Friday, December 09, 2005


With a cooler full of freshly-unmolded CheatLoaf and a straining backpack laden with cooking utensils, sauces, and service-ware, I trundled through the rear loading dock doors of Mollie Stone's at 4am this morning. I had scored a prime Saturday slot in which to purvey my wares, and even though they do not open until 7am, I wasn't going to disrespect their generous offer by breezing in dangerously close to opening. I aimed to prove that I was every bit as serious as anyone who has ever been in business.

No one was around except for a few stockers and a foreign man running a floor-waxer, so I was able to set up camp in peace. I took my designated spot in the little corridor which leads from the produce department to the meat department, which I thought was fitting, as my product is basically the Cerberus that will keep all meat-eaters from passing through into that "underworld" (this is a reference to Greek Mythology). I set up a loaner table, draped my "CheatLoaf! No Meat, No Wheat, No Bleat!" banner across the front, and began warming the paprika-cardamom scallion "soap"-glaze that I would be using on sample preparation A.

Truth be told, I had invested a little of my personal savings in some promotional gear for the event. Normally I am against such tit-headed nonsense as clothing with writing on it, but in this case I made an exception. I wanted to give my product full support, so I had a nice forest green fleece turtleneck embroidered with the words "Cheat" across the chest, and "Loaf!" on the back. I thought this was rather ingenious, as it made the viewer curious to see what the back of the shirt said. Once you have them hooked like that, they're all yours.

Additionally, I had bought a pair of matching green fleece sweatpants with the same "Cheat," "Loaf!" back/front embroidery. It underscored the turtleneck wonderfully, and when I tried the complete ensemble on in the mirror while quickly turning from front to back, the effect was magical. I don't toss that word around easily, by the way.

Around 6:45am who did I see wander in with a Peet's and a hand-truck full of his own samples but Roger, the Trader Joe's free sample circuit man! I guess he whores himself out to other stores, as well! The bastard set up camp directly across from me, in the area between the front doors and the produce. He had the better spot! By the time everyone finished sampling his product, they'd be tired of the experience and have less patience with me! I guess that's the dues you pay when you're new. I knew my product was better than whatever lifeless crap he was hocking, and I knew that time would favor the superior salesman, so I patted the hair on the back of my neck down and took a breath. I stood and looked his direction for several moments at a time, but the son of a bitch never so much as glanced my way. I guess he knew he'd slighted me back in September and was too ashamed to make eye contact. Figures. That just fueled my flames for the long day ahead.

Right at 7am shoppers started pouring in, and I saw pretty much every single one pick something up off his table. I couldn't tell what he was offering, but everyone sure seemed to be into it. I hung behind my table, patiently waiting for them to make their way to me.

Drawing upon my extensive experience with free sample counters, I tried to appear busy, so that shoppers would not feel put upon by eye contact and unwanted barking. I glazed slices of CheatLoaf, stirred my marinara, chopped butter pickles (these are delicious with CL), and placed small portions in sample cups. When I no longer needed to do that, I balanced my checkbook, made sure both my shoes were tied, pretended to count the sample cups with an index finger, scribbled on a clipboard...nobody was coming to my table.

Nearly insane with confusion, I all but grabbed a woman who was passing by and asked what Roger was offering. I may have said, "What does Roger have that I don't," I can't remember. She looked scared, but then I pointed at him and said, "the other free sample guy." Her answer hit me like a ton of bricks: he was pitching Hoffmueller AG BeatLoaf (aka Rübekäse), a German import meatloaf best-stitute made from riced Affenklotz beets, soy, and just insane amounts of sodium.


BeatLoaf dominates the market, and I was more than put out by this discovery. It was like an independent cola salesman trying to take on Coke. I began to overheat, and when I overheat, I start to get dizzy and nauseated, so I had to take off my turtleneck then and there, lack of undershirt notwithstanding (I keep in good shape, my upper body is inoffensive—in fact, if anything, it is exemplary—but I digress). I took several gulps of water from my Nalgene bottle, poured a little on my head like a boxer, and jogged in place for a few invigorating moments. Never had I felt so ready to defeat an enemy. I vowed then and there that if I did not move more samples than Roger, I would quite simply tear his head off in the parking lot once evening came. Hands only. No mechanical advantage or levers. Step on his foot, cup the base of the skull, and pull up. My rule.

Abandoning all I knew about the soft sell, I tied a length of produce bags around my forehead and began to put on an incredible act. "Hey now, hey now!" I barked, juggling entire loaves of CheatLoaf. People started to notice. Every so often I would grab a loaf and take a bite, which is always a good trick. As I juggled I rattled off facts about my product: "'Wheat Free! Gluten Free! Meat Free! Please your friends on a Sunday night! CheatLoaf is a murder-free meal!" I was on fire. I began to ask the gathering audience questions: "So, anyone from out of town?" One man raised his hand. "Where from?" I asked. "Boston," he said. "Then try my product!" I yelled, while carefully lowering myself into a splits and then rising back up again, juggling all the while. Amazing.

A few clerks and managers had started to gather around my display at this point. "That's right, folks," I bantered. "Welcome to Mollie Stone's, the only store to feature CheatLoaf! Mollie Stone's, everybody! A murder-free store! Except for THOSE assholes!" (I turned and pointed back at the butchers, who had also stopped to watch.) I was no longer a man—I was living, breathing art. I was a challenge. I was history. I half expected to win some sort of grant from the store for this.

Instead, the clerks and managers began to close in on me, their hands at the ready, fingers up, palms out. I'd seen this position in countless videos of overthrown public demonstrations — the bastards were about to tackle me! What the hell?! I grabbed a spatula and turned to run. No dice - the meat department was there forming an impenetrable wall, and I don't need to tell you what kind of visions I had of their blood-stained justice.

I faked left, burst through a vulnerability at their right front, and made for the rear exit. Along the way I was broadsided into the homeopathic remedies aisle by a cow and her cart, where I briefly tried to hide behind the pitch-man for CatheterWish Continence Convenience Systems (a home catheter system for those who are continent but work long hours and don't want to suffer the inconvenience of regular bathroom visits) but the smell was unbearable and I darted out again...into the arms of a heavily padded thug in a baker's toque.

Long story short, I wasn't put through the meat grinder and sold as frankfurters, but I was booked into police custody on charges of creating a public disturbance, and also for creating an "unhygienic food environment" (by not wearing a shirt in the produce department). Needless to say, once I cool down I will begin outlining the many aspects of my lawsuit against Mollie Stone's, particular employees thereof, the Achewood police department, and, get this—Roger! I'm getting him on anti-trust charges, for distributing a product which enjoys an unlawful monopoly. I may also get the guy from CatheterWish, but only if I have time.