As you are now standing alone, the dense fog thickens so that nothing is visible except the heavy droplets suspended in the air that surrounds you. Your mind is just as cloudy as you try to make sense of this strange and surreal odyssey. Should you feel sorry for these owners who should be on top of the world but had such monumental problems? Is this what you want to aspire to? Could you avoid these trappings or do they happen to everyone?
The air is uncomfortably hot and feels like steam against your skin as it mixes with the thick mist. In the distance a church bell tolls and at that moment a dark shadowy figure comes into view. With no apparent motion the visage comes closer but never into focus. You realize this is your third ghost and for a long time it stands as you do, motionless. Unlike your first and second ghost, this presence speaks not a word yet you sense that this spirit knows your very thoughts, fears and shortcomings even better than you do. As if conversing with yourself you seem to know the answers to your many questions before you can even complete the thought. The answers are all the same no matter how you phrase the questions and you in no way want to accept the end result. This one way exchange escalates to a fury but with no outward emotion from your ghost, you cease in frustration.
The church bell rings for the 12th time….
Suddenly you feel a sense of Deja vu and a wave of fear sweeps across your body. Your sure you’ve faced this terror many times before but as if in the haze of a dream you’re in slow motion, terrified by something you can’t see but unable to move or escape.
Without a word the spirit raises his arm and his long black robe unfurls like a pirate ships sail being raised. His long bony finger points to a large dark door that has appeared in the fog. It’s another business and for the first time in this odyssey you feel uneasy peering into the life of another owner. Apprehensive of what you will find, your feet move as if in thick wet cement and you walk through the door.
A Heavy Load
Unlike your first two experiences this is not a fancy office but simply a home. The decor is modest and although clean, it’s obvious the home is lived in. The first room you come to has a baby sleeping snuggly in his crib and the father, the owner you’re visiting, is exhausted and collapsed in the rocking chair just beside him. The baby has a bad case of colic and is only relieved when being held. The devoted Dad spends endless hours each night pacing the room cradling the little one and gets very little sleep & this has been going on for 9 months.
In the next room a small boy lays asleep dreaming of his day at school tomorrow when he will present his science project that sits in the corner. The goal of the work was to create an obstacle course on a large poster board where a marble would go from the top to the bottom in the slowest amount of time but never stop. Over the past week this owner spent hours tweaking this project when he had so many other things he could be doing. Their marble takes a full 23 seconds to run its course and he had such a great time working together with his son he wouldn’t trade it for a thing. The young lad sees his Dad as the smartest person on earth and one day, wants to grow up and be just like him.
Moving to the master bedroom you see a woman getting ready for another 12 hour days worth of work. Her eyes are tired and she applies her make up to cover the wear and tear. For now and the foreseeable future she’s the bread winner of the home but she dreams of a better time when her husbands customer list will match his skill and knowledge of the trade. She’s his biggest supporter and even the number one salesman most of the time. She’s perfected the art of doing her job while always bringing the conversation around to…. “Who does your pest control?” she says with her big and irresistible smile. She has a killer closure rate. Never complaining, she works 6 days a week, does the books and all the things the demanding job of a ‘housewife’ requires. She’s even donned a pest control uniform and serviced his accounts for an entire week once while he was laid up and unable to work. Perhaps her best contribution is that she is forever reassuring her man that someday he will make it big, he will be a successful company owner. But even she has days of doubts when the bills are due and and the numbers just aren’t there. She’s learned to hide her fears well but even he knows, no amount of blush can conceal her insecurity.
The Heart Of The Operation
In the next room a screen saver is the only light that dimly illuminates the room where ownership dreams live, albeit at this time, as only a flicker. There’s an old time rolodex filled with cards of people who promised they’d call but never have. A stack of pending contracts lay neatly by the phone as that days target follow ups. Each has multiple sticky notes attached with scribbled excuses or dates of when our owner was told he could expect an answer to his service. With each passing date, the likelihood of a favorable outcome dims and most of the stack now represents the frustrations of failed sales attempts. He has come to hate that stack. On the wall above his desk is a hand made paper sales and production sheet pinned over the previous months. Whole weeks are filled with zeros or such paltry numbers that would have gotten him fired at any of his previous jobs. A calendar next to it reminds him that another year is slipping away but serves a more important function in that he pins it over his embarrassing tracking charts when anyone comes to visit and wants to see the brain center of his (eh-emm) budding business. On top of his desk is two index card boxes that hold the key to his future. Marked ‘odd’ and ‘even’ every client is assigned a day and placed in the appropriate box. The boxes aren’t even 1/2 full and he dreads the even months as he has way less customers to fill its days and it’s always a bigger burden to meet that months bills.
Another wall boasts of a much happier time in his career and is filled with plaques of achievement. He is proud of that wall but all those awards came with the main benefit going to that companies owner and not him. He’s long since spent any commisions that came with the few sales plaques he has and his tech awards demonstrating his mastery of his trade don’t pay the bills.
Through the window sits a small truck like a trusted friend waiting in the dim morning light. He’s outfitted it with what was expensive but not the latest and greatest tools. Unable to afford tall ladders he’s stood on the roof of his truck to reach bees nests, he’s risked getting stuck on the most god awful roads to get to a possible sale only to be stood up or turned away. Countless peanut butter sandwich’s have been consumed in his apartment on wheels and he’s even learned just where to tap the dash to get better reception for his favorite radio station. It’ll need new tires soon, an expense he’s forced to put off and he hopes that clicking noise when he makes a right turn will soon go away on its own.
Beyond the truck is a small wooden shed where his supplies are stored. Forced to be a miser he throws nothing away. He makes his own glue boards and has an entire box of reused snap traps. He does his best to recycle old sprayer springs and parts in the hopes he can repair them and squeeze out just a little more life in them. Cans of aerosols with only a shot or two left stand at the ready lined up neatly in a row waiting to be used in a pinch. There’s a big new box of granular bait that sits near the door. He bought it not knowing the price and now embarrassed, he’ll sheepishly try and return it tomorrow. The empty shelves are all labeled and clean, ready to be stocked but he can’t afford the supply.
Back inside you find the owner just out of the shower dreary eyed with a towel around his waist. On the mirror is taped one of the many motivational sayings he has placed around the house. “Selling is like shaving…if you don’t do it everyday, you’re a bum.”
Seemingly in a stupor, razor in hand, he’s leaned over the sink with his face squarely towards the mirror. He doesn’t seem to notice that the steam has completely fogged the glass. You can see he’s deep in thought and instinctively you know what he’s thinking.
When will all this hard work pay off? Am I just a failure? Why can’t I just catch a break? I can’t keep going this way, who’s gonna trust me for a big job when I can’t even sell the little ones? I’m just a fraud, I can’t call myself a pest control company, I have nothing, people can see right through me. I’ll never amount to anything, I’ll never be a success…..
Just then with smiling baby in hand his wife pokes her head in the door and joyfully says. “You got the Klamansky termite job, they left a message on the machine.” At that moment the young boy bounds in and blurts out with pride, “Daddy when I win first place today with my project I want to put my prize on your trophy wall- I’ll be just like you.” The owner is suddenly not so dispirited and even cracks a smile. He’s reminded of why he’s doing this, and he realizes that even though the light at the end of the tunnel is still afar off. It’s certainly bright right where he is.
He decides to approach this day just as it is, brand new and full of opportunity. He turns to the mirror, slowly wipes the fog away revealing the image that’s been there all along and that face,,,,,,,,, is yours.