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When the devil went down to Georgia: An allegorical tale

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Atlanta, 1959.

 

It was a perfect May morning when she heard the doorbell ring. Opening the door, she saw a nicely dressed man with a briefcase. He snatched off his hat. “Mrs. McIntosh?”

 

“Yes.”

 

“Good morning. My name is Sidney Winder, and I wonder if I could interest you in a business model for earning income at home. We designed it for ladies just like you. Your neighbor, Mrs. Smith, is already doing it.” He gestured next door where a new Oldsmobile gleamed in the sun.

 

She stared at the shiny vehicle, which her husband had noted with envy. “Is that how they could afford to buy that car?”

 

“I’m sure it is.”

 

“Mr. Winder – ”

 

“Please, call me Sid.”

 

“Sid, then. What kind of business model is this?”

 

“May I come in?”

 

She hesitated. “My husband isn’t home …”

 

“Out here then.” He walked over to a bench on the porch and unsnapped his briefcase. He pulled out assorted documents, some showing concentric circles and others showing branching diagrams. “It works like this. We have some wonderful products everybody wants. You become a sales associate for our products. Then you recruit your friends and neighbors to become sales associates as well. The more products get sold by an ever-widening circle of people, the more money you make. The potential for wealth is unlimited.”

 

“What are the products?” she asked, frowning at the papers.

 

He pulled out some leaflets. “We have a line of vitamins for improved health. We have perfumes and makeup, so every housewife can welcome her husband home at night looking her best. And we have a line of convenient kitchenware every lady needs for greater efficiency in the kitchen.”

 

Her brows drew together in confusion. “But how would I convince my friends to get involved in this?”

 

“By showing them what kind of income they could earn,” he replied smoothly. “By demonstrating what kind of wonderful new conveniences and luxuries you can afford. Of course, you would have to purchase those things as well, to demonstrate your new affluence. And, ” he buffed his fingernails against his lapel, “depending on your ambition, we’re always looking for a certain caliber of lady to manage sales teams. Who knows how high you might rise in our organization?”

 

Mrs. McIntosh looked troubled. “Mr. Winder – Sid – I know you realize it’s not normal for women of my class to work outside the home.”

 

Sid rubbed his chin thoughtfully. “Someone with your intellect? What a shame. Mrs. Smith started working for our organization, and she’s much more fulfilled. A smart lady like you could go far. I can’t imagine you’ll be content all your life cleaning bathrooms and cooking meals. Don’t you wonder what you might be missing by staying in the home?”

 

“Missing?”

 

“Of course. I’ll bet once you started working, your eyes would be opened and you could understand the difference your salary could make toward purchasing more luxuries.”

 

“And what kind of income could I expect if I got involved in this?”

 

“Some of our best sales associates have made up to $1,000 per month.”

 

She staggered back. That sum equaled her husband’s salary. If she worked hard and doubled their income – just imagine what they could buy!

 

Mr. Winder saw her expression and smiled.

 

 

“… and he said their best sales associates make up to $1,000 per month!” she exclaimed to her husband that evening, over dinner.

 

“Do you want to work outside the home?” Mr. McIntosh asked, troubled.

 

“Don’t you think the benefits would be worth it? Think of everything we could buy with the extra money.”

 

“But we’re not lacking for anything. I’m earning enough to support us comfortably.”

 

She touched his hand. “Sweetheart, you’re a wonderful provider. But Mr. Winder seems convinced I have the potential to rise in the company, maybe become a supervisor.”

 

Mr. McIntosh frowned. “I don’t know, honey. Sending you to work gives the message I’m not providing enough money for us. And if you worked, who would take care of the home? We’re hoping to start a family soon.”

 

“Mr. Winder said most of his women sales teams work even with kids.”

 

“But …”

 

“And look at it this way. The extra money would really show our neighbors we’re moving up. I know how much the respect of others means to you.” She jerked her head in the general direction of the Smiths. “John and Mabel have that beautiful new car. Wouldn’t it be something if you bought a better one?”

 

“I suppose.” He chewed his steak slowly. “And we could buy that new refrigerator you’d been thinking about. And maybe take a vacation to see the Grand Canyon.

 

“And a couple of new suits for you, so you’ll look snazzy for your boss, maybe convince him you’re worth a promotion. Besides …” Her expression became crafty. “I might be able to climb up in the organization. Become a supervisor.”

 

“I still don’t know about the thought of my wife going to work. I thought you were happy at home.”

 

Mrs. McIntosh knew she had to be careful or her husband might dig in his heels and refuse. She poked at her salad. “Of course I am! And I still will be home, mostly. Mr. Winder promises me it will just be a couple of days a week, maybe a bit more if I move up to a leadership position. But I’ll always be home for you. And when we start our family, I can give it up and be here to raise our children. I promise.”

 

“I just don’t want you biting off more than you can chew.”

 

“I won’t. This is an apple I think I can really sink my teeth into.”

 

He gave a small smile. “Then I guess it’s all right, Eve. We’ll give it a try. But if it starts to mess things up, it’s over, right?”

 

She leaned over and kissed her husband’s cheek. “Thank you, Adam. I think this will be an eye-opener for both of us.”

 

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