A new venture

I’ve been away a while. When I get really involved in something I totally dive into it and I don’t allow time for other things. This includes Blogging. I really got into something and I just now feel that I have time to get back to putting my thoughts to paper (as it were).

The biggest change in my life of late is the confirmation that I am in good health and should be, depending on how diligent and committed I am to maintaining it, for a very long time. While this is to be rejoiced, it presents a new set of challenges. For one, my Disability Benefits are expiring and I have to return to work. I’ve known this for some time but it’s getting closer and closer to the day they cut me off. I look forward to going back to work, I’m not really a big “collecting” kinda guy. I’m excited actually because this time around I may be able to find something I want to do as opposed to a life of tolerating jobs because my family and finances required it. Fuck money, I’m never going to be rich and my overhead is a lot lower now. Satisfaction and the possibility of helping someone is the goal.

So I started interviewing.

Despite hiring a professional Resume service, with the specific request that my skillset acquired through years in the car business was presented in a more universal manner because I believe that the skills are transferable. Many hundreds of dollars and several weeks on job sites later…you guessed it. Car sales were what I was being offered. Double sigh.

Then I got a call from a recruiter who offered me an interview in a business that had always interested me, Insurance. So I interviewed. A good group of people with a lot of good products in a fairly friendly atmosphere. They offered to take me on, as a contractor. Agents are generally not salaried and benefitted employees. Again, at this point in my life, I can do something like that so I asked for the next step. I was told I couldn’t do anything until I got my State Insurance license.

Oh boy, testing. My favorite thing, with the possible exception of shaving my scrotum with a cheese grater. But I decided that an Insurance License would give me a tool for life to earn a living. There are so many possibilities. I was excited. So I signed up for the prep course.

For 3 weeks I lived, ate and breathed Life, Accident and Health Insurance and Annuities. I worked my ass off. All the while the agency checked in with me on my progress. I registered for the test on the following Monday and 2 excruciating hours later I passed with an 84. A 71 was the minimum score allowed. With one click of the mouse I received my license and producer number and I became a licensed Insurance Agent. My life was about to change.

Let’s start at the beginning

I was born in July 1965, I weighed 8 lbs 2 oz…ok yeah maybe not that far back. Let’s go as far back as August of last year instead. It was a hot summer and, despite being increasingly sick on dialysis, I was making my best effort to maintain my side business of detailing cars. I was doing really well, making good money and, despite being weak and really struggling to keep up, doing a car a day if the weather allowed. It was a good gig, people in town like me and are happy to give me their business. It doesn’t hurt that I do a really good job I suppose. It’s not a brag, I really do professional quality work for a very reasonable rate. I have as much work as I want.

One of my customers was a gentleman that I had never met until he called me on a referral. He was an ideal customer, he gave me 3 vehicles to detail and he was a big tipper. He was also fun to talk to and that mattered to me because he was my age, friends my age are hard to come by in this podunk little town. I immediately liked him. The day I returned the 3rd vehicle he mentioned to me in passing that he had just bought the local eyesore, a vacant convenience store. Everyone in town had hoped for someone to build something there and finally someone had. He told me all about his plans. In addition to having a full convenience store, he had plans to build a pizza, sandwich, and deli section as well. His plan was to serve New Haven, CT style “Apizza” (pronounced ahpeetz), a style of pizza that no restaurant in NH, never mind our local area, was serving. Thin crust, light cheese with a charred bottom. My favorite type of pie next to Boston North End style. It was exciting to hear him talk about it. I knew right away that he would be providing a unique product that people were going to love and travel for. His history of successfully flipping properties in town spoke for itself. This guy didn’t know how to fail.
He asked me if I knew anyone with food service experience. Impulsively, and in hindsight, regrettably, I told him that I did.

He told me that we needed to talk. I was looking forward to that conversation. But as fate would have it, the next day I got the call that saved my life. I was called to the hospital to receive a Kidney Transplant.

