Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Job #4, Telemarketing in the Boonies, Don't Miss This One

Ahhhhhhhhhh. Here we go.
It was my senior year in high school. I was 17. I dropped standard English, which was AWESOME, to take, "Business English", which was not.

Brief Digression here:
That was the first year that I actually had a pre-college class that was worth a darn. My high-school had this guy, "Mr. Glick" come in and show us how to run a business, from start to finish. We picked a product: cookies; decided how many kinds/flavors we would sell, just one; and what flavor they would be: chocolate chunk... mmm.... Then we decided what kind of packaging would optimize sales. We picked bags over boxes; paper over plastic; but, with a window, through which prospective buyers could see the irresistible morsels we were selling. Then it was time to decide, location, location, location. We picked the mall. Who and how many people would sell them? We decided to sell them ourselves, individually. Finally, we estimated our costs/expenses, time invested, earnings, and profits. Glick then set up a business bank account for us, broke out shares, and wrote the checks from the proceeds. Like I said, it was AWESOME. How in the heck could I have dropped that class? Oh well.

Back to Job #4
So, now I’m in Business English, which they'd aptly knick-named, "Bone-head English". I had been doing well in my original class, but had transitioned, because Business English was taught in the, "Business Annex", and from there, one could leave school in the middle of the day, to work at a job. I had just been hired to do telemarketing work, at this company on the, "Main Line" in Philadelphia, so I was really excited.
Now you need to know a bit about the geography. The Main Line is the Northern-most part of the city, where the suburbs begin. By car, it is about a 45 minute drive from my high-school. But I didn't have a car. So, I had to take a trolley, a bus, an elevated train, two suburban trains, and then walk along a highway for about 2.5 blocks to get to work.

The job paid $10/hr. (Ok., so I was making about what I was spending to get to and from work... but what did I know... I was 17!) Apparently, I should have stuck with Glick, & done a cost/benefit analysis, and not made this move.

Anywho, at the new job, I learn how to cold-call people from a telecommunications data center. I sell a variety of products... but the only one that I can remember today is the "accidental death and dismemberment insurance" policies that I sold. While there I felt pretty good, because I was making what seemed like good $$ at the time; I was in a professional setting, in the "nice part of town"; and, all of my co-workers are adults.
Unfortunately, there were some negatives: 
1) Clients always complained that despite what we were trained to tell them, "You can't cancel the policy" when you decide that you no longer want insurance;
2) I had no friends at work, because none of the people there were my age.
3) Some over-thirty dude kept striking up random, overly-smiley-faced conversation with me, and at the time... that crept me the Hell out!
4) The route home was different from the route to work, from school. It’s dark, and through a worse neighborhood.

So, after about three ½ months (almost a semester), I get off of the elevated train, to catch the bus home. The bus stop is directly under the “El”, and it’s located in one of the desperately poor parts of town. Two kids lean against the wall behind me, and they begin a conversation that goes something like this:

Kid #1: "Hey man, should we do it? Should we do it?"
Kid #2: "Aw, I don't know man, I just got out of jouve'."

At this point, I casually glance behind me to see what these people look like, to discern if they're talking about me; and, to determine if I think that they’re f.o.s. They looked like they couldn't have been more than 14. But, if I am being completely honest here, I think that they could have been as young as 8 & 9. I determined that they were not a threat, and so I continued to wait for my bus. After what seemed like 5 or 10 minutes, no bus came, and the chatter continued.

Kid #2?: "I don't know man?"
Kid #1?: "Come on, come on... what do think?."

I crossed the street, went into the video store, and picked out some movies.

Me: "Holy crap!" I’m thinking. “Did they just show up inside this video store? No way! What the heck are they up to? Maybe they just think it's a good idea, just get some videos and go home. But they’re too young to get a video card. Maybe they're just messing with me. Maybe they decided they should rob the video store instead of bugging me. Whatever the case, I’m out of here.”

I was carrying my uber-heavy back-pack, and a briefcase with my sales scripts, client contact cards, and work schedule and was wearing a skirt-suit, and high heels, which makes me wonder, “Why did I think, ‘Forget the bus, I’ll just walk home’”.

But it didn’t much matter, because, I got about 5 feet out of the store, when I felt like really cold liquid was running down the side of my head. I reached up, and felt nothing... but I was sure that my head was bleeding (I guess it was internal). Roughly, at the same time I could feel that the earring that had been dangling from the ear on that side of my face was gone. Also, a giant brick appeared on the ground in front of me, and so I quickly did the math; ... Those _ u _ _ e _ _ had hit me in the head with a brick and stolen one of my over-priced gold earrings!

Both of these kids were now running in the opposite direction, and all of the adults on the street (and there were many) just stood there watching. I gave chase... but only got about ½ block before my high heels relented. It was at that moment when I noticed the pay-phone (You don't see too many of those any more.) and called 911.

The police arrived in a heartbeat, and amazingly... just then some other kids showed up, saying, "I saw everything. I know who did it. They live on [xyz] street." The cops were psyched. We went to their block, which was located in the direction that the kids had run. However, when we got there, we realized that the witnesses had not given us an exact address, and there were no kids in sight. Interestingly, though, about mid-block as we cruised, an emaciated, obviously crack-addicted woman rushed out into the middle of the block. She raised her arm, to stop the cops to say, "My boys didn't do nothin'. They didn't do nothin'." Double negatives aside, she had no idea that she was practically giving them up. Then it was my turn to act outside of my interests. The boys strayed into the street, and the cops looked at me and said, "Can you positively identify these kids?" I just looked at the kids, then turned to the cops and said, "... but, I was hit from behind." One of the cops shook his head disapprovingly, and the other decided to give me a reprieve, and a fresh opportunity to revise my answer. Now he spoke to me in a tone befitting a person enrolled in Business English, “Y o u   h a v e  t o  s a y  t h a t  c a n  p o s i t i v e l y  i d e n t i f y  t h e m." I got it... when he first had asked. However, I couldn't imagine perjuring myself in court later... and it just didn't feel right. I mean... their mom was on crack; life was tough enough for them. Maybe my earring could buy them something, instead of just weighing down my ear. So, I said, "No; I didn’t really see them that well."

Returning to the point, I’m a big believer in signs/indicators, and I took this incident as a warning from the cosmos that that should be my last day working in the boondocks, making that trek, and coming home on a variety of modes of public transportation, in the dark. I never went back.

And”... as one of my professors used to say, “thar we sit.”

No comments: