Tuesday, October 5, 2010

Back to Basics

The world is on the move. Technology gets faster; teensy chips, ever-smaller Bond-like devices and massive satellites giving everyman and everywoman a global reach.

I'm no Luddite, but I can't see myself buying a Kindle. I keep things pretty simple, with just enough techno-jazz to get me what I need. I text, but I don't tweet. I blog and do a little online banking. I still like the weight of a book (nap-inducing on a wintry afternoon), the feel of magazines and the sharp inky smell of a newspaper. I download recipes from the internet, but I love it when my cookbooks fall open to a favorite recipe, on a splattered page.

Trends are cyclical and it seems that what's old is always new again, despite the constant push for bigger/smaller, better, faster. There's renewed interest in preserving and canning, plaid, old time cocktails, food trucks, and cupcakes. I'm all over it. Slow Food, my bike with a basket and a bell, farmers markets, baking on weekends, my new life in the 'burbs.

After 9/11, I just "wanted out" of the city commute and the cubicle life. I took a job selling meat and fish door to door. I drove a white Toyota pickup truck from NYC to Stamford CT, out to Long Island, NY and back every day. It was exhausting and exhilarating. With push-in robberies a reality, tensions running high in the Northeast and big-box stores selling meat at lower prices, I had some rough days with a l-o-t of rejection. Though people were "more likely" to open the door for a woman, more often than not they were sorry they did, when they figured out that I wasn't asking for directions. I had doors slammed in my face, the cops called on me, a client who left the freezer door open all weekend and demanded that I replace the food. It wasn't my fault, but I made it right. That took a chunk out of my profits, but she became a loyal, repeat customer. My boss was relentless--I worked for myself (!) 6 days a week, 12-14 hours a day. I liked the challenge of convincing people to open the door, come outside to look, then to buy and to trust me enough to come into their homes to re-organize their freezers. It was fun to stand in someone's kitchen and talk about cooking, and to answer them when they asked why in the world a girl like me was selling meat.

The job looks odd in the midst of corporate sales positions on my resume, but my headhunter has used it to full advantage...telling his hiring managers that if I can sell meat out of a truck, I can sell anything. I'm pretty persuasive, whether I'm selling shish kebabs or stock reports.

When I see little businesses on wheels, I appreciate the hard work it takes to keep them going.

I remember the late 60's--the rattle of the glass milk bottles being delivered and the thud of the "Dellwood Dairy" milkbox lid closing. The milkman was expected, just like the diaper truck and the mailman. It was probably less stressful for them than for the cold-callers. The Fuller Brush guy and Encyclopedia salesmen knocked, despite the "No Soliciting" sign my mother tucked into the corner of the front door. They had the added pressure of selling themselves first, then their product. I know the feeling.

I was at a farmer's market a few weeks ago and I saw a knife sharpening truck. I took a business card--it was a Band-Aid stamped with the company name "A Finer Edge--We can sharpen everything but your wit." I went back the following week with a bunch of stuff that needed sharpening, but the van wasn't there. Grrr. On the website, there was an update that A Finer Edge was no longer at the farmer's market but could make house calls. Gary's van is white and new, not as retro and cool and attention getting as Mike's Sharpening Service in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. But he got the job done!

The knives sliced paper with no effort, so I forked over $31.00

I like finding the old fashioned, in this new fangled world.

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