Door to Door Salesman in Picnic Before the Disco: Part 1 ½

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Screen Shot 2013-10-12 at 3.44.33 PMMelbourne, Australia, hosts as diverse a collection of people as any of the larger cities in the world.  There are suburbs where its custom to wear a feather in your hat and turn up your nose as you swagger down the street, or bow your head to the pavement in squalor anticipation of your welfare cheque, or cruise the road in your family wagon bursting with boisterous out-of-tune nursery rhymes.  Melbourne breeds them all.

My traveling suburban sales escapades took me into the dens of many of them.

 $20 Golf Card: Two Rounds of Golf for the Price of One Round

I probably only made more sales than the golf card on one other campaign which means that I was in my second most happiest and rapturous state during this sales expedition – and I was beginning to hate the job at this stage.  I think I quit a few months later.

The golf course that we were marketing is still one of Melbourne’s finest.  Any avid golfer knew it.  Any avid golfer wanted to be a member – if only they could afford the hefty green fees.  We were offering 2 for 1 rounds, and discount meals at the club and no obligation to sign up as a full member.  Add that to flogging this stuff off in a fairly well-to-do suburb and you’re bound to smile at people’s smiles.

It was late afternoon and I was in high tidal spirits after selling the majority of the cards in my possession.  An hour left before knock-off and I would cash in my dredges.  I entered a large house with an enormous porch via the tall front gate, however it looked a little neglected.  I instantly experienced warning auras, a cloudy sourness clung to the yard.  I walked up about ten steps to the porch landing and knocked on the door.

Well, no I didn’t, there was a bell – so I rang it.  A burly man with a frizzy jaw of beard answered behind a security door and I noticed there was a greedy looking Rottweiler at his side.  He welcomed me with an icy stare and waited for me to greet him.  I knew this was a dead sale, possibly a dead moment where I was at risk of joining the moment.

“Hi there, my name is Ma -”

“I don’t care what your name is.”

“Ok, I’ll be ten seconds…..I’m just here on behalf of the ‘such and such’ golf course and flogging these cards that will give you – ”

“Golf?” His eyes burned menace.  He looked down at his Rottweiler and declared, “Terence and I say golf is for faggots.”

I don’t know why I spurted out the reply I gave to confront his and Terence’s distaste for golf.  Maybe it was because his insolently discriminative tone offended my juvenile maturity; even though it was I that was trespassing on his rights.

“So, should I put the card in your or Terence’s name?” I replied, with stupid smugness.

“Mate, you have ten seconds to get your skinny arse off my porch or Terence will……”

I didn’t catch the rest as I was already at the bottom of the porch steps and swimming through the air and gravel for that front gate.  I didn’t look behind me until I got to the gate and just as I closed it Terence rocketed into it.

Had I been a couple of years wiser I would have turned around and humbly left.  When I think of that occasion, that is my most compelling thought, but my secondary compelling thought is, who names their dog ‘Terence?’

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Door to Door Salesman in Panic Before the Disco: Part I

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People are pastries, they come in different forms, colours, shades of sanity, flavour, symphonies of emotions bugging at any given moment of the day.  Walk up to and knock on one hundred people’s doors in a day and you are sure to catch as many of these human nuances as possible.

One of my day jobs back in my just out of high school days was as a door-to-door salesman for a direct marketing company.  They flogged those cards where you pay twenty bucks and you get two meals for the price of one, two movies for the price of one, even two rounds of golf for the price of one round.  I spent a year on the side walks trying to snare money from strangers trying to put my foot into their households and convince their hand into their pockets for a quick grab of cash.

Over those twelve months my domestic volunteering got me into numerous close calls with the emotional enemy of the state: Panic.  Here are a few of my favourite encounters:

il_570xN.386323894_h6q8$20 Meal Card – 2 for 1 meals for 12 months.

Knock, knock.  Who’s there?  Hi, my name is Mark and I am here on behalf of ‘such and such local restaurant and offering free meals.’

