Demise of a Salesman
By Emily Parke Chase
The salesman appeared at my home ten minutes before the hour and parked his car behind my own vehicle, preventing any possibility of my escape. From his trunk, Jim (not his real name) pulled a week’s worth of luggage. The biggest box held a vacuum cleaner. Three other boxes contained miraculous attachments that would turn this machine into the Harry Houdini of housecleaning. As he entered my home, I mentioned that I already owned a Kirby.
“Really? How long have you had it?” “About ten years.” “Well, we’ve spent two million dollars improving the machine.” Jim displays the new attachments, all duplicates of mine which are stored downstairs under a tidy layer of dust. “Ah, but have you seen this?” He picks up a hard rubber attachment and wrestles it inside out. He works hard to make this process look easy. “Of course, this is new. It becomes softer after a few times. With the blower feature, this attachment can clean out a drain.” Have I been negligent? Do people vacuum their kitchen drains weekly? “Can I use it to plunge a clogged toilet?” “No, if you turned the machine on, water would splash all over you.” The picture of filth spewing all over me is unpleasant, but wouldn’t a plugged kitchen drain do the same? That drain gums up only when the sink is full of tepid greasy water. This device cost two million dollars and I still have to bail out the sink first?
Nevertheless, I go downstairs and locate my version of the rubber attachment made of the same tough rubber. I attempt to turn it inside out. After ten years it should be broken in. I can’t budge it. “Yours,” Jim informs me, “is old and has become inflexible.” When Jim displays his plastic Zipp brush, I nod. “I use my Zipp brush in the car for getting up dog hair, gravel, and lollipop wrappers.” Jim says, “This is a brand new feature. You can’t already have one.”
Once more I trot downstairs and return with a Zipp brush. The only difference is that mine is chrome, not plastic, and it comes in a little velvet bag with the logo “Zipp brush” imprinted on the side. Jim’s doesn’t have a velvet bag. Jim doesn’t know I have a different room cleaned each time a vacuum salesman comes to the door. (How else do I clean my house?) “One Electrolux man did my living room carpet, drapes, and inside the piano. He unpacked a second demo kit to get extra extension rods to reach that high corner over there.” Jim’s eyes widen at the thought but he bravely dumps a small box of baking soda on the floor. He challenges me to use my old Kirby to clean it up. I vacuum the spot several times. Confidently, Jim turns on his machine. Nothing shows up on the machine’s demo pad. Surprised, he examines the floor. “Where did I dump the baking soda?” If Jim can’t tell where it is, why worry? My guests will never inspect my carpet as closely as Jim.
Jim makes small talk. I learn that he owns a beagle, was once bitten by an alligator, and dreams of becoming a Spanish teacher. After an hour with me, Jim’s dream of a career teaching Spanish looks very attractive. At last Jim cleans the couch with the Zipp brush. He hurries out the door as my daughter comments, “Great. He’ll be gone before the Rainbow vacuum salesman arrives.”
“There is nothing new in the whole world. ‘Look,’ they say, ‘here is something new!’ But no, it has all happened before.” Ecc. 1:9,10 (GNB)
(Adapted from “Demise of a Salesman” Phase, October 2002) Visit Emily at www.emilychase.com