“Is Your Interior Headliner Sagging?”
—Internet Banner Ad

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“Hello, Mr. Maliszooski, uh, sorry if I butchered that.”

“That’s okay, happens all the time.”

“I’ll bet. Hey, anyway, Mr. Maliwhiskey, if I can have just one minute of your time I’d like to talk to you today about the problem of interior headliner sagging.”

“Interior what?”

“Interior headliner sagging.”

“What the devil is—what did you say again?”

“Interior headliner sagging.”

“Right, what is that?”

“Interior headliner sagging is where, okay, picture this, picture your interior headliner—”

“But I don’t know what that is, interior whatever you said.”

“Okay, picture the material over your head in your car when you drive, Mr. Malisluffoffski, and picture it start sagging down, more and more over time, so that you know sometimes it can get real droopy on you, even resting on your head. Sometimes the material of the interior headliner is fabric, sometimes it’s leather, and sometimes it’s a kind of soft, highly pliable plastic that simulates leather.”


“Come again, sir.”

“Pleather. Isn’t that what that soft, highly pliable plastic that simulates leather is called? Pleather?”

“No, actually, no, that’s not the, uh, approved industry name for that, no, sir. Pleather is a how should I put this? Pleather is a common formulation, I suppose, frequently used pejoratively or as a crucial detail in a joke involving characters who are vulgar or gauche.”

“Did you just say gauche?”

“I did.”

“Just checking.”

“Anyway, my point is that interior headliners sag especially in your older vehicles, and that sagging can, over time, become a comfort issue for both driver and passenger. Some advanced states of interior headliner sag can present visibility issues of the road and safety issues for the lives of others.”

“And interior headliner sagging, that’s the approved industry name for this problem?”

“Yes, sir.”

“I have to be honest with you, I didn’t even know that stuff had a name.”

“Interior headliner sagging is what it is, Mr. Malizowowski.”

“Interior headliner sagging.”


“The other day I was reading this book by John McPhee called The Ransom of Russian Art, and in it he describes a professor of economics passing through those metal detector things at the airport. You know what I’m talking about, those gates that detect metal on you? Everyone pauses in front of them and then walks through?”

“Sure, sure.”

“Well do you know what the name is for them, for those things?”

“Metal detectors?”

“No, no, that’s too easy.”

“Metal detector gates?”

“Nope, you’re close.”

“I’m not sure what you’re getting at here, Mr. Malisohnohnoski, with this example or what have you, but if you could just give me one minute of your time to talk to you today about interior headliner sagging, I could—”

“In the book they’re called archway metal detectors.”

“Okay, that’s nice.”

“You can abbreviate that AMD, if you want. McPhee, he abbreviates it at one point.”

“Okay, but Mr. Malizoloftski, interior headliner sagging that’s my line of work, and so interior headliner sagging is what I’d like to talk—”

“So I read this and I think to myself, I never even thought of those things as having a special name. I mean, I had to stop reading for a second. Like you I’ve walked through them countless times, or maybe three dozen or so, and each time I just thought of them as metal detectors, if that is I thought of them at all. But the thing is metal detectors can be those devices people use on the beach to locate dropped change or lost wristwatches. Metal detectors can be those wand things that the airport security people use when they need to figure out if you’re ringing because of a belt buckle or a boot with a metal shank. It’s the addition of that word archway that really sets it apart. Archway metal detector. I liked learning that.”

“Which is why I can just tell you’re no doubt super-interested to learn more about interior headliner sagging. Interior headliner sagging can be corrected—”

“And then you come along today and tell me about interior headliner sagging. Well, right there, there’s something else that I didn’t know had its own name. So I sit here and start thinking, are there other types of headliners? Are there problems other than sagging associated with the interior type of headliner? You’ve really opened up an entirely new line of inquiry for me here today.”

“Good, good, because interior headliner sagging can be corrected very easily and quickly. Let me ask you a question, Mr. Maliszombieski, if I may. What kind of car do you drive?”

“What? Car? Oh, I don’t. I don’t drive.”

“You don’t?”

“No. I had a car, a truck, I mean, but I donated it to a charity before moving down here. This was just the other week.”

“Oh, okay, well, hey, then does someone in your household have a car? Perhaps I should be speaking with them or him or her, yes, right?”

“Now that I think of it my truck didn’t have any interior headliner to sag. It was an F-150 and it just had metal on the inside. The metal on the inside was just the underside of the metal that was on the outside, if you follow me. In retrospect, lack of any interior headliner made it a bit noisy in the cab.”

“Perhaps someone else there—”

“And now my girlfriend’s car, see, that’s the one we moved down here, it used to have what you would call interior headliner sagging, but she just tore out 99.9% of the interior headliner one day, so that took care of that.”

“Well, then, let me take just one minute of your time today and speak with you about replacing your interior headliner rather than repairing a few sagging spots.”

“It’s just so odd you would ask me if my interior headliner was sagging. It was probably just a week ago that she tore the interior headliner out. It was just getting in the way. And we were getting fed up with it. And there were unforeseen setbacks that made ripping out the interior headliner a handy outlet for emotional expression.”

“Is your girlfriend there now by any chance, Mr. Maliszeroski?”

“No, not right now.”

“Perhaps if I call again later—”

“I tend to have a lot of time to myself in this new place. Nowhere to go, you know, with no car and all, and me here not knowing my way around. I have plenty to do, to keep me busy, but also a lot of time on my hands, if you follow me.”

“I see.”

“I mean that’s the whole point of this, isn’t it?”

“Not sure I follow you.”

“Inventing this whole conversation? I mean, it’s just another way of talking to myself, isn’t it? Something slightly more socially acceptable than walking around muttering about headliner this, sagging that. Never mind how inventing someone to butcher my name repeatedly may be best understood as an expression of self-loathing.”

“Well, it doesn’t say much for you that you’d invent a sales call for yourself.”

“You’re right.”

“What’s next, designing junk mail to send yourself?”

“Right, okay, I get your point.”

“Or I know, I know, maybe you could invent recorded voice messages to listen to as you pretend to hook up hundreds of new phone lines.”

“Don’t you have work to do?”

“Not really. Nobody’s buying this interior headliner stuff.”

“You shouldn’t call it sagging. Sagging is such a terrible, depressing word. It really puts me in a mood, sagging.”

“You mind if I stay here, just for a bit?”

“Sure, why not.”