Wednesday, July 6, 2022 Jul 6, 2022
85° F Dallas, TX


Wherein two Bubbas and a frosty-eyed lady set off in search of Condo Heaven-and find that the promised land is mostly promise.
By Brad Bailey |

THEY USE EVERY HACKNEYED MASS MAILING trick in the book. Little windows on the “Express Overnight Emergency RUSH” envelopes revealing the words, “Pay to the Order of” you, You, YOU-who have already won! Valuable prizes!

Almost invariably, if you are single, they address it to Mr. and Mrs. Or, if you are a girl and your name is Gwendolynne Annabelle Cynthia Louise Girlish, they start the letter, “Dear Mr. Girlish.”

You get a “Gift Certificate for the fabulous Bentley 4 1/2 inch portable television.” And an “Exclusive! Admit Two Only Invitation.”

By now you’ve figured out what we’re talking about. We’re talking, lemme make you a deal on some lakefront property. We’re talking, come on out and let’s sell you a week at these fabulous time-share condos at lovely Mudhen Manorettes on beautiful Lake Burt Carpsucker in the heart of fabulous Texas cowpatty country and we’ll give you this lovely fabulous beautiful free bonus gift at no expense gratis! If you can visit us on a Monday or a Friday, you will also receive a SPECIAL BONUS GIFT valued at $199. “

Which brings us to the sad plight of Janie March, a poor little salesgirl, and her encounter with the shadowy half-true world of the time-share condo game. Miss March went to her mailbox one day and discovered an urgent communiqué addressed to Mr. and Mrs. Janie March, and learned that she too, could be unfortunately saddled with a Mercedes-unless she by some stroke of fortune could in fact luck out and walk away with the Commodore Home Computer pictured above, peripherals not included.

Now, Miss March needs a computer for a number of reasons. For one, she needs a computer to keep track of her Bubbas. She has a brother named Bubba. She has a dog named Bubba, a mongrel that is part Shih Tzu, probably the first part. She has a friend named Bubba, who, unemployed, is free to go around looking at lake property he cannot afford.

So, come the appointed day, the dog Bubba and the friend Bub-ba opted to accompany Miss March to Wildwood Manor on beautiful Lake Bridgeport in scenic Wise County. The brother Bubba could not be there, alas, because he was looking at some lake property in Oklahoma, a state that is, in fact, much closer to Dallas than is scenic Lake Bridgeport, which seems to be damn close to Nevada.

At the Lake Bridgeport office of Wildwood Manor, Miss March, Bubba, and Bubba were rewarded for their day’s journey by being first treated to a very patriotic film about how wonderful it is to be an American and own a Wildwood time share. By the time the film is over, you are convinced that if you do not own one, you should go to Russia. It was narrated by a rustic, avuncular, kind and loving God-judging by the warmth and personableness emanating from that golden throat and the absence of credits at the end to specify otherwise. The Voice says: “We owe our success to one simple thing: we ENJOY people. We design and build environments so people can enjoy some of the best things in life.”

The genial, all-knowing announcer could make an ample living just going from town to town to say, “ENJOY,” but he generously goes on to ask, “What are the best things in life? Things like friendship, family. . ..” And more to the point, what are the most ingratiating buzzwords in the American business lexicon, besides “American”? These, all used liberally throughout the presentation: Carefree. A vacation world of nature’s beauty. Welcome. Wildwood”s private world of friendship and good times, year round. Priceless legacy. Children. Free.

God digs Wildwood, and he really gets into it along about here: “What are the best things you can give your children? Love. Laughter. Some fine friends. An atmosphere for families. A place to share true, old-time American value. Any day, any weekend, all of this is yours, your children’s, and your children’s children. You could be enjoying a whole world of fun for F-R-double-E! Playin’ soft-ball! Play in’ those horseshoes! Watkin’ without shoes! Having some fun, fishin’ with the kids, or just relaxin’ around the Fire with family friends, enjoyin’ the feast of a potluck breakfast with the best food made in this world-[voice particularly warm here] homemade food!1’ Throughout all this, we are shown slides of jes’ plain folks havin’ th’ time o’ their lives.

