The Salesmen’s Chuckle

We notice it without knowing what has just happened. The chuckle. Or, as Jack sometimes refers to it as a cackle. What is it? The contrived sound, practiced for decades to be as smooth as a well known radio announcers voice. A deep voice in some ways, captured by seven hundred dollar microphones. The ones with all the rubber bands, suspended. High end dynamic mics. Smooth, easy on the ears and in the case of the chuckle, made to put you at ease.

Unfortunately, this vocal response is a fear reaction to uncomfortable conversations. Just mention a serious concern you have to an insurance salesman. Within a split second the chuckle rings out to disarm the conversation. It’s nothing like laughter, don’t misunderstand this. Laughter and gaiety are good for us. Even rolling on the floor with laughing sobs. A joke or a pun that just explodes in the room with merriment. That’s good! It’s good humor and the relaxation is very good.

What Jack is pointing out is obnoxious and frustrating at the least. We don’t notice that we have been conned out of intelligent conversation. Try it sometime. Select a person that you ‘sort of know’ and ask them in an inquiring way about a serious subject. Something you state you are having difficulty understanding.

Perhaps an illustration will do: “Hey John, I’m glad I ran into you! I have a real problem with an old friend that just won’t talk to me about our friendship” (slight laugh) Well it’s not me that’s for sure! “No it’s not like that. We used to be really close! (another chuckle) Ha, maybe you forgot you owed him some money! No John, this is serious. I need your help in understanding it. (more light laughter) You know me , I’m an idiot when it comes to women! Getting the picture? It goes on and on and it is a technique really good salesmen use to put people at ease. Nothing happens then, but somehow, this laughing salesman convinces you he is your friend and you sign on the line. They have classes that teach you how to disarm people with the friendly laugh.

OK, now go to the next level. You have just finished listening to a very moving sermon that so affects you that you journal: “I was having such a great time thinking about my sins!” You were moved. The power of conviction overcame you and you knew it was true. You knew the man spoken of is most likely you. In this case, a man that enjoys his comfort and the knowledge that God has a special Lazy Boy chair waiting for him in Heaven. Serious reflection and thought. The room is silent. The man speaking asks if anyone has any questions. Jack thinks about the explosion in his heart. The deepness of the sin still running around in him that he thought was normal.

Suddenly, an experienced ‘salesman’ makes a joke with a chuckle! “hey pastor, did your wife write those slides for you? Chuckle chuckle.”Every one is familiar with this, including the pastor and his wife. It’s over. The intimacy with everyone in the room. The held breath of believers that just heard conviction and truth. It’s over. Time for lunch. The salesman has done his work and he doesn’t have to think about what was said either. Am I ready to die? Nah, chuckle chuckle. There’s a lot of time left in this old carcass..chuckle chuckle. It’s disarming and it’s deadly and it’s a complete waste of time.

Jack can only imagine what it will be like to meet Jesus face to face when his turn comes to face eternity that he knows so little about. Perhaps smiles and the laughter of dancing with his Savior. No chuckles, just love. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator

Real Chimneys North of Highway 8

As do most of us, we get a little bored watching the scenery go by as we keep a sharp lookout for errant deer, errant drivers and those lines we drive between. Isn’t it absurd that the only thing keeping all of us from collisions is paint. Headlights help a lot, but mostly to see the lines of paint. The game gets a bit challenging when there is snow and ice covering the lines. It really does feel like a video game, driving at speed.

Back to the scenery. One cold day, Jack was motoring south and at that time, he was counting chimneys and the wood smoke. Quite a few modern setups with wood boilers in the back yard were seen. It’s a good thing that windows are closed in the winter at the boiler homes. High barometric pressure or temperature inversions can cause some of those homes to almost disappear in a wreath of smoke.

There were quite a few homes that had masonry chimneys visible and some of them were in use as Jack motored by. There were a few of the old masonry chimneys that had shiny pipes coming out of them. An obvious concession to modern fuel of petroleum base. However, when Jack crossed Highway 8, the wood smoke was gone from the homes. Almost every roof top chimney seen had the propane exhaust pipe sticking out of it.

Putting the exhaust pipe from the propane furnace out of the chimney seemed logical to Jack. How else to do it? There are possibilities of wall ‘thimbles’ that can allow the venting but the easiest route is the old chimney. It seemed a bit sad to Jack to see the wood heat (or fireplaces) supplanted by a digitally controlled furnace connected to city gas lines or the ‘big boy‘ propane bombs in the backyard.

Jack was one year old when the first atomic bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, it was nicknamed the Big Boy. Jack was exactly one year old when that happened. What a birthday candle. But, it brought Jack’s dad home. And a lot of other dad’s too. War is like that. Some dad’s come home, some don’t.

Back to the chimneys. Jack noticed wood heat at quite a few of the homes he drove by on his way down to merge onto another highway that begins at Highway 8. There were quite a few homes and business’ visible from the next highway going south. No wood smoke, no piles of wood and not even any outdoor wood boilers. Every chimney Jack saw had the ridiculous metal pipe sticking out of it. A periscope that was looking at progress coming with a petroleum based civilization. Jack wondered if Dr. Suess would be interested in a book about it. “Why was the chimney there and why was it lifted and taken somewhere?”

There is a saying of sorts that living is more real north of 8 I don’t know if that carries much weight and if living there is really that great (back to the Lorax) But there is a subtle difference the further north of 8 you go. Longer driveways, more barns and cows and horses and more wood smoke and real chimneys that survived the propane efficiency movement. More crumpled seed hats and the pickups are not quite as pristine either. Towns that you can walk through the main street in about five minutes. We do have some modern concessions though. There are sidewalks and some folks even have paved driveways. Now and then milk can be dipped out of the bulk tank too.

Lots of cords of wood stacked (new comers stack between trees) Big logs, split stacks and wood sheds. It’s a mess heating with a stove in the house, but nothing beats standing in front of a well built fire when it’s below zero outside. The cat water bowl froze to the kitchen floor at Jack’s house about forty six years ago. Jack now has insulation and a better wood stove. Life is different north of 8. It’s pretty good. Jack Gator