Before I had even entered kindergarten, I was being questioned about my future plans. “What do you want to be when you grow up?” my father asked.
“I want to be Batman,” I said.
“Son, there is no such thing as Batman-you need to consider another career.”
“What kind of job can I find where you get to clobber people?”
“I guess you could join the Chicago Police force, but you wouldn’t get to wear a cape and hood.”
“What fun would it be to clobber people without a cape and hood?”
“It’s not fun; its dangerous¾there’s a lot of crazy people out there.”
“What do you do?”
“I’m a salesman.”
“Then I guess I want to be a salesman.”
That’s how it all started. Since I couldn’t be Batman, I would be a salesman. I wondered if there were sales positions where you might be able to wear a cape and hood without frightening people. I soon found out that the cape and hood a salesman wore, wasn’t quite what I had in mind.
“Gary how would you like to stand up for your Aunt Fran’s girlfriend’s wedding?” my mother asked.
“Is it fun?”
“It’s very fun¾and when the wedding is over there is cake and ice cream for everyone.”
(excerpt from “Sales Tales”)
“When do I get started?” I said.
“Today. We need to get you fitted for a tux.”
“What’s a tux?”
“It’s kind of like a cape and hood for weddings.”
My mother seated me in the front of the station wagon and strapped me in. Within minutes, we had arrived at our destination and entered the cape and hood store. An elderly man, dressed like a penguin, greeted us.
“Good day, ma’am, can I help you?”
“My son needs to be fitted with a tux for a wedding.”
“Very good, ma’am. Right this way.”
We followed the man toward the back of the store.
“Son, I need you to step up on this pedestal so that I can take some measurements,” the penguin said.
Taking out a tape measure, the man began to take my dimensions: up and down, side to side, around my neck and around my waist.
“What’s this guy doing?” I asked my mother.
“He’s fitting you.”
“I’m four years old. Doesn’t he just have a standard cape and hood for little kids?”
“Stand still. He is almost done.”
“Very good,” the cape and hood salesman said. “I will be right back.”
“When the man returned, he held a bundle of clothing that was covered with a plastic bag. “The dressing room is to the right,” he said.
My mother and I entered a closet that had a mirror hanging on the wall.
“Why would someone hang a mirror inside a closet?” I said.
“Never mind that. Take off your clothes and we’ll try the tux on.”
“All you need to do is put the cape on my back and then I will put the hood on.”
“Shut up and do as I say!”
My mother went to work: first, a stiff starched pirate shirt was placed on me; next, a rubbery pair of black slacks; then, a strap was wrapped around my neck, followed by a black Alfred butler jacket. The grand finale was putting on a pair of black shiny, sissy shoes.
“We’re finished. Let’s have a look in the mirror.”
I turned to look in the mirror and nearly peed my pants. I was wearing a ‘monkey suit’-all I needed was an organ grinder and I could apply for work at the Lincoln Park Zoo.
“No way! I’m not wearing this.”
“Your father dresses like this every day when he goes to his sales job,” my mother said.
“Then he needs to find another occupation. If you think I’m going to walk around in a church looking like Curious George dressed in a penguin suit, you’re nuts.”
“You’re wearing it, and that’s final.”
When the dreaded wedding day arrived, I locked myself in the bathroom.
“Gary, it’s time to get ready-get out of the bathroom,” my mother said.
“I’m feeling a little sick-I think I might have malaria.”
“Malaria, my ass! Get out here; now!”
I held my ground, but she opened up the bathroom door with the emergency key.
“Now, that was a dirty trick,” I said.
“Get your ass downstairs and get ready. I’m not messing around.”
Once again, I donned the penguin suit. My mother took a handful of Brylcreem and greased my hair. I began to cry.
“All you have to do is walk down the aisle with a cute little girl and its over,” she said.
Little girl? Nobody said anything about little girls!
I thought I would throw up, but I took my medicine like a good crime fighter and completed the mission. In order to get even, I ate so much cake and ice cream, that I threw up at the reception hall.
That will teach them to mess with Batman.
I now had serious doubts about being a salesman.