Paving the road to nowhere, one word at a time.

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Location: Tijuana, Baja California, Mexico

American born, living in Mexico since 1992.

Saturday, December 11, 2004

Semi-automatic Red Herring

There is a large box in the living room, next to the artificial Christmas tree, partially obstructing a view of the television that I never watch anyway. Inside of the box, according to the printing and pictures and so on, is a semi-automatic washing machine. Rocio told me that it was a Christmas gift from Lulu, the lady for which Rocio sells Avon products.

Picture in your mind, a Mexican lady named Lulu. What does she look like, this Lulu that you have pictured in your mind? Exactly. And I bet that your Lulu hasn't missed many meals, either. And the loud and high-pitched laugh, holy crap, even the lazy mutt two streets over is thinking, "Jesus, lady, can't a dog get in a short nap once in a while?!?"

And don't get me started on the people from Avon, the Jehovah's Witnesses of the cosmetics industry. Ding-dong, Avon calling. Any organization that sends people out into someone's home, armed with a book and a pitch, is nothing but trouble. It isn't enough that they want you to buy something that you really don't need, they want you to sell it for them as well! And if you sell enough religion, your promised reward is an afterlife in some sort of heaven; sell enough avon, and you get a semi-automatic washing machine for Christmas.

* * *

I gazed contemptuously at our red herring in the shape of a large box.

"Um," I said, scratching my head.

"The problem is where to put it," Rocio said thoughtfully, in Spanish.

Never mind that we have a thousand-dollar Maytag that isn't even paid off yet, works fabulously well, and is fully automatic, Rocio is thinking about where to put this little Korean-made contraption. It is made by the Daewoo International Corporation. I think that they make automobiles, too. The word automobile implies that an automobile is something fully automatic, I can only imagine what a semi-automatic automobile is. Is there a hand-crank involved somehow? A well-fed gerbil on a running-wheel that is hooked up to a spindle-driven motor? What in the hell is a semi-automatic washing machine?!

"I think it washes, but it doesn't spin," Rocio said, switching to English.

"Unlike our thousand-dollar Maytag," I reminded her. "Which is guaranteed to continue to wash, spin, and rinse, and then spin again for another nine years. No hamsters or hand-cranks required, nothing but one-hundred and ten volts are necessary."

Rocio rolled her eyes and went into the kitchen.

* * *

There used to be a game show on television called Let's Make a Deal. The host of the show, Monty Hall, would offer random contestants opportunities for cash in exchange for mostly worthless items such as paper clips or hair pins and such. Sometimes he then would offer them more cash, or else invite them instead to take a chance at yet-to-be-named prize.

"Say, I'll give you one thousand dollars right now, or else you can take what's in the box on the display tray over there," Monty might say.

The contestants, for the most part, would go through an excruciating forty-seconds and listen to the calls from the audience to do this thing or that thing, and then they were finally asked to make a decision.

"I'll take what's in the box, Monty," about ninety-five out of one hundred of them would say, and Monty would put the cash back into his gaudy jacket. One-third of the time, the box would be lifted to reveal a worthless booby-prize. Life is full of worthless booby-prizes.

Want some advice? Take the cash. Always take the cash.

* * *

Avon does not offer Rocio any cash for selling their line of cosmetics and other assorted knick-knacks, they instead give her free creams and lotions and perfumes and so on. My beer mug is an Avon product. I am, however, just as happy to drink my Tecate from a mole (pronounced mo-lay) glass, like I am doing right now. Rocio is not likely to give up cosmetics anytime soon, regardless of my insistent urging that she doesn't need make-up, that she is even more attractive without it.

But to be fair to Rocio, I considered that if someone rang my doorbell and wanted to sell me beer, I would certainly listen to the sales-pitch. I might even buy some. And if they were offering me free beer in exchange for selling some of their products, I might just do it, who can say? And then, I could imagine that maybe, were I a good seller of their beer, I might be given something for Christmas. A chain-saw, perhaps.

And what in the hell would I do with a chain-saw in Tijuana? It would then become, the chain-saw, my red herring.

But no one sells beer door-to-door here (a business opportunity, perhaps?), so that point is moot for the moment. The problem at hand is what to do with a semi-automatic washing machine (whatever that is).

I told Rocio that I had designs on turning the semi-automatic washing machine into a semi-automatic ice cream maker, but she wasn't too keen on that idea. But if I had a chain saw, I could cut it up into little pieces and make it easier for the garbage truck to haul our red herring to the dump.

Where's a door to door beer salesman when you need one?


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