Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Abstraction Salesman

I'm always suspicious when there's a knocking on my door. Everyone that I would want in my house knows not to knock. So if someone is knocking on the door, it's either the Mormons, someone begging for change, or some other annoyance. I was tempted to pretend that I wasn't home, a tactic which consists of me continuing to do whatever I was doing. Instead, on the theory that it might possibly be the police, I got up and swung the door open.

Standing there was a man of just shorter than average height. I note that only because I sit at the very top of the bell curve, so I when I see that someone is taller or shorter than me, I immediately put it in the perspective of statistics. He was wearing a blue suit and had this factory fresh look about him, the look that toys have before they get played with. His left hand was holding a briefcase; his right hand was thrust out towards me, a smile on his face.

"Hi sir, my name is John, I'd just like a moment of your time!" He talked almost without breathing, and he seemed happy, like he really would like a moment of my time. I looked him over, not taking his hand. He noticed, but didn't seem to care.

"What are you selling?" I asked.

"Oh, ideas sir!" The exuberance he gave off was almost painful. "I sell ideas."

"You mean books? Action-item plans, self-help, stuff like that?" I wished that I had brought a cup of coffee with me to the door, so that I could sip it with an air of nonchalance and pretend that I had better things to be doing. I didn't.

"No sir," he said with a troubled look. "I mean I sell ideas." He gestured vaguely. "You know."

"No, I don't know."

"Like ... the idea of a chair, right? Would you like to buy chair?"

"I have chairs."

"No, I don't mean a chair, I mean the idea of a chair."

I looked him up and down. "What would I do with the idea of a chair? And why should I pay you for an idea? Ideas are free."

"Well ... yes and no. Thinking about ideas is free, but the ideas themselves are worth more than your dreams."

"How much are my dreams worth?"

"Well that depends on the quality of the dream - but look, I'm not here to buy things from you, I'm offering you the opportunity to buy quite valuable intangibles."

"But what would I do with them?"

"I don't know - that's up to you. You could share them, or combine them to make new ideas, or put them on your mantle for a conversation piece."

"I would put something intangible on my mantle?"

"Metaphorically, yes. But if you'll just have a look at what I'm offering, I'm sure that you'll find something you'd like. May I come in?"

I gave a look behind me, as though seriously considering the idea. "Eh - I've got other things going on. A lot of work to do. You know how it is."

"Alright, but here's my card - if you change your mind, I do make housecalls, ha ha." He pulled the card out of his breast pocket and held it out for me; I took it reluctantly. He headed off down the street, passing the other houses entirely. I looked down at the card - it didn't have any contact information on it, instead it simply read "John Johnson - Ideas For Sale". When I looked up, he was gone.

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