The hat

Bill Marshall had stepped outside to call his boss. Fortunately, he was only asked three questions about a particular customer. There was a crisis of course. Was he aware? Did he have a plan? When would he act on it? He was aware, he had a plan (he didn’t), and he would act on it tomorrow. They exchanged pleasantries and ended the call. Bill looked around. The paranoid thought that his boss was on to him and sitting in a car across the parking lot waiting to bust him always occurred to him. It wasn’t an entirely unlikely scenario, managers spy on their employees all the time. He decided that at this very moment it would be a relief, shrugged it off, and went back to the cold, non-judgmental beer patiently waiting for him inside.

Ninety minutes and 4 beers later Bill had still not called home. There were two more missed calls and a voicemail that he could only assume was hostile. He mused that he would rather fill his asshole with honey and squat on an anthill than go home right now. The fighting about money was out of control. She wasn’t entirely wrong, They were clearly in a deep financial rut and he hated his own inability to fix it. What bothered him most was her methodology and her timing.  She never let up and started with him at the worst times. So here he sat, avoiding…well…everything and everybody.

As Liz came over to offer him a refill Bill engaged her. “What was that about your brother you mentioned earlier?”
“I said that he would love a hat like yours. He actually mentioned it to me a while back that he wanted one.”
“They’re available online and at the gift shop,” Bill explained. “Although they’re a bit pricey.”
“He doesn’t have a computer. He lives in VT and he’s broke.”

Bill was not proud of the next thought that popped into his head. The word “deadbeat” had come to mind. “Sorry to hear that.” Mike offered.
“He’s dying of Testicular cancer.” She said. She was tearing up. “I want to visit him but I can’t get out of my shifts this weekend.”

Bill was floored. He knew something about this. He had successfully beaten Testicular Cancer 15 years earlier. He had been lucky. His heart ached for Liz. The conversation ended on its own awkward volition and Bill drank some more. When he finally decided to go home, he summoned Liz for his bill.

She brought it to him and he again offered condolences for her brother. She thanked him and walked away. He waited for her to walk through the swinging doors to the kitchen. Once she did, he quickly took his hat off, stuffed the bill and money in it, and left the hat on the bar. He walked out as fast as he could.

As he sat in his car, composing himself for the fresh hell he was about to drive home to, Liz appeared at his driver’s door. She knocked. He opened the window.
“You shouldn’t have done that. I can’t possibly accept the hat.” She was crying.
“Yes, you can. And you will. Go to VT. Fuck your shift, fuck your boss, fuck all of it. Go see your brother.” He paused. “Give the hat to your brother and I hope he will feel better on some level.”
“Thank you so much.” She stammered. “It means so much to me.”
“Exactly,” Bill said. “To me, it’s just a hat. To you, it’s something that actually matters. I’ll be here this weekend, I hope I don’t see you.”

She forced a small laugh.“I hope not also. Thank you again.”

Bill smiled at her and put the window up without saying a word. Liz walked back inside.

For the first time that day he had done something that felt right. He liked the feeling. It was refreshing, invigorating. He wanted more of it. Maybe tomorrow will be a better day.

The end of the ‘Rona?

I have been out of the gym for over two years. Even while on dialysis I was a gym rat. I wasn’t very strong but I was fit and all of the effort that I put in paid dividends when it came time for my surgery. Imagine the mindset you have to have to stay diligent when you know (hope) that “the call” is imminent but you don’t know when it will be. Days, weeks, months or years? Knowing that if you let your fitness fade and gain a bunch of weight it could cause you to be passed over? I took that shit seriously. I knew that I had done it right when I walked the hall to the ER prep on September 9th at 8pm when I was greeted by the prep nurse. He looked at me and said, “Most Kidney transplant patients don’t look like they could kick my ass. Good for you.” I appreciated that but it wasn’t a surprise to me, I’ve always tried to look good for my age. I still seek the ultimate male physique and am hard on myself when I gain weight or get soft. My chest and shoulders are a source of pride and I never factor my age or what I’ve been through into it. If I was smart, or at least realistic, I would ask myself what exactly a 56-year-old who has had a near fatal motorcycle accident, 3 staph infections, cancer, 40 years of progressive Kidney disease, Dialysis, and 2 transplants should look like. But I don’t. My body dysmorphia is that I’m unrealistic. But it works for me.

So imagine how disappointed I was when I had to stay out of the gym due to Covid for 2 years. I live in NH where the cases were not as prevalent as in other states. We are fairly well dispersed up here with the exception of a few major population centers. But certain environments I needed to avoid, especially post-transplant. A room full of equipment being touched by sweaty people spewing exercise-induced heavy breaths all around me was not recommended. It pained me but I worked out from the home to mixed results.

Now it seems that the virus is finally fading and I made the decision yesterday to rejoin my gym. I went in yesterday and there was my buddy Alex the owner. His building was empty. I didn’t mention Covid to him, I knew what it had done to his business. He mentioned it to me instead. He is a Russian immigrant and he is a very hard-working man. He believes that the Governments handling of the Pandemic was overplayed and largely political. I didn’t engage him on this, he was venting not discussing. I quietly wished for him a quick recovery for his business and I signed up. I’ll work out today with real weights for the first time in years.

