August 14, 2002

Goose Creek: Fred Launches


Goose Creek: Fred Launches His Career

In the way of a quick rehash, I am taking the long-winded path toward telling how we got to GooseCreek, from whence this epistle is being written and from whence my old bones will be carried some decades hence, Lord willing. In the past episode, Ann and I are marking time in Birmingham, Alabama...my home town...until we can 'find and buy our place in the country'. In our minds, we have already left. Meanwhile, baby needs shoes...

We are living, 'temporarily' with my mother. I have no job and no income. My wife (who found work in the first 30 minutes in town as a pharmacist) is severely pregnant, and expecting in 4 months, which will also mark an end to the income, at least for a while. The job market in my area is saturated, the economy is stagnant or worse, with the 'Arab Oil Embargo' of the early 70's sending gas prices out the roof. So...off to the classified ads. This, I am convinced, is going to be humbling.


"Salesmen needed. On commission. Training provided. Limited openings"

Oh, this seemed promising. Turns out that I would be selling fire alarms, door to door. Training consisted of one 45 minute session where I was instructed in the pitch and provided with my 'kit'. The kit consisted of a cheap briefcase containing a cheap tape recored that played a canned program of background music in a minor key, and a laminated flip book. The flip book consisted of pictures of various disastrous home fires, complete with pictures of the victims in various states of bar-be-qued repose, some more or less still alive after the fire, but pitifully bandaged and miserable.

My initial task: find a victim, arrange an "educational opportunity", attend the session with the clients, call the supervisor from the victims home so that he can deliver the highly polished version of the pitch, once the shoeleather salesperson (me) has foot in the door. Oh crap. This is going to be humbling. I watch myself going through the motions in a kind of out-of-body experience.

Fred rings doorbell of formerly friendly neighbors. He greets Mr. and Mrs. Anderson with half apologies, while trying to give off vapors of confidence, conviction and zeal. Finally after some small talk, he sits down and begins his first maneuver toward future wealth and financial security. Lots of biology majors across the country are probably doing exactly the same thing right this minute, he thought... a thought that provided little in the way of encouragement.

Start tape. Canned documentary music begins and melliflous NPR announcer voice recites the statistics of home fires, damages in dollars to the average home owner, insurance red tape, and of course it alludes to 'the horrible prospect of personal injury'. Here the brief introduction ends, and it is now time for the shoeleather salesperson, Fred, to begin the 'face to face' portion of the educational opportunity.

(Open glossy laminated flip book while minor-key music continues a low volume in the background, for emotional impact). The hapless salesman begins:

(Turn first pages of flip book slowly, where Mr. and Mrs. Anderson can see...like one would do when reading a picture book to very small children).

"Mr. and Mrs. Anderson, you have a wonderful home here. You have worked hard and you should be able to sleep peacefully through the night without concern about losing everything that is dear to you." (Flip a few more pages, looking very solemn, pause through a moment of pregnant silence before continuing).

"Mr. and Mrs. Anderson (salesman is instructed to use client names repeatedly ad nauseum): The charred body of this child in the body bag here could be any one of you".

At that moment of intense personal integrity-crisis, Fred returned to his body from the ceiling where he had been watching this disgusting, and oh-so-demeaning experience.

"I'm sorry folks. That's about all of this I can go through. I apologize for taking your time tonight. I can't go through with this." At about that time, the phone range. The homeowner answered; it was my supervisor and I asked to speak to him. He asked how it was going.

"Oh it is going fine. It is going great. My kit is going back where it came from and I am going to get a real job and I am going to stop payment on the check for my death-by-cremation kit. And I'm gone." And I hung up. Oh, that felt good. And what a relief!

The next day, I took the kit in the briefcase to the home office of the Firemongers Company, opened the front door, and I launched that package as far down the front hallway as I could fling it. I promptly went home and began my job search all over again, starting in the Yellow Pages under Laboratories: AACME, ABCO.... and two months later, I was making Rat Head Stew. But that will have to wait until the next educational opportunity here at Fragments. Stay tuned.

Posted by fred1st at August 14, 2002 07:57 AM
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