Recreational vehicle salesmen rank pretty low on my list of people I enjoy spending my time with—they’re in the general “salespeople” category which includes those who push insurance and cell phone coverage plans, even some shoe store employees. They fray my last nerve, but they are a teensy bit better than those who need to out-do everything you say. You’ve met them: You make a remark about hiking in the Grand Canyon, and they’ve gone Rim-to-Rim—in a day (yeah, right).
Of course, despite an early hike that had refreshed us in the way only outdoor exercise can, we were suffering under the rotten luck of finding the one RV salesman who also relished one-upping us. In that usual back-and-forth patter of getting to know us enough to assess our needs, Bradley managed to mention his half-million-dollar Class A motorhome, his Rolex watch, his Bentley, and the fact that he could be retired at the ripe old age of thirty-eight except he knew he’d be bored and would miss meeting lovely people like Walt and me. We could see through him, of course, but he was oblivious to the fact that we were unimpressed—or he didn’t care.
Unfortunately, he was the one available salesman on the lot at RVs With Perks (what a name, huh?). Clearly one of the perks of the dealership was not a stable of amiable salespeople. Our luck to have gotten Bradley not just the first time we set foot on the lot, but on this return trip as well. Maybe somewhere on our drive a black cat had crossed our path.
We weren’t giving up our fifth wheel; we’d just found the big rig limited how we could travel, where we could stay, when we could re-fuel the diesel truck that pulled it…. Something smaller, something easier to navigate through heavy traffic, something that would fit into more parking areas was calling to us. But the fifth wheel had become home to us, so we were planning to keep it, to park it at an RV resort in southern California on a long-term lease, visiting there during the harshest months of winter (which weren’t very harsh, not this far south).
Late May in Phoenix is already hot, and the interior of the used Class A where we sat chatting was heating up. We’d seen plenty of RVs in the last two days and were already getting burned out. There are only so many ways 400 square feet of living space—or less, for smaller RVs—can be laid out without repeating a few tried-and-true designs.
Or maybe Bradley himself was getting to me.
“So what about this one?” he asked, gesturing around the worn interior with his fake Rolex. “Gently used, low miles, drives as easy as your truck. Sign today and I’ll knock another few thou off the cost.”
I’d already taken a close look, had already seen the frayed fabric on the lumpy hide-a-bed loveseat and the brownish stains in the shower. I’d pulled a kitchen cabinet door open only to have the knob fall into my palm. Gently used? More like plenty used. We were not looking for a fixer-upper RV. It might have had low miles, but that only meant it had to have been sitting someplace for long periods of time—which could mean hidden problems lurked.
Bradley rummaged in his pocket, leaning to one side in the dinette bench seat to fish out his cell phone. He twitched his thumb across the face of his phone, climbing out of the booth at the same time. “Be right back.”
Walt and I looked at each other and shrugged. If Bradley could escape the sweaty confines of the RV, we could too.
A cool breeze caught us as we climbed down the steps onto the asphalt lot. Bradley had wandered down the row of used motorhomes and fifth wheels and was pointing toward one of them as if the person on the phone could see it.
“Well?” Walt nodded toward the RV we’d just been in.
I already knew Walt couldn’t see himself driving anything that resembled a bus. We’d considered that option back when we bought the fifth wheel, and the only thing that had changed since was that he was probably even more sure he never wanted to drive one.
I made a face. I uttered a “yech” sound. Even if he’d been willing to drive it, I hated it. I’m usually not picky about aesthetics, never having chosen a car because of its interior-exterior color palette or whether its seats heated up or not. But this RV’s pale pink (or maybe faded red) interior accents and dull gray walls, its threadbare carpets and sagging mattress all left me wondering about the previous owners, who I guessed were retirees like me and Walt, the only thing that might have made Bradley think we would have liked this unit.
“Even with a small Class A, by the time we hook up a tow vehicle,” I said, “our total length will be close to what we have with the fifth wheel.”
“And we’re back to where we started,” Walt added. Finding places to park. Looking for the right gas station to be sure we could squeeze in, hoping they had a diesel pump.
A Class C on the next aisle caught my eye. Unlike the Class A, which is built like a bus, a Class C has a front-end like a truck with the living quarters in the back. “Let’s look at that one,” I said, heading toward it.
I wasn’t entirely sold on the idea of a used unit—we’re allergic to cats, dogs, and cigarette smoke, which rules out most RVs because most RVers own pets and many smoke. But we’d had trouble with our brand new fifth wheel as soon as we drove it off the lot, and we’d heard new units were even worse these days. Being recalled for things like (can you imagine?) axles that were installed backwards, faulty fuel lines running too close to propane tanks, and propane tank trays inadequately mounted causing tanks to fall during travel were just a few of the nightmares we’d read about.
The choices weren’t good, but we were going to have to make one if we wanted to stay on the road, visiting all the places we still wanted to see, and returning to spots we’d already fallen in love with.
I stepped up the metal stairs into the Class C. It reminded me of a tiny studio apartment I’d once had—living, sleeping and preparing meals all in one tiny, efficient space. How anything could be smaller than our fifth wheel yet so cozy had been beyond my imagination, yet here it was.
“Oh! So here’s where you went.” Bradley hopped up the steps into the coach. He pushed his fists into his hips and looked from Walt to me and back, as if trying to make a decision, then flung himself onto the loveseat. “Thought you were ready to pull the trigger on the Class A,” he said, pointing vaguely out the window. He looked at his phone again, made a few clicks and swipes, and then sighed heavily. “Just what are you looking for, anyway?”
We’d already told him. We wanted something small and maneuverable while still being comfortable. Something built well enough to take the miles and the many months we were planning to keep it through.
“We don’t exactly know yet,” Walt said. It had worked for us with the fifth wheel—only after looking and looking at dozens and dozens of different RVs did we settle on the one we called our mothership, and we still liked it. Except it was big. It was a living-in RV, not so much a traveling-in rig.
“We’ll know it when we see it,” I added. It was the mantra Walt and I followed, and it seemed to work for most everything.
Bradley jumped to his feet as if he’d been stung. “How can I help if you don’t know what you want? This is the second time you’ve been here. I’ve shown you—” he sputtered here, probably trying to count up in his head the three RVs we’d toured that morning and remember what he’d shown us the day before—“plenty of possibilities, all within a great price range, units I can make you a great deal on—”
“It’s not about the money,” Walt said. “We’ll pay a fair price for the unit we want. We just want to make sure it’s the right one.”
“But you just told me you don’t know what the right one is!”
We nodded. That must have infuriated him. He took the one step over to the door and motioned for us to leave. “Get out,” he said. “Get out of here. If you’re not ready to really have a conversation, you’re wasting my time.”
“But—” It was my turn to stutter and stammer. I thought we were having a conversation.
“Get the hell off my lot!”
His RV lot? I didn’t believe that for a second.
“Get out of here! Leave!” His face was red, his hands in fists. He pressed his lips together as if afraid something worse might come spewing out. I started shaking. No salesperson had ever spoken to me that way before. How dare he!
“Come on,” Walt said, guiding me down the steps. I knew if I was fuming, Walt had to be using every last muscle in his sixty-five year-old body to keep from exploding. He’d been working at keeping his temper, but this was testing his limit.
We got down the three steps onto the asphalt lot. I could hear Bradley yelling at us from the Class C. “Just get the hell out of here! And don’t come back!”
We didn’t even think about asking for a manager, we just got in our one-ton dually pick-up truck and drove off the dealership lot. He didn’t have to worry—we had no plans to go back there.
If only it had been that simple.
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