Choirboy Meets a Rapper

75

 

        The newspaper caption, Hollywood Producer Planning to Make Movie on Glorified Fugitive, was still on Richard Briggs' mind as he drove.  He hadn't had time to read the full article.  One thing he surely didn't want was to be late on his very first day of work!  Suddenly, his eyes caught sight of the huge sign, WELCOME TO GOLATTO AUTO.  It caused a wide smile to form on his baby face as he indulgently let himself take it personally.  "Welcome to Golatto Auto, Mr. Briggs," it seemed to say.  His emotions were of pride and excitement to be professionally linked to the corporation with a reputation for great deals, as well as friendly service.  Then, Richard slowed down his car, turned its steering wheel clockwise, entered the expansive car dealership's merchandise lot, and espied the copious display of vehicles on it.  At 7:51, he was nine minutes early for the preliminary 'on-the-job training' course.  That would allow him a little time to browse some of the many cars, he thought.

        While peering through a used Volvo's window with the tip of his nose touching glass -- inspecting the interior -- he heard someone say, "Excuse me, sir, can I help you?"  In reaction, he straightened up and turned around.  Treading toward him from a distance of about fifteen feet was a young, dark skinned black man of medium height and build.  His dress clothes happened to be the only conventional aspect of his appearance.  Most eye-catching was his hairdo; long, multi-layered dreadlocks made him look like a Jamaican Rastafarian, while dyed red streaks and braids with green beads added to the image of a liberal, creative, free-thinking nonconformist.  Further enhancing that image were big hooped rings of gold hanging from each earlobe, and another one adorning his left nostril.  Heavily tinted sunglasses with swirly shaped gold frames covered his eyes.  The wild looking dude smiled, revealing a front row of shiny silver teeth.  That, on top of everything else!!!  The fellow before Richard looked totally eccentric, even outrageous, in every conceivable category.  Be blew the lid off of anything that approached normalcy!  What was Carfather thinking, thought Richard.  Wouldn't he be afraid he'd freak out the clientele and send them running?!  There must be something very special about this guy for Carfather to have hired him, Richard figured.  That's the only explanation he could muster.

        Now they were standing face-to-face.  Upon closer inspection, the stunned Aryan observed that the flashy negro's teeth were diamond encrusted.  And, boy, were those diamonds sparkling!  Never before had he seen teeth like that!  Assuming Richard was shopping for a car, he set out to make a sell on what he deemed was another prospective client.  "Don't let my crazy appearance fool you, sir.  I'm a human being just like you.  At least that's what my parents always told me.  Maybe they were just trying to make me feel good, though."  Richard emitted a nervous little laugh.  The joke was prompted by the blank stare, opened mouth, and raised eyebrows on Richard's countenance.  It was a typical reaction, of which the expert car salesman was used to when people first saw him.

 

76

But he was always able to quickly put folks at ease; one of the many things he had going for him was personality!  Sizing up the white boy, he stuck out his right hand for a clasp right after he removed his sunglasses.  While in the process of shaking, Richard noticed a teardrop tattooed under his left eye.  Knowing full well what it meant, he gulped.

        "I see you're looking to buy a car.  My name is Marcus Watson.  I'm a car salesman and... if you hadn't already guessed... an aspiring rapper."

        "Uh, I'm not a customer," replied Richard slowly, trying to gather his senses.  "My name is Richard Briggs.  I'm a new employee.  This is my first day of training," he clarified with measured words and bated breath.

        "Aah, yes!" said Marcus robustly, while nodding his head and grinning.  "The Carfather told me about you.  He said you used to be a cop.  But I won't hold that against you!"  Richard let out another nervous little laugh.  He thought that if a "strained" working relationship was all it wound up amounting to, he would be very lucky, indeed!  They were diametrical opposites in every way, and almost sure to clash!

        "You know what, Richard: I've got great news for you!!"  Teasingly, he failed to follow it up, thus impelling Richard to inquire.

        "What's that?"

        "I'll be your official boss for a week.  Just watch what I do and do what I tell you to do and you'll be all set.  Now, to start out with..."

        "Wait a minute," Richard interjected, in a slightly hostile tone.  "How old are you," he sternly asked.

        "I'm nineteen, sir," Marcus politely answered.

        "You're three years younger than me, man!!  Why, in the heck, did Carfather choose YOU to train ME??!!"

