It Wasn’t Your Typical Test Drive

A shiny, new car caught the author's eye | Jane Esaki photo

A shiny, new car caught the author’s eye | Jane Esaki photo

I went for a test drive today. Why in the world would I pull a stunt like that when I’m not even in the market to buy a new car?

Let’s just say that I was already across the lot with shimmering garlands, and a particular vehicle called to me. After a quick once-over of the vehicle and an MSRP check, I found myself appreciating the car I already have, despite a factory-lemon paint job and the fact that my recalled airbags might burst with metal shards, blowing me to smithereens before they can even save me.

Just as I was about to leave, a saleswoman conveniently approached. I was just looking, as she’d heard a thousand times. She came across as mellow and nonagressive — how nice. At least no sales pitches.

In fact, the woman answered every single question I had … and I always have one too many.

Will my stand-up paddle board fit inside? She managed to find a cheap, rusty measuring tape to measure the length from dashboard to liftback and yes, the board would fit. What exterior and interior colors are available? An electronic kiosk answered all of that. How much more for crossbars on the roof? She would find out and call me back.

On the test drive, I focused on noise levels, comfort, rollover susceptibility and blind spots. I homed in on details: seat adjustability to see over the dashboard, stereo speaker clarity, even whether the backseat folds flat to even out with the trunk floor. You’d think I was seriously ready to buy a car that very day.

I wasn’t, of course, and when all questions were exhausted, I glanced over at this quiet unpretentious woman and wondered who was this individual sitting next to me. Come to find out that she works two jobs, one even starting sometimes at 5 a.m. As if there’s any extra time left in her day, she and her husband, along with their children and another family member, also coach baseball for our youths.

Broaching that subject immediately seemed to bring great joy to her. She said the goal is to teach the children that every position on the team is important and, win or lose, so are the other teams they’re playing against. The concept extends to a wider audience, like the community. “When an old woman looks like she’s struggling to do something, help her,” is her mantra.

Why volunteer year after year?

The saleswoman pulled out her phone and proudly showed a glowing message from one appreciative parent, the kind of fuel that keeps her and her husband driven.

Why care? “It feels good,” she said. The idea is that if our youths learned to help others, they too could “feel good” and not look for less-than-desirable ways to “feel good.”

It all sounded so nice and right, this way to improve our community from the ground up by imparting solid values to our youths. But this woman and her family actually are walking the walk and talking the talk. Kauai is made up of many people like her and her family — our unsung heroes, our Secret Santas, and as I stood before her that day, I got to offer my thanks.

Choosing a car can be complicated with so many options and considerations, and the process can be a materialistic, self-centered endeavor. In the midst of this, I was drawn back down to earth by a sales-woman genuinely devoting a large part of her life to improving Kauai’s next generation. That is something of even greater value than finding that perfect car.

It’s also a good sales pitch — now I feel bad about not buying a car from her.