From Berkeley to Ord Door By Door By Door … THE FAST LANE TO EASY STREET

My gray matter wasn’t fully developed

Neurologists posit that the human mind doesn’t reach maturity until its bearer reaches twenty-six years of age or so. My decisions at age 19 validate this beyond any reasonable doubt.

My first year at the UC Berkeley featured sustained combat between two historic, implacable foes … academic discipline vs hormonal servitude. So I figured, “Why continue this? I’m an English major! What’s the point? Why not just drop out and get rich?

So, with an unripe cerebrum and absolutely no understanding of money and how to make it, I dropped out, grabbed the classified section of the Vallejo Times-Hearld and answered an ad that guaranteed a fast lane to easy street … I became a Kirby Vacuum Cleaner salesman!

Salesmen come in a myriad of types, sizes and shapes, from retail clerks to manufacturer’s reps to stock market brokers to advertising salesmenBut  door-to-door vacuum cleaner salesmen are generally regarded as somewhere below the lowest of the low in their fraternity.

However, we vacuum cleaner salesmen were part of a long line of itinerant door-to-door salesmen who at one time brought pots, pans, bibles, encyclopedias, potions and notions to isolated farms and families across the entirety of the fruited plain. From the pedlar of colonial America hawking his wares from a horse-drawn cart to the ubiquitous Fuller Brush Men and insurance agents who’d scurry from house to house in neighborhoods from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon throughout the first half and middle of the last century, Direct Sales (for so it’s called) had served the nation’s needs, not always nobly, but always filling a need.

However, none of this prepared me for my first encounter with Kirby!

Here’s all you need to clean-up in business son!

My good buddy Ray had joined me to pursue the Kirby dream. We’d both dropped-out of Berkeley following our disastrous freshman year (being roommates probably had something to do with that) and were both equally eager to cruise down easy street flaunting new-found wealth with Porsches and such. However, the Vallejo Kirby sales office didn’t have any Porsches parked near it. In fact the cars looked more demolition derby survivors.

And when our day started with a group sing of familiar songs that clever lyricists had mutated into praise Kirby lines … like changing “On Wisconsin” to “On With Kirby” … well you can imagine the rest. It was horrifying and downright blasphemous!

But, on the other hand, it was effective too, because it gave one the option of either jumping in and singing or jumping out the window and running for sanctuary. So we decided with characteristic lack of any intelligent foresight, “What the hell, let’s sing!” And sing we did … boisterously, enthusiastically and moronically!

I can guaranty you that across the length and breadth of this great nation that morning, two livelier members of a Kirby chorus couldn’t be found! We gave it our all! We gave it one-hundred and twenty-five percent! And because of that, we had a ball. We signed paperwork! We’d joined the chorus! And we were ready to go! We were on our way to Easy Street!

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Interested in more stories about selling? You’ll find them in the category “How To Sell A Newspaper Subscription To A Blind Man” … just click on its button in the “CATEGORY” pull-down menu at the top right of this page.

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About Joe Illing

I hope you'll find my posts entertaining, occasionally edifying and worth whatever time you choose to spend with them ... Joe
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