also, when I pull up to a traffic light, I have to hunch down to see the damned light. The sun visor comes down to my eyebrows, and that's when it's up and stowed away. This car scares the hell out of me.

Oh, and did I mention that Vermont is beautiful? I spent much of yesterday evening walking around downtown Burlington. You can easily traverse the entire city by foot and it's a beautiful walk. Even the touristy "walking mall" is so charming that it doesn't offend like so many other tourist areas do. The locals don't even seem to be verging on a bell tower/deer rifle scenario when talking with the tourists. It was very, very nice.

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I'm very glad that you're still alive.

You seem to have gotten to the crux of the cost of living differences between here and the east coast - the price of coffee. And how was that $4+ latte? I've heard that everybody back east is espresso-challenged.