How I Came to Own a 1971 Cadillac
As a young man I had this problem with women. Now that I am no
longer young, I still have it.
I could never figure out what to say to a woman. At least, I could never
figure out what to say to a woman that I was romantically interested in.
Although I had an exceedingly well developed compulsion to look at
women, and be around them, and touch them, I just didn't have any
desire to talk to one of them. Talking to women always led to problems.
That's when everything went all wrong.
This is known as "Having a way with women."
The whole problem occurred when I started talking. Consequently, I
figured that the only chance I had to lure a woman into my life was to
encounter one in a situation where I could make her acquaintance without
having to do any more than the bare minimum of talking.
Now, this business of talking to women was no problem for a guy who
lived his life around women. A guy who spent every day of his life around
women, perhaps even in the same room, got used to them. For men who
encountered women every day, talking to a woman was no big deal.
But I didn't lead such a life. The way I led my life, I would go weeks,
sometimes months, without saying a single word to a woman. This left me
totally unprepared to speak with any degree of effectiveness when I might
suddenly encounter one of them along the way.
And, of course, I did encounter women. I would find them working in
convenience stores, and restaurants, and beer joints. But I seldom found
one in any of these places that I particularly wanted to make acquaintance
with, and when I did, I could never figure out how to go about doing it. In
my lifetime, I never had a date with a woman I met at a convenience
store, a beer joint, a "club," a restaurant, a hardware store, a feed store,
or any other kind of retail outlet. It just never happened.
So when from time to time, I was overcome by the need to at least be
in the general proximity of attractive women, I would take a little time off
and head for the big city. That usually meant San Antonio.
It's hard to make anyone understand how far it was between South
Texas and the north side of San Antonio in the 1970s. In distance, it was
little more than 60 miles. In time, it was about 100 years. On those
weekends when a tattered crop-duster pilot ventured out of the brush
country and slipped into the bright lights of civilized society on the north
side of San Antonio, he transitioned a void of celestial proportions.
Even if I were to meet a nice young lady, I knew that it would be next
to impossible to explain to her the strange land from which I had come. I
was like a space traveler, voyaging light-years across the cosmos to find a
temporary haven in a distant galaxy. I knew that I could never explain
the strange way I lived my life, or the strange dreams that had drawn me
to the bright lights and soft music of a world I knew I could never make
But I came there, just the same. For I had looked at myself in a mirror,
and I had seen conclusively that there was nothing at all about my
countenance that betrayed my true origins. I had a face, just as other
men had a face, and there was nothing at all about me that might
distinguish me from one of those men who lived within the big city. There
was simply nothing about my appearance that might alert a normal person
of my true identity. I was convinced that I could slip into the lives of
these glittering people and no one would ever be the wiser as to my right
to be there.
Now, San Antonio was chock-full of good-looking women. You could see
them everywhere. They were walking around all over the place. The
question was, how was I to flag down one of those lovely creatures long
enough to talk to her? And what was I to say? And what if she called the
cops? And what if she were to turn and give me one of those looks that
can cripple a man for life?
Over the years, I made many a trip to San Antonio, as well as other big
cities, and tried to figure out how to meet women. I made some
discoveries. Have you ever noticed where most of the smart young women
are? They all live in big apartment complexes. They all work in big
buildings. For very brief moments during the day, they emerge from one
of those buildings, travel to another building, and disappear inside. If a
man did not also spend at least some of his life in those big buildings, the
only chance he had to encounter one of these women was during those
brief moments when they were transient between big buildings.
Of course, on weekends these women often gathered at specified
locations for the sole purpose of meeting men. These places were called
"clubs." Sometimes they were called "singles bars." They were nice places.
I've been in a million of them. They were always full of good-looking
women wanting to meet men.
I was told that young women who live their lives in big buildings in big
cities went to these clubs for the express purpose of meeting men who did
not spend their lives in big buildings in big cities.
Or maybe I read that somewhere. Or maybe I dreamed it. Anyway,
somewhere or other I got the idea that I could get along just fine with
some of these women if I could just figure out how to meet them without
having to actually talk to them. Or at least not having to talk to them very
much. At least not at first. Say, for instance, if I could meet one of these
women and not be required to say more than four or five, or maybe ten
words, for the first quarter hour, I was convinced that we would get along
But that was the problem. These women would only consent to make
the acquaintance of men who knew how to talk to them. They expected
the man to talk right off the bat. Just like that! They expected him to say
clever things first crack out of the box. They expected the man to be witty,
and relaxed, and charming. These women only felt comfortable meeting
men who were comfortable meeting women.
I wasted many a day of my life trying to talk to these glittering women
in these glittering places. Just to approach one close enough to engage in
conversation introduced the risk of suddenly encountering the faintest
smell of perfume, an event that rattled me right down to the ground. And
I could be completely unnerved by the sudden awareness of the way a
particular ladies' ankle curved into her foot, or the way the slightest trace
of powder brushed across a cheek.
And then, of course, a man had to actually say something. But what to
say? I spent endless hours inventing what must have been ten million
different things to say when meeting a woman. All of them were wrong. At
least the ones I tried.
There was no denying it. A man did not learn how to talk to women by
every six months screwing up his courage and trying to talk to one. A man
learned to talk to women by living and working in big buildings, and
talking to the women who also lived and worked in big building. On the
weekends, all these men and women went to clubs, where the men talked
to women who lived in big buildings other than their own, and the women
talked to men who lived in big buildings other than their own. It all worked
out just fine.
But the purpose of this story is not to complain about the way the world
works. This story is about the time that I actually did meet a wonderful
young woman in one of those fancy clubs. It was just one of those things
that happened in my life. One of those startling events that happen
without any warning at all, like a tornado, or a car wreck. One moment
your life is normal, and the next moment the whole world is completely
It was in San Antonio. Out on the north side. It was a very nice place
where there was a fancy bar, and a fancy dance floor, and tables where
you could sit down and order lots of fancy things to eat.
