[Note: This story was inspired by a particularly annoying encounter with a door-to-door salesman. The depictions of the afterlife found in this story are fictionalized.]
Sam was a traveling salesman with a promising future, except for one problem. You know the joke about the traveling salesman and the farmer’s daughter? Well, in this case, the farmer was armed, and extremely angry. On a particularly bad Monday, Sam soon found himself at the Pearly Gates, talking to Saint Peter.
Sam’s Aunt Myrtle had warned him about the wages of sin, so he looked sheepishly at Saint Peter, wondering if he really belonged there.
“Don’t look so surprised,” said Saint Peter. “Things up here don’t work quite the way your Aunt Myrtle said. (She’s in room 342,978,047A, by the way.) In fact, everyone gets to choose their eternal home. Camp out by the gate tonight, and tomorrow you will get your tour of heaven. The next day you will get to tour hell, and on the third day you can make your final decision.”
“Well, can’t I just sign on the dotted line and choose heaven now?” said Sam.
“Sorry, Sam, I wish it were that easy. But we have a policy we have to follow. We like to keep our 100% customer satisfaction rating, and to do that, we need to make sure that our competitor gets to make his pitch too.”
So Sam woke up the next morning for his tour of heaven. It was everything he remembered from Sunday School, and more. Harps were playing beautiful music, and the heavenly choir was in perfect pitch. He even thought he could hear Aunt Petunia’s voice.
“Is that my Aunt Petunia?” He asked his tour guide. “She tried to get me to become a preacher.”
“Yes, that’s her,” said the guide. “But we forgave her for that. And for a lot of other things you never knew about. BTW, she’s in room 342,978,048C, right next to your Aunt Myrtle. They haven’t argued with each other once since that tornado in 1987.” Sam was deeply impressed.
After the singing, there was the feasting, the welcoming of new arrivals, the meeting of new friends, followed by more singing and feasting, and the Ultimate Frisbee game between the Angels and the Saints.
At the end of the day, he went back to Saint Peter. “How did you enjoy your tour?” the old fisherman asked.
“It was great,” said Sam. “I was particularly impressed by the improvement in Aunt Petunia’s singing. Do I have to go to the other place tomorrow?”
“Yes, we have to be ethical up here,” said Peter. “It’s OK, a day there never hurt anyone. You just have to get out before the Devil knows you are staying there.” Then the old saint went to usher in some new arrivals, who had just rejected the competing sales pitch.
The next day, Sam woke up, and took the down elevator to his tour of Hell. Satan met him, wearing an expensive looking suit, and holding a martini in one hand and a big fat cigar in the other. “We’ve been expecting you, Sam. Come party with us.”
Hell was definitely NOT what Sam expected from his Sunday School lessons. It looked like one big, wild party. There was an open bar, where men drank, smoked all the cigars they wanted, and flirted with scantily clad, willing women. Harry recognized an old friend, and asked Satan about him.
“Oh, yeah, Stan,” chuckled old Scratch. “No more drunk driving convictions for him. And guess what? His pickup lines work now. Haha.” Sam looked, and the hottest woman he had ever seen sat on Stan’s lap and gave him a huge kiss.
“With all this drinking and smoking, don’t you get a hangover in the morning?” asked Sam. “And what about the risks of cancer?” It all appeared too good to be true, and not at all like the way Aunt Myrtle described it.
“How can you get a hangover? Remember, you are dead! There’s nothing to worry about here. No OD’s, no hangovers, no diseases, no jealous husbands. When you are dead, nothing else bad can happen, so it’s one big party down here!!!” Sam could not argue the Devil’s point.
At the end of the day, Sam went back up to the Pearly Gates, with a lot to think about.
One the third day, he went to Saint Peter. “Well, Peter,” said Sam, “I’m glad you insisted I take the other tour. Heaven is really nice, and I know some people there, but I think the other place fits my lifestyle a bit better.”
Saint Peter looked sadly at him. “I understand. The other guy makes a good sales pitch, and a lot of people choose the way you did. Well, there is the down elevator, Sam.” Sam walked into the elevator, with a few others who had made the same choice, and pushed the down button.
Halfway down the bottom fell out of the elevator. Sam was dropped into a vat of burning oil, where he frantically tried to tread water. He heard the screams of others around him, and something like a gigantic shark was swimming under him, biting at his feet, while demons stabbed at him from above with their pitchforks. He got thirsty very soon, and begged for a drink. A demon handed him a huge margarita. Sam drank it immediately, only to find that it was made from habanero juice instead of lime, and the worms in the tequila were still alive. “Drink up,” the demon laughed. “Coffee break isn’t for 10,000 years.”
Sam looked over and saw Stan, who he had last seen in the arms of a hot babe. Now Stan was wrestling a huge squid-like creature that appeared to be trying to dunk him in the burning oil, while trying to eat him. “Stan,” he cried. “What went wrong? It was so nice here yesterday.”
Between gasping for breath, Stan relied. “Sam, you are a salesman. You should know better. Yesterday you heard the sales pitch. Today, you made your purchase.”