        "Well, Mr. Briggs, I may be young, but I know more about the business than most car salesmen twice my age.  See, from the time I was five, I knew exactly what I was going to do with my life.  My father was a car salesman at a place like this in Detroit.  I always wanted to follow in his footsteps.  Sometimes he'd take me to the dealership with him.  I guess it was mostly because I wanted to tag along so much, but also because it was a great sales strategy; I was cute back then.  Looking at me now, can you imagine that?!  I put Arnold -- from the TV show, Different Strokes -- to shame.  I'm sure I helped him sell more cars just by my presence.  Dad should've given me a kickback.  Heee, Heee.  But he didn't really need any help selling.  He was a people-person all the way, and a real fast talker to boot.  Plus, he knew everything there is to know about the business.  So he taught me, and I learned a lot just by watching him in action.  Selling cars is in my blood!  I applied here right after I turned eighteen, while I was still in high school.  During the interview, I blew Carfather's mind!  He was shocked that I knew more than a lot of veteran salesmen that worked for him.  I even knew things he wasn't aware of!  He wouldn't ever admit that, of course; he has a lot of pride!

        So, when Carfather interviewed me, he was like, 'Just buy yourself a lawnmower and cut your hair with it; then remove that rack from your teeth and toss it in the metal scrap; and take the gold rings out of your ears and nose and pawn them -- and you've got the job.'  I was like, 'I can't do that, sir!  This is not only my rap image... this is who I am -- it's my identity!  I can't compromise myself for you, this job, or anything else.'  He was shocked at me for taking the stand, and having such a strong backbone.  I guess it was like the first time anyone ever stood up to him at the office, or anywere else, for that matter.  I mean, you think Carfather is used to being defied?!  The guy's a monster!  But instead of being offended, as I had anticipated he would be, he admired me for having the guts to resist his authority and stick to my principles.  He still tried to convince me to do it his way, however.  But I stuck to my guns.  After a long debate, he gave in and hired me anyway.  At first, he was afraid the customers would be intimidated by my looks -- you know, thinking I'm a thug and a gangster and all that.

 

77

My teardrop tattoo would certainly be misunderstood, too, and I know what a lot of people think when they see it.  But in my case, it's not a sign that I murdered someone.  On the contrary!  It honors the memory of someone special who still lives in my heart.  By the way, I suppose you're curious about my teeth, huh?!"

        "Om... yeah.  I have to admit, I was wondering about them!"

        "I'm wearing what's called a 'grill.'  A grill is a removable cosmetic mouthpiece made of gold or platinum with diamond inlays," he explained, as if reading straight from a dictionary.  "This is my platinum set," he informed, pointing to his open mouth.  "I also own a gold grill," he proudly added.  "It's mainly a rapper thing.  Speaking of rappers, I've been told I favor Flavor Flav."

        "Flavor who??"

        "Nevermind," said Marcus with a sigh, while rolling up his eyes and shaking his head.  "So, like I was saying, Carfather reasonably feared that my appearance posed an insurmountable hindrance to my job performance.  But he gave me a chance, anyway -- at the risk of losing business.  I quickly proved to him that he made the right decision!  Once I started talking to the folks, they warmed up to me almost instantly.  I even met my fiancee here at Golatto Auto.  I sold her a 98 Nissan Ultima [and then] I flirted with her.  Business always comes first... even when beautiful women are concerned!  That's your first lesson, Rich.  By the way, do you go by Richard or Rich?"

        "'Richard,' but you can abbreviate it if you like," he permitted.

        "Cool!  I like 'Rich' more than 'Richard' because it reminds me of what I'm gonna be when my music career takes off.  So, you really wouldn't mind me calling you 'Rich'?"

        "No, not at all, Marcus.  It beats 'Choirboy'."

        "Sheesh, that's one nickname I'd have a tough time living with, bro.  You sing in a choir or something?"

        "Well, I used to, growing up -- in church.  But 'Choirboy' more or less got tagged on me based on the way I look.  I guess you could say I look the exact opposite of you in every respect.

        "Ha!  Yeah, you do look straight as an arrow!  Okay, from now on I'll refer to you as 'Rich'."

        "Sounds good to me."

        "Hey, Rich, you wanna go in the showroom and let me treat you to some coffee?"

        "Sure, Marcus!" he responded.

        'Rich' was taking a swift liking to his temporary boss-man!  It was clear to him that underneath the eccentric exterior lied a man of exquisite character.  Indeed, Marcus Watson was living proof that looks can be deceiving.  And the age-old adage, "Never judge a book by its cover" is still pertinent -- even in today's society!

