By Barbara Bose

Circa 1983. Posed as an American swinging single, I sat down on one of the bouncy couches in the lobby of the timeshare condo, lured in by a free tv after a tour of the property. A Deluxe Portable Bentley 5” 82 Channel T.V. was to be mine just for visiting and touring the resort after meeting the enclosed gift claim rules!

Everything looked in the state of still-being-built. Condo salespeople came in and out. The pretty punk-hairdo’d receptionist told me where to wait. I was wondering why she had taken my blue card with the directions on it. I realized the gift claim rules were on the reverse side.

I really didn’t want the tour. I had one previously for a different timeshare place. It was interesting but impossible to afford at this time. Or ever, it seemed since a week at a vacation condo is not high on the list of priorities for a working single mother. However those salespeople don’t take rejection easily. I didn’t even want the TV, but thought it might make a good gift for someone. I was just happy to have the morning to myself and take a nice drive with the radio on.

I went over the alternatives in my mind. Why don’t I tell them right off the bat that I can’t afford the timeshare right now, but that I might be interested at a later date and would like to take the tour? I thought it would avoid any uncomfortable misunderstandings later.

A Mae-Westish saleslady glanced at me, then asked the receptionist in a low voice, “Who’s got this one? Egypt? Sure taking her time, the bitch.” Then she clicked away on her spiky heels. It occurred to me that every woman was in a hypersexual mode.

Moments later, the woman who I assumed was Egypt entered, but went over to a desk to make a call. Lots of clinking jewelry, make-up, perfume, eastern looking like an Egyptian – she seemed so hard and sharp. Then she walked over to me all smiles and introduced herself as Delores. Won’t I come this way?

This way led to an indoor pool area surrounded by small tables and chairs filled with salespeople and potential customers. How many are interested, and how many just want the TV, I wondered. I was sure the number was predictable.

The setting was truly weird. The whole room was a din of crazy echoes bouncing chaotically off the pool, cement floor and glass windows. Delores started her rap, hard to hear clearly through all the other echoing voices. As soon as I had an opportunity I told her that to avoid any misunderstanding I will not be buying anything today but that I was interested in the tour anyway.

“You mean you just came here for the free gift?” said she, eyes widening with incredulity. “Do you think we just give those TVs away?”

I told her that I understood that offer was part of their marketing program to get people down there. They made no pretensions about appealing to peoples’ material instincts, so why should I pretend not to have one? I wasn’t embarrassed to admit that I didn’t have lots of money to waste and that I would like the free gift.

I flashed back to the last time I had a tour when they tried to embarrass me into buying a place. Then in just-between-you-and-me fashion Delores added, “Do you know what we call people like you?”

“That’s OK,” said I, still centered and remembering my daily affirmations. “It matters not at all what you think of me. I’m being honest with you.”

“Well, we consider you a Bad Risk. And we have the option of refusing you a tour.”

Hmmm, this was starting to get heavy. I picked up the blue card which was attached to her clipboard and searched the rules for such an option. “Gee, I don’t see that mentioned here…”

Then came a big scramble for the blue card.

“Give me that card!” she demanded. She actually made a grab for it, thrusting her long pearly nails towards me.

Why does she want this so much? Better hold on to it. I put the blue card in my purse. I calmly mentioned I worked at the Herald and would he please take me on the tour now? Off Delores stormed in a huge huff. As I came up behind her she was whispering emphatically to her boss behind a counter.

“… works for the Herald. And she’s got the blue card!”

“What seems to be the problem here?” I asked before he could. “This woman said she won’t give me a tour.”

“What? She can’t do that!” He said, turning to her, “Did you say that?”

Delores gasped and her jewelry clinked.

“No Bob. Honest, I swear.” Delores seemed to be falling apart.

Bob turns to me. “She would not say such a thing. We are PROFESSIONALS. You have a right to get your TV, but you must have a tour first. Then there was some pretended confusion over whether or not I wanted the tour, but I had made it clear I wanted one. They looked at the schedule for the next tour.

“We can give you the 6 pm block.” It was 11:30 in the morning. “Now please surrender the Blue Card.”

Surrender was an interesting choice of words. I went over my list of options. Do I want to sit there all day for a probably lousy small TV? They sort of had me since they were making up the rules as they went along. Do I really want to SURRENDER the Blue Card which by now had something magical about it?

No to all of the above.

“That’s OK,” I said, tapping my purse. “I think I have something better.” I breezed out the door.

What I had was an adventure with what could cynically be described as the American Way. But instead I will call it Nature’s Way – the way of the spider or the venus flytrap. Being able to stay calm, maintain integrity and deflect their attempted jabs to my self esteem was a free gift I already had.


Elizabeth Garden is an artist who uses her imagination to overcome major life obstacles including trauma and child abuse.