Seeing the empty gym floor and the face of the hard-working man who owns it will serve to illustrate the damage the Pandemic has had on all of us. Businesses destroyed, people unable to pursue their interests and better their own health is the very least of it. We are about to see the damage done to all of us by forced isolation, fear of interaction, and lack of social activity. People are social creatures, we are not wired to be alone. But there is hope, people are getting back out there and trying to get their lives back.

I wish them luck. Heres to the new status quo of getting back to where we were two years ago.

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.

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.

Have we met, kid?

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.

As he got closer to his car, he could see that it was a boy, maybe 8 years old standing near his car. He had to see Bill approaching yet he made no move to retreat or even acknowledge his approach. The hair on the back of his neck was standing up, something seemed off about this kid.

“Hey kid”, he called out when he was less than 20 feet away, “can I help you?”
The boy was gazing intently at the sky. Without looking down or away he replied, “no Bill, I’m just fine thank you.”
Shocked, Bill managed to respond,” how do you know my name?”
“It’s not important”, the little boy replied, still not moving his gaze from the sky. Bill looked in the direction of the boy’s gaze and all he could see was the setting sun.
“What are you looking at like that, kid. You’re kinda creeping me out.”
The boy, without shifting his gaze, said, “I’m looking at the sky. Do you ever just look up at the sky? It’s quite beautiful actually. The clouds. The birds. The setting sun and the shadow of the moon. Did you ever look at the top of a tall tree and wonder what it’s like to be a bird looking down?”
“That’s a lot of questions kid. And yes, I suppose I have. Well, I know that I used to.” Bill was reminded that he was talking to a stranger, an unaccompanied minor at that. “Are you lost? It is getting dark.”
“No, I’m right where I’m supposed to be.”

At a loss for his next move, Bill leaned against his car to stretch his legs and assess the situation. It was more than odd. He studied the boy. His clothes looked like they were from another generation. His hair looked like one of the “bowl cuts” his mom used to give him. It then occurred that the boy must have parents looking for him. But he sure didn’t seem scared or lost, he looked oddly comfortable.

He decided to play the quiet game and see who made the next move. He continued to stretch his tired body. Minutes passed and the boy said nothing. He was tempted to leave but his curiosity instincts were piqued and instead walked over and stood next to the boy. ‘Ok”, he said, “I give, what are you looking at?”
“Í told you, I’m looking at the sky. It’s quite beautiful, isn’t it?”
“Yes”, Bill replied. “We’ve established that. But you haven’t looked away once. Aren’t you bored looking at the same thing?”
Without hesitation, the boy shot back. “Bored? That’s what kids today are. Always need to be occupied and entertained. Not me.”
Kids today! The statement resonated with Bill. “Well, aren’t you part of ‘kid’s today’?” 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?”

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.

In the blood

I went to visit my daughter at her new job today on my way down to visit my lady. As I suspected, she works for the new owners of a family-owned dealership that I used to do business with. This is the new face of the car business; big conglomerates buying out the family “mom and pop” stores. These dealerships are known for excessive expectations, high pressure, and high turnover. It can be a miserable environment.
But it pays well if you buy in and can learn the process. My daughter seems to be doing both. An additional tool in her belt is that her manager really likes her. I know this because he told me today when I visited. They all like her from what I can tell. They love her personality, her eagerness and ability to learn, and her toughness despite her small stature. It also wasn’t lost on them that her old man is a seasoned car guy. In her manager’s words, “it’s in the blood, obviously”. I didn’t even have to tell him my background, my daughter already did.

I enjoyed watching her at work. She seems comfortable in her new digs. She doesn’t have that “holy shit what do I do?” look found on many newbies. Her entire demeanor says “I’m here to help.” Her wonderful personality is finally working for her professionally.

I had reservations at first about her doing this. I thought she was too delicate and I feared that she didn’t heed my cautionary tales enough and would be in for a rude awakening when, hypothetically, she missed her quota one month and ended up being fired. Apparently, she recognizes that there are no guarantees and no safety nets and she is prepared for it to not work out. She told me as much today as I walked the lot with her.
“Dad”, she said, “It’s a stepping stone. I’ll give it a year and move on.”

With any other job, I would say that it was the wrong attitude. In this case, she is being realistic and logical. Two traits her mother will never give her credit for but I always knew were there under the surface. I am proud of her.

And given her mental health lately, I will support her in anything that excites her and gives her hope. She is my joy and her happiness means absolutely everything to me.

The enabler of Man

Imagine you’re a hot-shot Florida Lawyer. You’re recruited by a huge New York firm headed by John Milton. You’re given opportunities and the tools to be a man of tremendous influence if you’re willing to sacrifice your moral compass to do so. Milton is a man of fairly small physical stature and enormous confidence. He deliberately, despite his wealth and power, chooses to be on the ground level of life, he takes the Subway and studies all those around him. He knows things about people. In particular, what they want and how to get it for them. The bonus, he doesn’t judge them. He takes the shortcomings of mankind with a grain of salt, he is Satan after all.

