The Way of the Road Warrior
Down at the Pub One Afternoon
“Not all who wander are lost…”
So there I was again, at the corner pub, minding my own business as I do. I was simply admiring Christina through half closed eyes on a lazy summers’ afternoon. She had opened all of the windows and a wonderful calm breeze was keeping the place fresh. Besides the whirling of the refrigerators, the occasional dumping sound from the ice machine and the droning of the television, it was peacefully quiet.
That is until the front door flew open and an ever familiar voice asked, “How fresh is that coffee, baby?” It was Dan, the java loving traveling salesman.
Without missing a beat, Christina spun around with a huge smile and flipped back, “Not nearly as fresh as you are, sir, but let me put a pot on so it can catch up!”
They smiled at each other for a moment and she was about to say something when the silence was broken by another voice saying very dryly, “Hello… Dan.”
He had been so still that I had forgotten that Cecile Myers had been taking up a stool all afternoon. He’d been sipping on a Bud-Lites, eating peanuts and watching Fox News. Don’t know why he was here at this time of day as he owns the local general store, or the Mercantile as he calls it, and he is usually there during the day manning the helm.
The Mercantile is really is a cool little store. Kind of like a Wal-Mart just miniaturized a lot. If you need a float for your toilet, a hitch for your tractor, a toaster for your kitchen, a shirt or pants or sox for your bod, sugar or flour or eggs or bread for your belly, a big screen TV for your den or a computer for your kid, a pool for your backyard or plastic flamingos for your front, Myers Mercantile has it all. And if he doesn’t have at least one of whatever you are looking for, he can get it for you “in no time flat”. A friendly man that is liked by almost everyone around and feels the same about them. But he didn’t like Dan. Not sure why, all anyone knows is that Cecile didn’t like Dan.
This didn’t seem to matter with Dan. He smiled real wide, put his hand out to shake and exclaimed, “Cecile, I was thinking about you as I rolled down highway 141. You see I just got a new company car, a Ford Flex – oh it’s a beauty and I love it and it… it just… well it just doesn’t feel right . Then it came to me – personalization - it has none.” He moved a bit closer and slowly withdrew his hand as it wasn’t being accepted. “So I thought of you!”
“You sayin’ that I don’t have no personality?” The merchant asked accusingly.
“No, no, no sir. Not in the least. What I meant was your store would have what I need… something to give the car personality… some pizzazz… some style… that is, when I’m not in it.”
That last part made Christina laugh, me chuckle to myself and even, believe it or not, made Cecile smile. But he just kept staring into his beer.
“You mean like chrome naked lady mud flaps?”
“No, I have those on my VW bug. I was thinking more along the lines of a hula dancer in a grass skirt to sit on the dash.” He then started to make movements that suggested a hula dance but really didn’t look like one.
“Yeah, I got one of those. ” He laughed, shaking his head and raising his bottle up to his mouth. After a full swig and a swallow, he said staring still at his bottle. “Can’t you find one? After all, you are a salesman that sells everything, or so you claim.”
“Sure, I can get one. Just not at this second. And I want it now.” After looking at him for a moment, he finally asked, “What is it that you don’t like about me?”
Cecile was slow to respond and Dan could see him thinking about it. Christina saw it too and slid Dan a cup of the freshly brewed coffee while they waited. Finally he spoke. “You’re a salesman… and before you go on and say that I am too, I will agree with you. I am a salesman. But I’m grounded. I have a building and an inventory and store hours and employees. You… you drive around in your car, talking to people, selling them stuff that isn't even in your possession. And you… you seem to enjoy it. And you’ve been doing this for twenty years. Do you really still enjoy it.. do you?”
“I do, Mr. Myers. I do love what I do.”
“How could you? I mean, you’re always on the road. You speak of a wife, but when do you see her, when are you home? Where is your structure or routine to building a success? At the end of the month or the week or the day, what do you say to yourself? ‘Nice drive about and oh, I sold some stuff as well?’ How can the lonely miles between major cities not affect you negatively? But yet you enjoy it! How!?!”
