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I Sold Vacuum Cleaners for Two Days Part I
by Michele Christopher
by Ted Rhobe Rae
Back when I was in my late twenties, I decided I was ready to have a child. So I paid Dave, my Costa Rican drug dealer, to find out what the going rate for a healthy baby boy was on the black market. He came back and asked me what kind of baby I wanted. It wasn't a question I was prepared for, so I told Dave I'd think about it. After drinking steadily for a couple of weeks, I decided I wanted an Asian baby, but Dave said that the premium on Asian babies had gone up. After thinking some more, I finally gave him the money for my baby, but on the way to retrieve my bundle of joy from the whorehouse he went to on Wednesdays, he was arrested because he forgot to pay his ticket for public indecency, which was weird, because I could have sworn I watched him mail the check in the same envelope as the checks for public urination and public defecation (it had been a weird weekend). I had no idea when I'd see Dave again, and it looked like my life's savings, which he was supposed to use to purchase me a mathematically-proficient infant, was gone for good. So, I decided I needed to get a job.
We sell personal home appliances designed to aid in the removal of dust, dirt, and other unwanted matter," said the interview guy.
I was confused. "You mean vacuum cleaners?"
"Vacuums are involved, yes," he replied.
It was a door to door sales job. I could deal with that. I was quite at ease with knocking on a stranger's door and asking to be let inside without really telling them what I planned on doing inside. And since the last time I did that, it resulted in a lengthy dispute resolved by a nasty restraining order, I was pleased to be on the legitimate side of the cold calling business.
We trained for three days, and by the end of it, I knew that vacuum up and down. This thing was fucking amazing. It did EVERYTHING. It had a fucking massage attachment. Hell, I would have bought one if I wasn't so worried that I'd be halfway through a bottle of whiskey one night and try to have sex with it. Can you imagine going to the emergency room with a two-thousand dollar vacuum stuck to your cock? If you can imagine that, it means it hasn't actually happened to you, and you should consider yourself lucky.
My first day in the field was on Saturday, the day I usually went to my Bible study class at the methodone clinic (I could recite the 23rd psalm in the original Hebrew, and that was vocal panty remover for the chicks at the meeting) but I was going to a bris on Sunday, and I could play Hava Nagila with wine glasses, so I figured everything would be fine. Plus, we wouldn't usually work Saturdays, but this Saturday was special. Every single Wei Raleigh Sook dealership in the world would be open. There were dealerships everywhere: all over Europe, South America, Asia, and even one in Baghdad. I asked my boss why there was a dealership in Baghdad, and I'll never forget his reply.
"Think of all that unwanted sand, blowing everywhere--into houses, buildings, wells," he said, a steely look in his eyes. "Unwanted particulate matter is our gold, son, and that motherfucker's a gold mine."
Fair enough, I thought to myself. I could tell right then and there that I was going to have to adapt my train of thought to match that of the master vacuum salesman if I ever wanted to make it in this job like my boss did.
After a rousing pep rally that lasted about two fucking hours, we got into our teams and loaded up in beasts of vans with all of our gear. We were pumped, we were primed, and we were ready to go sell some fucking vacuums. I looked out the window and watched the city roll by, wondering what inferior cleaning appliances were being used in each house I saw, cringing at leaf-covered porches that could easily be cleaned with the Sook 2000x leaf-blower attachment, when the voice of my boss awoke me from my daydream.
"Now son, I noticed you out there smoking with them other boys before you left," my boss said, his drawl thicker than the tobacco stains on my teeth.
"Yeah, you know, talking strategy. Jerry--you know Jerry right?--well he had this idea about using the vacuum cleaner, a bottle of Vaseline, and a tube of salami to, well, I wasn't really paying attention, but..."
"I don't think you should be hanging out with that crowd," he said with finality. "Those are The Drags. The Drags are the folks that drag the rest of us down, you see? They do as little as they can to get by. You don't want to be like them now, do you?"
"On the contrary..."
"Good," he said, not paying attention. We pulled up in front of a nice two-story house with a picket fence. "Now, today I want you to walk up to your first house, hold your head up high, and sell that vacuum son!"
"Yes sir!" I shouted as I leapt from the van.
I did as he told me. I held my head up high, walked up to the front door, knocked firmly, and waited. In seconds, a man the size of my Aunt Marge (notable only because she broke three cranes, a wench, and a construction forman named Chevy Chase (no relation to that one (or that one either)) when she was being removed from her trailer after her death) opened the door, took one look at me, and said, "See you later ASSHOLE!"
Well, he obviously didn't want to be bothered. So I started walking down the sidewalk. Just as I got to the curb, the door opened and he ran outside, holding a bottle of peppermint schnapps and yelling, "Hey! Wait a second?"
I turned around and he said, "Maybe I was too harsh a second ago. What are you doing?"
"Well sir," I said, walking toward him, "I sell a lifestyle. A clean lifestyle. A lifestyle without dirt and grime. A lifestyle where Mr. Clean is a pussy ass crybaby, and only the power of suction reigns supreme."
He must have been impressed, because he took a long pull from the peppermint schnapps and sighed. "Ok, come on in," he said.
The inside of his house was nice, and there was a nice-looking lady sitting in front of the TV. He introduced her as his wife and then left the room.
So I started my spiel. Halfway through the part about the microdust filters and rat feces, the husband walked back out into the living room, carrying a shotgun and polishing it. I looked at him, smiled, and went back to talking, this time, taking notice of my surroundings.
I was in a house of the lord. There were pictures of Jesus EVERYWHERE. There was one of Jesus preaching to a group of people. There was a creepy one of Jesus talking to a bunch of little kids who were all hugging him. There was an art deco one of Jesus high-fiving kids at an ice cream stand.
"...and ma'am, I don't have to tell you that next to cleaning out the stall of a pig who's had butt worms, cleaning out the lines in your vacuum cleaner is the worst task a homemaker can face. And with the Sook two-thou..."
"Do you believe in Jesus Christ the Lord Almighty who died a bloody death on the cross to save us from our sins and grant us eternal salvation as long as we let His words and His spirit into our hearts?" shouted the husband abruptly.
Now I don't know much about Christianity--I'm an atheist--but I didn't think this was the type of ministry Jesus would give a thumbs up to. But before replying, I spotted the only poster I hadn't seen yet.
It was a picture of a wooden cross with a crown of thorns draped over the top. In simple text above the cross, this was written:
"One day, I asked Jesus how much he loved me..."
and below the cross:
"...and he stretched his arms out as wide as he could and said, "I love you this much."
I looked from the poster to the shotgun and said, "Yes sir. Yes I do. Amen."
The husband nodded and walked back out of the room, leaving the shotgun on a table--I can only assume he intended to clean it further after purchasing the Sook 2000x. I turned back to his wife, and within five minutes, she was telling me how they couldn't possibly afford the vacuum. After another ten, I had convinced her she was wrong.
"Woohoo--way to go boy!" said my boss as we drove away from their house. "Sold a Sook 2000x on your first knock to someone who couldn't even afford it! You could sell a Twinkie to an anorexic chick!"
I probably could, I thought to myself. Victorious, I held my head a little higher as we raced through the suburban streets to the next house.
It was 2 o'clock. I had been at work for 6 hours.
Ted Rhobe Rae
Next week--I Sold Vacuum Cleaners for Two Days Part II