The big prize

Bill Marshall stood at the tee on the 18th Hole. Not only had he had a decent day of business that should yield a boost in sales, he had also played the round of his life for 17 holes. There is a Cardinal rule in sales regarding Golf with clients. Always let them win. Fuck that was Bill’s answer to that. Despite his recent brushes with mediocrity, Bill was a winner at heart and firmly believed that there is no honor in laying down. He was ahead by 2 strokes and if his clients wanted to win then they were going to have to earn it. He knew people and he believed that his clients were not the types to respect laying down for the cause. They were also winners, by virtue of the success of their respective businesses. He lined up his shot and swung. He sliced it into the trees. That settles that, he thought. I didn’t fake losing, I legitimately fucked up this hole. He could live with that.
As they completed the 18th, they picked up their balls and headed to the bar. He had lost by one stroke. The Universe had settled that dilemma for him. No dishonor in that.

The cocktail lounge was full of chattering golfers. They had teed off late so it was no surprise to find cocktail hour in full swing. Bill ordered a round of drinks for the group. It was only his second drink of the day. His companions were several rounds ahead of him. Bill always imbibed carefully on company outings, there was no room for gaffes and embarrassing behavior while at work.
The day had really gone well. His three guests had enjoyed themselves and the hope of many hours of uninterrupted relationship building had come to fruition. One of his guests, Drew, was a regular customer who had been invited as a reward for his loyalty. The other two, Steve and John, were prospective clients with a lot of potential business. They seemed to like Bill and he was hopeful that their liking would convert to dollars and cents. Bill Marshall was a businessman first and foremost but in his heart of hearts he genuinely liked people. In sales, they buy you as well as your product and he believed that Steve and John were buying into him. As they sipped their drinks and made small talk with the other guests a young woman selling 50/50 tickets came around. Bill called her over and asked for 100 dollars in tickets.
“Big spender”, Drew chided.
“Hey, it’s company money, right?” His owner had given him 200 in petty cash for drinks and raffle tickets, he planned to use it.
“What will you do if you win?”, Steve inquired.
“Give it to the cause, of course”, Bill replied.
“I think I speak for all of us when I say Bullshit, Bill.”
“OK, it’s not like I’m going to win anyway.” Bill knew that he would donate it. He wasn’t on his dime for starters. And the tournament was being sponsored by one of his best customers. A local dealership owner whose passion was the Boys and Girls club of Holyoke. The owner only gave Bill some of his business, there was a lot more to be had, but he wasn’t there for that. He was there to support his client and his cause.

Dinnertime arrived and the 150 or so golfers filed into the dining room. As they ate, the host, Bill’s client grabbed the microphone and made his thank you’s and announcements. The event had been very successful and he expressed his gratitude. He then announced that he would do the drawing for the 50/50. The total take was 3000 dollars and the lucky winner would take 1500. He proceeded to announce the winning ticket, which happened to be in the hand of Bill Marshall. He was floored. He stood up and went to the podium to claim his prize. His client greeted him and announced Bill’s name and his company and acknowledged that they did business together. He then handed Bill the envelope of cash, to much applause and fanfare, and started to move on to other business. But Bill Marshall was still standing there. The host asked if there was something wrong.
“Yes”, Bill replied. “I’m here on the company dime to support a charity. So why am I leaving with an envelope of cash?” With that he handed the envelope back to the host. The room erupted. He glanced over at his table and his guests were smiling at him. He walked back to his table and sat down.
“You son of a bitch, you actually followed through,” Drew said. His other guests nodded in agreement.

Bill Marshall just smiled. Doing the right thing is easy, and it doesn’t matter who is watching.

The Tournament

It was a 3 hour drive from the house to the location of the golf tournament. Bill Marshall was in a decent mood this morning. Relatively speaking, he was at peace. Things had been quiet at home overall. The kids were doing well and the wife has been fairly calm. He knew that the next shitstorm was close by but he still welcomed the reprieve. He had decided months ago that his marriage was a lost cause and that he was there for the kids. He suspected that she would make access to his children difficult should he try to leave and he wasn’t having any of it. His kids meant everything to him and if that meant sacrificing his own happiness then so be it. Bill was raised by an old-fashioned man. He was taught that when you have family, your happiness is secondary to the welfare of those that depend on you. In that vein, it was a no-brainer. Thus, a few quiet, albeit tense evenings of silence at home was worth the quality time with the kids. As he ran those thoughts through his head, he recognized and accepted that he already knew that he was going to leave her. The only question was when. Alone in the car, with the radio volume down, he absorbed that revelation and let out an audible “holy shit”.

