Sales Pitch

The sight of a twelve year old vehicle pulling into the lot makes a salesman drool. This guy has to be here to trade in that heap is the thought going through her mind. Let me at him!
I pull up to the service bay and notice her watching me. She’ll be waiting when I finish in there. When you bring the car in for service you can sit and wait or you can wander around and look at cars. Just be prepared for a sales pitch.
In another lifetime I sold cars. New and used. Luxury. And otherwise. I know the deal. Normally I don’t want to waste people’s time but I’ll at least let them try to do their job. You shut them down at the appropriate time.
Ok. Give it to me. I don’t have anything else to do for a little while. She asks what I brought the car in for. It’s been recalled I tell her. Nothing serious I hope she replies. I tell her it’s something about a shift lock mechanism. I don’t know if it’s serious or not. The manufacturer didn’t seem to be in a huge rush to fix it.
When I explain that the car is twelve years old she says the magic words. Have you thought about trading it in on a newer model?  Actually, I had.
What I have suits my needs well.  The right size. Easy to get in and out of .  Rides well. Looks like crap. But it’s always nice to think about a newer one.
I let her go through the spiel on new and certified used. We talk about what I’d be looking for. Oh, we have several of those she beams.  The idea is to get the customer into the car. To smell the new car aroma. To see all the features. Take it for s spin and get sucked in.  When she wants to get a key to show me the vehicle it’s time to shut it down.
She gives me her card and thanks me for speaking with her. If I can be of any service in the future please let me know. Car sales has a high turnover rate in salesmen. By the time I’m ready she may well have moved on. But someday I’ll have to get a newer model. And there will be a salesperson waiting for me.
That’s part of my story. What’s yours!

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Flat Tire

The sound was loud. Enough so that it could be heard trough the windows, coming from outside the car. Hissing, like a snake. The tire.

Crashing the wheel into the drain grate in the curbing, trying to parallel park, she had managed to pop the tire on my van. If it had just separated from the rim and lost its air it could be blown up. But no, it had a big hole in it.

I just happened to be there. But I wasn’t really of any use. My back is screwed up enough that I can’t change a tire, even though I sure would like to.

Fortunately I have roadside assistance coverage as part of my auto insurance. Call them up and they will send someone out to jump you off or change a tire. Even tow you away if need be. At this point I’ve used it for all three.

The towing was also because of a flat tire. I tried to change that one, but the lug nuts were on so tightly that I actually broke the bolts trying to get the nuts off. Three out of five. That vehicle is not driving anywhere!

So she called the roadside assistance folks. It would be a half hour. Since I didn’t have to work that day, I got to stay and wait.

He was early. Came from in front of me and drove by, giving me the eye. Then he turned around and pulled up behind me. I noticed he had a handicapped permit hanging on his rear view mirror. Oh boy, how’s he gonna change this tire I wondered. Turns out he had some special tools.

Not special really, just the right ones for the job. A power jack and an air wrench. So much easier with the right tools!

He was a very nice man, doing this work as an independent contractor. Works when he wants and enjoys meeting people. I told him I would have done the job myself, but he told me not to put him out of a job. I let him do it, but couldn’t resist helping just a little.

It only took about ten minutes to change the tire and put a little air in the spare. And off he went. Now I could go buy a new tire.

At the tire place we discovered that not only did I need one new tire, I needed two. And an alignment. A couple hours later I was all set. The van drives like a sports car now.

The next day as I was going to get into my truck, I noticed a tire was a little low. Nail. Dang! The universe seems to be trying to tell me something here. I hope it’s just that I need a new tire.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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A Life

It was one of those fabulous old antebellum homes for which Madison is so well known. Off the main street, a couple of blocks back into the residential area. Academy Street.

In obvious need of exterior painting, and some roof repairs, it was nonetheless a grand old house. Twelve foot ceilings. Large rooms. Beautiful hardwood floors. And lot’s of quirks. Like the staircase with only a six foot clearance for heads.

But it wasn’t the outside of the house which had drawn me here. Or the others standing in line waiting to go inside. For me it was the things inside, treasures amassed over a lifetime by the last resident of the house. Now all for sale.

My understanding was that the last resident had, at age 98, slipped this mortal coil. Her family had sold the house, and was now parting with everything inside. Strange things you might find. Someone pointed out that there were hundreds of family photos. And even the guest book from the funeral. Small things can sometimes make big statements.

What I noticed was that there was a relatively small turnout for this sale. There were several people in the line that I recognized. Other estate sale junkies. Or antique dealers.   There were plenty of treasures here indeed. The owner had obviously been a collector, on a small scale, all her life. And she had treasures from every time period, and from around the world. She seemed to like Asian items. I mention this only because that is something I always look for, and am excited to find.

