On Jobs, or In Defense of the Used Car Salesman

I like to consider myself a seasoned New Yorker.  I like to think that I’m not easily fazed, and that I can walk the city streets without giving anyone a second glance.  I like to think these things, but they are far from the truth.  I am a highly evolved individual, and I can’t help it if I am curious.

Last week, while in line at the bank, I noticed a man wearing a beautiful suit on his body and a long, oily, braided rat tail on his head.  It was a Tuesday at 10:00 AM, and I immediately thought:

“What sort of job could possibly necessitate the wearing of a suit and yet permit the wearing of such an outrageous hairstyle?”

Expensive suit


Rat tail hairstyle

= How the heck do you make a living???

I quickly ran through a list of possibilities in my head:

  • Prison breaking consultant
  • Exotic animal salesman
  • Circus owner
  • Treasure hunting venture capitalist
  • Professor of quantum physics
  • Spokesperson for the Hare Krishna
  • Motivational speaker for the video game industry

I came to the conclusion that this guy was awesome, and that whatever it was he did for a living was probably something that I could get into.  I had some time to kill, and so I decided to tail him for a little bit (pun intended).

After making his deposit, we walked north a couple of blocks and headed into a bodega.  I rummaged through the Doritos, inconspicuously, while he bought a falafel.  I analyzed this to be further evidence that I was dealing with a worldly individual, and the fact that he gobbled it down so sloppily – seemingly unbothered with the tahini sauce drizzling from his chin– led me to be almost certain that he’d spent time in the developing world, where napkins were a luxury he had learned to live without.  At this point, I had to reconsider my initial question:

“What sort of job could possibly necessitate the wearing of a suit and yet permit the wearing of such an outrageous hairstyle and a face full of dried up tahini sauce?”

I could only think of one answer:

  • One where he was the boss

I was becoming more and more enthralled with this guy, and so you can imagine my disappointment when we ended up at a used car dealership.  This was far from the glamorous life I had expected for my new friend.  I wondered why someone of such obvious aristocracy would choose such an average employment.  It just didn’t make any sense!

After a few short moments of being utterly flabbergasted, I realized that I was being judgmental.    Aside from the nightmares that Matilda had given me, I had never had any personal experiences with any person from this profession.  Used car salesmen get a bad rap, and I was being that dumb sidekick kid that follows the bully around.  I was being totally uncool.  Who was I to say that this means of living was not worthy of the thrill and adventure that my new friend obviously demanded?  For all I know, it could be the most exhilarating trade out there.  After all, it can’t be easy.  I mean, anyone with two feet and a talking mouth can sell a new car.  But a used car, now that’s a challenge!  It’s a risk!  It’s a role of nobility, only fit for the lover of the underdog!  Yes, I see it now!

As I watched my newest friend examine his teeth in a car’s windshield reflection, Emma Lazarus’ famous sonnet came to mind:

“…Give me your tired, your poor,

Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,

The wretched refuse of your teeming shore. 

Send these, the homeless, tempest-tost to me,

I lift my lamp beside the golden door!”

This man was doing for cars what America did for immigrants in the late 1800’s and early 1900’s, and that I can respect.



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7 responses to “On Jobs, or In Defense of the Used Car Salesman

  1. I memorized that poem from years of looking at it engraved on my Statue of Liberty souvenir mug. Nice connection between used car salesmanship and America’s rich immigrant past.

  2. Janese

    Hey Understander! I always check for your posts. And save the best till last, savouring yours as they are a rare treat.

  3. This connects so oddly to me….My husband is a used car salesman (I am not lying) and I am a hairstylist (who used to have a crush on a boy with a rat tail in middle school.)
    People are so mean and defensive to him, I don’t know how he handles the stereotype. I mean, he’s unfortunately really average looking…and I like to keep him that way…but his stories are always pretty exciting.

  4. Hilarious that you followed the guy. Even more so that you kept on for two stops….

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