I worked at a dreary video store chain in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years of college, smack in the middle of the aughts. A unique cultural moment to be sure: Netflix was humming right along, but hadn’t achieved the market supremacy that would one day force all video store chains out of business or into automated kiosks. Enter 19-year-old me, willing to work for minimum wage and be the only staff member in the store during my shift. I was hired straight away.
The business opportunity seemed simple: D.J., who was closer to me in age than my dad, is a car enthusiast and had been working odd jobs in the industry, and he had somehow or another acquired a 1994 BMW 535i. This is a desirable car, he explained to me, but it had a few issues: It had been declared totaled by an insurance company, and so didn’t have a road-worthy title. It needed a new clutch and was currently in a tow lot, getting more expensive by the day.