The journey to the top is nonstop

I’ve had to run across the airport to catch my plane. I try to be zen about these things but part of me is and part of me isn’t. I know I’m going to make my connection because it’s just about 5 and the plane doesn’t leave until 5:18, but still. The sign says it’s a 7 minute walk to B gates. The hell it is. And so I break into a run with my backpack and daughter’s guitar.

It is this kind of energy I bring with me onto the plane. Everyone is patiently waiting, a small commuter plane where you quickly discern who’s who. Some guy is in my seat and he’s clearly with two other guys in the rows in front. He scootches over but continues talking a notch or two louder but now he’s talking over me, across the aisle to one and to the back of the other. It’s a small plane. I carry the vibe of a guy who just flew in from Seattle and ran across the stupid Salt Lake City airport, shaped like the letter L.

It is clear they are salesmen coming off a big customer meeting. For maybe two seconds I care about what they’re saying but then I am just annoyed. The guy sitting next to me could be a drunk or sick with COVID. He has the rosy tint of a drunk and an occasional cough and yeah, no one on the plane is masked, not even the flight attendant, which baffles me. The plane is a long tube, feminine hygiene style, what they claim over the PA is a safe, clean environment where your personal safety is our number one priority. The journey to the top is nonstop. I am a marketer, I get it. Right now I am just mad and call bullshit.

I say to the guy next to me we can switch seats but I say it in a way that isn’t generous, more irritated, so he can tell I’m annoyed by the involved work talk. That’s stupid though, he can’t sense it and/or doesn’t care. But after a time he tones down and goes into his phone. And so we sit there waiting.

The two guys in front are higher up on the food chain. One, across the aisle from me, has big hands. The other must be the executive. He is the only one with glasses, the thinnest and youngest. They are all fit and just about 40. The drunk with COVID likely the oldest. He is the guy who leads their service group or whatever flanks of doers the three of them represent. The one with the big hands is the chief sales guy. Pressed shirt, wedding ring, laptop. The laptop is undersized and with his big hands looks even smaller, toylike. But he is nimble with it, even uses the touch screen to highlight phrases and gesture to his executive, who leans over the aisle but with the restrained air of an exec. Kind of like he cares but can’t be bothered.

I have gone into my mask and headphones as a way of sealing myself off and now their movements are a silent film soundtracked by me. The one with the big hands is selling in his document or advancing his personal narrative to his boss, using his hands to do so. They are oversized, almost furry, and I picture him as a high school quarterback cupping the pigskin in a way I never could, swallowing the whole of it in one spidery grip. The hands are like paws on a bear mawing a fish. The hands flutter in a rolling motion; one grabs at the skin beneath his chin and tugs at it in a grabby way, almost sexual. One hand reaches up when he’s not looking and pinches the plastic clasp that locks the tray table in place. Pinches it like a nipple, twisting it a half degree. The hands make me realize I don’t need to know what he’s saying because the hands pull most of the weight. He doesn’t even know he’s doing it and nor does his executive, who just keeps nodding. It is all a show. In fact, the movement of the hands is a kind of distraction a magician or side street hustler might employ to make you think one thing while secretly intending another.

I can tell the guy next to me is uneasy with the fact I won’t engage him because he keeps trying to make eye contact in subtle ways. He is a talker and distressed by not having anyone to talk to and nothing to do. He is a leg bouncer and keeps flicking the shade open or shut. There is nothing to see, it’s Utah.

When we get out on the tarmac everyone can see one another full length in natural light. They are slapping each other’s backs and shoulders in that brotherly way. They are all carrying the ardor of testosterone and sales. But they know it and it still makes them proud. It is a meta, multilayered acknowledgment of self that is irresistible to watch and yet mostly BS. They know it, you know it, but it is so well engineered you are glad to surrender yourself to whatever they are selling and even recommend a friend. They are fully realized humans and it is part laughable and beautiful.

And I have to wonder myself what I will do next for money as I am now unemployed and will need to sell myself and my services, as I get in line for the car rentals. And wonder just what that will be I do.

