Cupholders and the art of the deal |

Cupholders and the art of the deal

Barry Smith

“You’ve got two cupholders here in the front, as well as extra storage in the center console,” the salesman says.My wife and I had stopped to look at cars, just to look. Next thing we know, we’re sitting in the front seat of a Subaru Forester while the salesman sits in the back, giving us the grand tour.”Adjustable armrests,” he continues, sliding my armrest forward and back with the flair of a magician. “And four more cupholders in the back. I’ll let you folks sit here for a minute, then I can answer any questions you might have.”The salesman gets out and Christina says, “Why is he showing us the cupholders?””I guess he thinks I’m the kind of person who’ll be impressed by armrests and cupholders.”And he was right. I’ve driven my 1991 Honda Civic for 13 years. The only cupholder it has, besides my crotch, is the area between the seat and the emergency brake, where certain-sized cups will wedge. And not easily. So the thought of a car with a cupholder was an enticing one, and Mr. Salesman was picking up on that. Plus, when he tried to discuss any other aspects of the car, like horsepower and such, he could see my eyes glaze over.”Honda just doesn’t have the engineering or the design,” he salesman said, after I’d mentioned that we were thinking about getting another Honda. “Subaru has true four-wheel drive, but Honda transfers torque with, uh …”He was stuck for a word. He tried to jog his memory by pantomiming engine parts and gears with his forearms and fingers.”A, uh … what is it … ?”It was obviously on the tip of his tongue. He snapped his fingers and looked to me, as if I were going to fill in the blank, or possibly sell him a vowel.”Cup holder?” I offered. He saw weakness and pounced.” … transfer torque using a doohickey, and that’s why Subarus are better. They don’t need to utilize a doohickey.”He said “doohickey” without pausing, smiling or even smirking. He said it like it was true, knowing that I didn’t know the difference. And he was right.Just the fact that I was sitting in an SUV was noteworthy. I know that in my knee-jerk list of things that I’m opposed to, SUV is pretty near the top, somewhere between puppy kicking and genetically modified foods. But many of my friends drive SUVs, and I have no problem letting them drive me around whilst I enjoy their plush, reclining leather seats, stereo systems with speakers that don’t rattle, a newfangled thing called “air conditioning” and, of course, cupholders. When it’s road trip time, you don’t see me volunteering to drive my car. And if I did, there would be no takers.Hypocrisy is an ugly thing to come face-to-face with. Unless you’re a car salesman.”What say we take another look at those cupholders? Oh, and look at these vanity mirrors. Shiny, aren’t they?” “Shiiiiiiny …” I said, and meant it.Christina pulled me away just as he was about to demonstrate the sunglasses holder, and soon we were at the Honda dealership. “I just can’t see myself in an SUV,” I told the saleswoman.”This is Honda’s UV,” she replied. “It’s very popular.”A “UV?” Ahhh … taking the “sport” out of the sport utility vehicle – very clever. Suddenly it was utilitarian and not sporty. Suddenly the cavernous expanse of rear cargo space that my 15-year old Civic DX lacked was not at all frivolous. It was practical, and sensible, and I was insulted. Is it that obvious that I’m utilitarian? If you’re gonna get all subliminal on me, why not drop the U and keep the S? What, am I not sporty enough? Do you not take one look at me and think “sporty?” I hated this woman and her snap judgments and pat conclusions. She doesn’t know a damn thing about me, so how dare she sum me up like that. You want sporty? Oh, I’ll show you sporty, lady! Well, not right now, but, you know, eventually …”This model allows you to power your laptop computer from the cigarette lighter A/C adapter,” she said.”I’ll take it!” Next time: Barry uses all six cupholders at once in his new UV.