Dan slid off his jacket and sat down on a stool a few places down from the merchant. He was quiet for a moment, as if summoning some sort of inner guide, then after taking a slow sip of the coffee he replied, “I follow the Way of the Road Warrior.”
“What kind of horse-hockey is that? The Way of the Road Warrior...”
“It’s a mind set that I possess to deal with all of the things that you just asked about and more. It’s how I understand this job and let it work for me and not me working for the job.”
“Okay, still a bit unclear…”
“First off, I accept the fact that I do what I do – I travel around selling stuff. And I’m good at it. And I’m good at it because I understand the people that I meet and that lets me better comprehend their needs. While that on the surface sounds fairly easy, it’s harder that you think. Your customers come to you while I have to go to mine – and while you customer base changes slowly through time, mine filter through as fast as people are promoted, demoted or fired. Then there are the product lines. What’s new and what’s improved and such. What’s hot and what’s not. Still this is much like you. But, this is where it ends for us. This is where the miles of blacktop and my mind and soul get along.”
Cecile, not looking up took another drink then said, “I’m still listening.”
“You asked me when I am home and when I see my wife. Home? About 9 full days a month. That’s probably more that you as you’re open Monday through Saturday and are usually at the store. And I see my wife all the time. She meets me in Cincinnati or Memphis or Indianapolis. Or I go to meet her somewhere. We see the towns and take in the local music or theatre or just the view. And sometimes we meet in some small place like here just to get away from the big towns. She loves the travelling as I do and home is really where ever we are together. And I’d be a lair if I were to say that it’s never good to sleep alone because when you do… you remember how you feel about that someone else.
“How do I deal with the ‘lonely miles’ as you put it? Well, when I wake up in say Georgia and I know that at the days’ end I have to be in Virginia. I look to all of the spaces in between. The smaller towns and burgs along the way. And that’s exciting! Do you know why?” He paused for a moment, then as if he needed to clarify said, “That was rhetorical…” then he resumed without loosing his rhythm. “I get excited because even if it seems to be an old routine, still there is much that isn’t.
“ When I start the day this way and when I stop in these places, well… it does these three things for me: first, at some point in the day, I will have to talk to someone that I have never met and don’t know. It happens at least once a day and when it does it forces me out of my shell. I have to start the conversation and just jump into it. Which leads me to the next thing - item 2.
“Just starting the conversation isn’t enough, you have to listen and be quick on your feet to respond, properly. And by properly I mean that in certain areas of this country uses phrases like ‘showing your butt’ to describe someone making a fool of themselves. Or they call grocery carts ‘buggies’ or when you ask for a Coke that is either what you get or they’ll ask ‘what type?” So just to start talking to and keep on talking means nothing if you don’t say it in a way that they hear it. We all speak English, it’s just that there are more than a few variations of it – if you know what I mean.
“And that brings me to number ‘C’… it makes me try new things and appreciate the ways of others. We as a nation even though we are scattered in clumps and bunches do much of the same things in much the same way at much at the same time, daily. But it’s all of the nuances that we do at these times that defines where and who we are. And that’s a beautiful thing to understand. And with these points in my mind I see the world, and a lot of it, with a different frame of mind. I’m more accepting and understanding of so many of the things that life throws at me. The things that might be confounding and challenging to others I find myself interested to understand. And the contrast of things to see. I’m able to see all sorts of things in one day. Like churches – from an anti-bellum country church to a Latter Day Saints Cathedral to the Old Cathedral in downtown St. Louis. The people, the cars and trucks, the trains and all of the history that is marked on the open highway. Everyday, whether it’s sunny, snowy or rainy… every day always holds some kind of an adventure. I can have it if I choose to find it or maybe it could be found just lazing around all morning with my wife.
“I wouldn’t be able to seize my life - much less the day - without this job. This job, a job much like yours, a salesman’s’ job, provides me all the ways and means I need to enjoy all that this life has been given.”
He paused and took a large sip off his coffee. Christina was looking at him, but not seeing him. I think that she was imagining rolling down the road with him or something like that. Cecile was still looking down into his beer, listening.
The quiet moment was broken when Dan continued. “And it just dawned on me as to why you don’t like me. I do the same thing as you do, but instead of being inside of a building I’m outside in the world. I’m out and about, plus I get to see my wife, and it’s all because this job as a travelling salesman let’s me. And that’s it, isn’t? You’re jealous, right?”