This is the subplot of 1997’s The Devil’s Advocate. A movie I have seen so, so many times. The story is great, the acting decent, Pacino as the Devil is incredible. This may be a reach for you to believe, but his performance was nothing less than fucking brilliant. To me at least, because it made sense. The devil is a man.

I’ve been on a spiritual journey my entire life. I’ve openly questioned the existence, motives and methodologies of a kind and benevolent God, yet sought him out in every moment of beauty and despair for as long as I can remember.
Fairly recently, I’ve come to totally embrace the idea of a God. Primarily and unfortunately because I believe in evil. I believe it walks the earth among us. And if you believe in Evil, it logically follows that you must have faith in a being that can conquer it.

The Devil’s Advocate is the first thing; book, movie, sermon or any other medium that illustrates how I believe Satan really works. I believe that it really is just that basic. An unassuming guy that walks among us. A man that accepts your longing for the pleasures of bad behavior. He gives us want we want without judgment. He tests but never violates the concept of Free Will. He is the cool older brother that buys his underaged brother a 6-pack of beer and says he isn’t responsible for what happens. He bills himself as the answer to the impossible standards of God. He is merely providing a service. He is a man of the people that provides mankind the opportunity to indulge in every sin and desire as he openly mocks God as the ultimate trickster who challenges man to be something he is not capable of; truly virtuous. According to him, God makes it impossible for man for his own amusement. He calls it a cosmic gag reel.
“Look but don’t touch.”
“Touch, but don’t taste.”
“Taste, but don’t swallow.”

It is very easy to believe that such a man, or several versions of him, exists. Not unlike Mall Santas who answer wishes for presents, they instead ask you what wickedness you desire and then give it to you. Even with the limitations of Free Will can we all admit that many people are more than willing to sell their soul, regardless of the circumstances, with very little encouragement? The craving for wealth and power have an incredible allure. And there is no lack of people to step on to achieve them. With such a demand there has to be a vendor they can count on.

The movie really made me think. I hope you watch it and get something out of it also. I’ve always believed in Evil. I’ve seen it in action. I watch for it. But I don’t look for winged serpents and demons, I look for it in people. The people who start the shit and watch as it plays out. He’s everywhere and can be in anyone. But, to quote Pacino, “they don’t see me coming. I’m just me, the hand up Mona Lisa’s skirt.”

Indeed, that explains the smile that has baffled viewers for centuries.

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.

Falcons and Orange Datsun’s

I got a text from my High School buddy Marc today. We communicate by text and email periodically. I wish he was on FB but he, like millions of men, got in a little trouble with his Messenger and in the interest of staying married he got off FB.

I have a lot of regrets about people that I lost touch with, he’s one of the big ones. We never saw each other after High School. I’m incredulous over how that could happen when most of my Middle and High School memories included him.

Marc lived down the street from me but if I cut through a neighbor’s yard, I could cut out most of the walking. We hung out a lot. Wiffle Ball in his big, hilly back yard in the summer and sledding in the winter. We were pals and always at each other’s houses. As we entered High School, we became typical teenagers. We would spend most afternoons in his basement listening to the best music, sometimes accompanying it with some weed for, you know, atmosphere. On weekends we were out walking around, it didn’t matter what time of year. We grew up in a small town and there wasn’t a lot to do. In the absence of parties, we just hung out smoking cigarettes and looking for something to bread the boredom. Then of course, we got our drivers licenses, and everything changed.

I got a text from him today. It was a familiar interaction that has become a routine for us, “hey, I heard this song today”, or “I saw a car like yours”. Truth is, we had a million memories, so it is no surprise that our memories are constantly triggered. Today’s text was about our cars. “I was thinking today about The Falcon and the Orange Datsun. What a ride down memory lane.”

I had a ’64 Ford Falcon that my Great Uncle left me. It was a classic even in 1981 when I got it. It was a rare car with the hard to find “3 on the tree” manual transmission. My father and his best friend who frequently dabbled in folksy racism, nicknamed my car “the Coon”, derived from “Falcoon” which of course was a mispronunciation of Falcon. I didn’t think much about the nickname, and I adopted it until I realized how racist it was. But the nickname stuck.
Marc bought a giant boat of a 70’s Grand Prix. That car was so big you had to moor it, not park it. It was powerful and could light up the tires easily. Every time Marc smoked the tires it cost him a gallon or more of gas. Whenever we asked him to smoke them up, he put out his hand and demanded gas money. It was pretty funny. But the cost of gas got to him, and he sold it and bought an Orange Datsun B2000. He really went the other way with that one. But it was a fun car and it kept Marc out of trouble because that car was incapable of spinning its tires. Throughout the many concerts Marc and I went to, the Orange Datsun served us well.

I am glad Marc and I reconnected 9 years ago at our 30th HS Reunion. When I walked in the function hall, he was there at registration waiting for me. We have kept in touch enough, but I wish we could hang out again. Now that my mom has bought a Condo in FL, where he is now, I will make that happen.

When I say that High School sucked, and I say that a lot, I need to remind myself of all the half-baked fun Marc and used to have. I need to focus on stuff like that more.