Zen Spot #89 -- Mindfulness, meditation and the Buddhist new car salesperson February 2, 2018 00:05
The old man and the app
I was known as “The Professor”. During almost two years of selling Toyotas at a great dealership in Philadelphia, I earned the nickname because of the reading glasses permanently perched on the bridge of my nose and the notebook I always kept close by.
I took the job because, as a mature professional, after months of looking for other jobs, nobody wanted to hire me to do anything I knew anything about and anybody can get hired to sell cars. Not everybody can be good, but anybody can get hired.
The wild, wild west
I wasn’t a very good salesperson. To be good, one has to be able to look into a customer’s eyes, stretch the truth, manipulate and distort. To be fair, I saw few peers lie because, well, it’s too easy to be caught in a lie.
The environment in a dealership is fluid. There’s no way to predict, at 9 a.m., what an $18,000 car will sell for at 5 p.m. — sometimes $16,000, sometimes $17,999. The list of things out of a salesperson’s control change by the hour. The ability to adapt is critical. Fail to adapt and earnings can be lost.
The people are amazing, though. Carnies, wingnuts, true believers, thieves, chicken farmers, comics and idiots abound. Some are kind. Some are sharks because their professional alternatives are digging ditches or stocking shelves.
And they bite.
Everything is a poker game. Everything. Walking the Buddhist path makes the job particularly hard. Walking any path of ethics.
Good to great
Every successful salesperson has a little sociopath inside. Be assured that, despite scientific research, sociopathy is not binary. The tip of a soul’s iceberg can be the only part affected. The remainder can be faithful, if not pure. And we all have a smidgen of car salesperson inside of us. Protest too much and more of your iceberg is affect.
Eye to eye
Customers lie. Degree is the only measure. Lies of omission. Lies of commission. Pupils dilated. Smiling. Expecting ruthless, loins-exposed-for-the-chopping truth in return.
Dragons waiting to eat. Customer dragons.
Three fingers tickling the air
I was walking along Market Street, just west of City Hall, in Center City Philadelphia. Wearing a suit, in 95 degree weather, I was relieved to be walking under construction scaffolding that covered the sidewalk for several blocks.
As a I prepared to turn a corner and feel the full effect of the sun, a Buddhist monk approached me. Palpably uncomfortable, a reluctant purpose accompanied his gait. His saffron robe was more practical than beautiful — clean, dull, comfortable, loose. He was hot and tiny. A slight submissive bow, hinged at the waist, presented beads of sweat from between the stippled hair on his shaved head. Two cupped hands extended a prayer card.
It was die-cut into a diamond-ish shape with rounded corners. A human figure, seated in front of an altar with legs crossed adorned the front of the card. Lotus flowers bloomed across the back. Brilliant metallic foil trimmed both sides.
He spoke very little English, using one-word grunts. After handing me the card, he urged me to sign a small, black, spiral-bound booklet that requested three pieces of information: my name, my address…and the amount of my donation. I had originally thought he was looking for directions.
He stuck his hand out, palm facing up, with three fingers tickling the air, grunting “money!”
I had about ninety cents in my pocket — and no bills whatsoever — just pennies, nickels, dimes and quarters. I searched both pockets frantically and instinctively, pulled out lint and metal, and gave him everything I had.
He stared at the money in his palm for an ancient millisecond, raised his head, shook it from side to side with just a hint of contempt and stomped away. He didn’t stop anyone else. Eventually, the city absorbed him.
I felt bad. Many people have helped me over the course of my life and the only way I will be able to fully repay most of them is to help others who approach me in a time of need. However, I was reminded by friends who have heard this story that I gave the monk all the money I had and, by that measure, I should feel good.
With these reminders, I did. It helped, though, to picture a sales meeting, in my mind’s eye, held that morning inside the temple where the monk lives:
Incense hangs in the air and the guttural garble of a didgeridoo echoes from the blackness of a concrete basement three stories deep. The classroom is ornamental hand-carved wood, painted in bright colors that time and air have muted. Gold paint trims every curve and sculpture. Caste iron bells hang dead.
An older, rounder, abrupt monk, wielding a yardstick behind his back, strolls five aisles filled with twenty-five monks. He scowls — and reminds each student that revenue was down last month. A curious combination of Alec Baldwin in Glengarry Glenn Ross and Katherine Freeman, as Sister Mary Stigmata, in the Blues Brothers, the monk doesn’t seem to be playing a part.
An implicit tone occupies every word he shares, reminding each mind that inventory has started to pile up in the warehouse and that ownership had decided to take a much closer look at compensation. Lipstick and pigs are never mentioned but, given the nature of interdependence, no mention was necessary. He reminded each monk that no financing would be offered and, until notified otherwise, all deals are cash only.
Monks, each sitting straight up and facing forward, shifted their eyes from side to side, looking for a reaction from one another. An overwhelming yet imperceptible groan exhausted the ironic toddlers. Tantrums ensued in unquiet minds. The most unpleasant task in all of mankind was being handed down.
An artist, entrepreneur and writer walking the Buddhist path, his art focuses on the Dharma Wheel. The four wheels shown above are among 600 he has created over the course of his career. Each has a unique story. If you’d like to read more about an individual wheel or purchase a framed 20" x 20" ready-to-hang print, visit SilkDharma.com.