Cecile slowly raised his head and turned to Dan, blinked for a moment and said, “I never really thought about what it was about you I don’t like. I just knew what it was. But listening to you about what you do does sound like a truly blessed and wonderful way to live. And I’d be a liar if I were to say I’m not a bit jealous of the way you live your life. But that life really isn’t for me. I like it here. The routine may seem boring to you, but I like the dependability of it. It frees me to not worry about where I am going to go and what I am going to do, but to the people in my life that I choose to be in my life. And that’s just fine for me. Nope. I’m not a bit jealous.” Dan and Christina looked a little confused, then he finished with, “No, the reason I don’t like you is because you remind me of my wife’s sisters’ husband – he a fricken jerk. Treats his wife and kids like dirt, drinks all of the time and can’t or won’t keep a steady job. Why, every time I see him I just wanna give ‘em a punch in the mouth or something. The guy can get my blood to boil jut thinking about him. And he came in the store today running his mouth and I had to get out of there. Then you shop up here. So I guess when I look at you, I think of him and so my usual joyful friendly self goes away for a while. Look, I’m sure you’re a nice guy and all. And I’m certain you are good at what you do. And it sounds like you are living the life that you want, never anything wrong with that. It’s just a shame you had to born to look like a royal ass.”
With that said, he finished his beer, tossed a few bills on to the counter and smiled at Christina. He then looked at Dan and said, “Damned shame for you, Dan.” He got up and walked out.
Dan turned and smiled to her and said, “And I thought it was my lifestyle of choice was jealous of and it turned out to be my incredible good looks – as usual.”
Christina giggled a bit, smiled and offered, “Money, good looks, the girl, the gold watch and everything. You have it all, don’tcha?”
“Yeah, baby I do.” He purred smoothly. He then glanced at his watch and with a more controlling voice he added, “I do have to go. M’lady is meeting me in Ashville for dinner and I shant keep her awaiting.” He downed the rest of the coffee, grabbed his jacket and turned for the door. “In a fortnight ol’ barkeep friend of mine.” And just as dramatically and quickly had he entered, he left.
She stared at the door for a long while after Dan had left. After a bit, she lit a cigarette then began clearing the bar. For a while it was quiet. Just me and her and the warm afternoon breeze flowing through the empty bar.
I sat there thinking about traveling around. I’ve done my share. I was younger then and I’ve literally have had a good run. And do it again for the right cause. But Christina… she’s from here, grew up here, works here, plays here and found a life here. Not exactly the life she thought that she’d have. And that’s why there is a battle she wages from time to time. A battle that on some mornings when she wakes up, gets dressed and starts her Jeep, I see the call in her eyes. The wanderlust spell to just get out of here for a while or forever. A soft voice softly chants in her mind’s ear ‘you could turn left and go to town or turn right and get out of town.’
I hear her answer in her sigh. It wouldn’t be that easy for her. Her mother is here and her sisters. She still hangs out with some of her friends from school and have great relationships with them. Her regulars depend on her for a listening ear, a word of advice, a dirty joke or even just silent companionship. End the end she knows that she would be missed more than she would miss. And to her, that doesn’t seem to be fair – to anyone.
About the Ford Flex
As of October 2010, the Flex is listed as the number 3 affordable mid-sized SUVs in US News behind the Buick Enclave and Chevrolet Traverse. The Flex Ecoboost is also the first ranked large affordable SUV according to Consumer Reports.[not in citation given] It is also ranked the most reliable large sized SUV and Ford's most reliable vehicle as ranked by Consumer Reports. Ford Flex AWD was ranked highest of large SUVs by the percentage of owners who would definitely purchase that same vehicle again.
However, the Flex has not been as successful as original ambitions expected, with sales of less than half the target of 100,000 vehicles that Ford had expected to sell each year. Ford Flex sold 38,717 cars in 2009 compared to three larger competitors sales of 43,150 for the Buick Enclave, 91,074 for the Chevrolet Traverse and 83,118 for the Toyota Highlander in the same year.