An ordinary day in a boring car dealer showroom, I was chatting with one of my salesmen when I saw a man enter and look around. He was tall, lean, and with a boney face covered with character. He approached me, I guess, because I appeared to be the boss. He asked if there was a chance he could get a job in my dealership and I referred him to Helmsley, my sales manager. A few moments later I saw him heading for the door.
“What did he say,” I asked.
“He said no,” he replied.
I could see that this man needed help and was desperate to work and earn a living. I reversed the manager’s opinion and hired the man. As time passed, I saw that the man was energetic and eager to make sales. I also learned that when I hired him, he was just out of an eighteen month jail sentence for robbery. That explained the lean desperation and the sad old topcoat he wore. I also learned he had a wife and two sons that he was determined to raise well.
Over the years I became friends with the man, and got to know his family. When he came to visit at my home, my son and daughter joined us at the kitchen table, eager to hear the colourful stories he would tell. All of us were fascinated, not just by the stories, but while talking he would roll perfect cigarettes with one hand and smoke them. His dexterity was remarkable. He said one learns such things in prison.
He had been a daredevil motorcyclist in a travelling carnival, riding an old Indian bike around the inside walls of a large ball of metal lattice. On another tour, he hired a disabled boy to sit in a pit and bite the heads off live chickens. Another time, he rented a number of fetuses in jars of formaldehyde from a laboratory and made a midway exhibit called “Pickled Punks”. Only a criminal has such imagination.
He was not a street mug at his roots, however. He had attended an exclusive private school with the sons of dignitaries that later became dignitaries themselves. His father was a mining engineer in charge of a world famous mine in Northern Canada. Before that, his family had lived in British Guyana while his father managed a mine there.
Every opportunity for an average life was there for the man, and he chose wisely to follow his desire to have a life of excitement and adventure. I did the same, and I believe that’s why we were trusted friends with each other.
He passed away from cancer a couple of years ago. I’m glad he lived to see one of his sons rise to be a television writer/producer and marry well and provide grandchildren.