For Fourth of July weekend, Megan and I drove up to Lake Erie in Ohio. We stopped for gas in one of those cute, if forgettable, towns with a row of storefronts on each side of the main drag and one traffic light.
We laughed at a restaurant called Pizza Explosion. How could that name possibly conjure positive feelings? I for one donâ€™t want pepperoni on my face. Interpret that however you like.
The gas station was a Mickey Mart. It had a sign for a â€œBeer Caveâ€ on the left side of the building. Again, why that name? Caves are dank, dark places and home to a host of sightless creeping things and leathery flying mammals with sonar.
Nothing about them says, â€œMmm…fresh beverages.â€
Maybe Iâ€™ll open a bake shop called â€œThe Cake Dumpster.â€ People who give their businesses unappetizing names must know something I donâ€™t. I was trying to be clever when I named my business Bright Newt, but I should have chosen, such as â€œIneffective Marketing,â€ which conveys the opposite of what I want.
I went inside Mickey Mart and, because I was traveling, indulged my guilty pleasure, Starbucks products.
While the cashier rang up the couple in front of me, an electronic female voice piped, â€œYouâ€™re a winner!â€
When it was my turn, I said to the cashier, â€œI want to be a winner too.â€
â€œDo you have a Mickey Mart card?â€ she asked.
â€œNo. This is my first time in a Mickey Mart. We donâ€™t have them in Knoxville.â€
â€œThatâ€™s where youâ€™re from, Knoxville?â€
â€œWell, here,â€ she said, handing me a couple of business cards. â€œYou can help me spread the word down there.â€
â€œCool,â€ I said and went back outside.
Curious as to what Iâ€™d be spreading the word about, I looked at one of the cards:
â€œMy Midnight Expressions.â€
Hmm. I never would have thought about building a business around farting in oneâ€™s sleep.
This phrase was my favorite: â€œEMAIL ME FOR ADULT PARTIES.â€ Judging by the picture on the card, in which a woman is kindling a flame on a manâ€™s chest with her handâ€”or perhaps the sparkling, smoky fuschia light represents a portal to another dimensionâ€”my new friend Regina wasnâ€™t selling canasta and smoked almonds.
Her business venture is similar to Pampered Chef, except that you invite all your friends to buy sex toys and leather rather than an apple peeler and a pizza stone.
With over 1500 products and a â€œVERY DISCREETâ€ buying process, my midnight is sure to be expressed in entirely new, creatively, and disfiguring ways.
Iâ€™ve been told I have a gift for establishing rapport with people quickly. What it was about that one â€œI want to be a winner tooâ€ joke that made Regina feel comfortable enough to give me cards about her private sex circus business?
They were sitting out on the counterâ€”a bizarre point-of-sale strategy for a remote gas station in northern Ohio.
Letâ€™s see, I need 5-Hour Energy, caffeine pills, cigarettes, lottery tickets, a Snickers bar, and, whatâ€™s this? My Midnight Expressions? Have a party or just shop online? Iâ€™m glad I have a smart phone. I can buy immediately! Thanks for the internet, Al Gore!â€
I love my business cards, and Iâ€™m proud of the work I do. But I still feel a little bit cheesy when I hand people a Bright Newt business card. I always think of an exchange with an advertising executive from New York who had a business card in my hand before heâ€™d even asked my name. Yuck.
I canâ€™t imagine handing a complete stranger this kind of card, complete with the woman’s sweaty clumps of hair and a bonafide flesh fire. Maybe Iâ€™m just not cut out for business.
Have you ever been embarrassed by something a stranger was trying to sell you? Embarrassed for the seller? Do you take the cards to be polite or say, â€œNo, thank you. I’m a vegetarianâ€?