Traffic was heavy but moving. He turned the radio volume down and focused on the day ahead. He was excited about the tournament. It wasn’t lost on him what a luxury it was to play Golf on the company dime. He had played Golf many times under the umbrella of work, it was an excellent and effective sales tool. It was very difficult to conduct business when visiting clients at their place of work. They are constantly interrupted by coworkers, the phone or one of many crises that always come up. On the Golf course, your only real enemy to productive business talk is the cell phone. Most of his clients have the manners and common courtesy to put the phone away. If they didn’t? Well, Bill would just have to deal with it. A bad day of golf still beats a good day at work, he mused.

Bill pulled into the Country Club parking lot at 9 AM sharp. He had 30 minutes to gather up his clients/guests and check in. He walked into the clubhouse and through the doorway he could see two of his guests at the bar, Bloody Mary’s in front of them. Bill considered himself a respectable functional alcoholic but he wasn’t ready to go down that road this early. He needed to be sharp. He waved to them as he checked in and dialed his 3rd guest. He was in the parking lot. So far so good. He walked into the cleverly named lounge “The 19th hole” and greeted his clients. They were cheerful and eager to play. It felt right, he felt on top of his game. He paid for their drinks and went out to meet his other guest.
He glanced to the sky, the morning haze was burning off. It was going to be a great day all around. Little did he know how right he was.

The epileptic Carp

As they entered the Hospital Foyer, Bill made one last attempt to get his manager to leave him. He was having none of it.

The check-in process was fairly quick. It was early afternoon, the ER wasn’t busy. Being in an affluent community didn’t hurt as well. Bill’s home hospital was often flooded with drunks and victims of violent crimes. There wasn’t a lot of that in this sleepy Massachusetts town, he mused. Within 15 minutes Bill was seen by the ER physician. He was asked a bunch of questions about his health history. They did a run-up of blood work. The ER doctor was clueless regarding the episode. Bill was not surprised, no one else had ever figured out why he had these attacks either. The Doctor scribbled on his board, muttered something to his attending Nurse and went on to another patient. Bill was left to make small talk with his GM until someone came back.

To his encouragement, his manager didn’t talk about the events of the previous hours. He instead shifted gears to talking about some of the business matters that he wanted to review in the now cancelled meeting. It was a relaxed conversation and they actually accomplished something. Before long the ER Doctor poked his head in.
“Are you aware…” time stopped for Bill, he knew exactly what was coming…3,2,1 BOOM
“that you have serious kidney failure?” Bill high-fived himself mentally, just as he had called it.
“Yes, I am aware” he replied as he looked over at the furrowed brow of his boss.
“Are you being actively treated for it”? the doctor asked.
“Not as actively as I should, perhaps” Bill replied. “But here’s the thing, is it related to why I’m here?”
“Not that I know of” he replied. “I can’t identify the source of your episode.”
“Then we’re done here unless you have some suggestions.”
“See your Nephrologist. If you give me his contact information I’ll have your labs forwarded.”
He gave him what he asked for and they left.

It was a quiet car ride back to the office. Bill decided to just get it over with.
“I have Kidney Disease” he offered. “Now you know.”
“Well something has to be wrong with you, you were flopping around on the conference room floor like an epileptic Carp.”
They shared a laugh. Then Bill asked, “Does it change anything?”
“Like what, you mean your employment status?”
“No.” Bill rephrased his question. “Is this something that I should have told you when you hired me?”
His manager didn’t flinch. “That’s why we have health insurance, you dumbass. How long have you had it?”
“Since I was a teenager. It’s unpredictable in its progression. I think it’s getting worse.”
“Do you think you should have told me on the interview?”
Bill stroked his goatee, stalling.
“Yes and no. It really hasn’t affected my work that I know of. I don’t have a crystal ball so I don’t think about the what-if’s. When I met you, I wanted you to see the man for the job, not some sick guy. Does that make sense?”
His manager nodded. “So now we know,” he said. They drove the rest of the way in relative silence. They passed through the security gate and as a courtesy he was dropped off at the door. It was 4:30. Bill was thankful and he got out with the intention of going in, grabbing his bag and calling it a day. As he nodded a thank you for the ride his manager asked,
“Where does stress fit into all of this, you know, with the kidneys?”
“I don’t think it helps, I know that much. Why?”
“Because you’re wrapped tighter than a convenience store sandwich. You try to do too much. You’re the first one in, last one out. I’m not asking for that. Take it easy on yourself. You’re getting the job done.”
“Thanks, but you might as well tell water not to be wet. It’s how I’m wired.”
“No, that’s how Superman is wired. Your name is Bill, not Clark. Smarten up.” With that, he put the car in gear and drove to his reserved spot.

