My First Job

Telemarketer.

Though, I didn’t know it, then, in the summer between my freshman and sophomore years in high school. Then, it was just a job, a ready and available job that wasn’t fast food or custodial, or washing dishes – jobs my friends had that I was trying desperately to avoid. I didn’t want to be like them, then. Well, no, I did want to be like them, I wanted to be like them when they were being cool and popular, but not when they were mopping floors and flicking sweat off their brows with sudsy fingers.

I didn’t want the kind of jobs that other ninth graders had. I wanted something different. Something that would make me feel special.

This has been one of my biggest downfalls – wanting to feel special, making decisions that make me feel special, like buying a Windows smartphone when everybody else had Android, or an iPhone, or a Blackberry. I looked like a fool who had no clue which phone to buy. It was a dad phone, for someone who thought it would be compatible with his PC.

So, I was excited to see the ad for a telephone job. All you had to do was talk to people on the phone. That was better than fast food. That was better than coming home with the smell of grease on your clothes. That was better than working the cash register, or worst yet, swinging a filthy mop when people you knew walked into McDonald’s or Burger King – and having to serve them, and ask, “Would you like fries with that?” And having to see hem in school the following year.

And hear the cackling.

So, yeah, I went to an office building and this telemarketing company was located in one of the suites. The company was run by a Latino woman and all of her employees were women, and Latino, except one white woman. They didn’t usually hire men, she told me, as I filled out the application, but… I don’t remember if she said this, but, I had a nice telephone voice and good manners. I was polite.

I read the samples she gave me in a calm pleasant voice and she invited another woman over to listen to me. They convinced themselves that I might be able to talk people into buying magazine subscriptions from me. I was hired on the spot. Four hours, 4 to 8 at night.

The job paid a few cents more than minimum wage plus commissions, but it wasn’t fast food. It wasn’t janitorial. I could truthfully tell my friends and enemies I was in sales.

I fairly skipped home after the interview. I think I did skip at least partway home. I was so young then. I had a job. An office job. I didn’t have to stand for hours. I didn’t have to wear a uniform or flip protein. And I was going to be so good at it. My confidence was so high.

I got home pleased with myself and told my mother about the job. It’s telemarketing, phone sales, she said. You call people up when they’re at home, eating dinner, watching TV, just got off work…and she went into exactly how she felt about phone sales and the people who did it for a living. She didn’t like that I was going to do it, and had she known that’s where I was going… But, I was the one who had to do it, but she knew I wasn’t going to like it, but I could see for myself…

And, I didn’t hear another word about it directly except every night when I came home and she asked me how it went, while looking directly into my eyes, and whenever she mentioned it to someone on the phone to tell them how she felt about it, and “I could never be the person calling some like that, you just just got home and haven’t even eaten yet. I would hate to be the person”…

And it went horribly. I had a good phone voice but I was horrible at sales, horrible at cold calling, horrible at not taking “no” for an answer, at pushing and pressing someone who’s on the fence until they say “yes”. I have been the person being called hundreds of times and been pushed into giving a “yes” by someone who knew how to push and bully over the phone. I have bought things I didn’t need or want out of weakness and sent them back for a refund, and I hate telemarketers. I hate those calls. I was not good at being one of those people.

I sold one subscription in my first week. And got fired.

I lied when I got home and said I quit.

I got a job at Wendy’s the following Monday.

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