Where have you been? Where are you going? And why?
Her name was Queen. No last name. Just Queen. Our first clue about what our weekend was going to be like should have been passing the year-round Christmas Lawn Decorations Superstore on the way into town. What better souvenir can one have than a fifteen foot “GOD BLESS AMERICA” sign illuminated in red, white and blue? “Before you go,” Queen (possibly born and named in the wake of Al Unser, Jr.’s snapshot finish at the Daytona 500 years ago) said, “would you be interested in attending another presentation tomorrow morning for $110 over a free breakfast?” $110 in pocketed cash, just to listen to a time share salesman. That sounds like a good deal. But after wasting three hours of what was already a very long morning, we turned Queen down. The previous three hours taught me that their vending had a direct relationship with my venting…and here it is.
It started pleasant enough. As we trudged into the time share presentation, we both knew “no” was our final answer. The goal was to get through it and then pocket our gifts: four free nights, two of them anywhere in the country, a $100 gas card, and a $30 T.G.I.F. gift certificate. A genuinely (I think) kind man named Tom met us in the lobby and brought us to the conference room. Seven other couples awaited the presentation, each at their own small table. The process seemed very scientific as Tom asked us some routine questions and small talked a bit. He seemed comfortable with himself, which endeared us to him amidst the other circling wolves, I mean, salesman. Unfortunately, Tom left us. In his place? Mark, the auctioneer/NASCAR commentator posing as a time share salesman.
To begin the group presentation, NASCAR Mark attempted to introduce himself. I say attempted because Shannon and I found ourselves wondering whether we were getting the real Mark. He talked of his home and family. He made some bad jokes, and then sucked up to the audience to the best of his ability. Told one woman he liked her cause she looked like his sister; told Shannon she looked like Rachel Ray, which my wife heard as short, stubby, and expected to be in the kitchen. Brown nosed another man for being an engineer. Finally he launched into his “support the troops” speech, doing his best to personalize it: “I sincerely thank you folks for your prayers. Really I do. My two brothers are back safely from Iraq. They both served over there for a good time and now they’re back. Honestly, from the very bottom of my heart I thank you folks, sincerely, for your prayers for my brothers. Home safe.” (shaking his head sympathetically with each word and rubbing his hand over his heart)
The more he went on and on, the more I wondered whether he actually had brothers. Finally, NASCAR Mark told us he’d worked for five different time share companies and this one was by far his favorite. The reason? Because this company had no intention of hassling their potential buyers. They “believed in the product” so much that they simply would present it and let you walk away. In addition to that wonderful comparison, he assured us that he knew we didn’t want to listen to him talk for forty-five minutes like the sales pitch of one of the “other” companies. He promised to talk for seven minutes. Yes, 7.
Mark continually talked about an extra special prize he was going to give away to the best participant. He did his best to get us excited. One woman on the front row actually tried. She answered his first four questions, rewarded each time with an emphatic assurance that she was in first place for the prize. Later, another man correctly answered something, to which Mark responded excitedly, “You, sir, are now in first place for the prize. Ma’am, you’d better watch out, he just stole first place from you!” Hmm…so she had four questions to his one, yet he now had first because his was the most recent. Mark was just having a good ole’ time with all this. Throughout the “7 minute” presentation, first place probably changed ten times. Shannon actually had us in first for about thirty seconds.
Forty minutes, yes forty, into Mark’s “7 minute” soliloquy, these words actually came out of his mouth, “Okay folks, stay with me for just three more minutes.” I turned to Shannon and whispered my amazement at how eternal his first four minutes had been.
NASCAR Mark was a big Donald Trump fan. I know because NASCAR Mark quoted the Donald several times throughout the presentation. Did you know that according to Donald Trump Sr, there are only five moments in life when a big-time opportunity will present itself? Only five times. Upon hearing this, the younger Donald asked his father: “How many of these opportunities do I need to take advantage of?” His father’s answer? All of them. It’s actually a very touching story the way NASCAR Mark tells it. I was moved. Mark then assured us that passing on this time share deal would be missing one of our five opportunities. I’m not sure Mark would list salvation or my wedding day as Elite 5 status. I’m actually wondering if all 5 would be 5 different time share opportunities.
When Mark finally gave his esophagus a break (which also was the time he promptly untucked his dress shirt as if work was over), Tom sat down with us to talk specifics. For only $8000, we could be time share owners. Tempting, I know. After declining, Tom called over Slick Willy. Slick sauntered over to our table in his black suit with an accompanying black shirt and bright yellow tie. With his black hair (to match the black suit) slicked back and his gold ring sitting like the state of Texas on his ring finger, I was pretty sure Slick doubled as a mob hit man in his spare time. Either that or he was running a drug ring in the time share break room. Slick, of course, couldn’t possibly understand why we were turning down this Lifetime Opportunity #1 (or 2, 3, 4, or 5).
It was only after the entire presentation that we could receive our complimentary $100 gas card and $30 dinner coupon. To do that, we had to go through Queen. She was the receptionist and she was every bit her name, though not really in the royal sense. Apparently Queen wasn’t having the best day. Upon our request for the gas card, she handed us a sheet of paper with ten cut-outs on it. She then explained that redeeming our $100 happened in $10 intervals one month at a time. Once a month we needed to fill up for exactly $10.00, then send in the receipt with the cut-out and have it post-marked within ten days of our gas purchase. Slowly it dawned on me that we’d be playing this stupid little game until next February (not to mention that gas will be $10/gallon by then). I was ticked. In addition to that rubbish, the dinner coupon was $5 less than advertised over the phone.
All in all, it was a weekend of stories. Not deep, heartfelt, and meaningful, but stories nonetheless. And it was a free weekend away, which is always good. At one point, Queen slid a sheet of paper across the counter inquiring about whether we had any friends that’d like to share a similar experience in the future. I could have put your name down. I didn’t, and I expect a grateful thank you comment below. Returning the paper to her, I accidentally knocked over her spit cup filled with mixed Skoal tobacco and used saliva. A wintergreen aroma filled the vicinity. The liquid quickly spread over the entire desk, staining each paper it came in contact a putrid brown color.
Okay, that last part was false, but it would have fit the weekend.