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Building to standards

Several new power saws, four months and a pile of wood later; I finished the cat exercise wheel this week and delivered it to Cat Lady. Her felines were less than impressed and didn’t have a clue on how to use it. This didn’t deter Cat Lady, however, as she got down on the floor and put one knee on the wheel to demonstrate.
“See kitties, this is how you do it,” she said, breaking the wheel in half.
I designed the wheel for a 10, maybe 20-pound cat. It never occurred to me that Cat Lady would try it, but then I should have known better: Cat Lady can be as unpredictable as a blind welder in a fireworks factory.
Like years ago when we were dating and I helped her shop for a new car.
I started out with Karen, the other half of Cat Lady’s split personality. We pulled up to the lot in Iowa City with me coaching her on the ins and outs of negotiations. “Try to act disinterested,” I told her. “Pretend you’re not even sure if you want a new car, much less one of the cars you see and it will be easier to get a good deal.
Actually, I had already made one mistake by taking her to Iowa City. For readers out of town, I should explain that Iowa City is a college town. You can’t swing a sheepskin without hitting a graduate student, professor, or college administrator who doesn’t own an iota of common sense. The dealers know this and have grown complacent selling cars to people who can recite a Fibonacci sequence to the seventh order but can’t keep up with the math of trading an old for new car.
“Yeah, yeah, yeah,” she said, waving me off. “I don’t want a new car, I don’t even like new cars.”
The first auto we looked at was a Honda CRX, and I could tell she was having trouble staying with the plan. Marketed as an economy sports compact, the CRX was popular at the time for its performance, nimble handling and fuel economy (50 mpg city, 60 mpg on the highway). While it was small, only a two-seater, it was also stylish with a fastback design and in neon bright colors. Both Karen and Cat Lady like stylish cars in bright colors.
The salesman asked her if she’d like to take it for a spin, and before I could suggest that we go for a test drive she heeled off to the lot with him instead of me. When they took off, the salesman was driving and Karen was in the passenger seat. When they returned Cat Lady was at the wheel.
As she got out of the car, she gushed loudly, “Oh, I just have to have this car, just driving it gave me an orgasm.”
Cat Lady was now in charge.
I could see the salesman roll his eyes up to heaven, thanking God for the pigeon of a career. When his eyes rolled back down I swear I could also see little dollar signs reflected in his pupils.
Fortunately, Karen kicked Cat Lady to the curb when the salesman returned with an offer that included a low-ball price on her trade-in vehicle. “No way can I pay that much,” Karen said in a firm voice and the fun began. Three times the salesman left us alone in a small cubicle while he went to do battle with his sales manager. Three times he came back a little more disheveled with a new, slightly better offer and tales about the manager’s meanness.
Karen stuck to her guns that day, and we left the lot in the car in which we arrived.
Later that week we went to the dealership in Cedar Rapids, a blue-collar town that doesn’t truck nonsense. In short order we made a deal on a neon yellow CRX at a good price with a generous allowance for her trade-in vehicle.
The moral of this story is twofold.
One, if you’re looking for a good deal on a car, don’t shop in a college town.
Two, if you’re building cat wheels, use standards catered to Cat Lady and not Karen.