So, I walked into a used car dealership not because I was sniffing around for a car, but because I was in a strange town in upstate Connecticut and needed directions to the local Starbucks where I was meeting a friend. A man in a pinstripe suit, red silk shirt and black tie, sizing me up as a potential buyer, scurried over to assist.

I am not easily sucked into situations. On certain occasions, however, such as when I’m confronted by a car salesman trying to sell me a bill of goods, I take temporary leave of my senses. I morph into what is known as “an easy target.” The salesman, knowing my type, was already licking his chops in anticipation of a sale.

I explained that I wasn’t looking to buy a car and was quite satisfied with the car I owned, but Sal (as his name tag stated) had other plans, and wasn’t going to let me walk away without the pitch.

“Hold it,” I said, which is about as assertive as I get in car showrooms. “I only want directions to Starbucks.”

“Honey,” he said, gnawing on a sterling silver toothpick, “ya don’t need Starbucks. I can whip ya up some java that rivals Starbucks any day. How do ya take your coffee: Black? Cream? Milk? Sugar?”

Not wishing to offend, I accepted his offer. “Black, no sugar.”

“How did I know that? You’re already sweet enough,” Sal guffawed. “In the meantime, while I’m preparing your brew, take a look at that sporty blue Fiat over in the corner next to that banged up Mercedes. It has ya name written all over it, and not only that, it matches ya eyes.”

“I’m not looking for a car to match my body parts,” I explained, “I only want directions.”

“Not so fast” Sal said, sounding somewhat intimidating. “How do ya know ya don’t want a Fiat unless ya take a test drive? We happen to have a plethora of Fiats this month, Can’t keep ‘em around.”

I recalled a friend’s comment that Fiat is an American acronym for: “Fix It Again, Tony.” I didn’t want to start something.

“I can put you behind the wheel right now. After that, you’ll be so hooked ya won’t want to drive any other vehicle.”

“My mother told me never to get into a car with strangers.”

“Strangers? Who’s a stranger? I just made ya espresso. I’d say we’re practically BFFs.”

I was starting to get annoyed, but feared that if I didn’t comply with Sal’s wishes, he might whip out a machete and make me an offer I couldn’t refuse.

“Look,” I said, “Maybe I can come back later when I have more time.”

“Not so fast, little lady,” Sal took the keys off the hook. “A quick little joy ride — that’s all I’m asking.”

I envisioned Sal and me driving off in the blue Fiat never to return again. My life flashed before me as he opened the door, told me to get in and fasten my seat belt.”

“Nope,” I said. “This is much too hard a sell. No deal.”

“You broads like playing hard to get. Fine, have it your way. I’m just tellin’ ya, you’re makin’ a big mistake by not givin’ the Fiat a try. But just to show ya what kind of a guy I am, here’s what I’m prepared to do: how about ya turn that nice little piece of machinery you’re driving over to me, and I’ll give ya two Fiats that are sitting over in the lot?”

“Why would I want two Fiats? I don’t even want one.”

“You’re kidding me, right? What person would pass up such a deal? I’m talkin’ two cars at your disposal: one for daytime and one for when ya go out socializing at night.”

“I’m the stay-at-home type.”

“Ya coulda fooled me, but listen doll, two cars just for turning in your old jalopy here.”

“I like my old jalopy. I don’t need a car … or two.”

“OK, I see I’m getting nowhere. Let’s fageddabouit. Instead, here’s my new best offer: how about ya and me goin’ over to my brother-in-law, Angelo’s restaurant down the road? I’ll treat ya to the best clams ya ever tasted.”

“I’m allergic to shellfish.”

“Ya drive a hard bargain. I ain’t gettin’ nowhere wit ya. You don’t want a Fiat and ya don’t want clams. What do ya want?”

“Directions. How do I get to Starbucks?”

“Two blocks down the road, make a left, two rights, another left and ya can’t miss it.”

“Thanks,” I said.

“Hey, babe, no problem and no hard feelings,” Sal handed me his card. “Next time you’re in the hood, give me a call. I know a guy who can sell ya a nice diamond ring wholesale. Six carats and I’m not talking Zirconia.”

Judith Marks-White is a Westport writer. She can be reached at or at