The salesman and the intern

I have less contact with Irish people than I’d like. That’s through no fault of mine or theirs. It’s because I spend most of my time in a very international company that makes it hard to meet people from Ireland. Well, until tomorrow, that is.

So I was happy when a salesman came over to my house. He was selling house alarms. Although I am genuinely interested in purchasing a house alarm, most of my interest in letting him in was just for the opportunity of talking to an Irish person, listening to them talk and enjoy being on the receiving end of a sales pitch, for a change. Mind you, I didn’t call and request a visit (that would be a bit too much just for cultural contact), he came knocking around the neighborhood and I just decided it’d be nice to let him do his pitch (plus it was cold as ever).

I don’t usually invite strangers to my house. And in Brazil this would never happen, because I always lived in apartments (since moving out of my parents’). But this guy didn’t seem threatening, weird, aggressive or anything of the sort. And I really was curious about house alarms. Plus, he had a cute intern. Way too young for my taste, but still cute.

I offered him and his intern a cup of tea but instead of presenting the proposal, he started rambling about life in general, how cold it was, how it was nice to have cats at home, how I could have left Brazil for this weather and all manner of things. He even showed me a pic of a cat he snapped on the window of a nearby house, and said that my name was uncharacteristic for a Brazilian, and how he worked with many others who had complicated names. I was surprised, as I was expecting the “let’s get down to business” approach. He probably wasn’t too keen on going back out in the cold. And I offered them tea, which must be salesmen code for “let’s stay here forever”.

 

So he told me of his life and his travels. He had been a chef, for twelve years. Specialized in seafood. I had to hold myself back from saying that I hated seafood. That was irrelevant at that point. But I hate seafood. I don’t hate a lot of things, but I hate seafood. And capers. And raisins. Well, perhaps I do hate loads of things. I don’t really know why I always must tell people that. But there, now you know, I hate seafood. Except fish. And shrimp, on occasion.

His intern was not really an intern, more of a new hire with no experience whatsoever. And the intern’s sister works in the same company as me, so that became another point for conversation, detracting from the sale itself. We spent a few minutes discussing how amazing the company was and how lucky she was to be there, and what department she worked in and if I had met her (I hadn’t). I left out the fact that I’m leaving the company, as that could have cut the conversation short and I was really enjoying it.

I didn’t ask how he went from chef to salesman. I knew the answer, and it was the recession. I know plenty of people here who are doing whatever they can just to keep the bills paid, and I think very highly of someone who’s not too proud to take up any acceptable employment instead of sitting at home and complaining about the state of the economy. Of course you want to make use of your education and do what makes you feel like you’re challenging yourself and learning and so on, but sometimes it’s just not the right time. Takes a lot of patience to accept this and know that things can get better, if only you endure the hard times. This guy probably still cooks and loves it, but things took a turn and for now he must sell house alarms. I fell in love with him a little right then and there.

He then proceeded with the sales pitch, and explained how burglars knew how to disarm a bell alarm and take all your belongings and leave you feeling empty without your LCD TV. He then explained why that particular system he was selling was so much more interesting. It had INFRARED. I instantly remembered Mission: Impossible, the first one, where they have to dance around infrared. Or was it Thomas Crown? Well, both movies sucked, and probably had infrared, as any good robbery movie has. If a movie can include a scene with a hot actress contorting around infrared, the scene will be there.

But going back to the pitch, he then said that, if it did not bother me, he’d ask the intern to explain the system to me. And also added that I should not be afraid, as if he said something wrong he’d be corrected on the spot. I was glad, since I am always worried that I might be misinformed on house alarm technology by newbie salesmen.

The kid shook like barley in a Ken Loach movie.

He got up, moved around the kitchen trying to explain where the sensors would go, and how that was so much better than a perimeter alarm. The thing would criss cross my entire house once I left and armed the set up. No window or door would be opened without the police being warned and dispatched to my house.

And, given my cats were strolling around the kitchen, the question was at the tip of my tongue and the obvious answer on the tip of theirs: wouldn’t the cats trigger the alarm?

Yes.

It was nice meeting you and this was a great chat, guys. If you’re ever in the neighborhood, come in for some tea.

But they had a solution for that. Well, a half-assed solution. I could isolate the cats in one room and disarm the system in that specific room.

I knew it wouldn’t work. My male cat is actually a mountain goat in disguise, climbing every single piece of furniture he can. There was no way.

But I didn’t want to end the conversation, and it’s not very polite to just say outright that you’re not buying whatever they’re selling. At least where I come from, you politely say you’ll think about it, and then never do. So I indulged on the possibilities of the cat/alarm equation.

My brother was sitting at the table throughout this whole thing, and once he finished buying his ticket for a musical in London, he joined the conversation. Turns out the salesman had gone to college in London and had fond memories of the place and of the whole West End. If we had opened a bottle of wine it would have been an evening among friends. I considered ordering a pizza.

The conversation then took a left into doing walking trips for charity. Not sure how, but that’s where we landed, and this is also a dream of mine, so you can imagine how this made the conversation even longer. Salesman had a dream of walking the whole of Ireland’s coast for charity, and reckoned it would only take him a month. I was thinking more in terms of a year, but clearly I’m lazy. Now I want to get from Dublin to Athlone in five days, following the canal. He says it’s possible, so it must be.

I could have spent another hour talking to them, just for the joy of hearing people tell their stories. Me, the person who’s too shy to talk to strangers and abhorred being a reporter because I couldn’t really care about the lives of others. How far have I come from my initial self.

But we had to get to the dogs. I had promised my siblings we’d go to Shelbourne Park and see the greyhounds race. I had never been personally in there, if you don’t count the time when a friend lived in the apartments overlooking the track and we had dinner while looking at the track. So I told them I’d think about the alarm system and discuss the acquisition with my landlord, which I fully intend to not do. Then we agreed to talk on Saturday, when he will be coming around again. Like a Carly Simon song.

  • Luiz Carlos de Assis

    Absolutely tasty text! (deveria ser ‘tasty writing’, mas não resisti à aliteração)