Sunday, January 22, 2006

Night Flight

Tagged earlier by Tara Dawn, I have chosen to respond in installments.

Part Three of 4 Jobs I have had:

Telephone Magazine Salesperson: College summer break

What a deep dive into the real world this job was! I was 19 years old with no concept of dishonorable employment and only one summer job on my resume. I realized something was amiss, however, when the white-haired woman who hired me, usually walking gingerly on crutches due to an undisclosed infirmity, suddenly picked up her crutches and galloped like a derby-running gelding when she thought she was alone in the office suite. I was dismayed. Later, deciding she might be a "fraud," a colleague and I tried to find her house in the safety of early evening light. We were curious to see if she had lied about her address, too. Yep, no such person, no such place, at least on that street. What did all this mean, we wondered.

Our boss and the owner of this magazine sales business was a smooth-talking, middle-aged, friendly and mild mannered guy. He hired young women to sell magazines by telephone and to schedule appointments for the following day when young male staffers would go into the field to pick up checks for the subscriptions we sold.

We had a typed speech to follow, a script, we called it. We struggled to convince our listeners to subscribe, leaving nothing to fate along our way. Spontaneous discussion was not part of our skill set development; there was a written response to every kind of “No” one could anticipate. We would search our script to find it and then, like parrots, spill it out as sincerely as we could. As I conducted these calls I had visions of television commercial salesmen, doors pushed shut in their faces while they attempted to sell vacuum cleaners. Many telephone receivers banged loudly in my ear during my short term employment. My naivete was quickly being "slammed" out of me.

I never learned what kind of business was being managed in that office, but magazine sales surely may not have been the focus! One morning a colleague who sat next to me during these scrambles into the jungle of urban America joined me in the elevator as we reported once again to the dreaded solicitation shuffle. We exited the elevator, walked down the hall, and opened the door to our office. Peering into empty space we stood there speechless for a minute. The office was clean; not a desk or telephone was left behind. The old woman, soft spoken and articulate, was missing in action. No crutches stacked against a wall. No sign of life but ours. No young males planning field visits. No movement but our breath filling the empty space before us.

I felt sick to my stomach and curious at the same time. For a moment it was like I had dreamed the entire scene. I slowly came to realize the truth. This “game” had been played before and was likely headed to a new location. I gazed at the emptiness and wondered if the perpetrators would be caught. I hoped. Handcuffs seemed like a nice ending to this job. It didn’t happen.

There would be another time in my future, several years later, when a man using crutches would pull them up and sprint toward a bus he wanted to catch as it pulled away from the curb. I watched from a window in the office where his disability checks originated. But, that is another story for another time...

6 comments:

liz elayne said...

I love how you write...My first thought when i finished this was simply "oh wow." People amaze me over and over...and I guess I hope that never goes away because then I will have turned into a cynic. I spent a semester in college doing surveys by phone - heard lots of phones slam in my ear, was solicited, called horrible names, realized how lonely people were when they didn't want to hang up when the survey was up. Oh how I know the "pain" of this.

Wenda said...

And now I'm about to blogroll you so I can continue to enjoy your writing with just one click of my mouse.

Thanks for the encouragement.

RitaPita said...

I love how you have turned such a a simple story into one with such interest and wonder. I must say, your jobs seem a lot more interesting then mine ever were!

Can't wait to read the next installment!

Patry Francis said...

Great story, Sky. I, too, am eager to read more.

Crazy and lovin' it said...

No really, with this post and I am sure the previous billion posts i have to catch up on you have just been added my funny as HUUMMMNAAA list. You are on my return often list. Thanks for the chuckle.

Jessie said...

Wow! That was inspired by a tag?? How great is that?! Incredible writing Sky. I look forward to reading more--lots more. :)