Yet Another
Traveling Salesman Joke
The persistent difficulty is to put one's finger on a plausible explanation for the attraction New York has had on so many. "The right reason," the journalist Joseph Mitchell confesses, "is something obscure and way off and I probably don't even know it myself. It's like the old farmer who wouldn't tell the drummer - - - the traveling salesman - - - the time of day."

The shortest version of this story goes something like this:

An old farmer, carrying a jug of applejack, boarded a train heading back to his home in South Jersey. As the train pulled out of the station, he took his watch from his vest pocket, looked at it, and put it right back. Across the aisle sat a young drummer who leaned over and said, "Friend, what time is it?"

The farmer took a look at him and said, "Won't tell you."

The drummer was confused by the harsh reply, so he asked again, only louder, but the farmer didn't budge.

"Well, look here, for the Lord's sake," said the drummer, "why won't you tell me the time of day?"

"If I was to tell you," the farmer replied, "we'd get into a conversation, and I got a jug of fine applejack next to me, and in a minute I'm going to take a drink, and if we were talking I'd offer you to drink with me, and you would, and eventually we would drink some more, so by the time the train would pull up to my stop I'd invite you to get off as well and spend the afternoon with me, and you would, and we'd get to my front porch and drink and sing until evening, and then my wife would come out and ask you to take supper with the family, and you would, and after we're done we'd drink some more, and I'd offer you to spend the night in the spare room, and you would, and along about two o'clock in the morning I'd get up to go to the pump, and I'd pass by my daughter's room, and there you'd be, in there with her, and I'd have to get out my pistol, and my wife would have to get dressed and go down the road and get the preacher, and I don't want no God-damned son-in-law who don't own a watch."

---From The Manhattan Project:
A Theory of a City

David Kishik
©2015 Stanford University Press
Send us e-mail


Go Home

Go to the most recent RALPH