There is an older couple at a table near where I am writing. A young sales “associate” sits with them. He sells cars here, and I can tell that he’s very good at it. He just brought the couple coffee and a cookie from the coffee bar. The husband is clearly an old Mainer, and I’m thinking he can’t be bought with a cookie and coffee.

This is where I’m writing from today, here in the Central Maine Toyota dealership showroom on Airport Road in Waterville, a big, shiny and serene space recently renovated. It’s eerily quiet here, almost churchlike, and even the occasional loudspeaker announcements come out in soft, reverent tones.

A note: It has always been a peculiar writing habit of mine to actually speak the words I’m creating as they flow out of my fingers. I do now as well, but here, I whisper them. That’s the kind of atmosphere the dealers have created. You’ll just have to cup your hand to your ear.

I see a huge SUV on display here, with colored balloons floating over it like it’s someone’s birthday, and this mammoth, expensive beauty is the gift.

The lights above are focused, so that they cover the car with tiny cubes of light, making it appear almost delicious, like a candy-coated unattainable dream, which for most who visit here, it is.

That’s no accident. That’s car show business.

As I write this, associates and customers float through so softly you can’t hear their footsteps. Some know me. They nod and smile and move on.

I notice that the customers and associates whisper to one another as if they’re in a library, a temple or a museum, which in a way it is.

I observe a young couple who enter and walk around the big car without touching it. This is art. In a museum you don’t touch art.

The older couple and the salesman are warming up. They are smiling now. It’s almost a spiritual experience to watch people sit at a small chrome table and bargain so quietly. This must be designed to make the husband and wife feel as if they’re sitting at their kitchen table, planning their budget. Clever. Americana in action.

I sit near them in a comfortable chair at a nice table next to clean, towering glass windows that look out over a shining sea of new Toyotas, even though I have no business to conduct.

Shhhh. This is the big secret. I am actually encroaching. The garage artists completed my updates, stuck new decals on my windows, and put on my winter snow tires weeks ago, while I legitimately sat here. Today, I’m encroaching. I am borrowing their silence and Wi-Fi to write.

The owners don’t know that. They will now, I guess; but even then, I don’t think they’ll object, especially since they are the object of this piece. It helps that the company patriarch, Charlie Gaunce, went to high school with She, who out of loyalty, has purchased seven Toyotas of various sizes, shapes and colors in the 34 years since we returned here.

Charlie, my old friend and neighbor, drifts by sometimes as I write and drops down in the chair beside me and chats, while nibbling on a free cookie. He never questions my presence. He doesn’t care. Even in retirement, this is still his barber shop, his shoestore. He likes to schmooze with the customers.

Charlie asks if I have had my cookie and banana and then he drifts away, and I go back to encroaching.

I have other writing spots. In the summer and fall, I like to sit in my white Prius in the parking lot in front of Starbucks with my latte and write. For some reason I am inspired there as well as here.

How it started: One day Terri, at the service desk, said as she took my keys, “You can go in and make yourself comfortable. They have free coffee and cookies and even bananas.”

Free coffee, cookies and even bananas. I had come home.

Now, whenever I get the chance, I sneak in here and sit and write. It’s warmer in the winter than my own house, and cool in the summer.

Associates who know me wave and smile. Jess and Tim, mysterious internet people I’ve known for a very long time, always wave from the balcony above me. I suspect they and Marty, the genial ex-salesman who now drives the company shuttle, are on to me. Maybe they pause and wonder why I’m having trouble with a brand-new Prius. But not for long. Toyota depends on them.

The big room is empty now. The cookies and bananas are gone, and the old couple seems to have purchased a car and left. My friend Charlie has gone home. My column is finished. I remember an old Irish toast.

“Another day closer to death has passed.”

J.P. Devine is a Waterville writer.

Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under: