One time I really tried to make it in this world. The job was sales. The product was knives. It was a total pyramid scheme, but I didn’t care. I was motivated to kick ass and move up in the world and get a Honda.
And in the group interview in the basement of the Holiday Inn, I absolutely killed it. The beefcake sales manager and his greaseball henchman were instantly impressed with my skills, and held me back after the others were dismissed to say I was going to be their next star knife salesman of N.E. Wisconsin.
They told me to get a suit and cut my hair and show up the next morning with donuts. I got the suit and donuts alright, but told them the hair was off limits. They conceded, saying I was going to be a pretty good salesman. “You’ve got potential, Randy” the big one said. “It’s Robert” I corrected him.
I arrived in the morning sporting the best suit my local Goodwill had to offer. There were others. Some had coffee, some were sweating; we were all hungry and determined. We were told that we possessed the shared quality of loving money and we were natural-born salesmen who would finally have to chance to reach our hidden potential in life.
“I’m willing to bet you (re: squirrely fat man) could sell a box of mouse farts to a perfume shop if there was $20 in it for you. But you’re not going to have to. Our knives are the best in the world. They cut through copper pipes. They cut through pennies.”
The henchman cut through a penny. It wasn’t easy, but he did it. “A half a penny for half your thoughts?” he asked. We laughed, as all anxious men do when surprised by a bad joke.
“These knives never need sharpening or washing. They all have a lifetime warranty and they make whatever food you cut with them taste 1000% better. They ‘re that f#cking good and you’re gonna sell them by the boatload,” the big one said. “But today, I don’t want you to sell. I want you to give them away. You’ll each be getting a set of knives and a map. The map shows the location of a local celebrity. You are going to drive to their house and give them a set of our knives for free.” He waited for someone to ask him the reason for this, but no one did, so he continued.
“Why? Because famous people are highly influential. I mean, would you buy a set of knives if you saw Dan Shalhoub using them?” “The guy from Monk?” was asked. “No, Dan. His brother. The Shalhoubs are from Green Bay. Or how about Little Bastard, the tennis coach at Neenah high school or Dustin fricken Diamond? They are all on this list and more. You’ll all get someone different and you won’t know who it is until you get there.”
Thirty minutes later I was navigating a subdivision somewhere in DePere where the houses looked like castles and the golden retrievers roamed free (within the boundaries of underground electric fences). As I approached the destination of my mystery celeb, I recalled the highlights of our pitch – free knives, best in the world, cut through pennies, no strings attached, maybe tell a friend but no strings attached, completely free, etc.
I knocked on the door, my heart fluttering at the thought of Screech answering. It finally opened and my jaw hit the floor. No, it was not a dream but none other than Silverhair himself, standing just two feet away and staring down this rookie knife salesman.
After a couple seconds of silence, when Ted was about to shut the door on my new career, I sprung to life. In a string of incomplete sentences and prepositional phrases, I threw out everything Beefake taught us. And as I offered the set of knives to the Packers GM and prepared to walk away strong and proud, something strange happened. He flat-out refused them and went back to his life.
Nowadays, when I look from afar at my first sale that wasn’t, I can’t help but have a sense of respect for the way Thompson manages the Packers. While I don’t always agree with it, I kind of understand it. When I see him make decisions and football picks – or seemingly lack thereof according to some – I recall that fateful day when he declined those amazing, free knives that cut through copper. What rationale could he possibly have have? I mean, they were completely free! I guess Ted said it best when, after briefly considering the knives, looked at me completely deadpan and replied:
“No thanks, I’ll play the hand I got.”
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