Unsafe Airbags

Last week I took my 2002 Honda into the dealership because there was a recall due to unsafe airbags. They told me it would take a couple hours so I asked if I could test-drive a 2015 Civic. I’ve been on the fence wondering if this will be the year for a new car and since I had time to kill, I thought, why not?

Many many moons ago I encountered more than one car salesman who thought it was cool to be condescending to a young woman who dared to shop for a car alone. Even now I had my defenses up, using nature’s tricks to look bigger—feet set wide, arms akimbo, chin raised. And some nice looking, rather young man came to help me. I relaxed a bit.

I just wanted to get in a car and drive around the block, but he wanted to be my friend, or so it seemed. He asked me where I lived, and wanting to be noncommittal, I told him East Sacramento–which of course convers a broad area. Nonetheless it seemed I was now a stereotypical white woman from an upper middle class neighborhood. He proceeded to tell me that his kids went to a school in East Sac known for its program for gifted students and its high test scores. Then he complained that the principal they loved had transferred to a middle school farther south where he had started a prestigious program, but that particular school attracts kids from Oak Park, and “maybe we don’t want that kind of influence.”

I was stunned that a salesman who wants to sell me something big and costly would say something that reeks of racism. But I didn’t say anything. I just narrowed my eyes and gave him my disapproving teacher look. “Where are the Civics?” I asked curtly.

He led me toward the cars and asked what I did for a living. I told him I was a retired teacher and that I had generally worked in poor neighborhoods. I thought maybe he’d understand but I overestimated him. He made a comment about the “bad side” of the Natomas School District. I decided to be direct.

“Look, sweetie,” I said as if talking to one of my 4th graders, “you shouldn’t make comments like that when you don’t know who you’re talking to. You don’t know me.”

He looked very confused and professed ignorance. I said, “What you said about Oak Park hurts my heart.”

“Oh, no,” he said.  “I didn’t mean it in a bad way–”

You don’t want kids from Oak Park in your kids’ school, but that’s not a bad thing?

 I said, “Look, I just want to drive a car. Can I drive a car now?”

So he let me drive a car. And I don’t know if it was the East Sac white thing again, but he insisted I take the car with all the bells and whistles. I was less than impressed—and said so repeatedly—but I figured if this is what cars are like now, I guess I could get used to it. When we came back he showed me the scaled down version. Oh, gee, I thought, this one is more my speed. Wish I’d seen it first.

He gave me his card. But if I decide to buy, it won’t be from him. Like I said: unsafe airbag.

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4 responses to “Unsafe Airbags

  1. Interesting. Reminds me of the recent show on KVIE produced by INDEPENDENT LENS: “American Denial.” One way for folks (who care enough) to deal with this kind of unconsciousness is to check out UNTRAINING WHITE LIBERAL RACISM. I got a lot out of it in my doc cohort experience. It also addresses other kinds of personal and social oppressions. http://untraining.org

  2. Nancy Ostiguy

    Nancy

    You should write a letter to the owner of the dealership about the behavior of this individual. It doesn’t matter that he doesn’t understand that he was being racist. He needs to learn to keep his conversations completely neutral if he is unable to determine when he is being offensive.

    We too are having to have our air bags replaced but Honda hasn’t sent them to our location. Our appointment to have them replaced last Monday was unsuccessful — who knows why the appointment was made when the airbags were not in stock and why no one called to cancel the appointment.

    Let’s hope we don’t need the airbag between now and when the replacement finally arrives.

  3. I had the same hassle with the dealership with scheduling an appt. to get the air bags replaced. One employee in the service department told me that so many air bags on so many different brands of cars need to be replaced that he suspects that they can’t make them fast enough. They told me they’d give me a rental car if I wanted, so you can always ask for that. Still it’s complicated, as these things always are. . .

  4. He obviously needs more training in how to converse with people. I agree with you, you don’t want to do business with him again.

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