Miss Hattie’s Cart

The company had spent a lot of money to send them, as a group, to this three days sales seminar. The speakers in their silk suits and ugly neckties had not worn well with him. Each had their own unique style and as long as their scenario fit a particular situation, their approach would probably work. Bill knew different. The folks that he dealt with would spot him as a phony the first time he stumbled through some of those five-dollar words.

Realizing the commitment to his company and himself, he tried hard for the following three months. Reaching back from time to time for a line or two from his experience at the seminar, he realized he was failing miserably. The comfortable, at ease feeling was not there. Frustration and a lack of confidence set in. While he assumed he was probably last on every list at the office except the list to be replaced, he pondered his future.

The cool summer breeze of morning felt relaxing. He had been up since early morning setting on his front porch. Traffic was beginning to stir as housewives began sweeping front porches and sidewalks.

He caught the sound of cast iron wheels rolling and bouncing over the cobblestone streets, the familiar early morning sound of Miss Hattie May, the vegetable woman. Every Saturday morning the refrains of fresh okra, black-eyed peas, watermelon, corn or any special she might have echoed through the alleyways and front porch stoops. The children loved her. All the women swore by her prices and made it rough on the neighborhood merchants. Her sayings were famous and often quoted.

She stopped her quaint cart two houses down. Brooms were laid to rest against the steps as the housewives rushed for the Saturday morning bargains. Kids peeped out of windows, a few ventured onto front porches in pajamas, just to see and her Hattie May. Bill ventured closer as the bargaining and shopping went on.

“Miss Sally, where in the world is that beautiful child of yours”? “Honey, that’s a vine ripened melon. I watched the soft morning dew nurse the melon since it was a tiny little thing. I knows that’s a good one. That’s a Miss Hattie special”. She hypnotized and fascinated, made you feel just plain good. Bill nudged closer as the last customer enjoyed a Miss Hattie anecdote before leaving.

Bill sought her advice. “Advice is free but I charge $20 an hour to listen”. She threw her head back laughing. She explained how you just had to be yourself. Let the people see you as you are and most of all enjoy yourself. Bill was not convinced. He explained how he had to conform to a certain company standard. He talked about the seminar.

“A salesman is like a snowflake, ain’t no two the same. You be your own man, it’ll work out. Them fellas talking to you, how come they ain’t out sellin’. Reckon they know how? All they doin’ is tellin’ you how to be what you ain’t. Half of ’em, you take away their secretary, they’d fall flat on their faces”.

He was feeling better. Bill felt this way all along but he just needed a push in the right direction. He no longer felt intimidated. Miss Hattie sealed the deal with her parting words – “Lord child, half them hot shots couldn’t push Miss Hattie’s cart a city block”.