The Faucet of Hope

By Merle Harton, Jr.

Both humans and animals adhere to an inherent principle of behavior when they come face to face with a hot consuming fire: Move away from it! But when a human has tried but cannot get away from it, when he is utterly surrounded by it, when its flaming tendrils are licking at his flesh and the short hairs are curling on his skin and he smells his own flesh burning—when the human condition becomes so hopelessly lost in the situation that escape seems not to be even a remote possibility—humans will do something that no animal would even seriously entertain if the capability were suddenly traded for something that instinct appeared not to offer. When the chips are not merely down, but crackling and smoking, and the end is here, what do humans do? They hope.

The object of hope is simple enough: for something bad to become good, and for it to do so in a way that cannot be achieved by any means immediately obvious to the person who hopes. The human psyche is a rich fountain of traits and tendencies and behaviors, but why we were given something so stupid as hope is one of those mysteries that should keep academics and monograph writers employed in universities forever. After all, hope is a root of such elaborate cultural phenomena as millenarianism, Messiah watching, and the belief in souls, rebirth, and resurrection; it is to be found at the basis of beliefs in evolutionary progress and the expectations of paradise regained, racial harmony, social justice, organized sports, agriculture, war, and, of course, gambling. A John Frum prophet in Melanesia has as much in common with the gambler, for example, as a social activist has with the street peddler. Each one, in his own fashion, has an end in view that cannot be attained by any reliable human strategy.

Unfortunately, when wealth is the end, the variables for its means become multiplied and more hope is needed to supply the want of a reliable strategy.

But, you see, I did not need the frail promise of hope in my journey to real wealth. I had, at last, the vehicle to get me there. And I had a hot rod. I had FAMWAY!

I told Christine of the program, my interest in our getting involved, and asked for her participation. She agreed, but reluctantly. She also, again reluctantly, sat with me the following weekend as smiling Paul and Colette sat at our kitchen table pulling out products from the sales kit that came with our distributorship in FAMWAY!

Spread out on the table were multipurpose cleaners named Zowie! and Earth's Best!, a glass cleaner named Reflecto!, squirt bottles with nozzles and pistol grip spray tops, a laundry detergent, 4U-Zero!, that came in phosphate, phosphate-limited, and phosphate-free versions; a box of deodorant soaps, a shampoo for anybody's hair, a toothpaste called Glisten!, and a small pocket-sized canister of breath spray called Sugar Shooter! Completing the package was a handy group of health foods that included the company's specially prepared vitamins, Triple Z!, a weight control food bar, two packages of weight-control drinks (vanilla and chocolate flavors), two packages of fruit flavored vitamin-enriched drink mixes, and a granola-flavored fiber bar, called Go For It!, that was guaranteed to eliminate even the most stubborn irregularity. I wrote a check for $100 and signed the distributorship forms and Paul got on the phone and called the company for a unique distributor's number. And so we were in FAMWAY!

While Colette went through each of the products with Christine, explaining their many benefits, Paul and I went into the study to discuss strategic issues. First and foremost was my list of names. This was integral to success in the business, Paul said, and the list had to be maintained at all times. Everybody I ever knew should go on the list; we could always worry later about adding people I did not know. My task was thus two-fold: (1) to find people (friends, family, etc.) who wanted to make money, and (2) to get these people to a FAMWAY! business meeting, just like the one I attended. The meetings were held in five places in the metro New Orleans area, on different nights of the week, excluding Fridays and the weekends. Paul wanted to sit with me as we made phone calls, but I insisted that I do this myself; besides, what really could be simpler than sharing a wealth-building plan with friends. This was not the old soap and door-to-door FAMWAY! This was the new FAMWAY! and a programmatic plan for riches. I would make the calls myself, I told Paul, and would do so that very evening.

When Paul and Colette left, after extracting from me my promise to come to another meeting, I asked Christine what she thought of it all.

"We'll see," she said.

"What do you mean: 'We'll see'?"

"I mean just that. This is your get-rich scheme. I'm going to wait and see if anything comes of it. I haven't decided if this is something I really want to involve myself in, at least not yet. So we'll see."

"Okay, fine, no problem."

"And I'm not selling FAMWAY! door to door."

"You don't have to. It's a completely new company with a completely new method of generating income."

"I don't know. I mean, really, do you remember the water-filer systems you looked at about a year ago? Do you? Didn't that use the same bonus system for making money?"

"Yes, but the difference was that we had to buy a water-filter system and we had to sell them. Here all we have to do is to buy stuff for the house—come on, look at these catalogs! It's all stuff we're going to use anyway. If we want to sell them retail, we can, but we don't have to. And then we get money back on the purchases, we get points, and the more points we get, the greater the percentage of money we get back, and all we have to do to make it really big is to share this with other people."

"I don't like these prices. Look at these paper towels, for instance. I can get those at A&P for half that."

"You can get paper towels for half that price, but you can't get THESE paper towels for that price. This is quality merchandise. Besides, you're looking at the suggested retail price. Wait a minute. Okay, here are the paper towels in the confidential distributor's price book. Look at the price." I sat down next to her and started scribbling on a piece of scrap paper. "Now add shipping and handling and tax and—look at that—you get a price that's comparable to the more expensive brand of paper towel at the grocery."

"So what about the locksmith business you were so hot on, for a while? Or the electronic billing business you were going to go into, billing for medical practices? Or matching high school students with college scholarships?"

"Did I actually do any of those? No. And why not? Because they weren't going to get us where I want us to be a few years down the road."