Door instantly flings open!  Looking fruitful.  Chat chat, blah blah.  Nice guy, terrible smelling hallway.  Come in and tell me more.  In I walk and the conversation changes to the brown colour of my suit.  Guy doesn’t agree with it.  You ain’t gonna sell shit in that suit, mate.  He disappears and comes out a minute later with this dusty looking blue corduroy suit.  This belongs to my son and I want to give it to you.  I thank him and decline.  He becomes agitated and draws near.  I back away and double my show of appreciation and decline.  In walks his son.  Dad, what’s going on?  Dad introduces me and tells him that he is giving me his suit.  His son had probably been waiting for me to walk into his life since he was given this suit.  His son agrees and they assure me that I will sell more wearing this fluff infestered corduroy suit.

I realise it is time to give up on getting any money and time to get my murky brown suited butt out of there.  They see me panic and surround me.  Dad reaches for my suit top and begins pulling it off me and the son laughs.  I smile awkwardly and say its time that I get going to meet the ‘others’ and that I will return later to see if they have decided about the card and will think about the suit.  Dad lets go and grabs my pants by my waist.  Says he is trying to help my career.  Pants are being taken down.  I shoot backwards, pull up the pants, turn, skip hurriedly for the door and out onto the street.

washing_machine-287x287$20 Cinema Card – 2 for 1 Movies

Knock, knock….knock knock…A croaky woman’s voice, who is it?  Hi there, my name is Mark…..Front door opens slowly and an elderly woman looks up at me and smiles, hello dear.  I do my pitch, a sweeter apple pie peach geared for the elderly audience and I am invited in to tell her more.  I never go to the cinema and I don’t have anybody to go with if I did.  Not a negative I hadn’t heard before.  Do you have grandchildren?….well yes, I do see my grand-daughter maybe once a month or so.  Perfect.  Well you both could go and see a movie and make it an occasion.  She contemplates….
“Do you know anything about washing machines?” She hits me with a random curve ball.
“I’m sorry?”
“If you fix my washing machine I will buy one of these from you.”
“Hmmm…I don’t really know anything about washing machines.  I could have a look I guess…”
She takes me into her laundry and says there it is.  It is the oldest washing machine in Australia, cracked and bent metal, lidless and begging for the laundry graveyard.  I hear the door behind me close.  I turn around and turn the handle but it’s locked.  I hear from behind the door, “you are not coming out until its working”……WHAT???? It must be her wicked roaring 20s jazz age sense of humour.  But unfortunately she was dead drop serious…..
Probably ten minutes of, ah excuse me I think you need a professional repairman for this.  Can you open the door, I know somebody that could help.  Its getting late, I must be going…..
Then a knock at the door.  The laundry was the first door on the left and only metres away from the front door.  Who is it?
“Hi, my name is Milton and I am here on behalf of the local cinema….Milton!!!  My partner for the day had finally met up with me.  Door to door salesmen usually go around a block in the opposite direction and meet up and then move onto the next allocated block.
I yell, Milton, Milton, its Mark!  I am locked in the laundry!!  The door opens and the lady with a perplexed Milton behind her asks, “how did you go, sweetie?” I laughed with disbelief shuffled with relief….
“Sorry dearie, I don’t watch movies,” she sighed.

In part II:

The $20 Golf Card: My Rottweiler Says Golf is For Gay People.
The $20 Cinema Card: My son won’t be home until 3pm So Take Your Time.
The $20 Restaurant card: High Society, A Bottle of Jack Daniels, Oh So There are Two of You? Wink Wink.

Look Who’s Parking Too

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It was my first job after high school, it was my first day.  I’d swapped my infamous and cherished juvenile locks for a slick and short do, managed to rub some geek polish into the shoes and punched a couple extra holes into my dad’s leather belt in order to keep my pants up.  I was still a boy in man’s threads and I knew it but I was assured enough and confident of impressing my new employers.

