Deaf Peddler: Chapter Three
In the beginning, many deaf peddlers find the idea of travel exciting. In the long run, however, it generally becomes mundane, boring, and stressful. To begin with, one must have a place to live. That can mean a hotel, a motel, or an apartment. When I was tired of sleeping in the van, I occasionally splurged and stayed in a low-cost motel, such as Motel 6 or Family Inn. But I got better at peddling as my trip progressed. When I started earning more money, these cheap overnight stays gave way to better digs. After a long hard day of peddling, I felt I deserved the extra comfort of a Hyatt or a Sheraton. Plus, I could afford it. And when I worked with a partner, we’d share the costs of these finer accommodations, an even better deal for both of us.
Having one’s own apartment imparts a sense of stability to the restless, vagabond lifestyle of deaf peddling. But to rent an apartment, it’s often necessary to prove employment. Most landlords do not consider peddling to be employment, but almost all will accept government benefits in lieu of employment.
Many landlords check credit history, which can be a problem for a deaf peddler. One way to cope with this is to deposit money in a bank account, which is then verifiable with bank statements and receipts. This is what I chose to do. Other peddlers prefer not to deal with banks, which can provide a paper trail for the Internal Revenue Service or the Social Security Administration if a question arises concerning income sources.
Another problem with renting an apartment is that landlords often require at least a six-month lease, but peddling is an unpredictable business. It’s difficult to predict when one will want, or be forced, to move on. Even if a peddler could escape the attention of the authorities for long enough to rent an apartment for a few months, he or she might be forced to move on with no advance warning.
For even the most experienced deaf peddler, unpredictability defines the nature of the game. Deaf peddlers are nomads of a sort, always moving on to fresh areas. Some do manage to live in the same place for one, two, and sometimes even three years, but this takes experience and cleverness. One must study the area carefully and learn how to work it to one’s advantage. Peddlers just starting out simply aren’t sophisticated enough to do this, so they tend to travel all over, making mistakes, getting caught, and, in general, running themselves ragged.
By December of 1986, I was exhausted from my trip. By then, I’d had enough of life on the road. I arrived in Springfield, Ohio, where my parents lived, intending to pursue my master’s degree at Wright State University in Dayton. Once I’d enrolled, however, I found I needed several prerequisite courses before I could enter the program I’d chosen. So I changed my mind and started thinking about an old dream Don and I had once talked about. Back in school, we’d decided to each try for a license of some sort. His goal was to become a licensed masseur. Mine was to become a licensed pilot.