God thinks highly of the exchange program, also, whereby one may swap one’s week at Lake Bridgeport for a week in, say, Mexico, or better still, any of a number of Edenic sites right here in the good ol’ US of A!

“From Virginia’s sandy shores, to Tennessee’s famous countryside . . .Carolina’s beautiful lakes and forests. . . from Indiana’s great outdoors to Pennsylvania’s rolling hills to California’s golden hills, from Oregon to Washington, you truly now can afford to discover America!” Then one of this homespun God’s C&W singer archangel pals, perhaps ol’ Gabe, breaks into a stirring rendition of, you guessed it, “God Bless America, land tha-yut Ah luv! Stan’ bun-side her, an’ guide her, through the nott with the Iott from a-buv!”

By now, one Bubba’s chin is quivering, the other Bubba is walking around on all fours sniffing people’s feet, and Miss March is wondering if she’s going to have to have children to get into Condo Heaven…. And here comes Jerry the salesman to find out whether we are going to remain Communist deadbeat child abusers, or are we going to get straight with Jesus and do things the American way, and to explain just what is meant by F-R-double-E. (He spells F-R-double-E with a dollar mark before an 8 followed by triple zeroes not counting maintenance fees, financing, and amenities, peripherals not included, but we’ll get to that. )

Jerry is sort of an apprentice angel. He’s not moved up to making audio-visual sales aids yet, but he’s showing all the talent. You’d want Jerry for an older cousin, so he could say grace at Thanksgiving, in that same assured, quiet, friendly voice. Jerry proceeds to be amiable and low-key. He begins the chit-chat phase, wanting to know where everybody’s from.

Miss March is from Sherman, where she was voted most likely to succeed in acquiring an entourage of Bubbas. One Bubba is from Texarkana. The other one was found wandering around naked and hungry in an alley eating out of garbage cans. To many who know them both, it remains unclear which did which, but the three are flattered by Jerry’s honeyed attention. They notice that he obviously likes them, for on the top of his legal pad, on a page all their very own, he has written down their names. He will look at the pad frequently to savor the sibilance of the monikers, by which he will frequently call them to personalize the counseling.

“Awright,” Jerry says, “if you want it, you buy it. If you don’t, you don’t. I’m going to promise you two things. One, I’m not going to lie to you. There’s no need to misrepresent things. I think our resort pretty much speaks for itself. Number two, I’m not going to beg you to buy. There are basically two reasons why people don’t get involved. [Major Buzzword. People are dying on the streets because people are afraid to get involved. We will learn that it is one of his favorite words. He is not trying to take our money. He is trying to get us involved]. They don’t believe it [coming from such a nice man who promises not to lie] or they can’t afford it [and are deadbeats].

“I’m going to make you some very special offers today,” he murmurs. “I’m not saying you can’t come back, but you can’t get the special offers, except today [Urgent! Ah-ooga! Code Red!).”

He’s slick, but he gets a little transparent at times. He tells his prospective involvees, “We have over 100,000 members. Now, it’s not likely there’d be 100,000 idiots out there. It’s not likely that you’d have 100,000 idiot neighbors, is it?”

Well, that is not exactly out of the question. But onward, as Jerry treats us to the lecture series. Its major themes seem to be: “The History of Time Sharing. The Sheer Idiocy of Spending Money on Hotels. The Joy of Owning. Stretch Those Vacation Dollars!” Jerry would have us believe a few years of vacations in a hotel will cost us something like $20,000, whereas we can vacate with his outfit for the rest of our lives for a piddling $8,000. These labors leave him rather winded, and he excuses himself to get a drink of water. While he’s gone, this man in a gimme cap pauses at the door. He is either a fellow involvee or a Wildwood shill.

He says he’s just bought, uh, gotten involved, and he’s pretty excited about it. “The places are huge,” he burbles. “They’re a lot nicer than our house is. The condos are gorgeous, the clubs are gorgeous. They got arts and crafts we can take our kids to for a dollar admission, It’s a good deal. The down payment is over $300, but I put it on the credit card. My monthly payments’ll be about $130, and I get instant use. After eight years, I don’t have to make the payments no more. The $180 a year maintenance fee is tax deductible, plus the interest will still be tax deductible.” The gimme-cap guy seems to think that tax deductions were invented not by Congress but by Wildwood. They’ve got him all fired up. He’s a maintenance technician, he says: he and his wife bring home a combined income of about $35,000.

