Tuesday, December 18, 2012

The Man Who Owned a Corvette by Sigfredo Iñigo

A government office is impressed by a flashy VIP offering diplomatic assistance in Sigfredo Iñigo's story.

Something about the man exuded street smarts. Red F. Rosiano (not his real name), Ph. D, was about five feet ten inches tall and in his late forties. He looked well-fed and groomed in a short-sleeved barong, the kind worn by security aides to VIPs. There was nothing in his aura that suggested the multi-millionaire he claimed to be.

Well, he didn't exactly tell me he was rich: Juliet, my stenographer, told me that. She came to my office in the city hall that morning burbling about this guy who had six sports cars. She and the rest of the staff had been talking to him for an hour.

"Imagine," she said, "he drives a Corvette, which he claims to be way cooler than a Mercedes."

That got me. Any young man in a Third World country would drool over a Corvette, and I instantly wanted to interview the guy who had everything.

A few weeks earlier, he had convinced the City Council that he could arrange sisterhood ties between our city and other cities abroad through a foundation that he headed. I then understood why Juliet, whose biggest dream was to land a job in the US, was so effusive: "He says city officials could travel on official business to the sister cities - with the staff." After some debate, the honorable members of the council passed the resolution the man with the doctorate in philosophy lobbied for. Also, some fifty thousand pesos was set aside to cover initial expenditures for the program. Now he had come to claim his check.

I shook hands with the guy when he entered the office, while the staff looked in awe. I wanted to talk about his cars, but I assumed he was intent on business, so I discussed the matter of sisterhood. I asked what particular cities he had in mind. There really was not much he could say, and whenever I pressed for particulars, he would remember something about an interview with the Defense Secretary. "I have an appointment with Alunan in Malacañang at five," he would say, and look at his watch. I tried to see whether it was a Gucci or a Rolex, but couldn't. But I noticed he didn't say "Secretary" Alunan or Mr. Alunan. I thought he must belong to the inner circle of the President.

At twelve, with no sign of the check being ready for release, the man who was a golfing buddy of the most powerful member of the Cabinet took leave, apparently for lunch. I suggested the best restaurant in town. Did the man who kept six sports cars in his garage invite us? No, he didn't, but I wouldn't have gone anyway. I'd always been uncomfortable in the company of rich people.

He returned at two o'clock. He had gone to a local VIP and obtained a note from him instructing me to do everything to help the guy who wanted so much to help our city be known globally. But the accounting people certainly didn't have an idea who they were dealing with and couldn't be budged much. Dr. Rosiano mentioned Alunan in his rambling speech a third time, and then a fourth, and a fifth, and I became concerned he would be late for an important meeting at the Palace.

"Tell you what," I said, "why don't you go ahead with your meeting with Secretary Alunan, and I'll just send your check to you by special courier?"

"Oh, no!" he said, "I don't care for Alunan. Let him wait."

I followed up his papers by phone and was assured it was being processed pronto. Swell. Now we could talk cars.

"I heard you own a Corvette," I began.

"Yes," he said. "I own one,"

"What model is it?" I used to devour magazines about cars and motorcycles, and dreamed of buying either a Jaguar XKR or an Aston Martin DB3, the car that James Bond drove in Goldfinger (the book, not the film version) if I ever hit the jackpot. One of my favorite scenes in Fiddler on the Roof was that of Tevye singing If I Were a Rich Man.

The man was apparently thinking of his appointment at the Palace; he couldn't hear me talk.

"Is it a Sting Ray from the 60s?" I asked.

"Hmmm? Oh, yes. That's the model," he said.

"Have you ever driven a Porsche?"

"I have a Porsche," he said.

"A 911 probably?"

"Yup, a 911. Goes from zero to sixty in a wink."

"Wow," I said, and on and on it went. Finally, I stopped asking about sports cars, seeing he was terribly bored about them. "How about motorcycles?" I asked. "Big bikes?"

"I have big bikes at home."

"Wow!" I said, "If I had money, I'd buy a Harley Davidson."

"I own a Harley," said Dr. Rosiano.

"Isn't it dangerous to ride one? A lot of riders get injured or killed on bikes."

"Well," he said, "I was riding my Harley once when an idiot in a Kawasaki challenged me to a race. I almost got killed, but I beat him."

He lifted his pants and showed me a faint scar on his leg. I felt humbled: I used to think of myself as a daredevil in my Honda 155.

City hall employees were already queueing for the bundy clock when his check came out. My guest had become listless so we decided to wait at the Treasurer's Office. After he received the check and signed for it, I expected Dr. Rosiano to hurry up: with some luck he might yet catch the Palace meeting. But he appeared resigned, nonchalant. He no longer mentioned Alunan or the powers that be.

I offered to accompany him to where his car was parked. He said thanks, and please don't bother, but I insisted. I wanted to see his Corvette or whatever it was that he drove. I followed him as he went over to it. There it was.

A gray Nissan Sentra.

Not exactly what you call dilapidated, but I'd bet it had at least three hundred thousand miles on its odometer. I didn't say anything, though. We shook hands and then he boarded the car.

We tried to contact him later about the sisterhood thing. But his line was dead, and his office could not be found.

He never came back.

1 comment:

  1. An interesting story about a 'Walter Mitty' character, who appears to be rich and owns some fantastic cars. I like the character as he meets and converses with Rosiano and is instantly taken in by this man's convincing so-called very rich lifestyle. The ending was a surprise, but almost predictable. An enjoying read thank you.

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