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Tuesday, August 17, 2010

Hi, My Name is Pearl and Have I Got A Deal for You

My father always had ideas on how we could make ourselves useful.

“How’d you kids like to make a buck?”

It was at this point that both Kevin and Karen would shoot out from wherever they were lurking – Karen especially was known for dropping out of trees – and peel away on their bikes.

My father suggesting that you might “like to make a buck” usually precipitated something that either required rubber gloves and strong soap (as in the can-you-believe-I-got-all-these-old-dishes-for-free debacle), 30 minutes of rubbing his feet (which rarely netted you more than 50 cents), or going door-to-door selling various items.

“You kids just don’t recognize your opportunities,” he’d say. “We got all kinds of chances for success out there!”

And so it was that I was selling door-to-door from the moment that it occurred to my father. Candles, salt-and-pepper shakers, greeting cards, ashtrays: if there was a catalog for it, eventually I would be at your door.

“You’re a kid, for Pete’s sake!” Dad would say, aghast that I was not fully utilizing this angle. “Smile at ‘em! People like smiling kids.” There’d be a pause as he studied my face, looking for ways to boost my irresistibility quotient. “And how old are you again?”

My father was incapable of remembering the ages of any of his children.

“I’m 8.”

“Eight?” He’d frown, take a drag of his cigarette. “You sure?”

“Pretty sure.”

“Hmm,” he’d mutter. “We’ll work around it…”

And so it was with a combination of excitement and trepidation that I heard him pulling into the alley one day, shouting, “Pearl! You wanna make a buck?”

By the time I reached the car he had jumped out and was rooting around in the backseat. His voice was muffled. “You wouldn’t believe the deal I got on these. You’re going to make a fortune.” He turned around, holding a large cardboard box.

“Guess,” he said.

“Um… Candles?”

“You lack imagination,” he chortled. “Come on! You’re not going to have any trouble unloading these at all!”

“Candy?”

He shook his head, disappointed. His oldest child, totally devoid of foresight.

He set the box on the ground, dug through its contents, and emerged, one arm held high. “Ta-da!”

“What is it?”

“What is it? It’s an interchangeable wristwatch band! Look! I figure you can sell these for $2 a piece. We’ve got any color they want as long as it’s purple patent leather or a kind of mustard-yellow faux snakeskin…” He trailed off, considering the salability of these items. “OK – you sell these for a buck apiece. Still, you’re gonna make a fortune.”

A fortune! I smiled, the words “make a fortune” running through my head. Could I, as my father liked to say, “unload” these watch bands? You bet I could!

My head spun as I considered my approach: Hi! My name is Pearl, and have I got a deal for –

“Go ahead,” my dad said. “Grab that other box. Let’s get you started.”

And so I did. I grabbed the other box, tossed it to the ground, and slammed the car door…

On to my hand.

To this day, I cannot truly work out how I managed to slam the car door on my hand, and yet I did.

I stood there, open-mouthed and speechless, my hand in the door. My father, walking toward the back of the house, shouted for me to keep up, that he had a strategy for “moving these bands”. Failing to hear any enthusiasms on my part, he finally turned around.

“Are you coming? Pearl! What are you – Get away from – Why don’t you…”

“Oh, for cryin’ out loud, Paul,” my mother said, pushing past him and running down the steps. “Can’t you see she’s got her hand stuck in the car door?”

My mother, drying her hands on a kitchen towel, the woman who saw herself as emergency personnel, the sound of choppers and sirens no doubt going off in her head, approached the car.

“You all right?” she queried. “You got it together?” She peered intensely into my eyes.

I assured her that I had it together.

She opened the car door to reveal the once-smooth and now regrettably lumpy aspect of my left hand.

My mother surveyed the damage, turning my hand first this way, then that. The index finger and the middle finger in particular seemed awry.

“Yep,” she said, one hand holding the ends of those two fingers, the other on my forearm. “You seem to have a – Good God!” she shouted, wide-eyed and staring at a spot directly behind me. “Would you take a look at that!”

I turned quickly to look – and my mother yanked, hard, on my lumpified fingers.

“ACK!” I bellowed.

I looked down. The lumps were gone. My mother was turning my hand this way and that. “Can you bend them?” she asked.

I could.

“Well there you go then,” she said, and she walked back into the house, dish towel jauntily draped over one shoulder.

Another medical emergency, handled.

I don’t recall what happened to those watchbands. I can’t imagine that anyone turned down the opportunity to own one in any color they wanted – as long as that color was purple patent leather or a mustard-yellow faux snakeskin – so I’m mostly sure that that particular endeavor was a great success.

And if it wasn’t, there would be other chances.

28 comments:

Simply Suthern said...

