33. The one about the guy with no arms

Published on 24 February 2023 at 20:56

© 2023 Robert Sickles

Our family was just sitting down for our grandchild’s birthday dinner one afternoon when the doorbell rang. Linda was peeved. “Oh, what awful timing… Honey, please don’t answer that.”  Then twice again... dingdong-dingdong, and a firm knock. Linda grumbled “Oh for Pete’s sake! Robert, would you go see who that is? If it’s another sales call, please send them away!” We knew the drill. This was back in the day when door-to-door "salesmen" solicited our area, offering all sorts of suspect deals and overpriced gadgets and goods. 

Opening the door, I faced two young men. One I took to be an assistant, was down on the sidewalk holding a large case; the other, a beaming red head, standing tall on the doormat, was holding a bottle of “Miracle Cleaner” between his elbows. Yes, his elbows, because, in fact, he did not have hands or forearms. He jumped confidently into his well-practiced sales pitch about the super-concentrate all-purpose cleaner, and he offered to show me how well it worked on the oil spots on my driveway. Nervous about getting back to the birthday party, I was about to tell him not to bother. But he went ahead and knelt on the asphalt and started to clean the old stains. I watched him scrubbing with a brush, sometimes lying down on his side, wiping with rags, all with his elbows. From the dining room I head Linda reminding me impatiently “Honey what are you doing? Come to the table!”

I wanted the cleaning demonstration to stop, I felt so awkward watching him work like that. I said I’d be right back with some cash and went to the dining room. “Linda, Sweetie, there’s this guy out front cleaning our driveway, he’s selling miracle cleaner, and well, you have to see what he’s doing to understand why I have to buy some.”

She shook her head and scoffed, “Honestly? You’re compelled to buy cleaner from a door-to-door salesman?”

I described his physical challenge and how, as he worked with his elbows, he held things in his mouth, and between his knees or feet. He was actually quite adept. Linda thought I was exaggerating.

“No really, Honey, he has no arms and he is literally lying down on our driveway, scrubbing up our old oil spots. Even if the product is overpriced, I can’t turn this guy away—he is awfully good at selling!”

Linda agreed. "Just go buy a bottle, and please get back to the birthday party."

I handed the guy $40 for two bottles. He was elated, and he kept scrubbing my driveway, working so hard for the sale. “Please get up, you’ve made your pitch.” I suddenly flashed on my own life, so full of “haves,” including the power to make his day with only two $20 bills. 

I think sensing my shame, he parlayed another offer. “You might also want these super-absorbent rags and extra spray bottles. I’ll throw in this comfort grip scrub brush—special price for the whole kit, only $30!” 

“Oh, you're smooth!"  I grinned and gave him another $30. "But that’ll all for me, thanks.” And gesturing with my head, “There’s a houseful waiting at the table. Thanks for coming and good luck on sales.”

He apologized for the lack of a handshake, bowed courteously and walked off with his assistant to the next house.

“Honey, look what I got for only $70, plus tax!”

Linda gave me a knowing smile and shook her head. “Oh, he worked you. You are such a pushover, Robert!”

Come on... easy to say for her to say. She didn’t hear his well-polished spiel and gentlemanly manner, and see him working so hard, down on his knees. This was not just a guy demonstrating the heck out of all-purpose cleaner. And he was not just a physically disadvantaged salesman, though both of those things together certainly held my attention. He was something special, another angel-teacher come to save me from false beliefs: my assumptions, attitudes and prejudices about the lives and livelihoods of people with disabilities and birth defects. I changed that day. 

Add comment


a year ago

Thanks for giving that fellow a hand. He really disarmed you 😜

I couldn’t resist…

a year ago

Aw Bob-You old softie. He kind of made me sound like a gremlin, but truth to tell, if I had been the one to open the door we would have had the same result! I love how you are discovering how these connections you have made in your life have given you a different perspective on life.

Carol Christiansen
a year ago

You do manage, Robert, to experience the most remarkable, situations! What kind of birthday cake was served?

Zenda Boss-Hall
a year ago


a year ago

I think I went to sales training classes with that guy. He got great grades whenever there was a product to demonstrate.

Kathy M
a year ago

You are definitely a softie Robert...but that is a wonderful attribute and I'm proud of you for being such a good guy! (Boy, he was a great salesman though!)