1996 Dodge Stratus 4 door in Gold. What an awful vehicle.
I’m not exactly certain why it’s awful but it probably is mostly due to the fact that it was gold and the styling was completely uninspired. However, LaDonna, the Stratus which is the focus of this story was pretty dear to the brewery.
LaDonna became one of the brewery rides by way of a gift from Ross’ grandpa, rest his soul. And a gift it was. We had less than no money and any asset was welcome since we were scrapping so hard we would open the tasting room to fill a $6 growler if someone emailed us a day in advance.
LaDonna provided many services: sales shuttle, keg delivery vehicle, Ross had sex in it, commuter vehicle and any other use that it could be forced to do. LaDonna was indispensable.
LaDonna’s namesake, however was not indispensable, in fact I would have gladly dispensed of her.
We met the human LaDonna on a sales call. It should have been pretty straight forward. We were Iron Horse Brewery, local, going into a local grocery store with an increasingly popular product trying to sell to the beverage buyer who had the autonomy to buy what she saw fit. For whatever reason, LaDonna did not see Iron Horse as a fit.
“I don’t like beer, I drink wine,” she said.
Hmmm I thought, what fucking difference does that make, you sell beer don’t you?
“Yeah, we all have our preferences. I think our beer would be a good fit for your store, it’s sold comparably well at neighboring stores and your clientele seem to be even more ideal for craft beer,” I replied.
“I’m not interested.”
“Ok, thanks for your time.”
Now, this was many years ago so I have chosen to paraphrase. I believe the exchange probably lasted closer to 5 minutes and I deployed a few more sales strategies before giving up, but suffice it say, I’m not a good salesperson and LaDonna was in the wrong job. Repossessions, tax collector, probation officer, those might have suited LaDonna better.
LaDonna now occupied a special place in the minds of Ross and I as probably the worst sales call ever. LaDonna became a catchall term for things or people that sucked. I don’t remember the moment, but at some point that 1996 Dodge Stratus 4 door earned that moniker, however by doing so, LaDonna now became known as a term of endearment for something or someone that sucked.
LaDonna had a rocky life. The end was initially shrouded in mystery but through a randomly placed question I managed to solve it.
It began on a chilly morning while I was driving LaDonna to work. Seemingly out of nowhere, LaDonna’s power was no longer being transferred to the transmission, engine revs, no forward movement. I coast to the side of the road, put in park, turn off the engine and cycle it back on. No action. Weird, I thought. I called the tow truck and had it hauled to CV Autoworks. A day or two later, Scott calls me.
“What did you do to this thing?”
“I have no idea what you are talking about.”
“It’s all beat up, transfer case is cracked, all types of shit is busted up.”
“That doesn’t make any sense.”
After viewing the damage, which was quite impressive, we totaled the vehicle and I called Ross.
“Did you hit something with LaDonna?”
“What do you mean?”
“The undercarriage is beat to shit, she’s totaled.”
“I have no idea. My girlfriend is Asian, she drove it a few weeks ago, I’ll question her.”
Ahh, this must explain it I thought, as terrible as stereotypes are, we may just have to acknowledge this one.
After about a week I hear back from Ross.
“Dude, she didn’t do it.”
“Dang, still a mystery. Are you sure?”
“Yeah, I interrogated her multiple times. She finally broke down at the end; she didn’t do it, I’m certain”
In retrospect, I feel a bit of shame for being so certain that the Asian woman was the culprit. LaDonna was the neighborhood trolley, anyone could go for a ride so to fall to the stereotype rather than think critically about how many people had piloted this fantastic vehicle was a lazy shortcut. But what the hell happened?
Sam Scotchmer was for a time our head brewer. He was one of our first employees. He is quite shy and I would describe as a little mouse-y. He keeps a low profile. Not surprisingly he is not real big on difficult conversations.
Some time, many weeks after Ross put his romantic relationship at risk through questionable interrogation tactics I was standing at the bar in the tasting room which was the exit for the production area at that time. Sam had finished his shift and was passing by, avoiding eye contact for no other reason than because that’s what he does and DING! I had an idea.
“Sam, do you have any idea what might have happened to LaDonna?”
At this point, the story should be a play because the body language that accompanied his statements could only be described as the pinnacle of human discomfort, but alas
“Um, well, I, it…. So…. yeah. (awkwardly smiling) I was driving to Yakima, remember for that event? And I decided to take the canyon road (40-50 mph speed limit) and as I was driving I saw something in the road in the distance and I couldn’t really tell what it was but once I got close to it I found that it was a giant rock!”
“Oh, a giant rock?”
“Yeah, and by the time I got up to it I couldn’t swerve because I was too close”
“Hmmm, when you saw it ‘up in the distance’ you didn’t think to slow down?”
“Well no, but when I hit it, it was crazy. The whole car jumped, and it made this huge crashing noise, and there were bangs and bashes. It was really crazy.”
“Wow, so you didn’t think that you should tell someone about that?”
“Well, I, no, I guess I should have.”
“Yeah Sam, I agree with that.”