Thursday, August 11, 2011

Bulk Foods

"We specialize in bulk foods."

Sometimes, for reasons you can't explain, a phrase or a sentence will catch your eye. Today, as I was driving from Franklin, Tennessee to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, I passed by a sixteen-wheeler with strikingly simple decor: The side was white, save for the company's robin's egg blue logo, and the sentence "We specialize in bulk foods," written in a simple print font.

I don't know what it is about this sentence that struck me so. I think it was the simplicity, the straightforwardness, of both the presentation and the content. "Hello," the truck said. "If you've got bulk food transportation that needs to be attended to, please consider our services." There were no pictures of savory meats, or juicy, ripe fruits, or even dried grains, easily the least-difficult to transport of all the bulk foods. I mean, they come in sacks.

There seemed to be a sort of blue-collar nobility to it, and I trusted the company the moment I saw that truck. This company is so focused on the service provided that they don't bother with flashy marketing. They designed a logo, about sixty or seventy years ago based on the look of the thing, and ever since, they've been focusing on bulk foods. I'd trust them with my bulk foods. That's not even facetious. I really would.

I instantly pictured the owner of the company at a party. He's in business casual, holding an old fashioned. His hair is cropped to the short side, neatly maintained. He has a touch of the salt and pepper to him. "Hello, my name is Tom," he'll say, as he shakes my hand with a genial smile, "and I specialize in bulk foods." He'll turn slightly towards the young man, late teens, standing to his left. "This is my son Adam." Adam will shake my hand. "We're hopeful," Tom continues, "that he will specialize in bulk foods, as soon as he finishes college."

I started wondering what I would say at that party: "Nice to meet you, Tom. I'm Andrew. I..." what? I teach English as a Second Language? I suppose, but I haven't started yet. I write music? Sure, but do I make a living that way? That's no more what I do than the temporary job I have at Hams and Jams Mail Order Catalog is what I do, though they disqualify under different categories. In that moment, looking at that truck, I envied Tom. He provides transportation tailored for the bulk foods industry. That's what he does. That's who he is. At that party, he doesn't try to sell me on his service, because he knows it speaks for itself, and, should I ever happen to have any bulk foods needs, I'll know he's the guy. It's the quiet confidence that comes not from knowing you're the best, but from knowing who you are and what you do, and knowing you'll try harder than anyone else when the task is at hand.

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