Most of the crowd seemed to be local people. People who knew this woman. They wanted to see the inside of the house. And perhaps to claim something that would remind them of her. One woman wanted the handwritten recipe cards from the kitchen. Zero monetary value, but tremendous sentimental value of some sort.

There was also at least one family member there. She identified herself as such when told that the item she wanted was already sold to someone else.

Maybe she was family. Maybe not. That one thing that she had always wanted was somehow not willed to her, or passed along by closer family members. She found something else and was satisfied.

I have no ties to this person. Or to any of the people whose estate sales I go. I’m a collector and reseller and that is my purpose and interest in these items from someone’s life. I do often wonder what kind of person this might have been, and usually end up creating my own story about them. Everyone is a hero.

One day my estate will be sold off. I’m glad I won’t be there for that. But I will at least know the story behind every single item sold.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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A Minute

Commuting is an art form. Oh sure, anybody can hop into a car and drive off to work. But knowing exactly when to jump into that car, and which route to take, that’s the art.

When I was working a regular job I wanted to be sure that I was always on time. But at the same time, I didn’t want to get there any earlier than absolutely necessary. I didn’t get paid overtime, so I wasn’t giving any of my time away for free. So, I had to know exactly how much time I needed to get from home to office. Driving the truck meant one calculation. Riding the scooter called for another.

Of course variables like the weather and the local school calendar all had an Impact on these calculations. Even the day of the week could make a difference. It took years of practice and experimentation to get it all down. My brain did thousands of calculations each second. Never early. Never late.

When I quit working at the office I lost my touch. Only because I was out of the loop and wasn’t constantly monitoring new routes and changing traffic patterns. I didn’t have a need to be anywhere on time really. If I was a minute late, it didn’t matter. And I wasn’t going anywhere I didn’t want to be, so getting there early was ok now.

So this morning when I wanted to go somewhere, and needed to be there at an early hour of the morning, it didn’t occur to me that there would be heavy commuter traffic impeding my travel. It dawned on me when I was trying to make a left turn across what normally would have been a pretty lightly travelled road.

But this road is a direct feeder to the local high school a half mile down the road. Hundreds of kids either being dropped off by parents, or driving themselves to school. All trying to get there on time, but not too early. It was 7:45 AM, and being late was looking more and more likely to them. I waited to make my turn while an endless procession of cars went by.

And now my own travel plans were disrupted. This unexpected delay would make me late. Had I arrived at this intersection five minutes earlier, or five minutes later, there would have been no traffic. Make note of this newly discovered pattern.

I’ve already figured out that at 6:00 PM on a Friday, trying to merge onto the eastbound lanes of the highway from here to Atlanta is a lot harder than trying to make the same merge at 2:00 PM. Allow extra time when going late. A minute is sixty seconds, but it can make a much bigger difference. Something missed here, or another met there. Stay in the loop, or get into the slow lane.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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Round and Round

Hi my name is Matt and I’m an antique dealer. Hi Matt! comes the chorus from the group assembled at the regular meeting of antiquers anonymous. That’s how my dream goes some nights.

Over the past four or five years I have been to countless yard sales and estate sales. So many that I can’t even remember the places I’ve gone. Neighborhoods yes, but specific houses? Pretty rarely. Would have been someplace that had something really incredible to offer.

On those same lines, I’ve moved so many items in and out of the house, and my antique shops, that I can’t even picture most of them. Hell, I can’t even look in the store and figure out what’s missing from week to week. Sometimes I’ll look at the list of things I’ve sold and wonder what this or that even was.

So you might imagine that it was quite a shock for me the other day when I walked into a house where the owners were having a sale and saw something hanging on the wall that I had once owned. A one of a kind hand made weaving that I had found at another yard sale, kept in my house for a while and sold. No doubt about it, it was the same one.

I told the girl who lived there that I had once owned the weaving depicting an ancient South American bird god. Her jaw dropped and she ran outside to tell her boyfriend. He remembered me. And where I lived and how on the day that he and his friend bought the piece they had come to my house in a blue pickup truck and strapped this huge masterpiece on the back of the truck. It was too big to fit inside the bed of the truck. And I remember that on the day that I bought it I had done the same thing.

The friend had moved away and left the weaving for his friend. And it was not for sale. I wouldn’t have bought it again, but I sure did like it hanging on their wall. Big, bold. Lots of wow factor. And I was glad to know that someone was enjoying it so much. After I had certainly saved it from the scrapheap of history.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?


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The early days of 1968 found the world focused on the area surrounding Grenoble, France. The Winter Olympics had arrived. That was the year that my own Olympic dream was born. I was ten years old.

