Surprise for a Salesman

Posted by Louise Tucker Jones on 11/01/2013

Fuller Brush ManIn the year 1972, Fuller Brush salesmen roamed the streets, selling their wares of household items. Much like the Avon lady, the Fuller Brush man went door to door and was welcomed by multitudes of homemakers. Though this occupation is now extinct, some of us remember those traveling salesmen well.

I was in my sixth month of pregnancy when we moved into a small house in a new neighborhood. It was cozy with two bedrooms, a living room, kitchen and bath. I was content to spend my time fixing up the little rental, making a new cover for the day bed, which also served as a sofa, and cushions for an old-fashioned Morris chair. Though we had little money, I was enjoying being a stay-at-home mom to my four-year-old son, Aaron, and the expected arrival of our second child after three years of teaching school.

But rental houses have surprises. Yes, they do. That’s why they are rented! And I found that ours was no exception. As I was washing dishes one day, the entire kitchen faucet suddenly fell into the sink. Water spurted upward like Old Faithful. With no spigot to turn off the water, I stood and watched as the geyser soaked the little red carpet tiles covering the kitchen floor. What to do? My husband worked clear across town and where is the landlord when you need him?

Suddenly, I remembered that my neighbor had mentioned having a plumber coming and I had seen a man enter her house just minutes earlier. I sent Aaron running across the street for help, telling him to let my neighbor know I had an emergency. Within minutes Aaron ran back into our house breathless. “Mommy, I got the man across the street,” and sure enough, he did. A middle-aged gentleman trailed into the house behind my son. I ushered him into the kitchen to gaze on the gushing geyser while telling him what happened.

            “Do you know where the shut-off valve is?” he asked.

            “The what?”

            “Do you know how to turn the water off to the house?”

            “No, we just moved here. Don’t you know how to do that?” After all, he was a plumber.

Looking around, he grabbed a towel and threw it over the fountain of water to try and avoid getting soaked as he looked under the sink. “Nothing,” he muttered, then hurried outside and somehow found a way to turn off the water. Back inside the house, we discussed what happened to the faucet and what to do about the soaked carpet squares, which were now peeling off the floor.

“Well, I’ll let the landlord worry about that,” I said, then added, “I’m just glad I remembered that Cindy had a plumber coming today. Thank you so much for your help.”

The gentleman turned to me, and for the first time I noticed he was wearing a white shirt and tie, which were now soaked in spite of the towel slowing down the deluge of water. “Lady,” he said gently. “I’m not a plumber. I’m a Fuller Brush salesman.”

My jaw dropped. My mouth opened, but I had no idea what to say. Finally I replied, “I’m so sorry. I would gladly order something except I have no idea what products you carry.”

He was kind. He smiled and said, “No need for that. Just glad I could help,” then trudged out the front door.

I never saw that man again, but I figure at some future Fuller Brush convention, a brand new recruit probably asked this seasoned salesman for advice and if anything unusual had ever happened on his job.  I have to wonder if the gentleman smiled and said, “Well, one day there was this pregnant lady who had a plumbing emergency….”

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