The downward spiral

“What can I get you, Bill?” the bartender asked. She had startled him. Despite the fact that a drink was all that he had wanted for the last 2 hours, he had been distracted by the Sox game on the corner TV.“Good evening, Liz. What are the beer specials this evening?” God, how he hated to ask that question. The Crown Royal bottle on the top shelf was waving and calling his name but he was on a copper budget. His gold tastes would have to deal with it.
“Coors Light and Bud Light draft are $2.50 each.” She seemed to be on edge tonight, not as friendly as usual. He would know, he was as regular as Norm from Cheers.
“Bud Light, please.”
“You got it”

Within seconds, a tall mug of cold, GMO-infused, foamy piss water was in front of him accompanied by a basket of tortilla chips with Salsa. For anyone else, that’s another $2.50 but Liz always took care of him. He took a long sip of his beer and scanned the bar. He wasn’t looking for anything in particular. Maybe a new face or something to indulge in his favorite past-time, people-watching. His scan was nearly complete as he turned his gaze back to the Sox game.

As he did so he inadvertently caught the gaze of the guy sitting beneath the TV. He was careful to not stare back but instead focused on the TV. He occasionally found himself darting his glance at the man and each time his gaze was met. This annoyed him. Why does every dickwad sitting under the TV think I’m looking at them? Where the fuck else am I supposed to look?  He glanced over again and the fellow looked particularly hostile. Bill was not in the mood for a confrontation, it was the very last thing he wanted after today. So, he chose to look straight ahead at the mirror behind the bottle rack. As cranky and depressed as he was when he came in, it was now worse. He was disgusted by the round face and bloodshot eyes that stared back at him. 
Relax, Bill. The mirror adds 15 pounds.
Yeah, but how many mirrors am I in right now?

He decided that he had to do what he hated most, play with his phone like “one of those” people. Bill Marshall was opinionated and old-fashioned and the phone thing conflicted him. He needed it and hated it at the same time. He saw the cell phone as an Orwellian nightmare, he refused to be glued to it and he had open disdain for those who were. But in this case, drinking alone at 3:45 on a Tuesday afternoon really was no time to stand on principle. As he pulled the phone from his pocket he saw that he had missed 3 calls. 1 from his boss and 2 from home. He made a mental note to call his boss back. He chugged the remainder of his beer and motioned to Liz for another. She was there with a fresh one immediately.

“Nice hat.” Bill had forgotten that he was wearing his Red Sox Scally cap. He loved the hat and got a lot of feedback whenever he wore it.
“Thanks Liz. I like it a lot.”
“Get it at Fenway?” she asked.
“Yup, thieving bastards got me good on it.” He had, on a whim gone into the gift shop at Fenway Park, home of his beloved Red Sox while on business in Boston looking for that very hat and paid stupid money for it.
“It looks good on you. It’s a keeper.” She smiled at him, there was a sadness behind it. As she walked away she said, “My brother would love it.”

The comment seemed odd to Bill, almost forced. Less conversational and with intention. Whatever. Remembering that he had to return his boss’s call he pushed his stool back and stepped outside. He walked to the end of the concrete walkway to escape any noise from the patrons entering and leaving. Bill knew from experience that this was the best spot to call his boss and lie to him about his whereabouts and productivity that day. The nature of the call would dictate how big the lie will be. He hated this part, and it was of no comfort that he had done it a lot lately.

