Paula

As my car slowly and suspiciously crept up the cul de sac to my appointment I tried to contort my grimace into something resembling a smile. I knew that my company wasn’t going to be able to help this customer.  He didn’t qualify for our services, and I hoped that luck would grant me a thirty second meeting consisting only of my apologetic rejection.  After that I could use my precious time on more important things, like calling my boyfriend to complain about the wasted appointment I had just been sent to.  I was too early to my visit, as usual, and I mentally cursed the homeowner when no one came to the door.  “Worthless loser can’t even be on time for an appointment,” I thought.  My grin was stretched grotesquely from ear to ear as I strolled back to my car.  Protocol was to wait thirty minutes, which I wasn’t going to do.  I was already fifteen minutes early, and if this person didn’t respect me enough to be ten minutes early to his own home, I figured he could waste some other smuck’s time.  “Five minutes and counting,” I thought, and forced a pleasant sounding sigh.   

One minute passed and I took out my phone.  Protocol also required me to call my office, tell them to call my customer and then wait for the office to call me back.  Either the inside team would manage to speak to the customer or they would hold their breath and wait for a call back.  This was supposed to further waste my time in the management’s hopes that if the customer was trying to avoid us, they would have no choice but to emerge from their home or come back from whatever fake errand they had been running.  I started dialing the customer.  .  

It was then I heard the dulcet tones of Paula Abdul approaching.  A white Mercedes convertible came into view, top down and cruising quickly, I noted, at a speed somewhat excessive for a dead end.  

Without any real acknowledgement of my robotic wave the Paula fan pulled his car into the opening garage door and hopped out, immediately grabbing grocery bags from his trunk.  

“Um yes?” the guy paused briefly, hands tangled in the plastic Stop and Shop purchases.  

I introduced myself, reminded the guy of our scheduled appointment, and tried to get a read of what I was looking at.  Flipflops, tight jeans sagging slightly off his butt.  His hair was bleached a white hot blonde, dripping with oil and hanging loosely over the shaved section in the back.  He looked disheveled, I thought to myself.  Maybe caught off guard that he had forgotten about the appointment?  “Or he’s on crack,” I added.  Whatever it was, he invited me in without making eye contact and sashayed through his garage door to the kitchen.  

“Just watch out for the dogs, they’re harmless but bitches.” He said as he unsteadily motioned me toward the kitchen.  “So old.”  

Without saying anything else he deposited his bags on the couter top and started sorting through his groceries.  

“Do you need help with any of that?”   

“No, I just need to make sure the salmon roe gets in here.” He said without making eye contact.  His refrigerator was seemingly busting at it’s hinges with food.  He clumsily shoved items around to make room.

“Oh it’ll go here,” he said, this time to himself. “Right next to Jasmine’s pee.”

He paused and then gestured toward me.

So sanitary, right?”

My gut instinct after three minutes with this guy was to walk out the door but I took the bait.  “Did you say pee?”

“Jasmine’s pee, it has to go in the big tupperware since we take it everyday.”

For some reason, this guy was under the impression I knew who Jasmine was. He move a few more items around before moving the tupperware to the top shelf.  

I took a shot in the dark.   “The dog……?”

“Yes, we have to get some every day now.”

With that he stopped talking and started searching for a spot to place the celery.  I forced myself to come up with a response.  “Does she…. have…some sort of problem?”

Of course she did, I thought, why else would jars of her urine be aging in the fridge?  I resented the guy for making me even ask the question.  

“Yes and it’s making her a complete bitch,” was his only response.    

“Well…. I guess we all have our problems,”  I was struggling to put a positive spin on this conversation.  What the hell was with this guy, anyway?   

“Ya, I would know, my psoriasis is out of control.”

“Oh,”  I trailed off.  

“Well let’s go,” He said cutting me off. He walked toward the back door and grabbed a pair of beige clogs before stepping unsteadily onto the porch.   

Outside he decided it was time for him to talk, and talk he did, without any real participation on my end. He liked all the trees in his yard.  He liked the church parking lot behind their property.  He and his partner didn’t garden.  The customer pointed out the random tulip that was growing about 20 feet away from us.  “Those shitty little bunny rabbits are going to try and eat that,” he said.   

Yet again another silent pause and I stared at the doomed tulip.  

“I suntan up there.”   

I took the bait.  The customer was pointing the the small, steep, asphalt roof three stories above us.  

“You suntan? Up THERE?”  

“Oh ya, sure, why not, lots of sun.”  

No, actually, due to the forest around us there wasn’t any sun at all, I thought.  “How did you get up there?  I don’t see any window access?”  

“Oh I just climb the ladder.”

At this point he took off his sunglasses for the first time and started shuffling back toward the porch.  Neither of us said anything until we reached to door.

“Well I’m sorry we won’t be able to help you,” I finally uttered the apology meant initially for the driveway.   With that, he turned to make eye contact.  The customer’s face, normal looking moments before, was now red and blotchy.  His left eye appeared to be swelling dangerously.  

“Oh well,” he shrugged his shoulders and extended his limp and now reddening hand. “I guess it’s alright.”

“Is that psoriasis??!” I screamed in my head.  “Is that contagious? Don’t touch him you fool!!!”  

While my mental alarms went into full panic mode the professional salesman on the outside took over.  “JUST FREAKING SHAKE HIS HAND,” the salesman threatened.   The customer’s hand was limp, with little bumps on it.  We shook.  

“Nice to meet you!”  I mumbled and broke into a power walk toward the garage.  

“Oh Jasmine, you bitch, now you wake up to say goodbye?”  

His dog, an obese and elderly chihuahua, limped from a back room, pausing to give both of us the stink eye.  

“What a sweet looking dog,” I said, noting how the customer’s eye was now throbbing.  
“Oh, I guess,” he said, acknowledging her with a wave of his hand.  “She’s old.”  

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