Southwestern, Chapter Fourteen: Decisions

 

The first night in Tularosa was memorable. The house Travis and Tony had been staying in was amazing. It certainly didn’t seem to fit in with the rest of New Mexico. It was modern. Whites and grays, crisp lines in the architecture, with tall, thin windows around the entire house. A far cry from the stucco and random arches seen in the rest of New Mexico’s construction.

Travis gave me the grand tour before I settled into my new bedroom. It would be only the second night of the summer where I didn’t have to share a bed with another grown man. We made a quick trip to the grocery store to stock up on food for the rest of the week and I learned pretty quickly that Ricky and I had been doing it all wrong. We had been trying to spend the least amount of money possible, meaning no more than $25 per week for food. I rarely met that goal, but keeping costs low was always forefront on my mind.

Not for Travis, though. By the time the cashier got through ringing up all Travis’ items, the total came to just a hair under a hundred dollars. He saw my look of shock, but quickly reminded me that he was the top seller in our group, so he could afford a little more. I wondered if maybe that was the real reason he was the top seller. The kid was eating like a king, and he was selling books. I was eating like a peasant, and I wasn’t selling books.

Of course that’s absurd. But in all actuality, that might have played a small role. Laying in my new bed later that night, I couldn’t help but compare and contrast this place to the house in Bosque Farms. Much like me and Travis’ summers to this point, these houses were on completely opposite ends of the spectrum.

The next morning I was in for an even crazier shock. I got up early and showered in my very own bathroom. I used warm water and stayed in an extra few minutes, starting to wonder if allowing myself to enjoy these things more would result in a more positive outlook on the rest of the summer. Maybe I was too focused on playing by the rules. It was evident Travis had embraced the idea that being a great door-to-door salesmen meant starting off each day feeling like a king. Kings don’t eat oatmeal.


 

My plan was to use the first day to scout my new area. This was made more difficult due to the fact that I had no idea where Tony had already been. I didn’t want to waste time knocking on doors he’d already knocked on. Travis pointed me vaguely in the right direction toward an untouched part of town.

The first few streets I drove down reminded me somewhat of Los Lunas, although the yards were a little bigger and the houses seemed to be in better shape. A few blocks into my scouting, however, I found new vein of neighborhoods that seemed to be a prime spot for selling books. Lots of very nice-looking homes, lots of MCPTs (multi-colored play things, if you happened to forget). This place was nothing like Los Lunas, and I couldn’t have been happier. I drew out a map of the area and would start in that neighborhood the next day.

By the time noon came on that first day, I was bored. I didn’t feel like scouting anymore. I’d found my starting point and that was good enough for now, I thought. I didn’t have the energy to map out my entire territory like I’d done in Los Lunas. But with another nine hours to kill before the end of the day, I fell back into my old habits of listening to music in my car, texting this girl I had a crush on back home, taking a nap, and otherwise just wasting time.

Around 5PM, I realized I probably ought to make sure this territory hadn’t already been covered. Honestly, I should have started selling that first day. The least I could do was check to see if Tony had been here before. I drove back to the middle of the neighborhood I had spotted earlier in the day and parked on the main street. Just as soon as I parked, I watched a sedan round the corner a block away and pull into a driveway a few yards from where I parked.

I got out of my car and waited a few moments for the man to get out of his. When he did, I caught his attention and asked if someone, by chance, had been selling books in his neighborhood earlier in the summer. His response was something I wasn’t prepared for.

The man had an annoyed look on his face, eventually telling me that, yes, there had been someone trying to sell books in the neighborhood. He added that the police had also been called on multiple occasions on account of all the “No Soliciting” signs posted everywhere. He then asked if I planned to try to sell his wife something, too, and warned that he’d be more than happy to dial up his friends at the police station again. I thanked the man for the intel and got back into the car. As I pulled away I smiled and waved through the window, all the while cursing wildly at the man under my breath.

Another presumed win turned spectacular loss.

It was only 5:30 in the afternoon, but I decided I’d had enough for my second “first” day. Travis got back to the house around 7:30PM and explained he didn’t have any appointments set up for the evening so he called it quits a little early. Evidently that was normal for him. For eight weeks, I’d been driving around wasting time until 9PM every night just so I could look like I was working all day. What a sham.

Later as we ate dinner, I told Travis about the intersection leading to Tularosa. I told him about how I sat at that crossroads for no less than three minutes pondering my next move. Despite where I ended up, I still wasn’t sure I’d made the right decision. Travis listened intently while I rambled about my fears and failures. For ten minutes he didn’t say a word. Just nodded politely, made affirming faces at me, all while eating his fettuccine alfredo with a napkin tucked into the collar of his shirt. There’s a reason we were best buds.

“Are you quitting on me?” he asked, finally breaking his silence.

Well that was awfully blunt, I thought. But I guess after listening to me blabber for ten minutes, he’d earned the right to ask that question.

“I don’t know man, I just don’t think I’m cut out for this.”

“The hell you aren’t! Look, why don’t you come with me tomorrow. You can shadow me and watch how I do it and see if you’re doing the same sort of things. I mean, it’s working for me, so it’s gotta work for you.”

I slouched in my chair, staring out the window toward nothing. I was depressed.

“Seriously. Come follow me for the morning, then go try it for yourself. Your last place sucked, but Tularosa and Alamogordo…these places are the best. If you still feel like quitting after tomorrow, then go home. But at least give me a shot to change your mind.”

When I first met Travis, I got the sense he was a popular kid in his high school. He had a magnetic personality and was confident, but not too confident. A fairly athletic kid, though he was short. I admired his ability to believe he had a chance to pursued me. So, I decided to give him a chance to try to pursued me. The odds were stacked against him because my mind was all but made up.

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