The following is a piece about the mysterious world of Grit, a business that always advertised on the backs of comic books and promised a life filled with wondrous prizes if you simply sold seeds or magazine subscriptions. Sea Monkeys might be mentioned.
Recently I’ve been reevaluating my life, trying to figure out what went wrong. By all estimations I should be wealthy enough to afford my own chauffeur’s chauffeur, someone who drives my main chauffeur around in their off-hours so that they can forget, albeit fleetingly, the time they spend driving me around while I berate them for not knowing I actually meant ‘left at the crematorium’ when I said ‘right at the planetarium’. I should be vacationing in Italy and France in the summer, Dollywood in the winter, or, if I choose, toss enough cash at the Russian Space Program and secure a direct flight into outer space. I should own a top hat, a monocle and a burgundy-colored smoking jacket made of only the finest imported crushed velvet. I should be the CEO of my own company and have a series of infomercials called “I’m Amazingly Rich and Have The Teeth To Prove It” running on cable, teaching everyone else in America how they can be just as wealthy, successful and happy as I am (including having your own elite team of bodyguards trained in the deadly art of Karate as well as adept at solving those New York Times crossword puzzles you’re too frustrated with to finish).
Well, none of that has happened. It’s possible that I didn’t try hard enough when I was in high school. There was that year that was essentially wasted, involved in a student exchange program with a kid that lived in a remote part of the Himalayas. I spent most of the year constantly defrosting my frozen limbs via the steaming tongue of a Yak that I shared a room with atop a desolate mountain peak while the other kid who took my place at my high school became class president, saved a kid stuck at the bottom of a well and won the State Science Championship proving that Jerry Lewis can indeed be adequately substituted for an orange tabby in Edwin Schrödinger’s Cat Paradox experiment.
Could it have been due to my choice of university? I suppose a degree in 17th Century Off-Track Betting and Applied Studies from the Institute of Blackjack and Liquor in Las Vegas doesn’t go as far as it used to.
Further assessment of this particular subject has yielded only one clear answer: I should have sold Grit when I was ten.
Grit posited itself as a national newspaper geared toward the family, full of uplifting human-interest stories. As a Grit salesperson you sold door to door and kept a percentage of what you made, plus, you could choose from a plethora of magnificent prizes; an intriguing prospect when the only thing that my pockets contained in those days was some lint/mold/bubblegum that seemed to be growing at a disturbing rate. In addition, Grit proposed the notion that selling the newspaper could help build the foundation for a successful businessperson, which was another benefit worth considering since I had recently traded a brand new Stretch Arm-Strong action figure for an Art Garfunkel bobble-head doll that was missing the head
Grit magazine always took out lavish full-page ads on the back of comic books, which were my main reading staple in those days. I eagerly consumed anything that DC and Marvel comics churned out, as if it were my last meal on earth. Superman’s Favorite Ex-Funambulist Mailman, Phil, and Marvel Team-up Starring Spider-Man and Henry Kissinger were just a few of the titles strewn all over my bedroom as if a Technicolor bomb had just exploded.
Almost as alluring as the comics themselves were the countless ads for various products and services. The latest sugar thing with fake fruit that Hostess was pushing, x-ray specs, sea-monkeys and assorted learning programs via the mail devoted to “how to become a comic book artist in a few easy lessons” (I was about to send my money to one of these “schools” until a friend (the same friend that had claimed he spotted Bigfoot in his backyard a few months prior, lounging in his dad’s hammock) warned me that comic book artists made very little money and were considered the carnies of the art world). And then there was, of course, Grit.
I didn’t know anyone who had sold Grit, nor did I know of anyone who had even heard of Grit, but the idea seemed promising nonetheless. I imagined receiving the latest shipment of Grit and marching out into my neighborhood, fresh-faced as the kids pictured in the ads, promptly becoming a number one seller in my region, the good people at Grit eventually flying out from Pennsylvania to congratulate me with a plaque for my valiant efforts, the Mayor handing me a giant novelty key to the city which I could presumably use to enter any arcade in town after hours.
Alas, the only thing stronger than my determination to gain money, wonderful prizes and the unwavering praise of my peers was my natural inclination toward laziness. I’d rather squander my afternoons watching Bill Bixby transform into Lou Ferrigno during re-runs of the Incredible Hulk-all the while wondering how someone with Bruce Banner’s obvious lack of funds could replace ripped clothing time after time-than participate in anything that resembled an actual job.
Even worse that my predilection for idle behavior was my keen knack for quitting which usually sabotaged any attempt I might make at not only joining but remaining in the odd organization, heavy metal inspired cult or juvenile fondue making club. I was a great quitter. In this endeavor I excelled. Here are a few highlights:
●I quit a drama club in elementary school upon learning that they refused to mount a production of Beckett’s Krapp’s Last Tape because it wasn’t age appropriate.
●I abandoned the after-school track team after coming in second in a series of two-person races for the tenth time, finally losing out to a blind Golden Retriever with three legs that often loitered around the school grounds.
●I fled the Cub Scouts before they could kick me out (subsequent to building a car for the Pinewood Car Derby that was less than street worthy, I seriously injured a few of the other Scouts, their parents and the Den Leader, when my car, nicknamed “The Bandit”, veered disastrously off-course, took out three other cars then burst into flames (and there was the problem I had tying a neck tie correctly which resulted in me nearly choking my partner whose eyebrows had been completely singed off previously in the derby racing accident, which, funnily enough, seemed to emphasize the cartoon quality of his bulging eyeballs)).
In the end, I decided to avoid any future messy complications and quit Grit before I had even signed up. I eventually forgot about my brief flirtation with the working world and resumed my quite life of too much afternoon TV and the obsessive stockpiling of every issue of Howard the Duck.
As a result of my recent Life ReevaluationTM (a term used by Dr. Fielding Shlockski in his recent bestselling self-help book, Where Did My Youth Go and By the Way Can I Have My Hair Back My Scalp is Extremely Exposed), I’ve considered tracking down graduates of Grit‘s army of eager sellers, to see how well they faired as adults. There must be instances of twenty-year reunions, internet pages devoted to these people, mountains with their likenesses lovingly etched into the rocky edifice. I imagined successful CEOs, innovative entrepreneurs, Nobel Prize-winning scientists and former action stars turned governors. I wanted to find out what I had missed, what my life could have become had I possessed the vision and determination to be a Grit salesperson.
Maybe it’s not too late to turn everything around; with the right guidance from one of these individuals I could resend the many bad habits I learned as a kid that ultimately prevented me in becoming a prosperous adult. I could still make millions and have that squadron of hand-chopping, crossword-solving bodyguards at my disposal.
Of course there’s a M*A*S*H marathon on cable all week long, running episodes I’ve only seen six times. I can always start on the road to success next week.