He was in a rut at work. His customers weren’t busy, so consequently, his portfolio was suffering. His competition was killing him and Bill was worn down by the constant “No’s” from his customers by about noon each day. Deep down he knew that he was a great salesman. But he had lost faith in his product, his managers, and most importantly, in himself. He hated going to work as much as he hated going home lately. Whenever he could knock off early he did. Without permission, of course, which is why he was dreading making the call. If asked where he was, what would he say?  He wasn’t where he was supposed to be so whatever he said it will be a  lie, a lousy fucking lie that he thought he was above. He took a deep breath and dialed his boss.

home bittersweet home

Bill Marshall sat in his driveway with the engine running. It was a familiar routine lately. There was always a detour on the way home. Usually a bar, sometimes a walk. Tonight it was a walk and while he was proud of himself for not drinking (yet) today, he wished he had a snoot full to deal with the pending shit show awaiting him.
He really was in a bad place.
Sales were down. His motivation was shit. His health was in decline. His marriage was a mess. The only thing that gave him any joy was his children but in order to see them, he needed to go inside. Again, sober. How did it get to this, he wondered? When did he become the guy willing to miss the best time of the day with the kids because he couldn’t stand to see his wife? His pattern of late was to get there in time for bedtime. He would help put them to bed and spend a few quality minutes with each of them. Then, in order, he would feel guilty, pour a drink or three, and collapse in his chair/bed. He had been kicked out of the bed years before. He would get an inadequate amount of sleep, get up and out the door before everyone was up, and hit the repeat button.
Tonight it was especially difficult to get out of the car. His encounter with that kid was fucking with his head in a big way. It was as if he had met his younger self. Everything about it screamed impossible but how else could he explain the details that kid knew about him. And it was not lost on him how true everything he said was. He used to be a happy kid. Able to amuse himself, loved nature and being outside. He used to be active and fit. Of course you were, dummy, you were a child then, he argued with himself. Age aside, his lack of fitness was due to fast food, alcohol, a sedentary lifestyle, and kidney disease. Still, he knew he could do better. But the healthy and active observations were the least of it. The kid had painted a damn accurate picture of how much his natural cheeriness and enthusiasm had dwindled with age. He had completely lost the love of life he once had.
One element of the conversation ran through his head on a loop.
“Did you ever sit just like this? Playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt until your mother called you? Riding bikes with your friends? You hated to go home, right? Just like now. But that’s not why you don’t want to go home now, is it Bill?”
The kid was right, I don’t want to go home anymore. How the hell did that happen?
He looked at his watch. He had to go in or he would miss bedtime. Tonight, more than ever, he needed to be a part of it. He turned his ignition off and walked up his driveway, past the broken flower bed and the unpainted window sills in front of the house. Yup, in addition to everything else, he couldn’t even afford to make repairs to his house.
He opened the door. Lady, his spastic Springer Spaniel jumped all over him. At least someone is happy to see me, he thought. He stayed with her until she calmed down and then went into the kitchen. She was sitting at the kitchen table, a stack of bills before her.
“Why were you sitting in your car for so long”, she asked.
“I was talking on the phone.”
“Bullshit you were, I saw you out the window. No phone on your ear,” she said. “What were you really doing?”
“Thinking.”
“Well think about this, we’re fucking broke. What are you going to do about it?”
Here we go, he thought. Here we go. He opened the refrigerator and grabbed a bottle of liquid courage.

The odd encounter

There was something really strange about this kid. He was tempted to end this and take off. His phone had rung two more times since he got to his car and he knew that every ignored call was throwing logs on the shit bonfire that awaited him at home. Despite this, he remained glued to his spot.
“Let’s just say that I’m here, but I don’t belong here” the boy deftly replied.
“Then where do you belong?” Bill replied, despite feeling that he was better off not asking.


“A different time”, the boy exclaimed as he lowered his fixed gaze for the first time, turned his head, and stared directly at Bill. He felt as if he was staring directly through him. Bill pressed further.
“OK, what time do you mean?”The boy didn’t respond for a few moments. Finally, he turned and stared intently at Bill.
“I asked you if you ever looked up at the sky a few minutes ago. I asked because I wonder if you looked up even once. Did you even notice what a beautiful evening it is?.” He continued, “I asked you if you ever wondered what it was like to look down from a high tree. You had no answer. Why is that?”
“Because I don’t know who you are, where you’re from and how you know my damn name!” Bill was getting angry. He almost felt bad about raising his voice to the young, albeit creepy kid.
Unfazed, the boy continued. “I asked you about the trees because from the height of the tall tree you look small. We all do. Minor. Insignificant. Yet all you are focusing on right now is how big your problems are.” He paused. “See, the world is bigger than the size of the screen of your phone or laptop. If you looked around you would see that. But you need the phone and the computer to make money. To buy stuff, stuff that will further take your attention away from every beautiful day. It’s just stuff, yet it’s consuming you, ruining you.”

