The mentor

In my last post I mentioned that my daughter took a bold step and has taken a job in the much-maligned field of Automotive Sales. While it may not be great for everyone, it can be a good job both financially and in job satisfaction. And as previously stated, if nothing else it will teach her about what she doesn’t want to do and that is always a good start.

She is not guaranteed to succeed. She will have to be able to maintain punctuality, positive attitude and a strong work ethic to survive in such an industry. Those are entirely up to her. She also must be able to learn; the product, the competition, the rules of the particular franchise, and very high on the list, people. In particular, a knowledge of how to manage the process through understanding the customer. In that area, she has an advantage: Me. I sold automobiles for a long time and everywhere I worked, you would find my name at the top of the Leader Board. I would love to show her what I know.

When I was a younger man, I worked as a Sales Manager for an Auto Auction. I had a untenable situation with an employee that drove me to leave. I had other offers on the table but I also had a non-compete agreement that stated I could not work at another auction for 3 months post-employment. I made a deal with another, larger company and told them that I would start in 3 months. I decided that I would try selling cars for a while. I always wanted to see how good I would be at it. I reached out to one of my Lexus dealers and started the following Monday.
I was an immediate success. My first month I sold 22 cars and finished 3rd in the dealership. I outsold 9 seasoned associates. My commissions were 3700.00. I was asked if I had a secret. I laughed. There wasn’t a secret. The less I sold the easier it was to sell. I knew from previous sales positions that what the customer is buying is you, the product is just that. There is no need to be slick, smooth, aggressive and talkative. There is a need for genuine, knowledgeable, helpful and to be a good listener. It’s the very opposite of what people think. Now I understand that these things don’t come easily to everyone. But they’re obtainable through hard work. You can’t learn to be slick, but you can be yourself.
Unless of course you are an asshole.
But I digress.
I entered the business knowing a lot about cars. I worked in the auction industry, and I was also raised by an absolute car nut. That worked well for me. But the customer of today is knowledgeable and there is a lot of competition. I learned everything I could about every vehicle that compared in price point and vehicle type and features. I could speak with actual knowledge about any vehicle my customer may have looked at already. That combined with connecting with the customer (getting them comfortable), understanding their buying motivation (necessity, future purchase, impulse), and just plain getting them to like me I knew that with all being equal (the cars) they will buy from the person they like.
It’s no secret. And I can teach my daughter all of these things. She’s a lot like me so she may already have it inside her.

I have always wanted to write about my career. This is a good place to start.

Too close to home

This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

“You can’t smoke in here, Mike”, Jimmy said. He watched as his partner of 5 years ignored him. Mike was staring ahead, studying the smoke of his cigarette wafting listlessly into the air. A woman nursing a coffee alternately stared at her cup and glared at Mike. Mike casually opened his jacket enough to reveal his badge. The woman returned her gaze to her coffee. “Bully”.
“Fucking Smoke Nazi.” Mike offered.
“Yea, those studies on the harms of second hand smoke, the no smoking signs on the walls, common courtesy. Goebbels is behind all of it.” Jimmy smirked. He knew that egging Mike on right now may go either way but he was just trying to get Mike to talk. He wanted to hear what was going on behind that furrowed brow. And he hated uncomfortable silences.
Mike dropped his cigarette into his coffee and lit another. He could feel the heat of the glare of the woman next to him as she grabbed her pocketbook and stormed angrily out of the cafeteria.
“You know, I don’t think she is the one who drugged your girl. Why are you fucking with strangers?”
“I’m not fucking with strangers, I can fuck with you if you want?”
“Just talk to me, Mike.”
Mike continued to stare straight ahead. Jimmy knew not to push anymore. The girl reminded Mike of Sarah. Mike suddenly spoke.
“If she was raped…so help me God.”
Yup, Jimmy thought. That’s it.


This is part of an ongoing series called Graveyard Shift. It can be read alone or you can roll back in my archives and start from the beginning.