By modern standards ten is a late age to be starting such a quest. The minimum age for participation in the Olympics is fourteen, and gold medalists are sixteen and seventeen years old. But that’s when I was inspired.

That winter French skier Jean Claude Killy stunned the Alpine skiing world by winning three gold medals. One for every event he raced in. I always felt sorry for his teammate, Guy Perillatt, who came in second all three times. Killy was just a phenom. It’s rumored that Charles DeGaul, then President of France, told Killy, “win there golds, or leave France forever!” No pressure.

I had no such pressure on my dream. Hell, I was a kid in Pennsylvania who had never even seen a skier before. But I wanted to be one now. And to win a gold medal.

My parents agreed to let me take a couple of lessons at the local ski area. Apple Hill, now long gone, developed into a subdivision. It was an apple orchard with a few small slopes cut into the woods. Rope tows and one fancy T-bar carried the skiers to the summit. Courage carried them down.

Starting on the bunny slope I learned to snowplow. And how to stand up once I had fallen. There would be a lot of that. Up and down. Up and down. Ok, I got this, now lets move on to the double black diamond slopes.

We were renting skis and boots and poles at this time. My dad wasn’t convinced that he should invest in our own equipment just yet. But we were expanding our geographic exploration. We went to the Poconos, to the big ski areas. Big Boulder and Camelback Mountain. And again, I started on the bunny slope, still snowplowing. But at the end of the day, I decided I am going to go for it. And up I went, onto the expert slope.

From the top it looked like a long way down. Was I suddenly in the Rocky Mountains, or the Alps? No, it just looked like a long way down for a scared little kid. But I had good survival instincts, and was pretty good at dive bombing, turning here and there and slamming on the brakes. And didn’t like falling down. So I took a deep breath and pointed myself down the slope.

A few minutes later I was down at the bottom. I don’t remember even one second of that run, but I know I made it. I was excited to tell my dad and sister who were waiting at the bottom. They just thought I was a nut.

But my dad figured out that I loved skiing, and that it would be worth a small investment in some ski equipment. And from the winter of 1968 through the winter of 1975, I skied every single day from the first day of the season until the end of the season. On snow, ice, slush and yes, even dirt and gravel. My skis took a beating. I went through three pairs.

I never took another lesson. My ski school was the slopes, and watching others who were better than I was.. So many were. My dream of being an Olympian was pretty short lived. But I did become a pretty good recreational skier. And got smart enough to know double black diamonds were not for me.

And yes, I did finally win a gold medal. Not in skiing. It was at the Walt Disney World Marathon. We ran 26.2 miles through all of the Disney parks in Florida. In the dark, and cold, and rain, and sunshine. I got the gold medal. Not because I crossed the finish line first, but because I had a dream, and I made it come true. I finished the race. All Olympians are winners. Some just more celebrated than others. Such is life.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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The Wrong Turn


The GPS is usually pretty good about getting me from here to there. It doesn’t always give me the route I would choose, but the one it provides will get me there. The problem is that in order for the prescribed route to get me from point A to point B, I have to follow the directions.

Wearing polarized sunglasses casts a certain darkness on the screen of my phone, and the map residing there. My vision isn’t so hot even without the sunglasses. In spite of the coke bottle like spectacles I wear. And can anyone explain to my why the darn thing gives me verbal directions sometimes, but not always?

This morning I had plans to visit two estate sales, in quite opposite directions. There would be a lot of driving on unfamiliar roads. The GPS would be critical. Punch in the address and off we go. OOOps, I missed the turn. It’s OK, the system reroutes me. After a minor detour I’m back on track. And soon enough I get to my first destination.

Shopping done, I head toward the next location. It’s just the beginning and the end of the route I’m not very familiar with . GPS. In the middle of the trip, on the part of the route I was supposed to be familiar with, I looked around and wasn’t sure where I was. Had I missed another turn? Pulling off the road I checked the map again. Right on course. So much for flying on memory.

After finding my second destination, and a few treasures, it was time to head home. This should be easy. I know where I live.

Within the first mile I missed my turn. The GPS said it was OK. I could just turn around and go back one block and make the turn. Or six miles down the road I could make another turn. HMM?

The road I was on was kind of nice. Two lanes. In the country. Lots of fields around me with a nice house here and there. The other route would be four lane. Lined with strip malls, gas stations and fast food joints. I stayed on the road I was travelling.

The road followed the rail line. Still two lanes. I saw some very nice farms and estates along the way. And on the outskirts of Madison, on a road called Dixie Avenue, I found the house in the picture. Never would have known that was there but for that wrong turn.

Given the choice between following the directions, or going with my gut, I will usually choose my gut. That may not always get me where I’m going on the fastest or shortest route, but it always gets me to where I’m supposed to be.

That’s part of my story. What’s yours?

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