"But what's wrong with your computer consulting business? You left a perfectly good job at the hospital for this business of yours, and it paid well, too. We're making do now, but you're not making the money you used to. If my Uncle Richland hadn't died and left me one-seventeenth of a fortune, we'd be in sad shape. We wouldn't have paid off all our bills, put the down payment on this house—"

"I left the hospital because I was an overweight, miserable, drunken, alcoholic, burned out, weary, never-at-home manager who finally got tired of the crap in working for someone else, pursuing someone else's dream, wasting two hours every day just driving to an from a job, sniffing someone's tailpipe every day in traffic. Sure, we had money, but no time to enjoy it. I want both of those—time and money. I still don't think I'm going to get it in the consulting business, because right now I seem to have more time than I have money. That could change, and I expect that it will, but we went over the risks when we discussed my leaving the hospital in the first place. I'm just trying to make sure that we can get our dreams realized before we have to sleep the big sleep. Look, the risk here is small, at least, and I'd like us to give it a try."

"We'll see," she said, with a smile that suggested irony.

I let it pass. When evening came, the phone was a new tool for sharing a get-rich program with people I liked. In fact, that was my sole criterion for determining whether I would make a contact or not—whether I liked the person, whether this was a person I would like to go into business with, whether this was a person who deserved to have this opportunity presented to him. It was 7:00 p.m. I started on my list.

"Hello, Rick? Hi, how're you doing? This is Marc Andersen. Listen, Rick, Christine and I have our own marketing business and we're looking to expand and we're looking now for two or three sharp people who want to make some extra money, but who need to keep doing what their doing. Are you open to learning how you can make some extra money?"

"Well, sure I am," said Rick. "But what's this all about? If you're looking for investors, hey, sorry, but that's not possible right now."

"We're not looking for investors. The company we are associated with is fully capitalized. We're looking for leaders who are willing to put in six to eight hours a week over the next two to three years on a proven program for generating a good second income. In fact, some of my associates are doing so well that they've turned that second income into a very large primary income. The potential is enormous."

"Marc, this wouldn't happen to be that FAMWAY! thing, would it?"

"We market over fifteen thousand products and services, and we have access to over a thousand Fortune 500 companies. FAMWAY! is one of the companies we are doing business with."

"Do I have to do any selling?"

"Do you like to sell?"

"Not really."

"Good, then you'll like what I've got to show you."

"Well, how do you market these products without selling?"

"Rick, I'd like to answer your questions, but now is not the appropriate time. I can't do that over the telephone. You understand that, I'm sure. What I'd like to do is schedule a time when I can sit down with you and Martha and go over some of the figures. It'll take no more than fifteen minutes. If you're interested, and I find that you and I can work together, then we'll take the next step and make arrangements to have you meet with some of my associates, and have those questions answered."

"Why are you being so secretive?"

"Rick, I'm not being secretive—"

"—This is FAMWAY!, isn't it?"

"What do you know about FAMWAY!?"

"Not much, but my uncle lost his house in that scheme. Marc, I'm really not interested."

"I understand. Well, thanks for your time."

I hung up the phone and went to the next name on the list. Never end the evening on a bad call; that was one of the rules of thumb. Besides, I have an indomitable spirit. Next call.

"Hello, Anthony? Hi, how're you doing. This is Marc Andersen. Remember me? We played chess together one day last year at a barbecue in La Ville."

"Oh, yeah, now I remember," he said.

"How's the automotive parts business?"

"Man, it's slow."

"I understand. Say, Anthony, are you looking to make some extra money?"

"This is FAMWAY!, isn't it?"

"What do you know about FAMWAY!?"

"Marc, I gotta tell you. My sister's in it, and she's got my first cousin Fred in it, and she's already talked to me about it. She even had me out to one of those meetings. You know, I tell you, I'm really not interested."

"No problem, Anthony. Thanks for your time."

And so it went for every one on my list. Nothing. It was now 8:45 and I was out of names. Christine would know some people to add, and so I asked her for help.

"I don't know anybody who'd be interested," she said.

"One rule of thumb is: Never prejudge anyone. You don't know if they'd be interested or not. Say, what about Alice Chaisson? Do you think I could call her?"

"No. I wouldn't recommend it. She's probably still mad at you."

"Why on earth would she be mad at me?"

"I'm guessing here, but probably because of something you said to her."

"What? When?"

"Do you remember a party we went to about five years a ago?"

"Christine, my dear, I'm an alcoholic. Do you really expect an alcoholic to remember something that happened five years ago. That's why alcoholics drink in the first place. Do you know any famous alcoholic historians? No, of course not. That's a conflict of interest, and they've all been discharged from their duties. Alcohol is really a complete chemical; as a solvent for cleaning out brain cells, it is highly effective in washing away any trace of those more annoying memories. Besides, if it weren't, half of all college students would die of shame the next morning. So what happened five years ago?"

"If I remember correctly, she walked by you, and you said something like, 'Hey, Alice, how'd you like some turkey neck?'"

"Well, uh, okay—so what were the circumstances? Was this at Thanksgiving? Was I carving a roasted fowl, or something that would make a remark like that inherently appropriate?"

"No, it was one of your friend George Dessiter's lamp-shade parties. In the early days. You were so full of whisky that night I couldn't let you near an open flame."

"Well," I said, "obviously, in this case, you did."

It was now 9:00 p.m. Another rule of thumb is that FAMWAY! distributors do not solicit interest by phone after 9:00 in the evening. But that was no problem. There was always tomorrow. And there was my indomitable spirit. Of course, failing that, there was always hope.

"In the Family Way: The Faucet of Hope"
Copyright © 1994 by Merle Harton, Jr.  All rights reserved