18. Humor

Joe was a great salesman. He believed in his product, and he seemed to really like the company he worked for, Milwaukee Electric. Milwaukee is known for it’s heavy-duty, industrial power tools, a brand that has always enjoyed the reputation of being the best in its class.


Joe was originally from Pittsburgh but lived in Atlanta for as long as I knew him; he was a “transplant,” who used his heavy northern accent to his advantage as a salesman here in the Deep South. You see, Joe saw himself as a novelty. He liked the fact that he was a Yankee living in Georgia; his round, balding head and his short, plump figure were also important elements in his sales gig. He was always poking fun at himself, and he did it in a way that made prospective customers enjoy getting to know him.


For sales shows and events, Joe loved to wear his trademark red overalls, which matched the company’s colors (red and white). And in addition to his Milwaukee Electric business cards, he always carried a few extra personal cards imprinted with his name, Joe Mruk, and these words: “I Am An Important Polish Catholic” – just one of his many little gags.


Joe also loved to pass out his “patented” left-handed pencils on which the Milwaukee logo appeared right side up only when you wrote with your left hand. I figured that an advertising person had once made a design error with that pencil and Joe took advantage of it, creating yet another element in his successful sales routine. By the time Joe retired, those left-handed pencils were everywhere; Milwaukee, in fact, started having them printed especially for him.


Joe had a distinctive and strong voice, but in most ways he was as gentle as a kitten. He was always well mannered and interested in the “people part” of sales. He easily would become a friend, and you could tell that his deepest desire was just to enjoy life and the people he met. Whenever I saw him, Joe would greet me with his own special “Milwaukee handshake,” the motion of which mimicked the back-and-forth action of a reciprocating saw, a power tool commonly used to cut wood and steel.


In addition to being a great salesman, Joe was, and still is, a good friend even though I see him only rarely now. When he retired from Milwaukee he moved to the beach and took a job in a men’s clothing store, doing, I’m sure, exactly what he loves, being around people.


Days 18-23 Guide


It’s a great day to lighten up. We take things way too seriously nowadays, always worrying about crossing the line or offending someone. It seems to me that we’re all tied up in knots about wanting to hide our all-to-obvious differences. Try instead to find the humor in our differences. After all, wouldn’t it be dull if everybody in the world ate grits?


© 2005, Levi Hill

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