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Thoughts of a Salesman

A salesman gives a few impressions about his feelings towards his job

Yes, I'm a salesman, in fact I've been one all my professional life. Whether I wanted to be? - I have no idea. It just happened that way. But I like being on the road. I mean, there are many kinds of salespeople. I don't like to sit in a store and advise people day in and day out and sell them something. That would be impossible for me. But being on the road, sometimes here sometimes there, and getting to know places and companies, that's what I find exciting.

My wife always says that if she had known what life with a salesman would be like, she either wouldn't have married at all or she would have married two. Time-wise, she'd easily have time for two if their travel schedules were reasonably coordinated, but laundry-wise, she'd have four. And in a way she's right. When I'm traveling, I can't always have my laundry done. Then I just buy new ones. In the end, I come home with more laundry than I took with me. She says she doesn't mind doing the mountains of laundry, but if it ever includes women's underwear, she'll divorce me.

For me, business travel is still an adventure, even though nowadays with the credit cards, big hotel chains and rental car companies, much of the exoticism of travel has been taken away. I still remember the early days when you had to drive from Kleve to Paris across three national borders, had to have three currencies in your pocket and had to know at least a few words of French. Today, none of that is a problem anymore. You can drive through on one tank of gas without stopping. It doesn't feel as far as it used to.

If you still drive at all. Nowadays you fly a lot more. The flight and a rental car on the spot usually cost much less than the gasoline for the same distance. For example, I used to drive a lot to northern Italy. I have a lot of customers there. I often drove through the Saint Gotthard tunnel. But sometimes it was closed and you had to drive over the pass.

I have experienced everything from overheated engines on the way up and overheated brakes on the way down, to snow flurries, nausea because of the many serpentines and total fatigue when driving in the dark with thick fog. A madness, what one sometimes took on. At that time, the trip was only worth it if you planned it as a 2-week tour with two to three customers per day. Nowadays, you fly to Pisa for 50 euros, take a rental car, visit the customers in the area and fly back the same evening.

Today I still have more than 20 envelopes in my drawer into which I put the foreign currency when I return. I then write the country on the envelope. Changing currency back and forth costs too many fees, and coins are not accepted here at all. When our daughter was born, we didn't have that much money yet, and I wanted to give my wife something special. And so that she wouldn't see it in the bank account, I plundered all my envelopes at the time and bought her a ring for almost 2,000 German marks.

And of course there was a lot of adventure. In Kenya, they often overbooked the flights, and they just had the passengers race to the plane. When the plane was full, the rest had to stay behind. Since then I have never traveled to Africa with a suitcase, preferring to carry a bag. In Russia I had to stand in a regional flight once. They even had handholds on the plane, like on a bus. I experienced an emergency landing, crossed the English Channel on the Herald of Free Enterprise just two days before it sank, and was in Kuwait 14 days before the invasion.

We were shot at, robbed once, arrested, and all sorts of other things happened. For me, being a salesman still means being able to experience adventures without having to have a superpower. Nevertheless, I am always happy to come back home. To this day, I never forget to bring my wife and kids some gifts. It's one of my favorite things to do outside of work when I'm on the road.

I don't even know yet what that will be like once I retire. My wife says when the kids are out of the house and we are retired, she wants to travel. We've been together for over 20 years now, and yet we live pretty separate lives, I sometimes think. Maybe I will have enough of traveling, just in the moment when my wife discovers her desire to travel. Hopefully it won't come to the point that I have to wash the laundry she brought with her then. But if there is used men's underwear, I'll get a divorce. Even at an advanced age.

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