1:15 p.m. Show up fifteen minutes late, hung over as a mother fuck. I can’t think, let alone communicate. Apparently, we’re selling sponges (I think I knew that?). But not the kind that keeps you from getting knocked up. Nor the kind that we typically use to clean around the house. (Those are filled with gaping holes – a haven for dirt, germs and bacteria.) Not to mention, they’re not absorbant at all, but we’ll get to that.
We’re not just selling sponges. We’re selling sponges. With a microphone, glaring lights, a rehearsed charming demo… The booth is complete with water heaters and Sponge Bob action figures (we are selling yellow sponges).
I can’t think at all. Spent the day bagging two big ones (one for the bathroom, and another for general cleaning – they retail on QVC for $19.95 a sponge, but here at the home show, they’re buy one get one), one small one (the perfect size for tubs, sinks, teflon, pots, pans and dishes) and a paper describing what to do when they get rock hard (why bacteria cannot survive and they don’t get the nasty odor those cellulite sponges get) and where to buy more (but you won’t need another one – they’re guaranteed for a year, but they’ll last for up to twenty or longer).
The demo ends with a dramatic demonstration of how the sponge removes Diet Pepsi from a square of light-colored carpet, Carpe Diem. Carpe Diem is not just any carpet, either. He has a sponge backing which absorbs the Diet Pepsi so it doesn’t form an unattractive puddle on the demo counter. He gets a bath every night, and when he’s not working a home show, he’s accompanied by framed pictures of beloved daughter and grandchildren.
I try to learn the spiel. Three damn minutes. I can’t take it. Pot food won’t help, I decide (thankfully – I can’t risk any more panic attacks at temp jobs).
I refuse to put on the microphone… Still in the H.O. at eight p.m. when the damn thing finally closes.
10:15 a.m. Try the demo, wind up spilling Diet Pepsi on the woman I’d suckered into watching my botch of a demonstration. It really is a convincing demo – especially when my mentor presents it. No one wouldn’t buy these sponges. They’re bacteria, mold and mildew resistent. They work like a vaccuum (that’s why we call it “the sponge that sucks”). It easily cleans any and all surfaces without scratching or leaving any streaks. Use it on cars, boats, RV’s, kitchen counters and kitchen appliances. It even works as a squeegee on your shower doors and glass.
It turns out my mentor has never once spilled Diet Pepsi on a customer in her five years in the business. The customer receives one free sponge, though she hadn’t witnessed the magic absorbant capabilities so vividly demonstrated by Carpe’s dance with Diet Pepsi, and thus she’ll probably never appreciate it. She was pissed, and rightfully so. She left with a brown stain on the crotch of her white pants. Well-rested me decided that it would be socially ackward to demonstrate the amazing absorbant capabilities of the sponge that sucks in this situation. I decide not to cry.
Hours pass. I sell my first sponges. I wear the microphone. I (mostly) remember the spiel, though I’m always forgetting to point out that they’re machine washable (or throw them in the dishwaster – I even bleach mine!). I even say, “So, if you get a spill, what do you do? Get excited, run and grab some paper towels. You might do a little dance on the paper towels, but a whole roll won’t get up the stain or the smell”, and make the joke about pouring the Diet Pepsi back into a glass – either “give it to the person who spilled – you’ll save money on drinks that way” or “give it to the kids – they’ll never know.” America laughs at that. And they love it when I say the word “pee”, even when it is imbedded in a list of liquids the sponge sucks up (not that that list is finite if the list of liquids is not).
8:15 p.m.: I leave the home fair and drive back to Oaktown, to return by noon the next day (which I accomplished, by the way…well, noon oh five). I try the towel (if you buy a bag right now, we’ll throw in a free towel – works like a chamois on your car or trucks, try it as a travel towel – Speedo makes one that Olympic swimmers use to towel off with after events). Not really as absorbant as I’d imagined. And it’s kinda hard to wash off. I’m a little disillusioned. I decide it takes multiple uses to really appreciate their usefulness, and I plan to try it as a face cloth (companies like Aveda, the Body Shop, Dermalo…oh fuck, why can’t I ever say it right?…DermalogEEEca market small squares of it for washing your face – it removes dirt oil and reside without getting any bacteria).
