grown ups are like that....

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

growing up

"Management position open! No experience necessary! Come to the following address at noon today dressed for success!"

This wasn't the exact advertisement in the paper that day, but it was close. It promised the world, and to a naive young woman of eighteen, it was a chance at some easy summer money.

That day there were well over thirty young people stuffed into the generic little office in the generic little strip mall in Silicon Valley. No one was over twenty-one. No one older was dumb enough to come.

We all stood in our nicest clothes with neatly applied lipstick and freshly shaved faces. It was mid June and school was over, and we were ready to fill our pockets. I'd done the mall thing. The baby sitting thing. The temp thing. The receptionist thing. I knew that the money (for a young kid like myself) was in waitressing at a chain like Chili's or Spoons, but it scared me. The mall was hard enough for me since there were so many people, strangers. I was too shy and nervous and pretty much desperately feared the fast paced work of food service. No, a quiet office, a private home, the receiving end of a telephone. . .those were what I wanted, needed.

We were herded into a small room adjacent to the waiting area. We sat nervously in front of a large dry erase board. McDonald's fast food sacks were lined atop a table off to the side, and the smell of Egg McMuffins and fresh coffee wafted our way. The the presentation began. A slick looking guy with greasy hair and a greasier smile started writing on the board about sales and strategies. We were all confused, to say the least. When he noticed how bewildered we seemed he began to explain that we were all hired. On the spot. He told us we were perfect for the job.

Oh, and what WAS the job?

Selling perfume.

Door to door.

He started passing out the food before we could start stampeding toward the exit. Then a woman rose and began telling us about her experience at the company. She had apparently made quite a bit of money in just a short amount of time, and she was making more and more each day. Her advice: "Don't pass this up! Why, you could be rich!"

We took the bait. Every. Single. Person.

The next morning we would be split into sales groups with an experienced leader, but for now we should go home and sell some of their imitation designer perfume to our parents. And neighbors. And friends. The person who sold the most would get a prize in the morning.

So, with idiot stars in my eyes, I went home. My parents looked at me sadly and then sweetly forked over the cash for two bottles of the wretched stuff. They knew what I didn't--that this would all go sour and no one was going to make any money and that I would hate it. They also knew that I'd have to figure that all out for myself.

The next day everyone showed up early and eager. The young man who sold the most indeed got a prize--more McMuffins.

How underwhelming.

There were five of us in our group that day. Our leader was a woman who was half African-American and half Japanese-American. We were sent out in a van with a box of their finest (trashiest?) perfume. We parked downtown and went with our leader for a lesson. The first store we entered was a florist owned and run by a Japanese family. My leader suddenly, and seemingly out of nowhere, had a strong Japanese accent. I think she sold one bottle. Soon we came upon another store. This time my leader's voice took on the tone of the streets--the hard core loudness of a tough cookie trying to earn a decent living. I can't remember if we sold anything there.

Now it was our turn. We spread out at a gas station like fleas on a dog. The young Latino girl I was with lied to a man paying his gas bill when she told him that she was a single mother with no money and desperately needed to make a sale. I shyly approached a successful looking business man pumping gas into his black sedan. As I pitched my sale I must have looked horrified or scared or stupid or all of the above, because he turned and looked me squarely in the eye and said, "You must be pretty desperate to do this. Pretty damn desperate. " I told him that I was not desperate. Only dumb.

At that moment I aged. I knew what a pitiful and disgusting scam it all was, and I knew I was a sucker.

In the van on the way back to the office another young woman confided in me that she hated this job and wanted to quit. She and I went into Mr. Greasy Hair's office. I did all the talking, which was strange for me. I usually faded into the background, nervous and small. But I told him in no uncertain terms that this job was a load of crap, was parasitic, and was designed to trap naive young people into making the company loads of money while the salespeople themselves went home empty handed. Except, of course, for a hot McDonald's breakfast.

The girl next to me cried.

He told me how disappointed he was, and how he had seen such potential in me. He felt that I could have gone far. I laughed and left without looking back. He did, though, convince my new friend to give it another day.

This was one of the first times ever that I stood up for myself. My wallflower days were beginning to fade, and fast.

And you dear readers, what was the worst job YOU ever had?


InTheFastLane said...

Whew! I didn't have a lot of jobs, and I like most of what I did. I can think of some bad babysitting jobs, though...

painted maypole said...


my worst job was tutoring for the SATs. $15 an hour sounded good, intil I had to factor in the fact that I had to drive to and from the studen'ts homes, on my own dime (and pay for any parking tickets I got while there), time psent doing prep work... and the worst part? having to call the kids after the test results were in and hear them cry because they didn't get the score they needed to get into the college they wanted. not. worth. it. ugh.

but I did get much better at math.

Aliki2006 said...

Wow--my worst job was almost exactly like the one YOU describe, except it involved selling siding. Eek!

Anonymous said...

You go! My worst job was delivering pizza for a boss who clearly enjoyed the too tight shirt that he gave me for my uniform. Ugh. LZ