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  • Smile for Me
  • Wendell Mayo (bio)

Right. Burned toast.

So, let’s say you burned your toast getting ready for work and want us to help you see the humor in that, want us to help you smile at things like that. And what’s your job? Right. So, you’ve burned your toast getting ready to go to work for the collection agency, meaning you actually go somewhere to work? Or do you conveniently call these unfortunate people who can’t pay their bills from your home phone? Right. There’s no place like home. So—you burned your toast getting ready to call unfortunates for a collection agency, and let’s say you hate your job? Right. You don’t hate your job. Well, then, you burned your toast getting ready to eagerly get to work calling people to foreclose on their homes and the like, and you want to smile but you can’t smile. You pinch the incinerated piece of bread and examine both cindery sides. And you’re not smiling, but you need to smile, because every phone call to these cheerless debtors requires a pleasant state of mind, at least at first, until they are considered uncooperative, at which point you are permitted to become pragmatically unpleasant. Okay, okay, we’re getting ahead of you. Let’s take that piece of burned toast first. Baby steps, right? You might try The Cavalier, a smile we recommend for the professional on the go, so named after Frans Hals’s portrait The Laughing Cavalier, a smile that can’t be bothered with things as trivial as burned toast. Somewhere under a whip mustache, The Cavalier bunches lips brashly, in counterpoint to the serious, future-seeking eyes of, say, Michelangelo’s David, gazing far off to some bold, secular future only he seems to know, one that is clearly not toast-o-centric but that puts the eager, ambitious felicities of Western Civilization at its center. Now pick up the phone. Try The Cavalier. See the difference?

A small correction?


You say it’s not that you like working from home, collecting from people who’ve fallen on hard times, it’s just you own a Trail-Blazer, get, like, ten miles per gallon, and can no longer keep up with the cost of gasoline.


Oh, we see. [End Page 29]

You can’t bear to sell the TrailBlazer, part of your self-concept, like Lewis and Clark barreling through the wilds of North America with only knapsacks and crappy birch-bark canoes and the like, mapping indigenous peoples’ lands for eventual possession by the government.

We can see how you got into the business of taking people’s property from them.

Okay, okay, it’s not like that.

It’s more like the TrailBlazer conjures a sense of courage, nobility, and sacrifice in everything you do. Especially sacrifice. When you fill up at the gas pump, it hurts. Gotcha. And you can sense people, especially people with hybrids, staring at you. Instead of head down, checking your boots for mud clods, ignoring their liberal leers, you’d like to smile right back at them. But how? For this occasion we think The Laughing Peasant is a wonderful solution, after Albrecht Dürer’s Laughing Peasant Woman.

We know you’re not a woman.

It’s the concept we’re trying to explain.

With The Laughing Peasant smile you’re going for a few things, in combination. First, the even, toothy, rustic American grin, slightly forced, just enough to suggest you kind of tolerate people different from you, and you expect the same from these hybrids. After all, you’re not leering at their energy-efficient, environmentally conscious choices, and they ought not leer at your gas-chugging TrailBlazer. Second, above the toothy rustic grin, you want to suck your cheeks in slightly so you seem emaciated, peasant-like, broke, bordering on martyrdom, since your gasoline bill runs well over a hundred dollars a tank. Yes, we know it’s counterintuitive. But it’s the right move. While you stand there, the pump ticking off gallon after gallon, you want a measure of pity, though...


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pp. 29-34
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