Communications (October-November, 1997)

Ralph Nadering the Well-Wishers
from Sue Winmill

Unbelievable! I was waiting in line at Burlington Coat Factory, just buying a coat and minding my own business. The lady in front of me looked at me and said, "I didn't know it was snowing out there tonight."

Well, it wasn't, of course. I embarrassedly explained that I had psoriasis, and she proceeded to try to sell me a product she thought would help me, one for which she was a dealer.


Ed's Reply:

Next time, say this. "I was always so fond of those glass whatnots as a child—you know, the ones you shake up and the flakes dance all around the little figurines?—well, I decided to become one myself when I grew up. Here, turn me upside down and shake me and see what happens!" Be bubbly with enthusiasm for your accomplishment when you say this.

I regard it as one of those "gentle annoyances" when someone sells me a product they "know" has helped someone else "like me." Inevitably these are earnest people—not witting snake oil salespeople. I usually buy their potion—or accept their sample—so as not to appear ungrateful. I've got a little wicker basket under my bathroom sink full of cures from Mary Kay, Revlon, Neutrogena, Sarah Michaels, Eucerin, and the list goes on.

Since authoring Flake, though, my options with these big-hearted well-wishers have expanded—if they know I wrote the book! ...

"Ed! Take this lotion sample and try it. My wife sells this stuff and says she's got two or three customers with psoriasis who swear by it."

I take the proffered tube of stuff that smells vaguely like air freshener. "Why, thanks, Bill! Tell Maggie to keep her eyes out for my report."

"Your report?"

"Uh huh."

"What report is that?"

I shrug, suggesting he's just forgotten. "You know, my write-up on how it works. Oh! While I'm thinking about it, could you ask Maggie to give me a call?"

"Ah ... Yeah ... Sure.... Why?"

I shrug again. "To get the names of those psoriasis customers—if they'll let me interview them."

Bill's Adam's Apple is bobbing up and down. "Oh. Well...."

I let him off the hook: "No big deal. If you remember. Otherwise, I'll give her a call after I get the lab results."

"Lab results?"

I raise my eyebrows instead of shrug this time. "Yeah, you know. Chemical composition, label ingredients confirmation. Routine stuff."

Bill's feet are shuffling. "Yeah. Listen, Ed. I don't know if Maggie was giving that to you in any official capacity."

I look at the pink tube in my hand, then back at Bill. Surprised expression on my face. "Gosh, Bill. This isn't official, it's just what I do."

Bill notices he's late for an appointment and has got to run. "Tell you what, Ed," he says, backpedaling, "Why don't you just hold onto that until Maggie calls you. I'll have her call you."

I look disappointed while I wave goodbye to him. Later, the little tube joins its fellows in my wicker basket. -Ed

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