Bill was beside himself. This kid didn’t talk like any kid he ever met, and what the hell is he talking about?
“How do you know this?!”
The boy sat down in the grass Indian style. “Did you ever sit just like this?  Playing with Matchbox cars in the dirt until your mother called you? Riding bikes with your friends. You hated to go home, right? Just like now.You were having fun then. But that’s not why you don’t want to go home now, is it Bill?”

The matter-of-fact look on the kid’s friggin’ face was killing Bill. He was looking right through him again. Yet he had no reply.
The boy continued. He was on his back now. “Did you ever lie on your back like this for hours looking at the sky? Wondering about the clouds? The stars at night. The possibility of a Heaven? About God. Do you think about God, Bill?”
“Not as much as I should.” Bill was powerless to question the utterly bizarre nature of this conversation.

The boy was standing now. “You used to be a happy kid, right? Lots of friends. You knew where they were without Facebook. You would look for the yard with all the bikes in the yard. Your mom knew where you were because you called from a phone in that house, a phone mounted to a wall, right? The streetlight was your curfew, or maybe you were close enough to hear your mother call you.” He paused and looked at his feet.
“It’s not too late, Bill”, He continued. “There’s still time to be that happy kid again. Look up, look around. Chase butterflies, smell the flowers. Find happiness like you used to. Remember the view of the bird, to him you are small. Look down on your problems as the bird looks down at you. Small, insignificant. It will work out.” With that, the boy turned and began to walk away.

Bill Marshall, who had been at a complete loss for words for what seemed like forever, finally blurted out what he had wanted to ask all along.
“Kid, how do you know me? I mean, this is impossible! How can you possibly know all of these things about my childhood? Is this mere speculation or a theory of yours? Do you think or do you know all of this!”
The boy, turning as he walked, said, “I know it. Think about where we’ve met before”. He then winked at Bill and continued walking. For the first time, Bill noticed that the boy had an old-fashioned Slingshot in his back pocket.
He used to have one just like it!
He looked down at the ground, he then gazed to the night sky. It really was a beautiful evening.

He got in his car and turned the engine on. He bathed in the AC and observed that he felt a little better. Despite the episode of the Twilight Zone he just starred in. The conversation played out over and over in his head. The kid was weird but in a non-threatening way. And he looked vaguely familiar. Shaking his head in disbelief, or to make sure he was indeed awake and conscious, he put the car in gear.

It suddenly occurred to him that he had some old-school pictures to go home and look at.

A beautiful night for a walk

He stood at the edge of the walking path. It was peak hour to walk the lake and he needed to get out of the way of the bustling foot traffic. He was winded, the pace he had set for himself was too much. Exhausted, he put his hands on his aching sides and tried to catch his breath. His legs were starting to cramp. He looked around and realized he was almost halfway around. Losing motivation, but aware that it’s the same distance back as it is to continue, he started to walk again. His mind was still racing but he furiously tried to control it. The events of his day were racing through his mind and exercise was the only way he knew to work it off, sort things out. As days go, today was pretty shitty on all fronts.

He thought of his late father and his trademark line, “everything will work out, it always does”. He never actually believed it to be true but he loved how his father believed so strongly in it. This shit, he thought to himself, this shit is not going to work itself out.

I wish you were here to talk to right now, Dad. I could use some of that cheerful optimism of yours that I once scoffed at, he mused as he trudged forward. His Dad always seemed to have it together. Sure, he sometimes acted badly in his marriage. He had money problems but he alwaysgot through it. He hated his job, but he always did it with pride and dedication. He never acted like I am right now. I’m a hot mess. I can’t stand my wife, I’m on the brink of foreclosure and my boss is a fucking psycho that I love one minute and hate the next. How would Dad handle all of this?