Categories: writing


22 replies

  1. “They are all carrying the ardor of testosterone and sales.”

    That nails it. This is why I never felt comfortable in business–couldn’t drink the testosterone Kool-Aid. You guys realize you’re just selling widgets, right?

    Liked by 1 person

  2. “…whatever flanks of doers the three of them represent.” You absolutey had them pegged. This was so entertaining!

    All the best with your search for what’s next!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. “There is nothing to see, it’s Utah” was an official campaign slogan – – used to be on billboards as you came into the state on the highways. A campaign to persuade Die Ausländer to just keep driving and not get out to contaminate the locals. Hey this was a fascinating episode you put down, intense observation, I’m going to call you Hawkeye Pearse from now on.

    Liked by 3 people

  4. Ooof. I’d be uncomfortable surrounded by all that testosterone. I just a girly-man at heart.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Acutely observed and beautifully described.
    Have you thought about running market research group discussions? The reports would be a killer read!
    Thanks and all the best,

    Liked by 1 person

  6. “The ardor of testosterone and sales” would make a great title. I was thinking for this post, but upon further review I think you should save it for a book. I really enjoyed this. Not that I don’t really enjoy the others, but this one made me say it. I appreciate how you seem to like these assmunches despite your annoyance with them. Or maybe respect them? Had I been siting next to them, I probably would have had to write about it too, but my piece would have wound up way less kind, I think, in the end. But maybe not. Anyhoo, I get it. I got it. This was good.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I love that man. Best comment ever and especially from you, as few people have read my stuff as much as you have. I rely on other writers to help infuse new life into my own writing (sound familiar?) and owe thanks to an essay by David Foster Wallace I read at the airport yesterday, helped remind me of the importance of having fun for one, but lots more too. Had insomnia pretty bad early this morning / late last night so I wrote this on my phone in bed, and happy it landed with you. Makes the burning tired eyes I have now feel like it was all worth it. Thanks for reading man!

      Liked by 1 person

  7. My two favourite lines:
    “I carry the vibe of a guy who just flew in from Seattle and ran across the stupid Salt Lake City airport, shaped like the letter L.”
    “There is nothing to see, it’s Utah.”

    Life is high school, man. Life is high school.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Reading this was like watching a syndicated sitcom episode for the hundredth time. Knowing all the characters and what they would do or say long before they did. Fucking great!

    In the new world, I am thankful I don’t have to be physically near them. Remote work os the best.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. I always was struck by how salespeople have the ability to hype each into a frenzy, believing everyone else believes their BS as much as they do.

    On the other hand, I’ve also watched master schmoozers draw in their victims without the victims having a clue they’re being suckered – like flies on a spider web. (There are a couple of other professions where I’ve seen that too, but we’ll keep it PC.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • Ha, yes! And somehow, I can’t believe I’m saying it, I have a soft spot for the sales folk. I’ve worked with some who drove me a bit nuts and yet had some endearing qualities I couldn’t help but love. And they have some funny universal qualities across all of them I think. That’s what I was tapping into here, or trying to: those “they could be selling anything and they’re all the same” tendencies.

      Liked by 1 person

  10. I have refused to rush in airports ever since a neighbour wrinkled his nose at the odours generated by a run through Heathrow.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Like others, I loved the testosterone phrase. I also really appreciated the observations and projections; a photographer’s detail and an artists vision. The way the scene captured something of work, particularly corporate work, was both attractive and repulsive… then the kicker at the end. A very neat bit of conjuror’s slight of hand.
    Nice writing, Bill.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Hey thanks for spending some time over here last night Bruce after family tele-night, appreciate that! Not sure if you were able to dig back to the one I did with Bowie in it on the self (The First Person) but have a look at that if you can as it would be fun to riff on the next time we talk. And I accepted your challenge to post on the theater experience, hope you enjoy. Thanks for that! I needed a kick.

      Liked by 1 person

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