He is a house painter and a born-again Christian named Ron Ward, but I’m taking his name away and demoting him to the label Customer #47638.
Envision a man of about 55, medium height, with a sandy crewcut, wingnut ears and the eyes of a Sardinian toad. He’s been a customer of mine since I opened the shop in 1995, but I never liked dealing with him. I only did because I needed his money.
One time, after I’d been in business for about five years, he came into the shop just after the first of the year and asked how I did financially the previous year.
He said: “You gotta be making six figures a year by now, right?”
I shrugged him off.
“C’mon, six figures isn’t that much,” he went on. “I did it. You should definitely be there by now…”
I was nowhere close. Fuck you, I thought.
Customer #47638 used to be married and had a stepson and stepdaughter, but something happened. Afterwards, the stepson, who’s also a customer of mine, told me what it was like growing up under that ogre, and spoke of his holier-than-thou attitude, his gloating self-importance, his greed, jealousy and phoniness.
When Customer #47638 was still married, one of his former employees told me he saw his work van in the parking lot ofa department store. He went up to it, looked inside and saw customer #47638 sprawled out in the driver’s seat getting a blowjob from one of the neighborhood prostitutes. The same former employee told me that while they still worked together, it was required that before each job he get on his knees with the others and pray that the job would go well and that they’d get paid. “Wait a minute,” he’d say. We’re asking God for money. This isn’t praying!”
Customer #47638 came into the shop Friday. We watched him in the parking lot getting out of his truck. He hadn’t called beforehand to make sure we had what he needed, but by the peacock airs he gave off as he approached the front door, he seemed to have total confidence we had it. And he was right, but that didn’t mean anything. He entered the store.
“Hey Mon,” he said, upon seeing me. He called everyone Mon. He was originally from New Jersey, and saying Mon must’ve made him feel tropical, like he was living in a Jimmy Buffett song. I greeted him. He told me what he needed, though with slightly different terms for the equipment than we used. A pressure cleaner, for instance, he called a power washer. A hover cover he called a spin cover. A turbo tip he called a turbo nozzle. We had it all in surplus as he could see. There were four pressure cleaners, three hover covers, and two turbo tips in clear view in the middle of the showroom. But I lied and said all of it was reserved. I did it because he always wanted to put his purchases on account, and sometimes it took more than a month for him to pay. Plus, he was just too confident that we had what he needed and it was worth the money he wanted to put on account to ruin his morning.
“ALL of it’s reserved?” he asked, in disbelief.
“Yeah, a guy in Palm Beach is doing a big condo job. He just called with a credit card and reserved everything.”
“We’ve just been really busy lately,” I went on. “Business has been great. I feel blessed.” Customer #47638 was always talking about how blessed he was for this or that so I figured I’d parrot him.
He stood there for a moment scratching his crewcut and reconfiguring his morning. Then he trudged toward the door with his shoulders slumped, shaking his head.
“Have a blessed day,” I said.
Exit Customer #47638