Noreen was home performing her daily cleaning ritual, which was fierce, as she firmly believed cleanliness was next to Godliness. She had been married to Fredrick, a pentecostal pastor for nearly 23 years at that point. They had a total of 8 children. Their children were in various stages of their walk with the Lord. Naturally, Fredrick and Noreen want salvation for all of them, but the bible is clear, true acceptance must be a matter of free will. Of all the children, Mookie was the most worrisome, as he had fallen in with a notorious street gang many years ago. He had already been hospitalized twice due to gang related injuries. There was a stabbing incident that cost him a finger and a shooting that very nearly cost him his life. In fact, the damage from that bullet, which entered his thoracic cavity and bounced around before coming to a stop, was so severe it continues to wreak havoc on his body to this very day.
In addition to being a pentecostal pastor Fredrick was a middle manager for the city. No one was surprised when he was one of the first African Americans named to a managerial post within the city. Owing to his strict upbringing on a farm where work came before everything, except God, made him a meticulous worker. On top of that, he was a decent and fair man in all his dealings. Even before he was named to a managerial post he started investing in real estate around the inland empire. When he moved to the area from Los Angeles in the early days the place was thick with orange groves, grape vines and walnut trees. There were very few houses. He had given Noreen a choice: they could buy a fancy house, in which case she would need to continue working to help pay the bills. On the other hand, he took her to see a lot with four houses on it, three of them somewhat run down, and explained that if they purchased this property they would live in the larger house and he would fix the smaller three houses up as rentals. The income from the rentals would in essence allow her to focus on being a housewife, which he knew she would love. What he didn’t know was how badly she wanted it. He quickly found out. When presented with the option to be a full-time housewife she practically leapt at the chance. As he shared his vision to one day tear down the corner house and erect a church in its place her eyes lit up! She started to jump up and down as she said, “Yes Freddy, I can help you raise the money to build the church since I won’t have to work!” At that moment, he knew this was the right decision and Noreen was the right woman to help him make his dream a reality.
It had been years now since they bought the four houses on the lot. So long in fact that the corner house had been demolished and in its place now stood the beautiful church he had dreamed of building. Rent receipts along with income from his city job and pastoring the church allowed them to buy a house in a more upscale neighborhood in the same town. Their frugality over the years along with some very good investments even allowed them to splurge and buy their first BMW. Fredrick had been eyeing them for several years but didn’t dare think of buying one until their reserve had reached a certain amount. And frankly, he had adjusted that amount up a few times before finally buying it. No one who knew him well envied the purchase, after all, they knew what a hard working family man he was.
There is a high end door to door vacuum cleaner sales company, which we shall call the Ruby Vacuum Cleaner Company. On this day the salesman from the Ruby Vacuum Cleaner Company knew he was short on his quota. He desperately needed a sale so he figured he had to choose his next client carefully. As he cruised the nice little upper middle class neighborhood with nicely manicured lawns and shiny cars parked in driveways he asked himself, “hmmm should I pick the house whose driveway has the Cadillac, the Oldsmobile, or maybe the Lincoln? Then he saw it, a shiny white BMW sitting in a driveway! Yep, he knew which doorbell to ring.
As he stepped up to the doorway, he couldn’t help notice how meticulously clean the area around the door was. He rang a lot of doorbells so he knew that very few people really bothered to scrub the area outside of their front door. When the door opened he was surprised to see a pleasant African American woman wearing a very nice dress on the other side of the door. “Wow, and he thought the outside was clean!” was what came to mind. He was a well spoken, very handsome, African American young man himself so he quickly said, “Hello Miss, my name is Michael and I’m with the Ruby Vacuum Cleaner Company. May I please know your name?” She responded in kind by telling him her name was Noreen. Not missing a beat he pointed past her and said, “I can see you keep a meticulous home Miss Noreen, may I call you Miss Noreen?. She happily gave him permission to call her Miss Noreen. He wasted no time getting to the point. His next question was, “Miss Noreen, May I ask what brand of vacuum cleaner you use?” He could only pray her response wasn’t a Ruby because if it was, he was done. When she said, “Hoover,” he could have danced a jig right there in the entryway. Instead, he broke into his well practiced spiel about how her carpets only looked clean, they weren’t really clean, and he could prove it. He was forced to back up and calm Miss Noreen down for a minute though. Having a stranger insinuate that her house wasn’t clean did not sit well with her at all. Once he had calmed her by explaining it had nothing to do with her housekeeping skills, only the equipment she was using, she agreed to let him vacuum the thick white wall to wall carpet that was installed throughout the house in every room except the kitchen, breakfast area, and bathrooms. As he looked closer he couldn’t believe there wasn’t a speck of dirt to be seen anywhere on the carpet. I mean really, did these people walk around with plastic bags on their feet or what? Not to worry, he hadn’t been doing this very long but he had been doing it long enough to know there would be plenty of dirt lurking underneath if she had been using a Hoover all this time.
Because the house, including the white wall to wall carpet, was so spotless he removed his shoes and vacuumed every inch of carpet in the house, knowing full well that Miss Noreen probably went over those floors with that Hoover at least once a day, maybe twice from the looks of things. When he was done he needed to be able to show her a pile of dirt to convince her that purchasing a Ruby vacuum cleaner was in her best interest. While vacuuming he took notice of the French Provincial living room furnishings, custom draperies, and Chippendale dining room set in the formal dining room. He thought to himself, “It’s pretty clear Miss Noreen or someone in her household knows quality and doesn’t mind paying for it. He even wondered whether she had any single daughters. This might be a nice family to marry into. She had told him about her husband being a manager for the city, as well as a pastor, which told him they should have no problem affording the steep price tag of the Ruby vacuum system. Especially since he knew they had eight children. There was no doubt in his mind that some, probably several, of their eight children were quite successful. He eyed the many photos sitting around the house as he vacuumed and they seemed to support this theory. When he got done and showed Miss Noreen how much dirt had been lurking in her carpet she was mortified. He figured there was nothing left to do but move in for the hard sell. But when he quoted the high price Miss Noreen’s eyes practically came out of their sockets as she said, “Sir, we didn’t even pay that much for our youngest daughter’s car!” Young Michael was accustomed to the way things worked in his home. His father made all the decisions, always remarking how his mother, like most women, had no head for business. As he scanned all the finery in Miss Noreen’s house he decided her marriage must work the same way. Surely her husband would recognize the good sense in purchasing a Ruby Vacuum System that would surely last 50 plus years and keep the house meticulously clean, as he clearly demanded. With that, he looked at Miss Noreen and said, No Ma’am, Miss Noreen I can not let you pass this opportunity up. I simply will not leave your house until you have purchased a Ruby Vacuum System. Now understand, I’m doing this for your own good. If I have to wait until your husband gets home from work and show him how it’s in your family’s best interest I will do it, Miss Noreen.” Stunned by what she was hearing, Noreen felt the blood rushing to her head. Her first thought was to pick up the phone and call Fredrick at work, but she stopped when she remembered he was at a meeting in downtown LA. Plus, from what she could tell she was in no danger. Then she thought to herself, Mookie just moved into the house behind the church and I’ll bet he’s home from work already. She looked at the Ruby salesman and said, “I’m going to call my son.” This didn’t seem to bother him at all. In fact, he said, “Excellent Miss Noreen, I’m keen to speak with a male member of your family. We can sit down and work out all of these confusing numbers. Go ahead, call him.” So Noreen walked over to the sofa, ears scarlet with rage, sat down, and dialed Mookie’s number. When Mookie picked up the phone she could hear male voices in the background. This let her know he had company, and judging from some of the language she overheard, they weren’t churchfolk. Good, she thought, as she blurted out, “Mookie, I let this man in the house to demonstrate a vacuum cleaner and now he saying he ain’t gone leave less I buy it.” Realizing what he had just heard but having a hard time believing it, Mookie loudly roared, “SAY WHAT NOW?” When Noreen said, Mookie… this… man won’t leave unless I buy his vacuum cleaner and it’s real expensive. The last words she heard Mookie say were, “I don’t give a damn what it costs, I’m on my way!” Hearing Noreen’s voice crack, the man tried to reassure her by saying, “Noreen, this is all for your own good. Women just don’t understand business matters like men. When your son gets here I’ll explain it all to him, get him to sign the contract for you, and be on my way. Look at what a nice vacuum cleaner you’re about to get.
The Ruby Vacuum salesperson’s first inkling that he may have misjudged the situation came when he heard the very loud sound of tires squealing at the end of the street. This was in fact the sound of Mookie and his crew making the right hand turn at the corner, RATHER QUICKLY, on their way to his parents home. If the squealing tires wasn’t enough to convince him, the sound of cars coming to what my father used to describe as “a screeching ass halt” in front of the house along with multiple doors being opened and loudly slammed convinced Michael the salesperson that he’d better take a peek out the front window, and I mean fast. What he saw made him forget everything he had entered the house carrying, except his ass! Mookie had come with 3 cars full of ‘er associates prepared to convince Michael that it was in his best interest to leave Miss Noreen’s house post haste. Several of his associates appeared to be carrying tools of their trade as they moved swiftly towards the front door. Seeing the looming threat caused Michael the Ruby Vacuum salesperson to take off running out the back door of the house where he proceeded to jump over the back fence only to disappear into a canyon. He was never seen by Miss Noreen again. His car sat where he had parked it in front of the house for several days until a tow truck finally came to pick it up. As for the Ruby Vacuum equipment he had been using to demonstrate Once the Ruby Vacuum Cleaner company learned the nature of Michael’s sales tactics they insisted that Miss Noreen keep the equipment as compensation for her time and trouble. Given the way things turned out, Noreen couldn’t help but say, “Thank you God. Thanks an awful lot.”