Jewish World Review July 25, 2012/ 6 Menachem-Av, 5772
Visitor at the door
By Paul Greenberg
It was early in the morning, but the well-attired visitor was already sweating through his dark suit as he whisked off his sunglasses and set down a bulging briefcase.
"Come on in, stranger," said the old man as he opened the door. "Don't want you standing out in this sun. You might not be used to it. Ease on in. Loosen your tie. Here, let me have your suitcoat. You don't want to move too fast in this weather. Ain't no use rushin'. You'll get there soon enough. We all will. How about a cup of coffee? Coke? Something a little stronger? I know it's early in the day, but I got a feeling it's gonna be a long one."
"No, thank you. I'm being driven."
"I noticed. Invite your driver in. Maybe he could use a pick-me-up."
"No, thank you. He's got to keep the air-conditioning going. We love the working man in
"You think?" said the old boy, who could feel himself getting a little hot himself under his khaki collar. "Nice car even if it doesn't have a bed to put your hay in. Purrs real good."
"Thank you," said the visitor, shooting his cuffs as he eased onto the tattered old sofa and started putting out his booklets, pre-signed forms in quintuplicate, official badge, laptop, iPhone, iPad, Kindle, BlackBerry, stylus, apps menu, battery charger, HEW and DHS directories, and OPM Guide to Federal Employees' Benefits, which he never left home without.
There wasn't room enough for it all on the rickety old coffee table. He had to stack the paperwork on the floor.
"Make yourself to home," said the gracious host. "Thought you might be a J ehovah's Witness till I saw the automobile and chauffeur. They always dress nice. Mormons, too. Always a pleasure to have 'em come by. They don't ask for anything, except maybe my soul, and I'm afraid it's all shriveled up in this heat. Don't know what the farmers'll do less'n we get some more rain. I was just thinking the other day that...."
"Yes, sir, I'm sure you were," the visitor interjected. He sounded in a hurry. "But I'm here to make you an offer you can't refuse."
"Try me," said the old boy. "You might be surprised at all the money-back, sure-fire, can't lose, 30-day-free-trial, money gladly refunded offers I've turned down. More and more of 'em as I get older and learn better. Age is just a question of mind over matter. If you don't mind, it don't matter. Speaking of Satchel Paige...."
"Yes, sir, but have I got a deal for you, Mister ...
"Don't mind at all. Love to have strangers drop by and criticize my interior decoration, or just tell me how to run my business, especially someone who's so well dressed and well connected."
"Why, thank you," said the visitor, smiling modestly. "Now what we're going to do for you and a carefully selected list of 49 other states -- plus a few territories, commonwealths and such -- is help you meet all your
"You don't say?"
"Yes, sir. If you'll just agree to expand your
"Did you say absolutely almost free? What's the catch?"
The visitor looked almost hurt.
"Catch? There's no catch. It says right here in the small print, which nobody ever reads, and you certainly don't need bother your head with all this stuff, but if you're curious, well, the federal government will cover all the cost of your new, expanded, better-than-ever
"Yep, sounds too good to be true. I wonder why. What did you say happens after two years?"
"Oh, that," said the stranger, "Then the reimbursement rate for new additions will fall to 90 percent, which is still mighty generous. After all, here in
"That's mighty kind of you, sir, but there's no need to hurry. Let me think about this. Ten percent of a lot of money is still a lot of money, and we're having trouble paying for
"Quaint," said the man from
"A sub-prime loan with a teaser rate and balloon payment after two years? Another bait-and-switch promotion?"
"You've been reading the business pages again, haven't you? I hate it when you people do that. It just confuses you. If you don't sign up now, you'll never have another chance to drive this baby off the lot. And you'll be mighty sorry."
"Maybe, but I'd kind of prefer to make my own decisions, even my own mistakes. That way I don't have nobody to blame but myself. We're kind of independent down here. Always have been. Though I'm not sure we'll always be, not with all these absolutely almost free offers bearing down on us like a line of 18-wheelers straight out of
The visitor, glancing at his Rolex, began gathering up his papers. It was clear he had a lot of other calls to make today. He almost dropped his iPhone in his hurry.
"Don't go away mad," said his host, seeing the stranger to the door with a smile, and remembering to hand him a sack of homegrown tomatoes for the road. Never send a guest home empty-handed. It's a rule in this part of the world. The old boy watched the limo drive smoothly away. Then he locked the door. Firmly. And bolted it. And added, under his breath, "Just go away."
JWR contributor Paul Greenberg, editorial page editor of the Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, has won the Pulitzer Prize for editorial writing. Send your comments by clicking here.
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