It was an advertising agency and I was given my orders as soon as the front door closed behind me.  Come lunch time, one of the managers asked me if I wanted to go for a drive to pick up some food.  Naturally, I accepted and jumped into his yellow Ford sedan along with another manager.  We drove on over to a 7-11 to grab food to bring back.  Not the most nutritious type of lunch however it was not the first time I had been obliged to eat two hundred thousand calories between artificial bread.  I gathered my meal, paid, and went out to wait in the back seat of the car.

I waited patiently for the managers for about five minutes and I was very sure that they must have paid up by now as they were right behind me in the queue.  I leant forward to peer into the store and they were no longer there.  I looked out to the side and scanning the scene my eyes fell across the car parked in the opposite slot.  I was looking straight into the eyes of two laughing suited hyenas that resembled the two managers.  They were laughing up a riot.  I scarily realised that I had hopped into the wrong car.  I scrambled out in a panic and climbed into the right car with a big red face in a fit of pulsing blushes.  During the time of being in the store an identical car, same Ford model and same colour, had decided to park itself next to the manager’s car.

It was my first day and probably my most memorable day, which may reveal how it all went from there.  Nothing I could do from that day forward would cause a bigger impression.  I went out that week and bought a new belt to make sure of it.

The TV Repairman Always Rings Twice

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One Sunday evening my uncle’s neighbour walked out of his house and noticed a small van parked in the driveway of his neighbour’s house next door.  The neighbours two doors down from my uncle’s house were at the time away on vacation.  My uncle’s neighbour, for the sake of this short urban tale, let’s call him Richard, became instantly suspicious.  The van was white and looked like any of the eighty white vans Richard passes on the roads every day.  He walked over to the fence to take a closer look at the house and saw that the front door was open.

Richard was about to turn to go over and take a double-closer look when two men dressed in blue overalls walked out of the front door carrying a TV.  They spotted Richard as soon as they were out of the house and casually continued to carry the TV towards the van.  Richard called out, “are you guys right?’ I gotta ask yous what you’re doing here with Jimmy’s (neighbour’s fictitious name) television?”  One of the TV carriers replied that they were from the local electrical store across from the train station, there was in fact an electrical store across from the train station, and Jimmy, Richard’s next door neighbour, had asked them to come around and service the television while he was away.

Richard thought for a moment, weighing up the story, and then replied, ‘you got room for another TV in there?  The TV in my games room has been making this buzzing noise lately.’  The TV carriers said, ‘sure, we can do that.  Just a sec, we’ll put this down and come around and get it.’

Richard showed the two TV repairmen into his house, pointed out the TV, and the jolly repairmen picked it up and carried it back to their white Sunday evening TV repairman’s van.  They told Richard to come past on Wednesday and pick it up from the store.  They reversed out of Jimmy’s driveway and smiled a ‘so long’ to Richard.

Jimmy returned home from vacation on Tuesday and Richard did not go to the store on Wednesday.  Today the neighbourhood just put it down to Sundays being a day that people put their brains into stand-by knowing that the following day will see it switched on and run relentlessly for another five or six days.  Richard had a right to shut down his brain too.

Escape From An Australian Magpie Ambulance

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ImageKangaroos camping at the bottom of my parents’ house in Eden Park, Victoria, Australia.

You don’t have to live in a country like Australia to come across injured and dead animals on the side of the road, though I imagine that you’d come across them more often in countries like Australia where wildlife is widespread and boisterously varied.  My parents moved to an outer Melbourne area when we were young called Eden Park on the perimeter of the city where the land lots become large enough to be called farms and the diverse Australian fauna freely move and live harmoniously enough amongst the sparse human habitants.

