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The salesman

As I was pushing the cart on the side streets toward Telegraph, there came a rustling in the bushes beside me. On reflex I turned to see what was the noise, and saw a middle-aged woman, crouching in the shrubs. Her pants were at her knees as she squatted and squirted, and my eyes were instinctively drawn toward the fountain.

It was the first time I'd seen a woman's pubic hairs without having even the slightest sexual thoughts. Embarrassment was my only response — blame my mother and a guilty Christian upbringing.

There was nothing for me to be embarrassed about, though, and philosophically, nothing for that woman to be embarrassed about either. The scene I'd seen was as natural as birth and death and everything in between.

I said nothing, she said nothing, and onward I rolled the cart.

Maybe she didn't know, maybe she didn't care, but there is a public restroom at People's Park, two blocks up the street.

♦ ♦ ♦  

In the afternoon, there was a few minutes of easy conversation with a personable stranger, who seemed smiley and outgoing.

Personable, smiley, outgoing — I was pretty sure of the answer before asking, "Say, are you a salesman?" and he gave me a happy yes. He sells vacuum cleaners, he said, but he used to sell 'hand-crafted' jewelry at a table right here along Telegraph Avenue.

He said 'hand-crafted' with the tiniest smirk, so I asked, and he said, "I don't even know, but it sure wasn't hand-crafted by me." A long-time suspicion, confirmed.

Our conversation was interrupted by a couple of potential customers looking at the fish, so I gave them my usual, very brief spiel, "All the fish come as both stickers and magnets." I said it with my best fake smile, but after that I shut up and let them look. As usually happens, they walked away without buying anything.

The salesman-guy asked if that was really my pitch, and I gave him the truth. "I got this job because I know the fish-designer, not because I know sales." I didn't give voice to my next thought, that I could never be a salesman, and wouldn't want to.

He nodded, because of course he'd already known I didn't know what I was doing, and then a youngish couple approached the table, lookie-looing at the fish. "Do you mind?" the salesman/stranger asked me softly. I shrugged, sat back and watched.

"Howdy, folks," he said, sounding sincerely nice, like someone not at all interested in selling anything. "My name's Bob," and within two minutes he'd sold 'em two Dali stickers and a Darwin magnet.

From Pathetic Life #24
Sunday, May 19, 1996

This is an entry retyped from an on-paper zine I wrote many years ago, called Pathetic Life. The opinions stated were my opinions then, but might not be my opinions now. Also, I said and did some disgusting things, so parental guidance is advised.

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