Southwestern, Chapter Six: The Oatmeal

THE OATMEAL


The alarm went off five minutes after 5am. I hit the snooze button immediately. The second alarm went off 60 seconds later. Number two was more successful. For a few seconds, I sat in the bed in bewilderment, trying to recall where I was and what had happened over the past 72 hours. I threw the blankets off and hit the floor. During sales boot camp, the importance of routine was constantly hammered into our heads. They outlined certain suggestions, one of which was to start the day with 30 push ups.

I had knocked out maybe 20 push ups before I heard Ricky hit the floor on the other side of the bed. I finished first, so I got to the shower first. Another suggestion from the genius’ at sales boot camp was to only take cold showers in the mornings. It had multiple benefits, they claimed. Wakes you up quicker, makes it a shorter shower, that sort of thing.

A low-key benefit of showering first is that the first minute or so of water out of the spout was sort of lukewarm. But by the time the second guy got in, the water was one degree warmer than icicles. Naturally, Ricky and I would compete for the rest of the summer for the right to shower first.

I was in and out in about three minutes. I didn’t even bother turning the water off because Ricky was standing right outside the shower, ready to trade spots as soon as I was done. No more than 15 minutes later, we were out the door. We drove separately to a diner we had found the night before when planning out the day. It was about ten minutes from the house and would serve as our official breakfast spot for the summer.

We walked in and pretty quickly decided the place would work fine. Again, this was part of the daily routine that the Southwestern trainers implored us to develop. We sat down and a lovely woman came over with a pot of thick coffee. She poured a cup for each of us and dropped a few menus on the table. Neither of us bothered to look at it – we already knew what we were going to order. You know, another part of the routine we were brainwashed to adopt.

“I’ll give you a couple minutes to look the menu over and just hollar when you’re ready to order, mkay?”

“Naw, we’re good,” Ricky said. “We know what we want.”

“Oh, well alright then! What can I get for you?” Her nameplate said Deb. She looked like a “Deb”.

“Can I please have the oatmeal and a small cup of fruit?” Ricky asked.

“Same for me,” I said after Deb looked over to me.

She’d be seeing a lot of us. By the end of the first week, she didn’t even ask what we wanted. By the end of the second week, she had coffee already poured waiting for us at “our” table. The bill for coffee, oatmeal and some fruit was just over $4. Each of us would leave a $5 bill on the table before heading out to sell books each day.

Anyway, I’m getting ahead of myself. We finished breakfast around 6:30am and headed to our cars to split up for the day. Today was our scout day.

I drove to the south end of Los Lunas and slowly made my way back north throughout the course of the day. I probably put 200 miles on my car that day simply by driving through every neighborhood, taking every single side street I could find, exploring the small city and trying to commit as much of it to memory as possible. This town would be my territory for the summer and I wanted to know as much about it as I could.

Just like my exploratory drive, I decided I’d kick off my book-selling career by starting at the south end of Los Lunas. The area was mostly residential and looked to be at least somewhat viable for selling books. We were warned not to hit the wealthier neighborhoods too early in the summer. It was best to save those for after five or six weeks, around the time when a seller has worked out all the kinks and has a better feel for how to sell books.

I got lost on more than one occasion that first day, but it didn’t matter. I didn’t have anywhere to be, so getting lost was sort of the point. I never could have known this at the time, but that was one of the best days of my summer. Full of anticipation. Full of nervous energy. I would recite my sales pitch verbatim while I drove through every sort of neighborhood. The catastrophe of Grants, New Mexico was a distant memory. There was nothing left but excitement.

The next day would finally be the start of an awesome new adventure. The many, many minutes of training and preparation I’d gone through over the preceding week were all leading to this moment. It was almost “go time”.

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