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Three times I brought my car to the dealership for repair of a life-threatening brake failure. And three times the dealership failed to fix them—a problem I could discover only (it seemed) on the most dangerous stretches of road in Orange County. The fourth time I brought the car in with a warning: that I would sue the dealer and the manufacturer if the problem wasn't fixed this time. The dealer called a day later and told me the car was ready. I brought a friend to help me take the car for a test drive. We drove the car a few miles, and the brakes worked great—but the engine died in front of an Irvine mobile-home park. I cried. My friend tried to make the engine turn over a few times, lifted the hood and poked around. And then you appeared with a cell phone, attracted perhaps by the pathetic grinding of my car. "Help from heaven," I thought. Boy, was I wrong. You apparently belong to some self-appointed old-folks militia. I approached for assistance. You retreated to the park entrance. I followed. You panicked and told the person on the other end, "They're following me!" I turned around and walked back to the car. You followed —keeping a safe distance, but not so far away that I couldn't help hearing you offer a rough description of us, including the word "idiots." I turned around to plead my case, and you turned, ready to retreat again. I gave up, and we continued to try the car for the next several minutes. Eventually, we succeeded and drove off. You watched us like a lunatic from the safety of a bush, crouching low and mumbling into the phone. My lasting impression of our meeting is this: you are really ugly, ugly on a historical scale, uglier than Manuel Noriega and uglier than the lepers of Molokai, with the fashion instincts of someone from Oklahoma. Beauty may be only skin-deep, but—as it turns out—-ugliness goes all the way through.
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