Amy Roberts: The worst job I never had
When I was in high school, admittedly I was not a very good driver. I was always in a hurry and generally assumed I had time to squeeze more in — 20 more minutes of sleep, another chapter in a book, extra time in the shower — before it was time to leave. I convinced myself the extra time I spent on these little luxuries could be made up for with a heavy foot and a belief that four-way stop signs were more like suggestions.
The 40-plus version of me is also always tardy, though I no longer lie to myself or engage in such controversial and risky driving practices. Instead, I set the expectation by saying, “Just tell me when and where and I’ll be there 25 minutes late.”
But as a teenager, I often drove like I invented the Ferrari. At least I did until I rear-ended my history teacher and my parents took away the keys for the summer.
The short version of the story is this: It was May and school was almost out. I was on my way to pick up a friend so we could go to the mall and look for graduation dresses. I was running late and trying to make up time by driving fast. I assumed the car in front of me was going to go through a yellow light, so I hit the gas to follow. Instead, the driver stopped and our bumpers had a little love fest. The driver of the other car happened to be one of my teachers, and earlier that week I had sat through her lecture on the Great Depression and the end of child labor laws.
Which was fitting because after I found a payphone to call my parents and tell them what happened, I was greatly depressed and knew child labor was in my immediate future.
As part of my restitution my mom made me take a job she knew would be safe, but awful — outbound telemarketing. It paid $20/hour, meaning if I could just suck it up for roughly six weeks, I’d be able to pay my parents back $4,000 for the damage and still have something of a summer left.
To be good at outbound telemarketing you really only need to do one thing: Show up. The abuse often received on the other end of the phone coupled with the painfully repetitive boredom of the day meant most employees didn’t last more than three shifts. But when your parents drop you off at work and refuse to collect you until it’s time to clock out, your options are limited. So I spent much of that summer trying to sell long-distance calling plans.
After two weeks, I had the most seniority in the call center and was promoted to inbound sales. This was exciting because I still made the same hourly wage, but would also receive commission. And the people calling already wanted the product I was selling! When I excitedly told my parents about my career success, they promptly called my supervisor and demand I be demoted back to outbound. This wasn’t just a repayment plan; it was a punishment plan too.
Several weeks later when I handed over my last paycheck to my parents I told them outbound telemarketing was the worst job they could ever sentence me to. As if they’d expected that statement and rehearsed the response, they both said in sync, “You’re lucky we didn’t make you do door-to-door sales.”
It’s a comment I haven’t given much thought to since. Until last week when I read in this paper that a 22-year-old door-to-door salesman was trying to sell pest control in Stagecoach Estates when a homeowner allegedly threatened to shoot him and took the salesman’s phone.
Truthfully, unless it’s a Girl Scout selling cookies, I’m not a fan of strangers knocking on my door either. It’s not just intrusive, at my house it’s also noisy considering my dogs bark for at least 30 minutes after. Add a pandemic to the mix and my annoyance seems justified. But escalating things to the point of threating gun violence feels a tad drastic. A “no soliciting” sign on the door seems like a more reasonable approach. After all, it’s probable that selling pest control door-to-door is already the worst job this young man is ever going to have.
Amy Roberts is a freelance writer, longtime Park City resident and the proud owner of two rescued Dalmatians, Stanley and Willis. Follow her on Twitter @amycroberts.
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