I think there is not one person that I do not know who lives in the area and has not had the unfortunate experience of colliding their automobile into one of the many fury or winged locals; there are so many of them roaming about that over the course of your driving life you’re likely to hit one every two-thousand flies.  Kangaroos are the most commonly hit, followed by wombats and rabbits and sometimes a thirsty koala will attempt a reckless and failed road crossing, ducks and all sorts of birds also make the roadkill list of the local species.  Every member in my immediate family, mum, dad and my three sisters, have all had accidents with kangaroos, most of my friends and extended family too.

There is rarely any humour derived from hitting one of Australia’s favourite marsupials.  I’ve never heard somebody tell a story of hitting a wombat or finding an injured koala on the side of the road where any laughter followed, and rightly so, though I am sure that there are rare and magical moments where a marsupial road accident was signed off with a smile after a happy revival.  So I thought I would recount a similar story that ends with a light film of humour and a lesson learned related to one of the many bird type accidents that occur on Australian roads every day.

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An Australian Magpie in flight

My sister, one day, approximately a month after obtaining her driver’s license, was driving into town and while scanning the flanks of the open road ahead spotted a magpie in the distance lying on its back.  A magpie is a common Australian bird found, very territorial, is black and white and grows up to approximately 18 inches tall.  It’s not unusual to see road kill on a morning drive into town, however no matter how many times you spot a dead animal you just cannot win your eyes aways from it.  Every road death makes a sorrowful impression that stains the mood however momentary.  My sister, Sonya, glumly kept the magpie in view and as the car drew closer she noticed a twitch of the leg.  It could have been the wind but when you have the ‘save the world’ attitude like my sister you always give hope of life the benefit of the doubt.

My sister pulled over and after a quick inspection of the magpie’s state determined that the magpie was still alive and unconscious.  If she could get the magpie to the veterinarian on time she could save it.  She put the magpie into the car and decided to drive to the nearest veterinarian about 20 minutes drive towards town.  It was not the first time she had found herself in this situation.  She was in suburbia within 10 minutes and now part of the urban traffic parade.  Driving along, all of sudden, she heard a thud against the back window.  She jerked her head around to see what it was, thinking the magpie had awoken and rocketed into the window but she did not see anything.  She turned to the magpie on the back seat and it was gone.  In less than a second her eyes were back on the road and another thud, heavier than the last distracted her.  She quickly turned and found herself face to impending beak with her winged passenger.  The magpie had broken out of its coma and was desperately seeking the comfort of its skies.  Sonya moved her head in time and the bird flew strait into the windscreen.  It jolted back up and tried the back window again.  In a snap it was bulleting for Sonya’s head again; she now knew that she had to get the bird or herself out of the car or risk injury to herself or somebody else outside the car.

Sonya quickly summed up the traffic situation and swerved into a vacant spot alongside the sidewalk.  She flung open her door at the moment the car stopped and threw herself out onto the sidewalk.  As she sat herself back up she was unsure whether she or the magpie was first out the door.  She got back up on her feet, brushed herself down and jumped back into the car.  After she had put her seat belt on she turned to look out the wind screen and saw the magpie on the car bonnet looking at her.  It looked her in the eyes, turned to the side and flapped itself back up into the homely skies.  Every time this story is told to a neighbour or somebody that has been in a similar situation, they joke, ‘thank the lord that was not a kangaroo.’

I am sure that the next time my sister Sonya uses her car as a magpie ambulance she will foot-cuff the bird to a back door handle.

How to Revive Gold Fish and Impress the Kids

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BBT3 Twin Betta    Gold fish are popular pets for children.  Compared to many other   pets they are low maintenance, do not pose a threat of destroying parts of the house or property, do not entice children with the desire to take them on walks outside the confinements of the house, cost little to keep alive and healthy and rarely break limbs or prone to injuries that will require an expensive visit to the vet and result in a traumatic episode involving both the animal and the child.  These limitations mean that children do not usually become as emotionally attached to them because of the minimal opportunities to physically play and generally care for them.  The death of a gold fish does not generally have the same emotional quake as the death of say, a dog or cat.