Sergeant Michael Valentine was stuck in traffic. He was supposed to meet his partner at 11. He didn’t have to punch in, he just hated to be late. Now, road construction, his tax dollars at work, was holding him up. He was getting antsy when it occurred to him that he was a cop, why didn’t he throw on the reds? Then he realized that the reds won’t help him through the oncoming traffic, it was one lane. He punched the steering wheel. Take a deep breath, he scolded himself.

He called his partner and told him he would be late and to meet at the coffee shop. It was a short walk for him and Mike could pick up both him and a decent cup of coffee. That being handled he focused again on the traffic, his Agita, and his anxiety. Cheryl loved to fuck with me when this happened. This was one of those moments that reminded him of his ex. When he had one of his “moments” of anxiety, impatience or intolerance it would always end up in a fight. Despite the conventional wisdom of leaving him alone and letting him work through it Cheryl always picked and prodded at him and made an otherwise small thing into a blowout. One that regrettable things were said, things you don’t forget. It’s bad enough that I’m wrapped tighter than an airport sandwich, do I have to think of her every time I get worked up? The traffic started to move. He could feel the tension in his chest ease a bit. He lit another cigarette and waved to the flagman as he drove by.

“Hop in” he said as he flung the passenger side door open. In came 2 paper cups of hot coffee immediately followed by his partner James “Jimmy” McInerney. Mike put the coffees in the cup holders and opened the tab on his.
“Extra cream extra sugar?” , he asked.
“It’s your friggin’ heart attack”, Jimmy replied.
“Spare me the commentary, dickhead. Jus’ asking. Coffee is all I have until I can have a drink.” He took a sip. Jimmy laughed.
“You don’t need either. The shape you’re in, you could donate your body to Science Fiction.”
“You’re right. And Fuck you”, Mike said as he tossed his spent cigarette out the cracked window.
They drove in silence, the hum of the tires as they drove down Main St. provided the filler for their silence. They focused on police work, scanning the crowded sidewalks for signs of trouble.

This was their routine every night, to cruise the main street containing the college bars looking for trouble makers. The establishments generally let out just as their shift started and if there was going to be a fight or some sort of mischief this was the time. Jimmy pointed across Mike’s chest.
“There.” He was pointing to a circle of young people. They were gathered around something hidden from their sight. Mike swung the Crown Vic into the opposite side of the street, threw on the lights and blew the siren. Several onlookers turned in response.
“Everything ok over here?” He called out through his open window.
“Yes, officer. Just a drunk girl.” As the circle opened up they saw a very intoxicated young woman sitting on the ground with a befuddled look on her face. Nobody was really helping her, they were treating her as a curiosity. She was clearly disoriented and in need of help.
“You go in and talk to the bartender. That young lady has clearly been overserved. Tell him I’ll shut them the fuck down if they’re not careful. I’ll take her home and swing back for you” Mike said.
“K”, Jimmy replied in his usual perfunctory manner and jumped out of the car.
Mike stepped out and the crowd scattered. A physically imposing guy of 6’2 and a reasonably muscular 250 pounds with a strong chin and a buzzcut, Sergeant Valentine didn’t need a badge and a gun to clear a crowd. He leaned in, spoke briefly to the young woman and helped her to her feet. As he helped her into the back seat of the car he turned to the crowd.
“Maybe next time someone can help out instead of standing around. What the hell is wrong with all of you?” he scolded the crowd. Not one of the bystanders dared to be indignant enough to defend themselves.
He leaned in to get the address of the young woman. Once done, he strapped her in and drove off in search of her dorm or housing. He considered, for a brief moment arresting her for Public Intoxication but he had a soft spot for the kids, especially the girls. They were, after all the same age as his daughter.