        Walking several steps ahead, Marcus courteously held the door open for the brand new employee.  Once inside, the very first thing Richard saw was quite conspicuous, and intentionally so!  On the grey carpet in the center of the showroom was a long, sleek, shiny, black Corvette.  And on the corner wall, a big banner bore the message: GRAND PRIZE LOTO AT GOLATTO AUTO.

        "Dang, that's a nice car," Richard commented in a highly impressive tone as he walked toward it.  "How much does it cost," he asked, failing to notice the banner.

        "Nothing.  That's actually a lottery prize.  Anyone who buys an automobile from us at any time from the beginning of the coming year to year's end is illegible to win it.  They also have to purchase a $12 lottery ticket.  The proceeds will go to Carfather's favorite charity: Fountain of Hope.  That's an organization that helps families of sick children that can't afford to pay their medical bills.  We're gonna select the winner on January 1st, 2011 on live TV during a break in a broadcast in which commercials would normally run.  I'm gonna be on TV drawing the winning number from a huge rotating glass bowl.  Then I'll hand it to Carfather, and he'll read it out loud on the air.  Immediately afterward, whoever has the matching numbers is gonna call in and claim the prize over the air.  Chances are, he or she will be all excited and emotional over the phone.  That's good promotion, you know -- because it sticks in the public's mind, and they'll subconsciously associate Golatto Auto with gleefulness.  A week later, we'll appear on TV again, this time with the lottery winner being formally announced and handed the key, and getting in the Corvette and driving it off the lot.

 

78

Carfather speculates that this lottery idea is really gonna boost our sales for years to come!  There's also gonna be an infomercial that'll serve as an advertisement for Fountain of Hope.  Carfather's gonna be interviewing the head of the group, and he'll explain what they do and all that stuff.  The movie star, Aaron Hughes, is also gonna be on the infomercial talking about how it's such a worthy cause, as well.  He's one of Fountain of Hope's biggest supporters!"

        "Sheesh!  Aaron Hughes?!  That's awesome!  Hey, Marcus, you think I'll get to meet him?!"

        "Probably shake his hand, and possibly get an autograph.  I doubt he'll have time to chat with anyone for very long."

        "Yeah, those movie stars are pretty busy people," agreed Richard.  "Anyway, I think this lottery concept and the charity mixed in is a really cool idea.  Carfather must be really smart to have come up with something like that!"

        "Actually, Carfather didn't come up with the idea; I did."

        "Sheesh, Marcus, you're in the wrong field -- you ought to get into marketing," advised Richard right before his attention shifted on the object of his vehicular desire.

        "Yeah, I hear stuff like that all the time.  People always advise me to get a job where my mental faculties are used to the fullest capacity.  I get what they're saying, but I enjoy selling cars.  I'm satisfied being a car salesman at Golatto Auto.  And I still have a rap career as a future prospect, so I don't consider myself an underachiever in the least!  Being a successful rapper is my true aspiration."

        "Well, I can see that you have unlimited potential," mumbled Richard as he feasted his eyes on the red, leather seats and red steering wheel, all the while imagining sitting inside, driving along Capital Boulevard. 

        Marcus noticed he was indulging in the Vette daydream.  "Did you hear what I just said, man," he asked, in a slightly high-pitched, mildly irritated tone.

        "Yeah, yeah, yeah," Richard replied, half attentively.  His mind was still predominantly focused on the beautiful automobile before him, and his mesmerized eyes reflected it.  "I'd love to have this thing," he said in a far-off voice filled with yearning.

        "Well, buy a car from us, and you just might get it," the diehard salesman shrewdly suggested.

        "Nice try, Marcus," he said as he snapped back to reality and glanced up at him with an expression of lighthearted annoyance.

        "No, I'm perfectly satisfied with my good ole' Toyotta Celica.  And, besides, I can't afford another car," he added.

        "Well, not long after I mold you into a top-notch car salesman, you'll be able to afford something fairly decent, I guarantee you that!"

        "It'd be nice to have enough money to know I could get something if I needed it, but for now, my Celica is doing great.  It doesn't give me any trouble and it gets me where I'm going.  It's a 94 model and has a ton of miles on it, but I'm hoping it continues to hold out for a little while longer."

        "Yeah, Rich, Toyotas really are great cars!  Let's drink that coffee before it gets cold," Marcus proposed.

        In the corner of the room, seated at a small, round table with cups on it in front of them, the two outwardly contrasting coworkers chatted some more as other employees arrived to work, shuffling in and gradually filling up the Business Center. 