However, the longer the gold fish live, the longer children keep them in their living rooms, the more time they spend feeding them, poking their fingers into the water to attract a rapid smooch or stir some attention, routinely washing out the tank, the greater the bond develops.

My sisters and I had two gold fish when we were children called Gertrude and Bartholomew.  Compared to gold fish that our friends owned, they lived a decently healthy long life.  Gertrude and Bartholomew saw us grow from children into the middle stages of puberty; to be more precise they lived for about 10 years, in the same humble and modest fish tank.

We kept a miniature aluminium barrel of fish food which we would modestly scatter over their domestic skies each day after one of us having screamed out if anybody had fed them yet.  There were however feeding moments when we wanted to break the monotony of sprinkling packaged fish food.   We wanted to treat them to something big, something they would have seen us devour with much eagerness, instead of having to suck down the smelly fish flakes that looked like dead skin, and so occasionally, and unbeknown to our parents, we would treat them to pieces of sliced white bread.

We knew that fish mouths are much smaller than human mouths – our parents reminded us frequently.  However, we also knew that treats were given on exceptional occasions and we wanted to prove to our aquatic pets that we loved them.  One Saturday morning, my sisters and I decided to treat Gertrude and Bartholomew to a bread crumb banquet and served out one slice of the softest white bread available in the house.  We broke it up, sprinkled it across the water surface, watched them chow down a crumb or two and then went off to romp the Saturday away.

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Approximately thirty minutes later my sister, Sonya, noticed Gertrude lifelessly floating on top of the water.  Sonya shouted out the emergency, ‘Gertrude, the fish, it looks so dead!’  The entire household ran over to discover the seriousness of her SOS call.  The gold fish was at this time 6 years old and had never required an emergency call.   We took the fish tank to the kitchen sink.  It’s all a blur and I cannot recall if taking the fish tank to the kitchen sink was to begin an early funeral due to the sudden disappearance of hope, however I remember my dad taking Gertrude out of the tank and lying her lifeless fish body on the side of the sink.  He then opened a drawer and pulled out a butter knife.  He had done some pretty bewildering things in the past but surely he was not going to spread Gertrude across a slice of bread, the same loaf of bread that we had killed her with!  Dad saw the horror in our faces and assured, “there is still hope.”

He drew Gertrude, all dull,  the shiny redness of her scales now looking like discarded copper, to his mouth, mouth to mouth, and shot three swift breaths into Gertrude.  He then lowered her and opened his palm and picked up the butter knife.  Three gentle but snappy taps with the knife handle on Gertrude’s belly and chest, it was hard to see where the chest finished and belly began, and then back up for another bout of CPR.  Three more bullet breaths into Gertrude and back down for another volley of butter knife fish belly drumming.  Up again for another series of man-mouth to gold fish-mouth respiration.  Then we saw a miracle right there in our kitchen; a flick of Gertrude’s tale.  “Did you do move Gertrude’s tail, dad?” asked my sister Sonya.  Dad smiled and Gertrude slowly stretched open her mouth.  Life had returned to her and her tail flicked lightly.

Dad put her into the fish tank and calmly let her go.  Gertrude moved, sunk a little, drunkenly and slowly spiralled down, we began to quickly lose hope again.  Dad put his hand into the water and gave Gertrude a little pat on the butt and Gertrude, almost offended, turned her nose up at him and with a small degree of sombre poise she shook her tail and waddled upwards.  We turned to dad and to each other with incredulous looks of happy disbelieving belief.  Gertrude went on to live another three years though her legend within the Tascone family will live on for as long as we, perhaps even longer.

We had a family dinner just last night at my uncle and aunt’s and got onto the topic of tragic animal and pet deaths and my mother brought up this exact story.  I exclaimed how it was a coincidence for I had just begun writing a blog about it!  But it was living proof that the legend of Gertrude, the butter knife kitchen CPR gold fish is still strong.