Tom needs a new car, but he's waiting for Ira Andrews to get better

I miss my favorite car salesman.

The forming and expression of that sentence puts me in a group representing .000001 percent of the world's population (although, in some parts of the world, the word "car" would be replaced with "oxen" or "large-shouldered serf").

Not many of us have a favorite car salesman. We tend not to have favorites of many of the people with whom we interact. Of course, there are exceptions. I have a favorite person who cuts my hair. Many people in my generation have a favorite pharmacist, although generally not the kind who works at Walgreens.

When I was growing up, many of us had a favorite radio deejay. Radio was used to play music back then, before it was taken over by the vast right-wing conspiracy. There's no way you can hear Earth, Wind and Fire on the radio now, but if Toby Keith ever decided to cover "That's the Way of the World," I'm sure I'd hear it on Sean Hannity's show.

Anyway, we all had favorite deejays, at least until we actually saw what that person looked like, and then it was over. My favorite was "Humble" Harve Miller, who had this great, Barry White-deep voice and was a staple on Los Angeles radio until he went home one day, found his wife in bed with another guy, and killed them both. When he got out of prison, his voice wasn't quite as deep. I also once thought I saw The Real Don Steele in a grocery store, but it turned out to be Jaye P. Morgan from The Gong Show.

Nevertheless, for the most part, we don't have favorite grocers or waiters, although if I can ever find somebody working a fast-food window who doesn't have self-drawn tattoos on his/her hands that were done when he/she should have been paying attention in math class, that person will instantly become my favorite.

Oddly enough, when people use the term "favorite," it's almost always about people we don't know—actresses, athletes, authors. Still, I do have a favorite car salesman, and I miss him. His name is Ira Andrews, and he got sick a while back.

I first met Ira when I took my first-ever Honda (which I had purchased elsewhere) into Dobbs for service. The head service guy was named Steve Martin, and he liked me, because I was one of the few people who didn't use the words "wild" or "crazy" around him. When it came time to get a new car, Steve recommended Ira, and it was like magic. He was just instantly likable, with a ready smile and a slow, pleasant way of talking with this pimp-daddy, FM-deejay kind of voice.

Ira is a longtime Tucsonan who attended the Dunbar School almost 60 years ago. Dunbar was the all-black school near Stone Avenue and Second Street. During Tucson's inglorious segregated days (from 1909 to 1951), all black kids had to go to Dunbar through the eighth grade. Those who went on to high school would go to Tucson High, which was integrated, making the idea of the Dunbar School all the more bizarre. (The longtime principal at Dunbar was Morgan Maxwell, for whom a middle school is now named.)

Ira and I would always talk basketball. He played at Tucson High and eventually at Northern Arizona University. Somehow, he has managed to remain a Lakers fan despite Kobe Bryant. I have higher standards.

We've bought five cars from him and never once felt pressured or uncomfortable. People will seek out Hondas, but buying a car is still generally a pain-in-the-butt experience. However, with Ira, it's like going to get an ice-cream cone. "OK, now what kind do you want? I think we can do that. Do you want sprinkles on it?"

If he were any more low-key, he'd be able to communicate with American submarines patrolling the bottom of the Mariana Trench. You almost end up saying, "C'mon, Ira, let me buy this car!"

I can only imagine what he was like with the women back in the day (or even now). "Please, Ira, let me take my clothes off in front of you."

"Well, only if you want to. I don't want to pressure you in any way."

Always ridiculously fit and trim for a man his age (or any age, for that matter), it came as quite a shock to learn that he was sick. He was diagnosed with stomach cancer a few months ago. The doctors removed a major part of his stomach, and it looks like he's on his way back. He still has some chemo to go through, but he's planning a return to work in a couple of months.

I've spoken to him a couple of times on the phone, but I haven't seen him. The guys at the dealership tell me he's lost some weight. He used to be boxer-fit like Sammy Davis Jr. Nowadays, he probably looks like Warren Jeffs.

Doesn't matter; he's still Ira, and he's still The Man. I'm holding off on buying a new car—which are ridiculously low-priced at the moment—until he comes back. I'm even going to play hard-to-get for a few seconds, and then beg him to sell me one at full market value.