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Friday, October 1, 2010

Did I Ever Tell You Kids About My First Job?

In case no one’s mentioned it yet, welcome to Friday, the day of the week we ask ourselves if it’s too late to quit our jobs and marry well. The answer to that, in most of our cases, is an unfortunate “yes”. But have no fear! Our friends appear to like us; and as long as I have a porch, you have somewhere to sleep.

But what about the weekend? If only there was a way to see into the future…

But there is! My iPod knows all, tells some...

Let us consult this morning’s commute, shall we?

Bonin’ in the Boneyard by Fishbone
People Get Ready by Curtis Mayfield
Dance for Me by Southern Culture on the Skids
Underdog World Strike by Gogol Bordello
Whatever by Gnarls Barkley
Taos by Menomena
Blue Skies by Eve Cassidy*

And there you have it: stay indoors, drink plenty of fluids, and call that guy you said you’d call.

A bit of a re-post, but also a bit of a re-write. Hope you enjoy it anyway!

I’m feeling nostalgic today, in the very best sense of the word. Come on in, take the steps at the front of the trailer and sit with me at the kitchen table…

My father, as perhaps has already been mentioned, was a salesman, and a good one at that. He had a talent for conversation, for appealing to the common denominator in any group. He was not shy about using this talent.

“How’d you kids like to make 50 cents?”

And no matter how many times I heard that phrase, I always fell for it.

“Let’s see how fast you kids can wash the car. Get it done in under 15 minutes and there’s a small DQ cone in it for you.”

Neighborhood kids would follow him to the shed for a rag and a bucket, squeal-y with the anticipation of working their collective asses off for a 30-cent cone.

My father worked as soon as he was old enough to consider working, and he sought to instill in us the same burning desire to toil as soon as we were old enough to hear about it. Like my mother’s belief in the medicinal properties of the Hot Wet Washrag, my father believed in the healing power of work, in the self-affirmation of a steady paycheck.

“I had a paper route when I was a boy. Did you kids know that? Did I ever tell you about the route I had when I was a boy?”

“Yes, Dad.”

I applied for my first job in fourth grade by filling out a form in the back of a comic book. There, next to advertisements for x-ray specs and garlic chewing gum, was the opportunity to earn extra money. I was, of course, hired immediately and went door-to-door selling candles, greeting cards, little porcelain salt and pepper figurines of angels, windmills, and mushrooms.

My father was sitting at the kitchen table when my first catalogs came in the mail. He patted the chair next to him, then held his hand out. I handed him the catalogs. He flipped through one.

“See? You’re thinkin’. You’re thinkin’,” he said, tapping the side of his nose. “You’re in a trailer park, you got all these doors right next to each other. Boom, boom, boom, you’re up and down the streets in five, six hours.”

He paused, lit a cigarette.

“Let me hear your patter,” he said.

“My what?”

“Your patter. Your spiel. Your opening line when they open the door.”

I hadn’t considered my patter.

He slapped his left hand on the kitchen table.

“See?” he said. “You lost me. You lost me and I’m closin’ the door.” He leaned forward in his chair, ready to slam an imaginary door.

I put my arm out. “Wait!” I paused. “OK.” I said. “Knock, knock.”

“Who’s there?” my father said.

“Hi. My name is Pearl and I’m 10 years old and I’m selling candles and cards and cute little salt and pepper shakers because I want to buy a bike. Would you like to see a catalog?”

My father sat back, tapped his cigarette into an ashtray shaped like an outhouse.

“OK. Not bad. Not bad. But hand them the catalog, don’t ask them if they want to see it. You asking gives them the chance to say no. And when you hand it to them, have it open to the candles. Women love candles.”

He paused.

“And how old are you again?”



He looked at me, frowned. He seemed perplexed. “Tell ‘em you’re nine.”


“Nine sounds better.”


“It just does. Trust me.”

He paused again.

“Oh, and don’t tell them it’s for a bike. Bikes are iffy. Tell ‘em you’re going to band camp or something. People always want to send kids away for a couple weeks.”

