Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Clyde the Petitioner

MAY 19, 2005

This morning, I was heading back to my apartment from my car when Clyde caught me from the other direction.

“Hiya, Joe. How’s it going?”

“Oh, same shit, different day.”

“You gotta be more positive, man.”

“Same golden showers, different day. How’s the world of petitioning?”

Clyde is a professional petitioner. He shows up at retail stores and asks people to sign petitions. I think this his only job, and he and his wife manage to live on that money despite the fact that he only works a few weeks out of the year. The pay is apparently that good. Of course, in Clyde’s case, it helps that he saves money by doing his own auto repair and haircutting and only spends it on important things like herbal supplements and antiquated stereo parts.

He also travels to other states to share his skill during petition season. After all, not just anyone can sit outside a Wal-Mart all day and nag strangers to push laws that’ll help big business and screw the rest of us.

“Oh, we’re on a break for a few weeks. It should start up again soon. Ohio is the best place for it. You can call people twenty feet away, say the right word, they turn right around and come over and sign. Not like people in California.”

“Yeah, people in L.A. can be standoffish.”

“There’s a word for it.”


“No… I don’t remember. People are aggressive out here too. I almost got rear-ended three times.” Someone rear-ending Clyde? The mind reels.

He continued. “They must have been going sixty or seventy.”

“Oh. THAT kind of rear-ending.”

“Of course, it was partially my fault. I was putting the wrong thoughts out there or something.”

Clyde passionately believes all that stuff about the power of the mind and how it affects the universe. I do too, to an extent, but when Clyde discusses it, he just sounds ridiculous so I let it go. Besides, Clyde’s admission that he thinks the wrong thoughts is as unassailable as it gets.

More Clyde: “I really want to move to Florida but I’m sort of tied here for a while.” He articulates this dream out loud sometimes as if to make it more real. I’m still not sure if he’s trying to impress me or tease me.

“Do you need a ride to the airport?”

Only trying to be neighborly.


I was sitting at my computer, my front door open, working hard, which Clyde occasionally mistakes for an invitation to ask trenchant questions.

“Working hard?”

“Yeah. Clearly you’re not!” This was a joke, seeing as how he was in car repair clothes and his arms were full of crap.

He had no reaction. “I’m kidding,” I explained.

“No, I haven’t worked in a month. I’ve been working on my car.” I can always tell when Clyde’s been working on his car because it’s halfway sticking out of his carport parking spot. Sometimes he leaves it that way when he’s done, as if it needs the extra sunshine to recover.


“Looks like I’m going to Ohio.”

“More petitioning?”

“Yeah. Haven’t been there in three years. It’s gonna be tough to establish myself there again. All the store managers have changed.” He chuckled. Clyde’s idea of workplace humor.

“When are you leaving?”

“In a few days. I installed a CD player in the car. Do you know anything about MP3 software?”

“No, but I know you can take sounds on the computer and burn CDs to play on a normal CD player.”

“That’s what I gotta do. I have all these Hubbard tapes.”


“L. Ron Hubbard. I gotta make CDs out of ‘em. Otherwise they take up too much room in the car.” He made a little shape with his free hand as if I didn’t know what a cassette tape looked like. Apparently, he didn’t either; the shape he made looked more like a sandwich.

“They don’t take up that much room, do they?”

“There’s a lot of tapes. They come in these books….” He made another shape, something resembling a box. Large boxes of tapes by L. Ron Hubbard. Calvin Trillin should be so prolific.

“Isn’t it too much trouble to make all those transfers?”

“Plus they might melt in the car.”

“Mmm. Don’t want that.”

“These things cost a lot of money.”

I considered suggesting he attend a cheaper church, but that would have started another conversation and I was expecting company in half an hour.

It should be noted that during the entire conversation, he stood at the front doorway and his eyes kept darting around my apartment as if he were a cat that had just been rescued from the pound. I don’t know what was so fascinating to the guy. Upon reflection, I decided he was fascinated because he probably never sees the inside of anyone else’s apartment. I don’t think the other residents invite Clyde over very often.

1 comment:

Q said...

is this the clyde that hangs with tom & katie @ the celeb center and has a blog called My Neighbor Joe?