Prologue 1. We Bought A Caravan.
So we did it. We bought a caravan.
Well, it wasn’t quite that easy. It was actually a very long, drawn-out process.
First, there was the part where Derek started telling me about several friends who had awesome experiences caravaning. Of course he always just “happened” to run into these long lost friends, that I had never heard him mention before, at the grocery store, or the gym, or basically anywhere where I wasn’t and neither was any other witness that could confirm the whole event. He assured me, even if I was getting older and my memory was clearly beginning to fail, he had indeed, mentioned these people many times before.
Then we had the period where he sold me on all the wonderful places in Australia that he wanted to show me, places that, sadly I probably would never get to see because (insert wailing and gnashing of teeth here and tether your wrist to your forehead with velcro) we didn’t have a caravan. You would need one because it would take weeks to get to these places and we would be out in the wilderness, seeing things maybe no other white man but him had seen. Certainly no other white Canadian woman would have seen them. He found all his beautiful picture books and told me of his epic tales of long ago and things there were to see just outside of the range of the picture in the book. He always seemed to turn the channel and find a show on Discovery, filmed by National Geographic, narrated by David Attenborough, about the wilds of Australia and the privileged few who would ever get to see these areas . . . in that you would have to have a (the wailing velcro thing again) caravan to get to. I think Derek even covered the television with extra gauze.
Finally, I spoke the magic words. “I think it would be a real experience to caravan across Australia.” He grabbed my hand and ran …. for three years …. to every caravan show he could find, and every dealer we ever passed. We looked, we compared, we saved.
We upgraded our original plans. We upgraded them again. All out of his deep concern for me and my welfare. We walked around fields in small towns and huge fairgrounds in big cities in the bucketing rain and in searing heat. But Derek was not to be deterred. He gathered the sun umbrellas stamped with caravan logos and led me on, in my heat induced coma, to see just a couple more, at the other end of the venue, from where we were currently standing.
When we talked about doing something fun next week, his first suggestion was always the caravan show at … (insert the name of any godforsaken little town in Australia you want here) and that is where we went. I had a whole section of my closet set aside for caravan viewing outfits.
We set a deadline, readjusted that for family needs, set another one, readjusted, again … and again …. and again …. and then finally, we were ready. We decided before buying for sure at the Brisbane show this year, we would take in the show at Melbourne because they had dealers there we had not seen before, AND it was the biggest caravan show in Australia. You know men and the promise of BIG anything AND don’t forget Australia is the land of things like “The Big Pineapple,” “The Giant Prawn,” etc etc. We headed off to the Melbourne Show, with our list of top 3 that we had our eyes on, approval to buy, finances in place, and our truck paid off. We were so ready.
We arrived in Melbourne with an agenda. We entered the grounds like well-seasoned commandos. No more polite “you first” to large older ladies in muumuus, deciding they had to get into the exact same caravan I was entering at the exact same moment. I knew to save my oxygen for the oncoming heat and forget the polite Canadian small talk of “please” or “thank-you.” To heck with those people with their motorized wheelchairs and bikes, they actually were not that hard to block and what was a few tire marks on your face as long as you got to the door of the next caravan first? It was every man and woman for themselves and may the best person win. Which would be us. We had written that into the plan. We win!!
Doing a caravan show is a circus. Every salesman does some kind of strength demo, like climbing up onto and standing inside a kitchen drawer and jumping up and down to show you how strong it is, or swinging on the fold out tv arm to prove that travelling acrobats can put on an impromptu show IN your caravan, and even be moved so you can lay in bed and watch them. They warn you about their competitors, not wanting to mention any names, but they decide you are great people and so they lean in and whisper . . . spilling the names . . .
Every one of them tells you that nobody makes their caravans like they do, that they have been around for years and they care. Then they start in on the hinges in the cupboards and insist that their’s are the best and they tell you why even when you tell them it is ok you believe them and offer them money to just shut up.
We ended up with one salesman, had he been a dog, would have been a Jack Terrier. He had just finished his latest sales course entitled, “The Single Most Effective Thing You Can Do to Ensure The Sale.” They obviously taught him that the secret was, to USE the customer’s name. He wrote that down. He was so busy writing it down he missed the part where they suggested they make sure they get the right name. He shook our hands, introduced himself, and asked us each for our names. “Well, Eric and Mary let me ask you what kind of caravan you are looking for?” In the next 12 minutes and 32 seconds that
we talked he talked to us he used “Eric’s”name 5,382 times. He wanted us to come back before we committed to buy anything else because he guaranteed us that he could beat that deal.
We circled. We looked. We compared. We told eager salesmen to piss off. We played games with their heads and asked them personality busting questions we had seen on Facebook so we could tell whether they were Psychopath’s or Narcissists, or someone we should marry. They thought we were slightly senile, nice, older people with fat wallets. Little did they know that was not a wallet in my bra. We checked the three dealers we were originally considering, chucked them, and focussed on 3 new ones. We went back and forth and heard the spiels, sized up the salesmen and then … we went in for the kill.
End of day one. Sales were slow. We had heard all the goss’ about companies closing, being desperate, this, their last kick at the can. We knew which companies might not be around to give a crap about how they delivered our ‘van or what condition it would be in. Some of them might not deliver anything except our money to their bank account. We moved in for the kill.
Derek laid it out, right now, right here, cash in hand . . . best deal.
They caved. They gave us a heck of a deal. Derek started to walk away. They gave us another. Derek made a ridiculous counter. They looked him in the eye to see if he was serious. He was. He didn’t flinch. They flinched. They turned and ran to the boss. It was touch and go for a few minutes as to whether they were going to get him to come and kick us out or to actually consider the deal. Tick, tick, tick to closing time. DING, DING, DING, sign right now? Make it …. (rounded up just a bit). Derek said, “Only if you throw in these other things,” They hummed. They hawwed. They agreed and I could not believe it. Half way through signing the paperwork the salesmen came up. They had just discovered that the caravan price they had started the negotiation from was for last year’s model and this one that we were buying was a brand new, hot of the presses model. The poor guy looked like he had been crying. I told him to “buck up, Buckey. Caravan Sales are for real men and not the panty waisted faint of heart. A deal is a deal!” I might not have said those actual words, I think it was probably more like I cleared my throat. But, there was nothing he could do. They were bound to the agreement. We made an epic score.
We skipped all the way out of the grounds high fiving large older women in muumuus. I did beg “Eric” to let us go back to the name dropping salesman (forgot his name, sorry) so I could introduce me again (as he forgot my name immediately), tell him that I just wanted him to know that I was the one with the money and the one making the final decision. I wanted to tell him that the reason that we did not buy from him was because we felt he lacked commitment in the number of times he used “Eric’s” name. We were looking for someone who could easily master 10,000 times in a 12-minute time frame, and that while I had no idea who Eric was, I am pretty sure he would agree with us that it just was a poor effort all around. “Eric,” said he did not think that was necessary.
So all we had to do was kill a week until we could go pick up the caravan from the shop after the show. Are you kidding me? We were in Melbourne. Easy done!! Right? It would be fun. Wouldn’t it?