Graveyard Shift

The clock on the Microwave read 10:38 PM. That microwave is almost as old as me Mike mused. He stood up from the kitchen table, stubbed out his cigarette and put his coffee cup in the sink.
He was late for his shift. Goddamn Graveyard shift. Another night of dealing with the crazies, drunks and other dregs of society. He threw his holster over his shoulder and fastened the buckle. If all else fails him, his trusty 9MM never will. He grabbed the jacket off of the back of his chair and went to the door. As he opened it he heard the shuffle of feet in the kitchen. He turned and saw his daughter at the cupboard, she was getting a coffee mug.
“The water is still hot if you want the instant stuff.”
“No thanks”, she said. “I’ll use the Keurig.”
“You gotta have that Starbuck’s crap dontcha Sarah?” he chided.
“Leave me alone, Daddy. I’m too tired.”
“I’m just playin’ kid.” He looked at her intently. “You ok?” He was worried about her. Between his job and hers he never saw her. She didn’t look good.
“I’m fine. Just tired. I would worry about yourself if I was you, Dad. You look like shit.”
“Thanks”, he said. “I’m late. Let’s chisel out a spot of time that we can hang out. I miss you.” He couldn’t think of the last time he had spent any real time with her. Maybe it was Thanksgiving. Or Christmas. Who knew, time went by so fast lately. He dug into his breast pocket, pulled out a pack of Marlboro Reds and stuck one in his mouth. He lit it, exhaled and coughed. Goddamn things are going to kill me.
As if on cue Sarah said, “those things are going to kill you.” They both chuckled. “Got one for me?”
He begrudgingly reached into his shirt and tossed the pack to her. She took one and tossed the pack to him. She stared at him sarcastically for a moment until he realized why and tossed her the lighter.
“I’m late, kiddo. Gotta go. Love you.”
“You too, Dad. I’m going out soon.”
“Work or pleasure?, he asked.
“Out”, she said.
He knew nothing about her lately. Where she went, who she was hanging with. As a Police Sergeant in a college town of 45,000 people, his job had him pulling doubles, living on bad coffee, fast food and no sleep. Consequently, his relationship with his daughter had really suffered. He wasn’t even sure what she was doing for work right now. She had changed jobs so often. His lack of connection with her was haunting him and he didn’t see a break in sight. At least until the kids went home for the summer.
“Out. Ok then. Wherever that is, don’t have them call me.” They both chuckled. He went over to her and kissed her on the cheek. “Love you.”
“You too, Daddy.” She never looked up from her coffee.

Colour my world


Dedicated to my beautiful youngest daughter on her 16th birthday

at the low point of my life

with no desire to fight

the weight of a trillion worries

pinning me to the bed

the view from my room

as grey as the day before

the world bereft of beauty

my interest in it fading

bottles, needles

so much goddamn beeping


then you entered the room

my heart began leaping

“Get better Dad, I love you”

you said with a nervous smile

I suddenly felt it

the room suddenly had colour

life was worth living

the difference between color and colour is “U” (you)




Sarcasm and Dad Jokes

I’m not a conventional person. In fact, I go significantly far out of my way not to be. I always joke that I don’t think before I speak, I prefer to be as shocked as everyone else by what I will say. When someone says “I think I know you” it’s not uncommon for me to reply:

“Oh, do you watch porn?” or “Ever see Cops?”

Most people can handle it, I’m big enough to avoid problems if they can’t. Sarcasm is a wonderful thing but it can be lost on the weak-minded. More than one person has walked away from me shaking their head in confusion or disbelief. It’s harmless fun for me, I amuse myself while exposing the lack of sense of humor in others.

