Monday, August 12, 2013

THE TEST DRIVE


By Arthur H. Gunther III
thecolumnrule.com
Not all car dealers are so lucky, but one in  Blauvelt, N.Y., offers test drives over a mountain named Clausland, with winding, country-like roads  busy enough since this is built-up suburbia. And despite the bromide view, the burbs are never sleepy, especially one less than 20 miles from New York City.

Other auto hawkers must send consumer wannabes to heavy truck routes like Routes 303, 9W, 59, 45, and that can be a testing time for someone not familiar with a new or used car. In fact, the Mercedes guy in the next town, along Route 304, almost lost a salesman and a customer when a very expensive model was slammed as it left the dealership. Maybe that’s why the Ford place across the way lets you take the car by your lonesome. Salesmen can be hard to find.

For someone who likes to observe humanity, even out of the corner of the eye when you are already concentrating on a fine tune from the radio or a beautiful woman walking along the road, the Mazda dealer’s customer jaunts over Clausland are quite interesting. You see old fellows zooming along in sports cars they could not afford in their 20s and which will no longer get them a girlfriend, as if that were ever true. You watch old ladies cautiously driving a basic sedan, going ever so slowly, whether they are old or even women. Even a fellow can be a little, old lady in a car. (This isn’t to denigrate little old ladies but merely to offer observation.)

On the trip over the mountain to and from Blauvelt to Nyack, you also see the teen-ager with nervous parent in the back seat, a son or daughter with the biggest grin ever as they anticipate freedom, dates and whatever else a car brings, even if it’s a used jalopy with 153,567 miles.

Then there are the truck try-outs -- fellows or gals in ever-bigger, shiny machines with back seats and extended beds that will never see manure or tools or work. Trucks not used on the job but as recreational rides are a huge seller, perhaps the biggest, in the U.S., and my section of the Northeast is no exception.

Finally, the Clausland trip offers glances at a mix of salesman types, from well-dressed to casual; from talkative to quiet; from bored to engaged. At least they get out of the office and maybe even make a sale, albeit taking their being on a potentially dangerous ride with a stranger on curved mountain roads. The scenery is beautiful and there is a chance to get a doctorate in watching people.

The writer is a retired newspaperman.

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