He hasn’t thought about the numbers much. His $8,000 bargain is going to cost him closer to $15,000 when all is said and done- and that’s if he takes advantage of none of the so-called “amenities.”

Wildwood’s little film makes much of F-R-double-E, and all the nice things you can do with Wildwood, but neglects to mention in the film that it charges extra for lots of them. You wanna use one of the cabins, that’s $30 a night. For $20, you can stay in one of their twenty-nine-foot travel trailers. If you wanna borrow a Wildwood fishing boat, it’s $15 a day. Green fees of $5 a day, etc.

A little more fun with numbers: each person pays $8,000 to own one week of Condo Heaven a year. Let’s see. With one week unsold for maintenance purposes. . . fifty-one weeks times $8,000, that’s. . .what’s that work out to, Jerry? ’About $400,000,” he says. They have been whisked out the door, and Jerry is driving them around the property showing off its amenities.

“Gosh,” says the two-legged Bubba, “I can hardly wait to see these places. That sounds like a hell of a lot of Condo. Do they cost that to build?”

“Well,” says smilin” Jerry, who promised he’d never lie, “you gotta put a profit in there somewhere.”

“Naw! You mean you guys make money? There’s a profit? How do you guys get paid? Salary? Commission? None of my business?”

“We get paid in several different ways,” Jerry allows.

“That’s a good answer,” Miss March allows.

“Whattaya mean?” Bubba continues. “Cocaine? Girls? Free boat rentals?”

“Commissions, bonuses, that sort of thing,” Jerry says, then changes the subject, “Oh, look, we’re coming up on the condos round the next bend.”

We are expecting, if not the Taj Mahal, then at least University Park. He points to a small building off to the right and says, “This is our laundry facility.” “You mean to tell us these $400,000 con-dos don’t have washers and dryers?”

Parries Jerry: “Do you wanna live here, or are you on vacation?”

“Well,” says Miss March, “I’m not here to carry laundry back and forth to the ’laundry facility.’ “

“Kind of pretty down here in the woods, isn’t it?” Jerry suddenly notices. And it is. The natural beauty is marred only by several four-plexes of condos, many of them not yet complete, with raw earth showing where they have been stuck into the ground. But that rude fact is offset by the fact that, in the middle distance, you can make out the lake, and the lake, we learn, is truly remarkable: it contains several million gallons of water, and real live fish are purported to live in it.

In the condo unit that Jerry shows, none of the windows faces the lake. The prospects get another little look at salesmanship when they ask Jerry if the ones without the view are cheaper. The boy can sure phrase things so there ain’t no such thing as a negative.

A lesser salesman might have said, “You’d think we’d let the dismal dirt-side sans-a-view ones go cheaper, but we don’t.” Or another, not so skilled as Jer, might have said, “You’d think we’d build them all facing the lake, but we don’t.” But not ol’ Jer. Jer puts it: “You’d think we’d sell the lake-side ones for more money, but we chose not to.”

He shows us the amenities. The fireplace. The fridge. The bed with the mirrors. The back veranda with a view of North Texas.

As they head back to the main office, the shadows are getting long. It’s a fur piece back to Dallas. Both Bubbas have to be fed, and at least one of them wants a beer.

But they are not out of the woods yet, not by a long shot.

“As we’re driving back,” Jerry croons, “you be thinking about whether you like it, if you’d use it over the year. I know you like it. The only question is, can you afford it? [or are you deadbeats?]”

Back in the office, however. Honest Jer remembers many, many other questions he believes pertinent and helpful in his campaign to get people “involved.” “On the amount down, most people put down from 10 to 100 percent. Any problem with that?”

“Uh, nope.” Miss March is in her hypothetical mode here.

“Pick a number,” Jer says. “Tell me what you could afford to put down as a down payment right now.”

“$500,” Miss March hypothesizes.

“Would you pay cash, or credit card?”

