How to Sell the Plague (Part 7)

Richard A. Plinke


Editor’s Note: This is the seventh installment in a 10-part series of excerpts from Richard A. Plinke’s upcoming book, “How to Sell the Plague (Without Being a Rat and Other Cheeky Musings of an Unrepentant Salesman).” The series humorously explores how Plinke ended up in sales, the last place he ever thought he’d be and what he learned during those early days that carried over through his 35-year sales career. Subsequent installments will be posted each Monday. If you missed the first parts, you can go back to the beginning here:

And breakfast it was for the fearless fighter for all that was right and his hapless but enthusiastic followers, at dawn (or there about) the following day. I had to see this. Fittingly, in the monomaniacal theme of the day, Nash chasing his white whale and all, we went to a restaurant that only served breakfast. No lunch or dinner, just breakfast. I don’t remember the name of the place, but I remember those eggs; they were the best eggs I ever ate, and if you don’t know how one fried egg can be that much different from any other fired egg, then you never ate at the place next to the park where the Gentleman of the Aspen Rugby Club played rugby in Aspen in 1971 whose name I can’t remember. And it was cheap, too, a prerequisite for any fine dining we enjoyed in those pre-$14,000 a year sales job days.

Nash was unquestionably the ring leader of the gang that couldn’t shoot straight, having confronted Mr. Neal Weisberg three times now, achieving a sort of postmodern John L. Lewis folk-hero status. I was merely a tagger alonger, since I had yet to join the mad dash for affirmation, and was still preoccupied with my dauntless and thorough research. During breakfast, all talk was of the Old Dublin and Mr. Neal Weisberg and just what kind of man was he, anyway. If Nash was becoming a latter day Tom Joad, then Mr. Neal Weisberg had become The Man, and all the bad stuff that stood for back in the Woodstock’s-gone-but-not-quite-over era.

So we’re schlepping across the rugby field on our way to the gun fight at the OD corral, six of us strong, me slightly in the rear, not wanting to miss Nash repeat the history he refuses to learn from. When we reach the Old Dublin, Mr. Neal Weisberg is sitting at a table drinking coffee, smoking a cigarette and reading the New York Times.

Of course.

Nash doesn’t waste any time on pleasant greetings or small talk. He has his guns drawn as we enter the room and fires a couple of quick shots at the feet of Mr. Neal Weisberg, but Mr. Neal Weisberg doesn’t even flinch.

“Last time I was here I said we would wash the walls for $1.25 an hour. Well, we’ve talked about it and we’ll do it for a dollar an hour. That’s a good deal for you,” Nash says, his eyes fixed on his prey, his trigger fingers twitching.

“No it’s not,” answers Mr. Neal Weisberg in a heavy New York accent. “I told you last time, kid, and the time before that, and the time before that, I'm paying 50 cents an hour. Take it or leave it,” says Mr. Neal Weisberg, as smoke drifts heavenward from the barrel of his gun, the residual aftermath of red hot lead traveling 1,000 feet per second, aimed straight at the middle of young Nash from Jefferson City, Missouri, hitting its mark and doubling over the intrepid freedom fighter, who is left struggling to keep from going down hard.

“But you won’t find anybody to do it for that price. You must know that by now,” Nash returns, guns ablazin, but his shots miss Mr. Neal Weisberg without as much as administering even a simple flesh wound.

“Yea I will, eventually,” Mr. Neal Weisberg replies, a couple of more bullets cutting through Nash’s white, raw flesh. “If you keep wasting my time, I’m gonna lose my patience with you, so take the offer or get out and don’t come back,” hitting Nash with a fatal shot right between the eyes.

Nash is done and he knows it. Embarrassed and enraged his face bight red, “Oh yea,” he spits out. “Well, you’re a mean man,” and he turns and stomps out of the restaurant, his disciples following, heads bowed in mourning for their fallen savior.

But I stay behind to answer the door.

Hello, opportunity. Come on in.

I ask Mr. Neal Weisberg where in the city he’s from, and he tells me he’s from Brooklyn. We talk for a while about the bar scene in New York, and, as it turns out, we know a few of the same people.

It’s a small world after all.

We talk about Nash and what a schmuck he is, and Mr. Neal Weisberg laughs at the thought of how Nash would have been treated by some of the guys Mr. Neal Weisberg knows back in old Brooklyn.

We talk about the restaurant and Mr. Neal Weisberg’s plans. He says that he, his wife, Miriam, and an old pal from Brooklyn, Seamus Flynn (which explains the name of the restaurant), who has been in Aspen for the past 20 years working on the ski patrol, bought the place and are going to turn it into a sandwich and soup joint, and hoped to establish the bar as a friendly, comfortable hangout, much like an authentic Irish pub.

We talk about Aspen and how different it is from New York, and we talk about all that we would miss and how you couldn’t buy a cup of coffee after 11 p.m. in this one-traffic-light town (which is how many traffic lights were in Aspen back then).

We talk for over half an hour and finally I ask him about his walls. He tells me the place won’t open until November and the season won’t start until Thanksgiving, which is over two more months without bringing in any revenue. He says that they hadn’t figured on the filth in the kitchen and didn’t budget any money into the business plan for the extensive cleaning it was going to need.

I ask him who is going to do the remodeling and he says he and Miriam are doing the decorating and Seamus is going to do the actual physical work, having worked in construction in the off-season for years. I ask him if they are going to hire help for the remodeling, and he says they are and that they budgeted money for that expense.

I ask him how many people he is planning to hire for the season and in what positions.

When he’s done answering all my questions, I tell him about my experience in New York, working in bars and restaurants, and tell him about my experience working summer construction jobs, and how I am pretty handy with a hammer and saw. Finally, I ask him if I wash his walls for 50 cents an hour, if he would hire me to help remodel the place and give me a job during the season.

“Sure,” he says. “I've had countless people come through here and you’re the first one to come up with a plan to get my walls washed. I’m glad you came in today, even if you were with that clown.”

Me too.

“Do you know anybody else who can help you with the kitchen?” Mr. Neal Weisberg asks.

“Probably,” I respond, “if you’ll give them jobs during the season too."

“Let’s see if they’re any good first, and if they are, I’ll do it.”

“I’ll be back in 20 minutes,” I say, rushing out the door, arm in arm with my new friend and benefactor, opportunity.

Opportunity, hidden there in the greasy crevices of the kitchen walls of the new Old Dublin.

Who would have thought.

And who would have thought I would be smart enough to jump on opportunity’s back and ride it to a great year in Aspen, Colorado.

Me and opportunity.

This could be the beginning of a beautiful relationship.


Next Week: Down and Out (Part 1)

In which we fast forward to the author’s first real sales job

Learn more about Richard Plinke and read his blog here: