36. It’s the Real Real Thing

“Death: It gets in the way of life. That’s our billion dollar idea,” Juliette said.

She had a jumble of tattoos on her arms. Skull and crossbones. Betty Boop. A butterfly, of all things. The word, LeRoy, in Gothic script, either tears or blood dripping from the letters. Sure, she was dead. But young dead, and in that yellow sundress, dirty though it was, distracting.

“Like Coke is the real thing,” I said.

“Except Coke isn’t anywhere near as real as dropping over dead. Speaking from experience.”

‘That’s good?”

“Complicated. Death. Normally, you’re trying to move units, you don’t mention we’re all going to die, that all products are ultimately useless. You  pussy-foot. Even life insurance. Insurance. Because everybody croaks. That’s not in the jingle.”

“You got a work-around?”

“Good news is, you don’t need to sell everything to everybody. You pick your market. Some people, you can’t mumble the word death in their presence. These are not our people. Kaput.” She made a flitting motion with her hands. “They’re dead to us. So to speak.”

“In terms of market share, what are we talking?”

“Fifty percent? We need more research. But for now, let’s just write off half. So we’re down to three and a half billion people, talking world-wide. Including kids, guys in New Delhi without two rupees to rub together, etcetera, but still, enough to work with.”

“So what are we selling them? It isn’t death. And life they got.”

“Hold on, hold on. I’m getting there. Your glorious life. Nobody else much cares about it, but it’s a big deal to you. Then there’s death, standing in the middle of the road.”

“Not much you can do about that. By my understanding. Unless you’ve got some fountain of youth thing going on. Stop-death elixir.”

“If we were that smart we wouldn’t be this dead.”

“Good point.”

“Here’s our spin. Death sneaks up on you. Doesn’t operate on a schedule. Can’t plan around it. Like a bad guest. Arrives in the middle of the night. Has a plane at five a.m. and wants a ride to the airport.”

“I still don’t get it.”

“Think. If you knew when you would die. Spend down to the last nickel and fall into your grave. Maybe champagne makes more sense than seventy-thousand-mile tires. Depending. Plan for the amount of future you have. Don’t waste time planning for a future that’s not going to happen.”

“Seems to me people would rather pretend they’re going to live forever.”

“You got your dreamers, you got your realists. Our market is the realists.”

Lutherson finally stirred himself. “That’s where you come in,” he said.

Monday: The obvious problem

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