        Marcus raised the cup to his thick lips.  Following a sip, the informal education began: "Now, Rich, the first thing you have to do is to learn everything there is to know about all of the automobiles we sell.  And constantly be informed about new makes and models set to arrive on the lot, as well.  Hold tight, let me go get the information package for you to study.  Half a minute later, Marcus returned with the Employees' Learner's Manual and sat down again after handing it to his wide-eyed pupil.

        "Man, this is thick," gasped Richard dreadfully, while staring down at the massive amount of work that was laid out for him to study.  "And I thought I was finished with school," he sighed, dejectedly.

        "You didn't think this job was going to be easy, did you," Marcus said with a smile, flashing that glorious row of metal teeth.  Richard momentarily took the opportunity to peer into the window of his soul.  His big, brown eyes reflected a spirit full of optimism, enthusiasm, intelligence, and goodwill.

 

79

Despite Marcus' younger age and overtly flashly exterior, Richard was starting to look upon his boss-man with the type of respect typically reserved for a wise elder.  And, accordingly, his resentment at the idea of being ordered around by a teenager was diminishing.

        "So, like I said, the first golden rule is to be well informed and up-to-date on the vehicles we sell.  Now, here's the second rule for working at Golatto Auto... and this one is even more important than the first one!  YOU HAVE TO TREAT THE CUSTOMERS RIGHT!!!  Be friendly; smile wide, ask them how they're doing.  Don't talk business from the get-go!  First off, ask them where they're from and stuff.  Express a sincere interest in them, and be very engaging from the outset.  Try your best to make them feel at home, and genuinely liked.  That's the goal!  See that soda fountain over there," Marcus said, while turning his head and concurrently pointing his index finger at the beverage first.  If they accept, then ask what they want: Coke, Pepsi, Dr. Pepper, Mountain Dew, Mellow Yellow, 7-UP, Sprite, NuGrape, or Sunkist.  Specifically name all eight choices just like I did.  Then, be sure to ask: 'With or without ice?'  Remember, at this point you're playing the role of waiter.  You're a servant, as well as a salesman.  Go off and fill it up to the brim, put the lid on, push the straw through, and say: 'You can have as many refills you like, sir [or ma'am].'  Engage them in a little more small talk, and when you feel the time is right, shift the conversation to business.  As far as that goes, you have to be subtly persistence, but not overtly pushy.  There's a science to it.  I invented it."

        Marcus spotted the 43 year-old sales associate, David Brodie, passing by, coffee mug in hand, and took the opportunity to introduce him to the new employee he was training.  "Hey David," he called out.  David turned his head and approached the table where Marcus and Richard were sitting.  "Yo, man, I'd like for you to meet our new coworker.  This is Richard Briggs.  Richard, this is David Brodie."

        Richard stood to shake David's hand.  As he was doing so, Marcus mischievously informed him: "My boy's nickname is 'Choirboy.'

        That didn't please Richard too much.  He shot Marcus a ticked-off glance and grumbled, "You don't have to broadcast it, man!  I wanted to leave that brand behind me.  Now everyone's gonna be calling me Choirboy all over again.  Thanks a lot, Marcus!"

        David chuckled and cheerfully said, "Welcome aboard, Mr. Briggs.  I'm sure you'll enjoy the work environment.  Everybody gets along great!  It's a real winning team here at Golatto Auto!

        Richard replied, "Yeah, I sort of sensed that!  I've only been here less than half an hour, but I can tell it's a pleasant atmosphere."

        David robustly agreed with that statement.  "Oh yeah!  Let me tell you, man, I've worked at a lot of other car dealerships in the past, and this one is the best by far!"

        "Yeah, Marcus is teaching me the ropes," informed Richard.

        David took the opportunity to give Marcus a bakhanded compliment right in front of his face.  "Marcus looks like a maniac but he's really a braniac.  "He's also the most popular big man on campus... or, I guess you could say, 'big man on the lot."

        At this point, Marcus cut in on the conversation between the two.  "Yo, David, if I was white like ya'll I'd be blushing right now," he joked.

        David responded in jest, "Yeah, Marcus, that's one of the many problems us white guys have to deal with."  Then he turned to his white bro.  "Hey Richard, did The Carfather interview you like he did me when I applied to work here six years ago?"

        "Yeah, he sure did."

        "What did you think of him?" David curiously inquired.

        "Actually... to be honest, I didn't know WHAT to think!  I'll say this: he's not exactly someone I'd like to have as an enemy!"

