When I first moved to Cityville, my present place of residence, I was looking for work, but because I was undereducated with no local references, each possible employer looked at me skeptically over the top of my resume. It made me feel vaguely criminal. So, I found myself perusing the classified ads for jobs that I would never before have considered. One that stood out in particular for me was an ad to work as a presser at the Seaspray Laundry.
Seaspray. That word conjured up sea foam green and vintage washers and white or blue work smocks. I knew that I would need to invest in a pair of horn-rimmed glasses if I worked there, and that my knee socks would be rumpled down on top of a pair of very modest, leather, lace-up shoes.
I never did realize the romance of the Seaspray, though, because I ended up getting a job selling cell phones over the telephone to people in New York, New Jersey, and California. I hated phone sales. I sat in a cubicle that was so small I could touch the walls on either side with my elbows, which I would do while I waited for the auotdialler to send me another call to people who did not yet know that they really, really, really wanted to buy a plan for five cellphones. Because they did. I was that good.
If I heard a bird squawking in the background, I would talk to them about their bird. It was the same with kids or dogs or cats or a whistling kettle. Seriously. I would even ask about their whistling kettle. Can I ask what brand that kettle is? Because mine needs replacing, and I can't decide what kind to get. My sales calls took twice as long as anyone else, but I sold twice as many cell phones, and it depressed me to no end.
The job was so bad that, despite my hatred of telephone conversations, I called back one of my customers from New York City every day. Actually, Lydia was not a customer. She did not want to buy anything from me at all, but she told great stories about her son, her neighbourhood, and her pets. Lydia was the best thing to happen to me at that job. If not for the fact that I was newly married, she was going to set me up with her son who was in medical school in Toronto. You'd love my son, she would say every day. He's going to be a dawctah. Whenever I felt like my earphones were closing in on my already delicate brain matter, I would call Lydia, and she would tell me how much she loved me and make me feel peaceful again.
I did not even own a cell phone myself, and I did not want one. I still don't. I hate telephones in general. They are annoying when they ring and talking on the telephone seems to completely disengage my power of concentration. I can barely keep on track from one end of a sentence to the other. What was I doing? Oh, I was boiling water, and then, oh, did I mention what happened last night? Oh, hi kitty, meow to you too. What were we talking about? Oh, right. Just a second. Who's calling again? Do not call me on the phone unless you have some decent liquor to wash the call down with.
After my second week of sitting between orange cloth walls and staring at a grungy telephone while listening to the autodialler's clicks, I decided that I had had it. It was killing me from the inside out. I stood up, touched the cubicle walls with my elbows one last time, and prepared myself to walk into my supervisor's office and tell her that I quit.
Just at that moment, she stepped out of her office and asked us to drop what we were doing. Could everyone meet at the table now, please? I have a couple of announcements to make.
Okay, I thought, what was the difference if I quit now or in fifteen minutes? Apparently, there was a big difference. After everyone had gathered on their plastic chairs, she announced that I was the most junior employee to have made second-best salesperson so quickly. Everyone smiled and clapped. I felt sick.
I hated being good at that job, and I hated that she seemed so happy about it. I hated that the girl in the cubicle across from mine was so ignorant that she kept sporting a massive, fake diamond ring that her boyfriend was using to buy more sex from her. I hated that the office manager's pants were two inches too short and showed off his bad boat shoes and white tube socks. I hated selling unnecessary things to people who did not need them but caved in to my persuasion anyway. I hated that I was yelled at by people several times every day because calling from Canada meant that we got around their having paid to be on a no-call list.
After she had praised me publicly in front of fifteen people and they had all clapped me on the back, I felt like an incredible ass when I marched into her office five minutes later to tell her that not only was I quitting but also that I was giving no notice and would not be back the next day. I only felt like an ass for half-an-hour, though.
As soon as I arrived home, I felt incredible. I sat down on our futon couch and laughed, because the emptiness that phone sales had hollowed into me was suddenly gone. I would miss Lydia, but I would no longer spend the boring moments between calls spit-shining the grunge off my desk. I was moving on to bigger and better things. I was going to find a job that better fit my personality and my passions!
I was going to work at a cart that sold ten-dollar wristwatches in the middle of the mall. I was going to help people with obvious skin conditions try on watches. My boss was going to use my paycheque to fund his coke habit. Yeah!
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