So this week is a little ahead of schedule. You can blame John Scalzi for that. He put up a post on filmcritic.com with several story ideas and I took one and ran with it. It's a little different from what I normally write, but that's nothing but a good thing. I'll save the story that I was writing for this week for next week. Enjoy!
My name is Bob Farley and I'm a car salesman. A damn fine car salesman too, if you ask me. I didn't earn the name The Road Warrior for not being able to sell cars, if you get my drift. Anyway, I've got a story to tell you about the strangest customer I've ever had. It all happened on a fine day in July of last year. It was nearing closing time and my sales manager stopped by my office on his way out.
"Hey Bob, I'm heading home a little early today," he said to me.
"Alright, Jake. I'll see you tomorrow," I responded.
He turned away to leave and stopped short. Smiling to me, he said, "Bob, I think there's a man outside who needs the Road Warrior treatment. Looks like a tough sale, but you could sell an ice cream truck to an Eskimo."
I smiled at Jake's vote of confidence as I stood to get a look at the potential customer. Man, this guy just looked strange. It must have been at least one hundred degrees on the pavement out there, but this dude was wearing beat up jeans and a black leather jacket. He had on some of those shades you saw on the CHiPs guys in the 80s. He looked like a tough customer alright, but I'm up for any challenge.
"You'll see a sales form on your desk in the morning, Jake," I said to him as I slapped him on the shoulder on my way to the lot.
"Good luck!" he called out as he headed the other way.
The guy didn't seem to be looking at any car in particular. Normally, when I size up a customer, I look to see what they're interested in and see if they are longingly glancing at anything else. This guy seemed a little blasé about all of the cars. He just kept glancing around and shaking his head.
I got a couple of feet away from him, but he didn't seem to react to my presence. This wasn't unusual in itself; most people ignore a salesman until he speaks first. It kind of goes with the game. So I said, "Howdy, friend. Looking for anything in particular?"
The guy looked over his shoulder at me for a moment before turning his head back to look at the sports car in front of him. He had one hand on his hip and the other in front of himself. It looked like he was holding something, but I couldn't see what from where I was standing. When he spoke, he had a strange accent that told me he wasn't from around here. He said, "I'm looking for a man who calls himself 'The Road Warrior'."
I smiled to myself. My reputation must have spread for someone to be seeking me out to have me sell them a car. I said to him, "You've found him, friend. Name's Bob Farley." I extended my hand.
Suddenly, he whirled around and pointed a sawed off shotgun at me. Shocked, I raised my hands and quickly stammered out, "Look, buddy. We don't have any cash here."
The man frowned at me and growled, "I'm not here for money. I'm here because you're soiling my reputation!"
I quickly went from scared to confused. "I'm afraid that I don't understand you," I said.
The man threw his arms in the air in disgust. "You mean that you haven't heard of me?" he yelled.
"Well, partner, not by just looking at you. Maybe if you told me your name, I may have," I replied.
"I've been known by many names, Bob," he said my name with much disdain. "The Road Warrior is one of them. I've also been called Mad Max, and The Man With No Name."
He looked at me with anger and a little bit of hope in his eyes. I knew that this man didn't really want to hurt me, so I put my hands down. "Listen, Max," I said in as friendly a tone as I could muster. "I'm married to the job, you know what I mean? I don't get out much. It's mostly just home to work to home again."
Max looked dejected. I put my arm around him and said, "Listen, pal. If it helps you feel any better. I'll tell everyone to stop calling me 'The Road Warrior'."
He looked up at me with hope renewed showing plainly on his face. "You'd do that...for me?"
I slapped him on the shoulder and said, "Sure thing, though you gotta do something for me in exchange."
Now Max looked a little suspicious, though I couldn't blame him. I was about to throw him a pitch. "What's that?"
I put as big a smile as I could on my face and threw a little wink out there too. "Well, Max," I said, "you're going to have to drive off of this lot in one of these cars."
Max looked a little surprised and glanced around. "Uh, I'm not sure..."
I interrupted him and said, "Now, now Max. Let's not be too hasty here. I'm not even going to ask you if you're in the market for a new or previously owned car. Everyone is in the market, Max. They just don't know it yet."
I let him soak on that as I turned him around to face the sports car that he was looking at earlier. It was a two year old Corvette that we'd had trouble offloading because of how many miles it had on it. "Now, take a look at that beauty right there. What do you think?"
To his credit, Max really did check the car out before replying. He said, "I don't think that this is the car for me, Bob. It doesn't have any storage space, though I like how fast it looks."
At that moment, I knew that I was going to sell a car today. He didn't outright refuse and he gave me some ammunition. I fired away with, "Alright, Max. Not enough storage capacity, eh? How much do you need? I've got some mid-sized and luxury cars around the corner, if you're interested."
I started to guide him towards those cars, but he wouldn't budge. He shook his head and said, "No, I'll be travelling for quite a while, so I'll need to be able to haul a lot around with me. Maybe a pickup?"
To this day, I'm not sure if I successfully suppressed the wince that wanted to fight its way onto my face, but either way, he didn't seem to notice. The problem was that I'd just sold our last pickup the day before. The dealership is in farm country, so we never keep good pickups for very long. I thought quickly to try to figure out a way to spin this. "Well, Max, I hear what you're saying, but I think that I have an even better idea for you, if you'll follow me."
He shrugged and nodded then followed me as I led him over to where our minivans were parked. "Now, Max, if you're going to be on the road a lot, hauling things...sure, you could have a pickup, but there are a couple of problems with that."
I paused to let him soak on that and to make him ask, "What problems, Bob?"
"Glad you asked, Max. One, I'm assuming that from day to day, hauling your goods, you're not going to be able to park yourself in a garage of any type, right?" He nodded and so I continued, "Right. Well, with a pickup, your goods would be right out in the open for just anyone to come by and scoop up while you're sleeping. Am I right?"
Max stood there thoughtfully for a second, then nodded and said, "I guess so."
I smiled. This was like shooting fish in a barrel. "The next problem is the elements. In an open bed truck, you've got rain, dust, hail, all sorts of weather getting all over your goods. In an enclosed van, you don't have those issues."
Max nodded and looked over the minivans that were parked in front of him. He looked unconvinced and said, "I see your points, Bob, but I just don't know. A minivan? Won't I loose style and cool points?"
I chuckled and said, "Shoot, no. Just look at these beauties, Max. The new style of minivans are sleek, stylish and have great gas mileage to boot!"
I saw that I had piqued his interest. "Really?" he asked.
I nodded and guided him towards one of the pricier model's sticker. "Heck yes," I said. "Look at that. You can't beat that with a stick. You certainly wouldn't get that kind of mileage with a truck."
Max looked it over and I opened the doors for him. He sat down in the driver's seat and said, "Can I test drive it?"
With a big smile on my face I said, "Sure thing, Max. Though you're going to have to put that pea shooter away. Don't want anyone to think you're car-jacking me."
He blushed as he looked down. He must have forgotten that he was carrying it. "Oh, yeah. Sorry about pulling that on you earlier, Bob. You know that the damn thing isn't even loaded? Hard as hell to find shells for it these days. Even if it were loaded, damn thing misfires more often than not."
As confusing as he was, I knew that this sale would be closed within an hour. During his test drive, I steered him towards a buddy's gun shop to pick up some 12 gauge shells for him. He was elated. My buddy even cleaned and fixed up the gun for him.
As he was leaving with his new minivan a little later he stopped and said to me, "You know what, Bob? Keep the 'Road Warrior' nickname. It suits you better anyway. I'll stick with Mad Max."
I just laughed and waved as he drove off. Strangest customer I've ever had.