        "Oh man, I felt the same way!  He's a bull, a killer.  But he's also a good guy!  I'm sure you'll like him, Richard.  Good luck!"

        "Thank you, sir."  With that, David went on his merry way while Richard and Marcus continued their discussion.

 

80

        "Okay, Rich.  So, like I was saying, I invented my own scientific model for effective salesmanship.  I call it 'Camouflaged Aggressive Sales Tactics' -- 'CAST' for an acronym.  Later on, I'll use Greg over there as a prop to teach you CAST.  He'll play a customer while I demonstrate to you how I'd handle him with the precision and skill of a heart surgeon.  Man, this is so brilliant I ought to get a patent on it!  I've polished 'The Craft,' as I nicknamed it, into an art, as well as a science.  It takes a lot of time and effort for someone to comprehend my technique fully.  But what it mainly boils down to is appearing courteous and respectful while simultaneously influencing the customer's buying decision in a subliminal way."

        "You mean like hypnotism??" asked Richard, seeking clarification of exactly what it was that Marcus was describing.

        "Yeah, that's the idea.  Personally, I've mastered hypnotism, but that's not essential for successfully practicing CAST, although it [would] help.  The prerequisite is you have to know the fundamentals of psychology, and also be able to think on your feet."

        "Well, I had to study psychology at the Police Academy, and as far as thinking on my feet... I think I can do that.  I mean, I know I'm not as smart at you, but..."

        Richard was appraising himself with a veil of confidence, but Marcus clearly discerned his diffidence.  "Well, I think you're going to be a fine car salesman, Rich," he said encouragingly.  "You've got that 'All American' look going on big time!  That's more than I can say for myself... thank God!  But as far as IQ, peronality, and cunning go -- you can't hang with me!  I leave EVERYONE in the dust in those categories, so don't feel bad!  I'm 'The Man'!"

        "You're modest, Marcus, very modest," Richard said sarcastically.

        "Hey, compared to me, Don King is a shy guy with no self esteem.  Plus, his hair isn't nearly as cooll as mine.  Ha!"

        "One similarity I'm sure you'd like to share with Don King is his amount of money," Richard assumed.

        "Well, hopefully, I'll have MORE than him one day.  As I mentioned to you before, I'm a rap artist.  I have an agent and he has a lot of confidence in my ability.  He's trying to get me signed with the major record label, Cornrow Records.  I'm really striving hard to become an accomplished musician."

        "You mean you want to be famous???"

        "Yeah, that's my dream.  i just want to be considered credible in my field.  I'm not seeking fame for the attention it brings -- just the professional recognition.  I want people all over the world to respect, admire, and enjoy my art form."

        "So, what kind of stuff do you rap about," inquired Richard, his curiosity aroused.

        "I write lyrics about all sorts of subjects, but nothing negative or indulgent can be found in any of them.  There's nothing about self glorification, thug life, violence, drugs, or sex.  And no profanity, of course.  I think all that mess has been pushed on the public -- the youth especially -- by seedy, money-grubbing record executives for way too long!  My songs appeal to a higher mind; what I term 'the Universal Mind.'  I believe the Universal Mind is within all of us.  Through my music, I seek to raise my own consciousness, as well as that of my fellow man."

        "You sound pretty spiritual-minded," Richard noted in admiration.

        "For sure, bro!  I've been that way all my life.  I remember sitting at my desk in kindergarten pondering the meaning of life while the teacher was writing on the chalkboard.  School was always so easy for me that it was boring."

        "For me, it was just hard," Richard chimed in.

        Marcus's eyes brightened at the idea that just entered his mind: "Hey, why don't you drop by my place sometime and I'll play some of my music so you can hear for yourself what it's all about!  I guarantee you it will blow your mind!  My girlfriend will cook you dinner.  She's in culinary school.  That means that she's studying to be a chef."

        Richard flashed an irked expression, as if to visually say: 'I know what it means!  I don't appreciate the condescension, dude!'

        "What's your favorite dish," asked Marcus.

        "Umm... I love eggplant parmigiana cooked just the right way.  Spaghetti and buttered rolls go good with that.  To drink, I like iced tea.  Oh, I also like to sprinkle that white Mozarolla cheese on the spaghetti."  The tone of Richard's voice escalated in his excitement at the thought of the upcoming meal.

        "Okay, calm down, buddy," said Marcus, chuckling.  "My girlfriend can fix all that for you just the way you want it!"  Marcus assured him of that fact while rolling up his eyes.

 

81

He could clearly tell that his new friend loved good