There was a time in my life when you might say, I lost touch with all things rational. I confess I once signed up with a door-to-door vacuum sales company. Not just any vacuum company, mind you. I signed up with the best. I knew it was the best because my smooth talking, clean shaven, spicy smelling manager assured me it was the best. “These vacuums sell themselves,” he told me very confidentially my first day. It was as though he was Warren Buffet, sharing with me his personal formula for financial success. How I dreamed of being just as confident and sophisticated as that manager.
But after my first week of knocking on doors, my tail twitching between my trembling legs, I had sold nothing.
“Don’t sweat it, Tiger,” the great one confidently assured me, his jewel bedecked arm around my slumping shoulders. “Once you get the knack of it, your picture will hang in our company’s hall of fame.”
One wet, dreary evening at about 9 o’clock, I knocked on the door of an older house at the very end of a dead end street. Dead end. That’s where I felt my sales career was.
A little silver haired lady appeared at the door. And, as luck would have it, a monstrous, grouchy looking yellow dog at her side.
I could see right off I’d better make peace with that big jowled canine.
“Hey buddy,” I said, trying to sound nonchalant. “Relax, I don’t bite.”
He dismissed me with the careless contempt the omnipotent reserve for mere peons.
Next to that pugnacious appearing hound, the little silver haired lady was like a lovely, delicate butterfly.
“Oh,” she said very sweetly when I had explained my mission. “Really, I do have a good vacuum.”
How my heart plummeted within me when I heard that. But then, pointing a firm finger at yellow old El Groucho, she banished the beast to a fittingly lowly spot in the hallway. “Young man,” she said, “you look like you could use a cup of hot tea. Won’t you come in for a few minutes?”
Dispirited from the cold and lack of success, I accepted. Before long she said, “Now tell me, what’s so special about your vacuum?”
“Just one minute,” I said, jumping to my feet and almost spilling my blackberry tea on her light coloured carpeting.
I rushed out and proudly carried in a sleek new gray and blue machine. In less than 15 minutes of frenzied activity, I’d surrounded the little silver haired butterfly lady with a half moon arrangement of black cloths, each with a small mound of grey dust from her carpet.
Ceasing my labours, I wiped my sweating brow. “Your old vacuum must be about due for retirement,” I suggested hopefully.
“Oh,” she replied, smiling sweetly, “I don’t think it’s that old. In fact, the warranty might still be on it.”
Although I hadn’t seen her vacuum, I knew my high roller manager would have dismissed it as a piece of junk. But just the same, her words didn’t encourage me.
“Why don’t we go to your kitchen table anyway, and I’ll show you how it looks on paper,” I suggested.
She followed me willingly, but when I pulled out a contract and pen, and asked for her name, she protested.
“Oh my gracious, you mustn’t waste your paper on me. I’m not buying anything.”
“Don’t worry about the paper.” I said, chuckling at her frugality.
She gave me her name but said, “You really shouldn’t spend your time on me.”
She got up and poured us each another cup of tea while I filled in the contract. I then laid it and the pen in front of her, albeit, rather half heartedly.
She glanced at the bottom figure with no apparent interest. Then, inexplicably, that little butterfly lady picked up the pen, signed the contract and wrote a cheque for the entire amount.
My stunned expression produced a mischievous smile and she said, “You don’t think I invited you in just for your company, do you? I knew all along I wanted the vacuum. I had to be sure you weren’t a slick operator, like that manager in your store. I was in there the other day, and when I saw all the jewellery on him, I thought he’d scam me.”
Getting the sale was awesome. But, it was cranky, conniving yellow El Groucho that got the last word. He’d been sulking, biding his time in the hallway. Now, while the silver haired butterfly lady admired her new acquisition, and I was bending over to tie my laces, the old cuss leapt up with unexpected vigour. Before I could slip through the door, he nipped me smartly in the behind.
Once outside, I consoled my bruised ego with the thought that I’d gotten a vacuum sale my high roller manager had missed.