And the place was full of the fanciest bunch of women a man could ever
hope to see, and I was sitting at the bar sorting through the ten million
things I could say if I ever got a chance to talk to one of them. And then
an amazing thing happened. A young lady sat down by me.
She sat down by me and actually glanced my way with a little smile. I
was thunder-struck. I didn't know who she was. I didn't know where she
came from. I didn't know why she sat down by me. I didn't know what to
say and I didn't know what to do.
I was saved by the bar-man, who engaged the young lady in the
commercial transaction of serving her a rum-and-coke.
The young lady took a sip on her rum-and-coke, turned to me with her
little smile, and said, "Hi."
And that's the way it really happened. Just like that! One moment I was
sitting there thinking to myself, and the next moment the most beautiful
girl in the world was sitting there talking to me. I was never so astonished
in my life. My mind went into a mad panic. I was overwhelmed by the
certain knowledge that she would stop talking at any moment, and I would
be required to say something in reply. My thoughts were racing at full tilt
trying to figure out what I was actually going to say back to her. The little
que-cards in my brain started flipping at super-sonic speed through all the
ten million things that I might say.
Of course, I had no idea what she was talking about. I hadn't heard a
single word she said. All I could hear was her sweet voice. All I could see
were her bright eyes. And then she leaned her soft face a bare one fourth
of an inch closer to mine, and the scant scent of her perfume fell over me
like a breeze from heaven.
I broke into a cold sweat. My mind was consumed by a tumbling array
of incoherent words and phrases. I was terrified that some of these words
would suddenly come falling out of my mouth.
But it didn't happen that way. I don't know just exactly how it did
happen, but it didn't happen that way. It happened in a strange way in
which I suddenly realized that she was no longer saying anything. She
was just sitting there quietly looking at me with a sweet smile on her face.
And what was even stranger, I wasn't saying anything either. I wasn't
saying anything, and I wasn't trying to say anything. I was just sitting
there quietly, and I wasn't feeling all panicky anymore. As a matter of
fact, I was starting to feel just fine.
And the amazing thing about all this was that we actually sat there and
talked for an hour and a half. And this woman was just as lovely as you
ever saw. She was one of those women that I had only on rare occasions
seen emerge from one big building and quickly disappear into another.
Later, thinking back on this event, I could never remember anything
that we talked about. But I could remember that I had felt wonderfully at
ease, and that I had said many clever and witty things.
But that night did not go on forever, although I wished that it had, and
just as suddenly as she had appeared in my life, she went away. Just like
that. She said that she had to go, and she did. But not before we agreed
that we would talk to one another at that exact same place exactly one
week from that night.
I had already made up my mind that I wanted to spend the balance of
my life talking to that woman. In order to do that I knew that it was
absolutely necessary that on the following weekend I ask her to agree to
have dinner with me on the very next weekend. That was my plan. All my
efforts went into making sure that the plan came off without a hitch.
But there was a hitch.
When I dreamed about picking her up at her big building two weeks
hence, the whole vision was jarred by the sight of me loading her up into
my nine-year-old, 3/4 ton pick-up truck, with the heavy-duty mud-grip
tires and the cow-catcher front bumper. It just didn't fit into the plan of
how I should be picking up the young lady I wanted to spend the rest of
my life with.
So I knew I had to buy a car, quick.
For some crazy reason I had some spare money laying about. I decided
to budget two thousand dollars for the purchase of a nice used car.
Monday morning found me back in San Antonio looking at used cars. I
knew I wanted either a Ford or a Chevrolet. I looked at about half the
used cars in San Antonio. That was about ten million cars. I didn't buy
even one. That night I got a cheap motel room and read the used car ads
in the San Antonio Light. That's where I spotted the 1971 Cadillac. It
didn't list a price.
The next morning I started out bright and early. I looked at about ten
million more used cars. By the end of that day I was ready to give it all up
and head back to the brush country. Then I happened to remember the ad
for the 1971 Cadillac, and decided to go look at it out of curiosity.
It was owned by a man who lived in a nice house, in the nice part of
town. He was an elderly gentleman. He showed me his car. I sat in it. I
drove it around the neighborhood. It was a two-door Cadillac Calais, which
is a city in France, on the English Channel, that I've never been to.
"Calais" is hard to pronounce. You have to know how. So I learned how.
When I was in the big city I pronounced "Calais" the way the French did.
When I was in South Texas I pronounced it the way it was pronounced by
everybody who walked past it and read the little chrome emblem on the
trunk lid. I never corrected anybody's pronunciation.
The inside of that Calais was designed to remind one of the inside of the
palace at Versailles. Which is also in France. And also hard to pronounce.
I've never been there, either. But anyway, that's what it was like inside.
I asked the old gentleman how much money he wanted for it and he
said seventeen hundred and fifty dollars, and I bought it. Just like that.
The next Saturday night she was there. Me too. Now, it should be
understood that I had no intention of her actually getting inside my new
Calais that weekend. That weekend was the weekend I was going to ask
her to go out with me the following weekend. It was all according to plan.
Nonetheless, I was glad to have my brand new second hand Calais
parked outside that fancy club on the north side of San Antonio.
We talked for nearly two hours, and I asked her if I could take her out
the following weekend. She said no.
But she was very nice about it. She smiled at me and even patted my
hand, which nearly drove me nuts. And this girl smelled so good! She
explained that she was "kinda engaged" to a guy. I think he was one of
those fellows who lived in one of those big buildings. But I'm not sure.
And that's how I came to own a 1971 Cadillac.