Sunday, May 2, 2010

Humor in my Life - Part 5

My first summer after college, I sold encyclopedias door-to-door. It became an exercise in humility. Not too many people appreciated having their dinners interrupted by a door to door salesman.

My day would start off by meeting with the other salespersons and their respective managers. We would then be driven to small towns located anywhere within a one hundred mile radius of my hometown. An appointed pickup spot, almost always a bar, would be given to each of us - what an ideal pick up point for a budding alcoholic! Then I was off on my own with my briefcase loaded with samples, knocking on doors where I hoped to get in to give my pitch. Hours later the sales manager would pick us up and drive us back to the office.

I did make some sales, but I often fell short of my weekly quota. The days were filled with endless walking and lots of rejection, though I was usually able to get into at least one or two houses a day to give my sales pitch. The one pitfall in the workday was that I often was not picked up at the appointed time. Consequently I'd feel obligated to buy myself drinks while waiting it out at the designated bars; not that that bothered me, mind you! This was acceptable behavior to management who often would reward us with boozy parties back at the office.

One night, while peddling my wares in a neighboring county, I made a sale. The one snafu was that my prospects objected to the amount of the sales tax, stating the sales tax was lower in their county. I told them I'd have to consult with my manager about reducing it and that I would return later in the evening. As it happened, this was one of those nights when I was stranded for hours at the designated pickup spot.

I sat on my bar stool next to a very friendly, elderly Italian man who kept buying me drinks – boilermakers! Well, I didn't have a good tolerance for beer and, with that added shot of whiskey, I quickly became very drunk. The “kindly gentleman” seemed to become extremely entertained and he just kept buying me more. People-pleaser that I was, I couldn't be impolite by refusing them, even though my head began to spin and I seemed to be fading in and out of consciousness.

Some hours after the designated pickup time, my sales manager finally showed up. He was also wildly drunk and, even though it was early in the morning, he insisted we go back to close my sale. We arrived at my prospect's home, but the lights were out. That didn't deter my determined sales manager. He started shouting toward their bedroom from the driveway. The disgruntled husband appeared at the bedroom window and curtly stated, “If you want the sale that much, come back tomorrow!”

My head was still spinning when we arrived back at the office, but I had to get home, right? So, I staggered to my car and I somehow managed to stay on the road for that drunken drive home. The next morning I awoke with a terrific hangover. There was no way I could even raise my head up, so blinding was my headache.

My mother showed me no sympathy as I groaned from my bed. I also knew there was no way I was going into my job that day or on any other day for that matter. I'd had enough! I quit my job and thus ended my door-to-door sales career. Fortunately or not my drinking career had only just begun!

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