Thankfully I didn’t lose the big sale that day. As big as the commission was, it wasn’t long after work that I realized how humongous a payday that sale had cost me. This had nothing at all to do with my sales skills or any lack thereof, but rather with a facet of the current socio-political climate of the nation.
I sell mattresses for a major national retailer. That day at work was just like any other, a few small sales, a few big ones. The best sale that day was to a wonderful newlywed couple named T—and J—. They got a king-size Sealy hybrid, going all out with new pillows and mattress protectors and a bonded leather headboard. They were happy with the bed, I was happy with the sale.
How happy seemed less so that night when I turned on the news and it hit me how huge of a financial opportunity I had just let slip through my fingers. The lead story was on the latest Human Rights Ordinance bill failing to be passed by the Jacksonville City Council. If I only had had the wherewithal to exploit this failure of equality under the law, I could have cashed in on a mindset that would have punched my ticket to easy street.
Because T—and J—, the loving couple to whom I had sold a new bed that day, were both women. They were a lesbian couple, and I know that bothers a lot of people. It bothers these people so much that if I were to tap into that bother, I could easily set myself up as the newest posterboy of that mindset’s hatred and fear.
All I would have had to do was refuse the lesbian couple’s business. Just let them know that because they sleep with each other my life outlook precludes me from serving them, and then ask them to leave the store. When that was done all I would have to do is sit back and let the social media hoopla run its course.
The shit storm would most likely start with some tempestuous complaints from T—and J— online. Friends share with friends, memes spawn memes, it probably wouldn’t take long for the story to go viral and spin around the globe. Facebook, Twitter and Instagram would erupt with headlines and hashtags “Major Bed Retailer Refuses to Serve Gay Couple.” “Mattress Salesman is the New Kim Davis.” Local and national press would descend upon my store, looking for sound bites and video clips. I would have my rehearsed catch phrases at the ready: “God Made Adam and Eve Not Adam and Steve,” “I don’t hate gays – I have friends who are gay.” Perhaps I’ll begin dressing a bit more conservatively as the situation develops. Maybe an American Flag pin on my lapel, a crucifix on my collar.
As I garnered more and more attention I would undoubtedly get fired. But by that time I wouldn’t need it any more.
Because by that time I would already have started out on my whirlwind press junket. My days would be an endless stream of television and radio appearances, primarily on conservative media venues, sometimes as a lightning rod on liberal outlets. I’d serve as keynote speaker at rallies of bigotry and hatred across the country. I’d be invited onto panel shows, would receive standing ovations at conservative think-tank events, might even get an audience with the Pope.
As we are currently in an election cycle, I’d expect any number of conservative candidates to shamelessly latch onto me, marching me out at campaign gatherings and town halls as the avatar of any particular party’s values.
I’d be the latest Flavor of the Day, the most current vehicle through which the message of hatred is kept alive and consistent. My only role would be to hold high the hate torch of the billionaire businessmen and the special interest groups and the hypocritical religious leaders. I’d be the figurehead of the mindset, drumming up fear and loathing based solely on whom someone loves, whom someone sleeps with. The hordes of scared and angry Americans who are hungry for a sympathetic sounding board on which to hang their hatred would eat up every vile syllable that dripped from my lips. They’d worship me as their hero, their messiah, an agent of their imaginary sky-friend. I would be the grizzled frontline veteran against the imagined War on Their Religion. I would be the latest buffoon they moronically compare to Rosa Parks or MLK or Susan B. Anthony. I would be offered my own show on Fox News. I would be worshipped as the holiest of role models, poised to go down in history as a pioneering voice of all that is right and sacred in their eyes.
I don’t believe any of that “going down in history as a hero” nonsense. Not at all. In fact, I don’t believe much of anything that comes from any sector that would hold me up as a hero in such a situation. A quick internet search is enough to show how conservative figures involved in periods of civil rights unrest are treated by history.
While seen as heroes by some at the immediate time, changing viewpoints over time results in these people going through the rest of recorded history as symbols of abject hatred. From segregation’s most vocal proponents to WWII internment camp to those taking axehandles to suffragette marches; the bakery owner, the wedding planner, the county clerk, the [faux] lesbian-hating mattress salesman, distilled through time into two-dimensional figureheads of ignorance and bigotry.
So rather than risk a besmirched legacy, I will focus on addressing the source of this hatred in the here and now. The key lies in identifying what could be turning seemingly ordinary citizens into crabby, snarling vipers of bile and vitriol and other sundry unpleasantness. My current career most definitely lends me to surmise that the cause of all this fear and anger is that these fearful and angry people are that way because they are just not getting a good night’s sleep on a really good mattress. My experience in the industry has taught me that a night spent tossing and turning on an improper or worn-out mattress can turn even the gentlest soul into an ogre.
That being the case, the solution is a simple one. To all those folks who are currently engulfed in a miasma of misdirected racism and prejudice, misogyny and xenophobia and homophobia, let me get you on a good mattress that’s going to give you the great night’s sleep that will allow you to wake up each morning in the happiest and sunniest of moods. Mention this editorial and I‘ll get you a really good deal.
No matter whom you sleep with.