In light of COVID-19 related social distancing practices, I woke this morning from a dream about normal social interaction. To be fair, it wasn’t truly plain and simple, there were still some hallmarks of the dream-state, but the settings were mostly normal. And believe me when I say, the following is not externally embellished.
It started with me swinging by my parents’ house after work, just to visit and chat. Then, I guess some door-to-door sales guy was outside to sell them a GutterGuard. Dad blamed me for this, not in an angry way, but in a, “you have to learn from the consequences of your actions” way. Dad had it in his mind that I had somehow signed up for this consultation, that an appointment was made by me being careless with my email address or phone number online. So I had to go talk to the sales guy.
Since my day job is sales-adjacent, I decided to be polite and let the guy give his whole pitch, even though we had no intention of buying anything from him. Wait – – no, before I went out, Dad, still wanting me to endure the interaction with a salesperson as some sort of penance, also directed me to “at least find out how much it would cost,” as he was aware of the quality reputation of the product in question and thought it may prove a beneficial upgrade to the house.
So I go out on the porch to talk to the guy, and he has somehow set up a whole trade show booth presentation about his products outside the door. To be clear, he didn’t have an actual trade show tent, he just had full displays and samples and stuff hanging from a sort of collapsible frame set up on my parents’ front porch, so not totally magical and absurd, but ever so slightly beyond the limits of reality, or at least what could be realistically expected – there was no, “hi, let me get my stuff out of my car and set up for this meeting,” it was just, he was there, and his stuff was set up. I also had that dream-state awareness, that there was a colleague of his nearby doing the same thing with another potential customer, but like, not at their front door, more like ten feet away in our yard, but it didn’t feel inappropriate, just like, “yes, people are selling things, they are doing their jobs.”
So the guy is addressing me as if I am the homeowner, and I’m not, and I know I’m not, and I’m not doing or saying anything to lead him to believe I am, but I am also, not stating that I’m not, because I’m going to let him make his assumptions and keep that detail in my pocket in case I need to use it as an out later. And he goes through his spiel and asks me questions that I’m supposed to nod and say, “yeah, that sounds right” to, and I do. And he doesn’t bring up price, and in the back of my head, I’m just thinking, I wonder how much this costs. And in my head, I’m also coaching myself that when we do get to the question of price to get a direct answer on all the costs, product, installation, labor, fees, warranty, etc., because I have to have all the details for Dad.
And I’m checking the time, because I want to be respectful and let this guy do his whole bit, because I know it’s his process, but there’s also a vague awareness that there is something to do or somewhere to be later, or maybe I have decided I don’t want to waste any more of my time or his. And I’m not letting him continue because he’s new and needs the practice, I mean he is young, but I don’t think he’s new-new, because he is confident and appears knowledgeable. Maybe he’s new to this product, but he has definitely sold before, like he’s not afraid of whether or not he’s going to make the sale, he’s just doing his pitch like he always does, because sometimes it works and sometimes it doesn’t, but it works enough that the job is worth it to him.
But eventually it gets to be too much. I’m tired of pretending to listen, and I just want an estimate, because we know it’s a good product, and we know we would benefit from it, but we don’t really need it, so we just want to see if it feels worth it to us. So I jump in and press him on how much is this all going to cost. He then proceeds to go through the different levels of product, like apparently there’s a deluxe and premium and different materials, and now I’m getting agitated because it’s probably been twenty minutes or so and it’s just a GutterGuard! It does one thing! How are there so many different options to a product that either keeps leaves and debris out of your gutters while letting the water flow through or doesn’t? Like really? Why in the world is your product not one thing? At this point I’m not sure how the guy responds or if he does or if I walk away, the scene just sort of dissolves.
That evening we’re at a bar or restaurant, but it’s a music venue with a stage. Like you walk in and there’s a sort of a small vestibule but there’s one or two cafe tables in that area before you walk into the main room. The small entryway-with-tables (where I am seated with a half-finished darkish amber beer, everyone else hasn’t arrived yet) has a little bit of late evening sun filtering through, the rest of the space is lit primarily blue. Through just a doorway it opens up and to your right it a full bar, a c-shaped rectangle. This is the “back” of the room. Up front (left walking in the door way) just past what could be a dance floor save for some tables is the stage, a low rectangular platform no more than twelve inches of elevation. A house kit and mic stand set up. There is a band playing later tonight, but they have not loaded in yet. The venue itself is not any real place I have been but the dimensions are somewhere in between the Firebird before it closed, and the Gramophone before it renovated, and the vibe is somewhere between the Dark room when there’s nothing going on, and the Emerald room at the Monocle, right before the doors open.
My parents arrive, and they may or may not be joined by someone else, but I feel like there is a fourth person, maybe my brother, maybe a friend of mine, possibly Logan Johnson. I grab my beer as we all wander in through the doorway to a low, round table on the opposite side, near the bar. There’s a bit of a time shift here, we may or may not order food, but eventually it is time for karaoke here. There are no visible screens, people just go on stage and seem to know the songs, but there is a songbook and song slips you give to the bar. At some point someone one stage is doing an odd cut from Falsettos. My awareness of what it is begins around “My name is Mendel.” When the karaoke performer gets to “His name is Mendel…” I start to sing along with the “Ahhs” and then I become aware of other voices singing, too. It is the long rectangular table directly in front of the stage seated with eight or ten late high school or early college age theatre kids. They wind up going back and forth with the various parts in the song, until eventually they are on stage in a line, doing some sort of dance with every thing. It may be “be alright for the rest of your life,” but I’m not confident at that point. They complete the song and file off through a doorway that probably leads to the kitchen. They return to their table.
The space goes quiet again. It’s not very full and there are not a lot of people doing karaoke. The band is going to arrive soon, so karaoke is almost over, last chance for anyone who wants to sing. I decide I’ll go ahead and do my typical “Hip to Be Square” by Huey Lewis and the News, so I grab the songbook. At some point Mom and Dad and possible other person have to go, so bye, thanks, see you later. I’m looking at the artist heading in the book and searching for the song underneath it, because there is a song code you have to write down on your slip, not just the name of the song. When my eyes shit from looking at the songbook to looking at the slip of paper, I forget the code and have to Look back at the songbook, but now I have to find the artist heading and song again. This goes on for a few repetitions, meanwhile other patrons are leaving. By the time I manage to fill out the slip, the only people in the bar are myself and the staff. I decide I don’t want to sing to an empty room.
I wake up.