The crashing economy tanked our catering business, and I needed money. We served a reservation center for one of the airlines near LAX, and what once had provided an income so good that it induced facial ticks in our accountant (the income incongruous with our financial stupidity), the income was gone and I was scared. We had two kids, food bills, and a mortgage on our condo. Something must be done.
I never, ever read the want ads, but did so and saw help wanted for a “Christian telemarketing firm.” A what?? How odd. It caught my eye, but I looked away.
Turned out Susie saw the same ad and said, “You should check it out.”
“It’s probably no good.”
“Then you don’t take the job, but you should check it out.”
“I bet it’s a scam.”
“You should check it out.”
I’m the man of the house, nobody tells me what to do.
Four hours later I showed up for an interview. The owner, John (who’s real name was John) gave me the run-down.
“We do business-to-business calls. We don’t call residences, we call executives, they expect our calls, they take our calls. We represent technology firms who are hosting conferences, we promote conference attendance. Even if they are not interested, they are business-like and polite. AND, we provide full on-the-job training.”
The following Monday, I showed up for job training, John introduced me to the sales manager, Jonathan (who’s real name was Jonathan). We said our hellos, started to chat, his phone rang, he answered, swept around his desk to sit down to a notepad while holding up an index finger to ‘just a second’ me, took some notes, hung up, made another call. That call interrupted by another call, which, followed by two more calls, led to a one-hour conference call.
I left his cubicle and looked around. Open aired room, 12 or 15 people in cubicles making calls; at the far end of the room, the centerpiece on the wall, hung a large whiteboard with names. The top name on the list was Edwin.
“Oh he’s the best. He’s the top producer. He’s always at the top.”
“Where does he sit?”
Edwin looked like an obsessive-compulsive librarian on mission to make the most phone calls possible. I loitered near his desk, he took no notice. After his third call, I leaned in and said, “Can I ask you a question?”
“Well I just—“
“No questions. Do not talk to me. Go away,” and onto another call.
I stepped back. I was scared. Really scared. My family’s survival was at stake; the trainer had no time for me; the top performer was fricking rude. Little toad snipe wouldn’t carve out time for a question. Did he classify himself as a ‘Christian telemarketer’?
Ok. Alright. Wiped my sweating palms on my pant legs, walked around the office, found an office supply cabinet, took a yellow legal pad, a pen, and went back behind Edwin.
“Can I just LISTEN?”
I had no idea what he was talking about, but I wrote down everything he said. Each call, each comment, only hearing his side of the conversation. I wrote it all down. I wrote, wrote, wrote.
When he took a break, he stood up, walked around me, no eye contact, no comment. Four minutes later, back to his seat, back on the phone. And I back on the yellow legal pad.
Over the course of that day, I filled a full legal pad with notes on things about which I had no idea. Truth: he made several references to a company called Microsoft. I had no idea who they were –and this was 1993, so i ought to have known. But I did not
At workday’s end, he organized his desk, stood up, and left without saying goodbye.
Tuesday morning, I showed up, saw sales manager Jonathan on his phone, he held up his index finger indicating just a moment. I went to the office supply cabinet, grabbed a fresh legal pad, and spent a second whole day eves-dropping on Edwin, taking notes. No questions, just notes.
Wednesday I brought a tape recorder and recorded Edwin while I took notes. I started hearing murmurs, snickers, comments about me—“He’s too scared to get on the phone…what’s he doing, writing a book? Edwin’s biography?”
Thursday: in walked another new hire. She walked in. Amy (who’s real name was Amy). She had an outdoorsy look, tennis-tan skin, bright-white smile, long, brown, sweet-smelling clean hair, tight athletic build, shiny eyes, in a flounce-y dress that begged for a breeze to blow.
—now remember, I’m married and in love with my wife, so I’m not attracted like geez i want this girl, just…recognizing…a good looking distraction who would now be our workmate.
John the owner personally escorted her into the office. Jonathan the sales manager was heard saying “I gotta go” as he hung up the phone—but owner John walked her past the manager and straight over to Edwin.
“Edwin, this is our new hire, Amy. Could you take a few moments and share some tips, and maybe answer a few questions for her?”
“Sure!” said Edwin. He looked right through me—RIGHT THROUGH ME—I was invisible. I looked at her, looked at him looking at her—and I took it personally. Not only was I invisible, my WIFE was invisible, my kids were invisible, my food and shelter meant NOTHING to this monomaniacal ‘christian’ telemarketer, mesmerized by Amy. Aaaaaa-myyy. Aaaaaaa—myyyyy.
Edwin poured on the gooiest kind of unpracticed charm. He looked like firmed-up formaldehyde forcing a smile. It hurt to watch, he was gooey and repulsive.
Equal rights, right?
I left Edwin (and Amy), sat at my own desk, plugged in headphones to my tape recorder, and for the last time, went to work refining my call script, my talking points. Office mates were openly calling me scaredy-cat, making chicken sounds, saying I was afraid to make a phone call.
At the close of the day, alone in the office (for most had left), I made one phone call. Unfortunately someone answered. I tested my script, breezed through it, they weren’t interested and said a pleasant goodbye.
Friday morning I walked past Jonathan, walked past Edwin and Amy who looked bored, staring as Edwin droned on, past the office supply cabinet, direct to my desk. Pulled out the script, opened the call list, picked up the phone, and hit it. Hammer time.
Over the course of the day I made a lot of calls, spoke to a lot of people, booked a lot of conference seats, and at days end, I was #1 on that whiteboard list, my name posted in bright lights, just above Edwin.
The following Monday I was #1 again. And from that day on, as long as we both worked there, Edwin and I competed for the #1 spot. Daily dogfights.
I earned the money, paid the mortgage, bought the groceries, and rescued my family.
…ahh, but wait now, hold on.
This was a Christian telemarketing company.
Credit Susie—she encouraged me to check it out.
Credit John the owner, he facilitated the opportunity.
Credit Edwin, for pete’s sake, I learned from him (“Extracted” might be a better word).
Credit GOD. He orchestrated the whole thing, including the opportunity, the Edwin, and the context to toughen me up, go to work, serve an enterprise and provide for my wife and kids.
Thank you, John. Thank you, Jonathan (not really, but—). Thank you, Edwin, thank you, Amy.
Thank you, Susie.
Thank you, Jesus.