Bill Marshall was well-known among friends, family, and business associates for his resilience and cheerful demeanor. It was a great source of pride to him that this applied to more than just his public, outside persona. He was also committed to maintaining a positive frame of mind even when alone and talking to himself, which today he was doing quite a bit of. What people didn’t realize is that it required nearly all of his energy to maintain that reputation. There are limits to what any man can take, as he was fond of thinking. despite the fact that he rarely allowed himself such slack. He held himself to an impossible standard. Today, when the walls felt like they were closing in, he decided to give himself a rare break. Snap out of it! he reprimanded himself, you’re not going to fix anything in this state of mind. With the equivalent of a snap of a finger, he let his day wash off of him and he just walked. To keep his mind empty and focused he walked while looking down at the ground and concentrated on playing “don’t step on a crack”, a game from his childhood. This amused him for a while and it wasn’t long before noticing that he was approaching the final stretch where his car sat waiting for him. It was the only car in the lot.

When Bill reached the clearing to the parking lot, he saw a lone figure in the parking lot very close to his parked car. Great, I’m probably getting robbed or vandalized. He began to walk faster, marveling that his day is somehow getting worse.

He felt the phone in his back pocket vibrating. He was tempted not to even look to see who was calling. It was most likely his wife doing the nightly “where are you” call. God, he fucking hated that call. Often, he contemplated answering and saying “as far away from you as possible!” and hanging up but he knew that wouldn’t end well. Then again, it could be one of his kids calling and he grabbed for the phone. Too late, he had missed the call, but it was indeed the wife. Here comes the text, he thought. 2 seconds later it came through.
Where are U?

Bill chuckled to himself despite his annoyance. He called that one. He didn’t respond. He had a walk to finish and possibly a kid to beat up.

The “hook”

Well, my daughter has officially embarked on her career in the car business. While I have no expectations that this will be a long-term thing, I am very happy that she was willing to make a change. On top of that major step, she is really diving right into this. I’m very encouraged about that, enough so that the choice of change isn’t as important to me as the commitment behind it. People who suffer from depression have difficulty finding motivation, never mind the drive to see it through.

By all accounts she kicked ass during her training. What I get from her is that the dealership is one of those high-pressure, high turnover places that fires people randomly and often. She doesn’t seem to be concerned about that. I’m impressed by that. She learned everything she was told to and impressed the trainer in the process. He has told her that he will be watching her, a luxury she didn’t observe him giving anyone else. On the last day of training, she was sent off with high expectations. And she has the attitude to meet them. And that is the source of my happiness, she’s busting out of her comfort zone and is willing to do what it takes.

She sold her first car on her first day on the floor. In her words, she “didn’t do anything”. I know those deals. Finalized by the sales manager over the phone and given to a lucky rep who either needs a sale or is a favorite of the managers. In her case it was probably to break the first barrier of selling that first deal. Either way, she got it and made the most of it. It’s called “a hook”, in which some lucky soul gets hooked up. She did something right, the customer sent her a nice card and some expensive gifts as a thank you today. I’m so happy for her.

I used to get a lot of hooks when I sold cars. I was always top dog so you would think that I wouldn’t have been favored but sometimes a hook is more than a guaranteed sale. First of all, those deals can always fall apart, nothing is ever guaranteed. There are sales associates who don’t give the customer the best treatment because they feel entitled (or lazy) by being given a slam dunk. I always gave it my best. My hooks were in the interest of taking a possible and making it a certainty. The managers counted on me to finish the deal.

Another capacity I filled was handling difficult customers. Whenever the Internet dept. had a difficult customer coming in it would invariably go to me. I could handle the worst of them. I was the anti-salesman. No gimmicks and no smoke and mirrors. I handled objections as hurdles to get over and always kept the customer focused and on track. It always amazed me how some salespeople couldn’t master that one thing; follow the process and don’t get off track.

My daughter vaguely remembers visiting me at the dealership when she was younger. She remembers my managers telling her what a good salesman her dad was. She saw my happy customers. Now she has an even deeper understanding of what it was that I did, and she wants to learn everything she can.

I look forward to showing her all of it. This is going to be a good thing for both of us. She gets to learn something new and make some money. I get to spend time with one of my absolute favorite people in the world and help her be the best. Win win.