My 11 a.m. was at a rundown house in the Excelsior, not far from Highway 280. No one answered the door. I called the potential customer, who showed up about 15 minutes later in a late-1960’s beat up panel van. He was in his early 60s, with dirty fingers, wearing a filthy jumpsuit, big, smeared, coke-bottle- bottomed eyeglasses, and a soiled safari-like helmet. His nose hairs overflowed. He was fidgety.
He led me into his dark home, which smelled faintly of pot, to a small bedroom that he needed to carpet. At about 170 square feet, I knew it’d be a $500 deal, but paced myself with the cost. The guy was borderline crazy and definitely on the edge of society.
I asked him if it was his house, if HE lived there. He said he did, but rented out rooms, adding that someone was currently sleeping in the house, so speak quietly. All of the previous carpet had been pulled up in the bedroom. He’d replaced a section of the bare hardwood floor with plywood.
He explained that his former tenant was about 370 pounds and could barely move. He’d found the guy last week on the floor in need of medical assistance. He called 911, and hadn’t seen the guy since, adding that he’d been placed in a state run facility. The area of the exposed floor that was under repair was due to the fat guy’s bodily effluent.
I cut him off, not wanting to know anymore. I told him our minimum was $500. He said he only wanted to spend $400. I said I’d make an exception and get the room done the next day for $450, risking being called to the mat by my boss. He accepted. We went out front and did the paperwork on the trunk of my car, as I wanted out of that dank, smelly and dark house. As I exited the home, I noticed that there were about six different types of carpet throughout. I caught a glimpse of another room, apparently a bedroom that had a table in it with plates of discarded food all over it. It was one of the creepiest calls I experienced during my years as a carpet salesman.
I visited a ranch house in Marin County, located in a serene, hilly neighborhood. There were ramps leading up to an extra wide front door that had a rope tied to it where a door knob might go. A camera peered down on me. I rang the bell. A voice said to come in, that he was handicapped, and to go down the hall to the right, then left.
At the end of the hall I found, literally, half a man; just a torso, really, under covers in a huge bed surrounded by all kinds of contraptions. He had crap all around his bed: bottles of orange juice, Gatorade, an oversized mug of coffee, pills, magazines, books, and pillows. There was a tricked out wheelchair next to his bed with some crusty Ugg-like boot/slippers mounted on the bottom. Perhaps he had some legs, or would cruise in public in the chair with a blanket to appear to have legs. There was incense burning and images of Indian Gods, tons of books and pulleys and levers above his arms. He was in his early 60s, with long frizzy gray hair and a big beard, accompanying split teeth; soft spoken and nice.
His appearance didn’t take me aback in the slightest. I quickly discovered that he was quite interesting in more than just his appearance. He had a flat screen panel mounted on his wall with six split screen images from around his house, two of which had a view of foliage up to the sky. He had a control panel/iPad with a grip on the back so he could hold it, and later played some ethereal music he’d made himself as the flat screen went to psychedelic colors he created to accompany the tune.
He wanted a carpet runner installed along his hallway toward the kitchen to dampen the sound of his wheelchair for the tenant who lived in a rented unit below him. I measured the space and called my manager to confirm pricing of $900, which the man said was fine. I told him I’d go to the kitchen table to do the paperwork and come back.
I made the trip, and discovered there was no kitchen table or chairs, so returned to his bedroom and did the paperwork on my lap. We talked about football, music and the neighbor who he said was a wealthy meth head whose wife had just split on him and was now making a racket trying to fix his house up to sell.
He wrote me a check using a special pen with both hands, as his fingers didn’t work well. Having him sign his name about nine times for all the paperwork was a challenge, but we got through it.
I told him it was a pleasure to meet him. He responded, “Likewise…you were very human.” I told him he’d get a call in a couple weeks with an install date, and off I went.
The Carpet Chronicles is a six-part series detailing one man’s experiences selling home flooring in and around San Francisco.