Today I volunteered at the local food pantry. I committed to the director when I moved here that I would do it every week for at least the winter and as often as I could the rest of the year. I am one of the only volunteers that work every week, the other volunteers have schedules like the 2nd and 4th week etc. Long story short, I meet new volunteers every week. Nice people, all townsfolk, all of them knew my father. Today I was with 4 complete strangers, and I was the only male. One of the nice ladies said, “you look familiar”. Without hesitation, I replied,

“you probably saw me on America’s Most Wanted.” She wanted to laugh, but couldn’t. Until another woman, who apparently knew who I was said to her

“This is ____ ___________’s son.” The startled woman said “Oh, I see. Well, that explains it. Your Dad was a smartass as well. Nice man though.” She was smiling so it was ok.

Sarcasm, tough love, finding humor in inappropriate situations, it’s a long family legacy that I embrace. I come from a long line of smartasses and it’s a proud tradition. We’re also a rugged bunch. We don’t grieve for long. We adapt to whatever happens. We can take a hit, get up and wipe the blood from our chins and move on to the next fight. My wife, on the other hand, is not at all like this, nor is her family. When we had children I knew that our parenting styles would be a constant source of disagreement. Fortunately, we found balance.

My sarcasm and inappropriate sense of humor would prove to be a dominant family trait. Despite my wife’s best efforts to suppress it, my children have warped senses of humor and are hopeless wiseasses. It really infuriates my wife. When my oldest daughter was in third grade her teacher said to her “Oh, I see you speak sarcasm young lady.” My daughter replied

“It’s my second language.”

Her teacher was not amused, based on the hot stare she gave us at the parent-teacher conference. My wife gave me the hairy eyeball.

My oldest son had a parent-teacher conference soon after. The teacher remarked that when she would tell a joke that was of a more adult nature in class, only my son would be snickering in the back row. She wanted to know what kind of household we were providing for our children. I immediately shot back, asking her what kind of jokes she was telling in class. Once again my wife gave me the hairy eyeball.

It wasn’t as if our children were raised at an Eddie Murphy concert. It was just our way of preparing them for the world. I believed in taking away the stigma of things by talking about them instead of sheltering them from it. I would make concessions to my wife and make sure to emphasize caution and be ready for the worst in people but at the end of the day, they knew what the world was even if it was through bad jokes.

One incident comes to mind, because I will never live it down, was when my youngest daughter (# 4) was 7 years old. We lived in a massive apartment complex and my wife and I was outside talking to a new resident. A very reserved woman with an obnoxious little dog. We were being neighborly, making small talk when my youngest ran up and said “Dad, can I go to the playground and meet Cassie?” The playground was well beyond our sight but she was a trustworthy kid so I said’

“Ok, but tell me what you do if a man pulls up in a white van.”

“Hold out for the big Snickers” she replied.

“Right. Have fun.”

I looked over and my wife was livid. Our new friend’s jaw was on the ground. I said, “Say what you want, she gets it.”

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There are so many more examples but I won’t bore you. The point is that my kids have grown to be self-sufficient and strong people. And they are good citizens with solid values. They had the misfortune of seeing their parents struggle with money, go through a foreclosure and a bankruptcy, and their father seriously ill. But they learned from it and they make me so proud. I will help them with anything, but they don’t need it.

The other night a friend of mine asked me how my oldest was doing. I told him how well things were going for her. Graduated top of her class, new job, boyfriend and a new puppy… He cut me off. “Boyfriend?” What’s that like for him? I can’t imagine how scared he is of you.”

“You would think”, I replied, “but if he fucks up he should be more scared of her.” She is strong and tough and doesn’t need me unless her car breaks down. That’s how I want her to be. That’s how she was raised.

Last night she called while walking her dog. She had been fighting with her boyfriend lately so I asked her how they are getting along. She explained that it was fine, she wasn’t happy with how he’s acting but she’s being grown up about it. She told me if need be she’d take her puppy and move back in with her Grandmother. I told her that I was proud of her, that she didn’t turn out like the Disney Princesses she grew up with, helpless damsels waiting for a man on a horse to rescue her. Her reply was priceless.

“Nope, I’d tell him to get the hell off of my new horse.”

God, I love her. Even if she is just like me.