We met once again. His eyes locked on mine for what seemed like a moment frozen in time and then with a wave of the hand he broke the spell and turned, shaking his head while whispering a well worn mantra under his breath. I’ve heard it many times before. We’ve been meeting like this for years. He knocks at the door. I answer. He slowly turns and shuffles away, out the gate and down the slope that leads to the street below. It took two or three of these biannual chance encounters before I realized he was a door-to-door broom salesman. The four-and-a-half foot whisker continually at his side is what finally clued me in.
Unlocking the mystery of who he was only made me more curious about what he did. Being a door-to-door broom salesman had to be infinitely more tougher than what I previously thought was the hardest sales job in the world (a door-to-door vacuum salesman). Not only that, his sales approach was the softest soft sell I’d ever seen. It was beyond soft sell, it was more like a “I give up, you don’t want what I got to sell anyway” sell. Then I thought maybe after getting a look at me, he just didn’t want to go through the trouble of delivering his broom pitch only to find out I didn’t understand a word of Japanese. Then that theory got swept away one day when Em, my wife, who speaks the language pretty well and has all the classic Japanese facial features to match her speech answered the door when the broom man came a knocking. She too got the wave of the hand, followed by the shaking of the head and simultaneous muttering under the breath as the old guy turned to make his exit down the slope. He is the most uncommunicative sales person I’ve ever seen. It’s a good thing he is selling a super hot product, otherwise I don’t know how he would make a living at his current profession.
Sweeping is practically a national past-time here. The rhythmic stroking of rice straws and bamboo branches against the pavement is the sound of morning in Temple Valley. In my neighborhood it's mostly old women in aprons who clear the pathways in what is part cleansing ritual, part local news network. That’s right, sweeping is not just about picking up litter. It’s also about picking up the word on the street and the broom is the medium used to do both. It’s a pretty handy tool. It’s almost magical and I’m not the only one who thinks so.
Throughout history brooms have been associated with magic. Placed in just the right position, they have been known to ward off evil, get rid of unwanted house guests and in some cases have even given people the ability to fly. Here in Temple Valley they are used everyday to purify the streets and bring people closer together to share a good story, a smile and more. It's a magical sight to behold. What’s the mystery behind these magic sticks? I know one guy who may know but he’s not talking.
Related post: Foot in Mouth