“Thanks, Dad.”

“You’re welcome, Pearl. Knock 'em dead.”

* Now THAT’S a voice…


Big Fat Gini said...

I recognize none of those songs. Sigh.

Also, I love your dad!

a Broad said...

I have said this before but hey, I am an old woman and I repeat myself.. I Love Your Dad !
I wish he were mine.
But I am happy he is yours.
Happy Friday Pearl !

The Jules said...

I bet they don't believe the "nine" part anymore though.

Pearl said...

Gini, ooh, click on Eva Cassidy. What a lovely voice she had.

A Broad, he's quite the character!

Jules, yes, but the more beer I buy them the more likely they are to let me get away with insisting that I am, indeed, 9.

savannah said...

i had to read this out loud to the MITM, sugar! his question, did she make any money? great post, hon, you made us both laugh. xoxoxoxox

Kate said...

I want to know how it went, toooooo!!!!!

Vintage Christine said...

As a little lass in the late 50's I sold greeting cards and seeds door to door in my southern California tract home neighborhood and it was a resounding success. The first time. The second time I tried it everyone slammed the door in my face. I've tried to succeed in sales over the years but those slammed doors created some kind of mental block. Great post.

lakeviewer said...

Ouch! This sticks hard, right there in the middle of the forehead! Great story, beautifully told.

Sweet Cheeks said...

"People always want to send kids away for a couple weeks."

Your dad spoke the truth there, Pearly Girly!

Kittie Howard said...

I loooove your Dad! What a great guy. And the apple didn't fall far from the tree, Miss Pearl.

Have a great weekend!

KleinsteMotte said...

Your dad must have met mine while trying to sell something because all the things you wrote took place at some time around our home. My brother actually became a salesman and I became a teacher. I guess selling ideas is an art, right?? You sure do a great job getting you ideas out to us!!Thanks!

IndigoWrath said...

Hey Pearl! I absolutely loved this. I wish someone had sat me down to have a similar conversation hen I was a kid. Or now, even. I can be pretty clueless. Trying to get a date? Shockingly bad. I suck at marketing ;> Indigo x

yogurt said...

you are funny...

Noelle said...

I'm a big fan of your dad!!!

MJenks said...

You realize I have all sorts of crushes on you based on your iPod library, right?

But, every time I see Southern Culture on the Skids pop up...well...I swoon a little.

Irish Gumbo said...

You've quite the voice yourself, young lady :)

Can iBorrow your iPod? Pretty please?

lunamother said...

ya. I recognize exactly none of the songs. 'course I'm old and clueless and don't even HAVE an ipod, so I guess it doesn't matter.

I love the Old School salesmen- last time I bought a car I went into the dealership and told the girl at the front desk I wanted to talk to someone over 40 who didn't have "product" all in their hair.

Thanks for the smile tonight Miss Pearl

Debra She Who Seeks said...

So THAT'S how you got to be a star! Thanks for popping by my blog today!

Cheeseboy said...

Well, back in the day I would have waxed my dad's back for a small DQ cone.

Love the Gnarls Barkley.

RawknRobynsGoneBlogWild said...

Your pops is a smart one. Women do like candles. Hope you got your bike and not the band camp experience..if that was your preferred option.

John McElveen said...

OK- I'm officially on board! I was sent by God. We'll get to the amount of the check in a minute!

Seriously-- I am still laughing. Thanks so much for dropping by Full-On and if'n you don't mind I would love to tag along. I'm right in the middle of thinking about shaking things up a bit, and There is sooo much I can steal- here! Plagiarism IS a compliment right?

Seriously--great stuff Pearl. A new fan.


Mandy said...

Ohmygod! This is hilarious!

Your dad sounds like a card.

Hilary said...

Your Dad is a riot.. who wouldn't have washed a bus for a DQ cone?

Lynn said...

He should be the dad of "Shit my dad says'neighbor!