No need for complete sentences when you’re selling something. All that matters is that someone buys what you’re selling.
I manage to acquire prescription speed at the party I attend, a perfect solution to the problem that was the consequence of attending the party in the first place: not sleeping enough.
Take the Adderol and a bong rip, have a lovely drive to Santa Rosa.
12:15 p.m.: My mentor says “you’re looking awfully chipper this morning!” I feel validated. I sell some mops while she demos.
I demo. I sell three sets of sponges from one demo – not bad considering “it takes time to handle crowds.” I realize that I’m really only approaching women with the sponges. The men don’t really nod when I ask them if they’ve noticed how your normal cellulose sponge gets those smelly smells while I wave a clean one in their face. Lukily it’s dripping water, something a PVA sponge never does. It holds the liquid in until you squeeze the end or twist it like a towel. (I later learned that I was not twisting the sponge correctly. I’m going to practice this and my intonations before our next home fair in Conord in April.)
You have to hypnotize the crowd.
And when you do, as my mentor did time and time again, they grab the bags of sponges off the counter. You can’t take the money fast enough, or demonstrate again soon enough to keep their attention. The crowd always moves. But the ones that stay will never have a smelly sponge again. Did I mention that they’re guaranteed for a year, but I’ve heard from customers that they will last for up to twenty? Sometimes I forget to mention that. They’re made of Poly Vinyl Alcohol. (Did I get that right? sometimes I get it wrong. I called “Poly Virtual Alcohol” to one dude, and he didn’t bat an eyelash. Haha. Virtual alcohol. I like it.) It’s a material invented by NASA. It collects dirt, hairs and grime but since it’s dense with only microscopic pores, all the dirt, hairs and grime collects on the outside to be easily washed off by a stream of hot water. It’s the most absorbant material around, and these sponges are the most durable and sanitary on the market.
I learn that there’s money in sales. And you really don’t need complete sentences, but, really, I rather like complete sentences. What I don’t like is the forty hour work week, 50 weeks a year – anything to avoid that.
The big boss comes to meet me, right when I’m selling a mop to a lady who was lucky enough to witness a demo by my mentor. I’ll take it. I’m wearing the microphone and everything.
A trio of three elderly buy a set of sponges from me. They’re going to split the set between them (the towel you receive as a complimentary gift is so big that you can cut the towel in half or quarters to make one dish cloth, one dust rag, and still have half to use for a personal towel – great for traveling! – or a facial rag). They ask me whether I had to memorize the demo, since it seemed so natural to hear me say it. I admit that yes, I had to learn it. They ask how long I’ve been working on it. I modestly pronounce that today was only my third, yes, that’s right, third day selling sponges. I take their congratulations. Fills my belly. Have
I take the congratulations of a long-haird gentlemen that was awfully impressed with my demonstration, but somehow not impressed enough to buy a set of sponges. Asshole. He suggests that they’re really a quite a hippie product, since they’re reusable and biodegradable. I recognize how correct he is, and wonder how he can see my leg hair through my jeans.
The day ends. We total with $5400 in sales (not the best for a homeshow, but not the worst – though, admittedly, in the lower five). I walk away with $300, one mop, six big sponges, one small sponge, and two towels. Not to mention the infinite benefits of the knowledge that the selling of cleaning sponges is a sexist business (men don’t need to see Carpe’s role in the demo – all they need to know is that the PVA sponges and towels won’t leave streaks on their vehicle), that the handle of the mop is telescopic not stereoscopic (it extends to up to five and a half feet – use it to clean high up windows, or RV’s – and compacts for easy storage), and that you really don’t need to know how to spell chamois, or realize that it ought to be italicized in print, to sell a sponge that comes with a free one.
6:15 p.m.: I can’t wait to try out my new PVA mop on our mold on the bathroom ceiling. I drive back to Oak town, lock my keys in my car.
11:41 p.m.: Retreived keys thank goodness for AAA, but have yet to try out my new PVA mop on forementioned mold. Maybe tomorrow. I’ll keep you posted.