I can't imagine going door to door. I was too shy to sell school candy as a kid. I pretty much just bought it and ate it myself. You still have any of those mustard-yellow faux snakeskin bands?

My dad had a different way for me to make a buck and he didnt ask if I wanted to participate. From the time I was twelve I was in the woods every other weekend with him swinging a bush axe to clear a path for surveying. He did pay good and bought lunch. Food is usually my weakness.

Bossy Betty said...

Loved this post, Pearl! Your description of your dad and they way he spoke is so great!

My mom handled medical emergencies in the same way.

Will Burke said...

Well, I guess that explains why you're not a concert pianist.

Fred Miller said...

You've got a gold mine in that character of a dad. I would develop that. Don't worry about facts. Just the truth.

The Fred Effect

Sarah said...

Your dad would be a great eBay employee, or even the founder, if he were born a decade or two later! And what a tough woman your mom is. I'm sure they gave you tons of characters growing up.

Lisa said...

Your storytelling is so so good. Better than that. I love these posts.

tubist said...

Good stuff Pearl! And thanks for taking a drive-by my blog last week and leaving a comment!

Reminds me of shutting my foot in the door of our old Ford pickup. That thing had enough play in the door, that it didn't even bruise my foot or break the skin!

Flea said...

Oh Pearl. I've missed you so. What was I thinking, shutting off the internet to my house?

Just finished reading The Spellman Files and thought of you. Check it out if you haven't already read it.

diane rene said...

great post! thanks for the chuckle this morning :)

lgsquirrel said...

Wow! How did your Mom learn to do that!

a Broad said...

Your Mom is Brilliant .. your Dad sounds like he was a gem.
There is this little girl inside me saying, I wish that was my mom & dad :)

TS Hendrik said...

Great story. Your mom sounds like a take charge kind of person.
I can identify with selling as a child. My mom's an artist and when I was kid she had a bunch of postcards made up with her designs. I spent a whole summer going door to door.

Douglas said...

Slamming the car door on your hand! Brilliant! What a great way to avoid one of those "opportunities!" I sure am glad I never thought of that.

The mad woman behind the blog said...

ACK! I just relived EVERY time I had closed my hand in a door.

Thanks for that.

Kr√ęg said...

See, as a sales technique you could point out how well the colors of the bands matched your bruised hand. Mangled and maimed people everywhere would line up to buy those things.

Lynn said...

Love visiting your blog!

Jhon Baker said...

I'll never forget selling crap door to door. what a horrible experience and it sounds like you had to endure so much more than I ever did. Thankfully I am an ugly bastard.

Carol said...

This was absolutely awesome! The only thing I sold door to door was M&M's, although selling is an exaggeration, my mother had to buy them all!

Gigi said...

Where's your vision Pearl? You should have wrapped yourself up to look so poor and pitiful that you could have sold those bands for $5 a pop - easy! You could have been living on Easy Street by now.

Lynne H. said...

I just realized who you write like:
Augusten Burroghs..ever heard of him? if not you must read(ie: running with scissors)..

girl you are a wonderful storyteller..thank god i was a shy kid and never had to sell anythng..

Cheeseboy said...

It's amazing you are not in sales now.

mrwriteon said...

I totally winced when you shut your hand in the car door. I did that once as an adult and the pain was almost sublime.

Meanwhile, I love your depiction of your dad. I've known guys like him and have invariably been charmed by them.

Tempo said...

Fantastic post Pearl, very nice story. Hows the hand these days? :-)

Symdaddy said...

Oh Pearly, Pearly, Pearly ... you are to blame for me being late for work this morning. If it wasn't for your tale I would have been out and about weaving my magic in the community. Instead I spent my time letting EV'RYONE know bout your stuff.

I received a roasting from my boss n it's your fault!

Pearl said...

Man but I wish we could all meet for a beer or onion rings or something. There just aren't enough hours in the day.

Oddly enough, Cheesey, I AM in Sales -- but in a support role.

And my hand, Tempo? I have sturdy, practical fingers who do what I tell them to. For this, I am grateful.

Symdaddy, I suspect a nice roasting would do you good. :-) I keed! I keed! :-) Actually, my readership shot up 30 people yesterday. Do I have you to thank for that?!

And dammit, Gigi; you're right again. I totally should've played up the injured child aspect. Shoot. Think of the sales I missed out on!

Symdaddy said...

Ev'ry thing good is down to me. If it's bad ... it was G.W. to blame.

Lisa said...

Oh my hell, you're funny! And your mom is brilliant. And your dad is exactly like mine. And it seems this "following" was meant to be.

Jenn @ Juggling Life said...

I'm picturing the watch bands matching the color of your bruised hand!