“Credit card.”

“How long would you take to pay the $300 balance?” Ol’ Jer is now dunning Miss March for a debt she has not yet “involved.”

Bubba awakens, says, “Alf.” Other Bubba snaps to attention, says, “Hold it, Jer. What balance?”

Jer explains, “The difference between $500 and the $800-the 10 percent down payment.” He turns back toward Miss March and says, “Which credit card would you like to put this on?”

“Uh, hold it. Just a second,” she says. “I really don’t think I’m interested. I really don’t think I’m ready. I don’t want to make a decision today. I think it’s probably a great deal, but I just came to get my computer, you know.”

Jer looks very sympathetic and says, “Oh. Is today just a bad time? [Whassa matter, Deadbeat? Gotta lotta gambling debts? Write some bad checks to your drug dealer?]”

“Not today. Not this year.” She’s sounding kind of firm about it. Here it must be mentioned that the most likely reason Miss March remains unmarried is that there’s something about her eyes. They were made by Frigidaire. Even on a good day, you can see the Antarctic wastes behind that cold blue. When she’s uninterested, you can by God see intergalactic space. And when she finally gets ticked off, she emits the Polite Blue Freezing Death Ray. It’ll flat frost your martini, but good. “I think everything is really nice.” Miss March says, preparing up the Polite Blue Ray. “I’m just not sure this is the way I would choose to spend my vacations. I wanna pay someone to cook my food and clean up the room.”

“Arc you saying that you’d rather. . ..”

“I’m saying sometimes I wanna go to a hotel, sometimes a condo.” Jer, who doesn’t notice the frost creeping imperceptibly across his carpet, says. “If you choose a hotel, how do you choose it? Because if you get one of our travel cards, you get whatever you want, just like that. You know. Janie. I guess the bottom line boils down to what we discussed in the car. You aren’t making a decision. you’re making a choice. You’re going to spend the money anyway.”

“I don’t want saving money to be my only incentive in choosing a vacation spot,” she says, with her eyes registering now only the absolute-zero vistas between Antares and Andromeda. “’1 think it’s a great deal, but I’m not sure I’m interested, you see.”

“You know, Janie, you’re making a decision. It’s not a ’maybe.’ You’re not going to come back and be able to pay $8,000 for all the extras, the charter membership, etcetera …”

“Okay! I wouldn’t use it. Okay! My answer is no. I wouldn’t choose to spend my vacation this way!”

Jer must take an occasional nip from a jug of Prestone II, because while the atmosphere in the room long ago passed that of the Himalayan timberline, he’s cozy as a Boy Scout enjoying a potluck breakfast of the best food made in this world. Homemade food. “How many trips did you take to Mexico last year. . ..”

“My answer’s NO. If I have to give you an answer today, it’s NO!”

“Janie, I just want to try and find out some of these things. . ..”

“No. No! NO! This is NOT how I wanna do it.”

Jer pauses, smiles. This guy should handle the arms talks. He lowers his voice even more, even more confidentially: “Doesn’t it really just boil down to the money |you deadbeat]?”

“No. It doesn’t. It boils down to how I choose to take my vacations, how I choose to spend $8,000.”

“You’ll spend more. . ..”


“Well, I know you’re smart enough not to want to throw your money down the drain…”

Uh oh. That’s it. Now he’s done it.

Miss March says nothing. In her command center, storm troopers pull levers. Bingo. Zap. Brrr. The icy-nicy look is loosed. A shaft as blue as winter sky leaps the gap between them. The Ray breaks through Jerry’s low-key but high-pressure force field. Jerry freezes, then caves in completely, and gels a look on his lace like something very evil indeed has built a nest on his grave. He rubs his eyes for a moment, recuperating.

Then he looks at Bubba and says: “Well, how ’bout you?”

Jerry slept under extra covers that night. Both Bubbas got their dinners, and one of them got his beer. Miss March got her computer, peripherals not included. Miss March later said, “You know what I need? I need that fabulous Bentley 4 1/2 inch black-and-white TV to attach to my computer,” and so she’s waiting by the mailbox.

Knowing these guys, she won’t have to wait long.