Tuesday, February 22, 2011
Back when my friend Matthew Ettinger was wheeling and dealing Corvettes, a situation arose where a former employee who had taken a direct loan to purchase one of the 'Vettes had stopped making payments and showed no interest in paying off the balance. In fact, the fellow made a game of taunting Matthew playing games to underscore the fact that he had the car and Matthew did not.
One day, Matthew saw the fellow in the Corvette and a pursuit of sorts developed that, while maybe not exactly on a par with the car chase in Bullitt, involved high speeds on city streets and ended with Matthew on the side of the road in an incapacitated automobile. The fellow doubled back to gloat calling out, "I'm always one step ahead of you. It's like a game of chess!" That's when I got a call from Matthew.
After Matthew recounted the highlights of the situation, I asked for any details about the fellow that could prove helpful. Right off the bat, Matthew had a gem. "He's trying to collect on a car insurance claim and the insurer is stalling." That's all I needed to hear. The next day, I called the fellow telling him I was the adjuster on his claim and all I needed was his signature to authorize the settlement. We could do it by mail or he could meet me tomorrow if he wanted a faster disposition. He emphatically wanted to meet tomorrow. I gave him the address of an auto wrecking yard near the San Bernardino Freeway telling him I would be there at four o'clock tomorrow. I told him to be on time as I would not be hanging around and that he could find me in the yard, not the office.
I brought in a friend to play me--'the insurance adjuster'. His job was to wear a sport coat, carry a briefcase and walk the fellow to the farthest corner of the junk yard, look at a wreck and then walk him back to the front gate where, he would tell the fellow, the paperwork was ready for signature in his car. Another friend, Gary Wales (like Matthew, a former Breadvan owner), was brought in to play the role of 'some guy'. Gary was to sit on the steps of the wrecking yard office and, if the fellow went towards the office instead of the yard, say to him, "The guy you're looking for is over there." Matthew informed local law enforcement that we would be repossessing a car at the address should there be a report of auto theft.
Sure enough, at four o'clock the fellow shows up in the Corvette, parks on the street and makes his way towards the office. Gary tells him, "The guy you're looking for is over there." While my friend walks the fellow to the end of the property, a van driven by one of Matthew's associates pulls up to block the Corvette. Matthew exits from the rear of the van and gets into the Corvette using a spare set of keys and fires up the engine. The van pulls clear and off goes Matthew in triumphant possession of the 'Vette.
I pull my own car to the yard gate where my friend is returning with the fellow who is very anxious now to sign the document and get his money. My window is down and I call to my friend, "I have a message for you" whereupon he comes over to my car and gets into the passenger seat as prearranged. Then I call out to the fellow and say, "I have a message for you, too. Checkmate!" As we drove away, I could see the fellow jumping up and down in frustration like a cartoon character in the middle of the street.
It was a day well spent and I've often wondered if the fellow's insurance claim was ever settled to his satisfaction.