essays

What I See on Memory Lane

toilet paper rollI found one of my high school yearbooks, 1974, in my mother’s basement. I sat down with it immediately and was transported to another time, not by the photographic evidence of how how young and innocent we all were, (I mean obviously I was young once. How else could I have screwed up so many times?) but by the strange miniature panties the basketball team wore. It was a weirdly contemporary look, especially since they also wore their white athletic socks pulled tightly up their knee caps. Overall, the uniform looked like something that might be found in Hello Kittys closet. Or in a George Michael video.

One of the babyfaced boys in the picture was later to become one of the several hundred bosses and managers I had while trying to get settled on a career path. He and I, who together equalled one and a half graduates of McLean High School, both found ourselves working for a company whose mission was to provide restaurants with paper goods for their lavatory. I don’t know how many other of the alumni found themselves in the bathroom business…it’s not something that they keep tabs on, like which Beverly Hills High students go on to win Academy Awards.

My position with Steadfast Paper Services consisted of driving a van that was cheerfully decorated with the company logo, a jolly turtle with a sailor hat cocked jauntily over it’s little eye, and to cold call, cold call, cold call. That’s how my job was always presented, in a triplet. “This is not rocket science! Get out there and Cold Call, Cold Call, Cold Call!” was a common exhortation around the office. On my interview, I had been assured of success as long as I wasn’t afraid to cold call, cold call, cold call.
But of course, I was. You’d have to be a complete idiot or suffering from steroid rage not to be afraid of any activity so certain to put you right in the cross hairs of of food and beverage managers desperate for a target at which to fire their toilet paper heartsbullets of rejection and contempt.

History revealed that the management of that concern, including the babyfaced boy in the junior varsity hot pants, were spending their workdays from 9:00 to 5:00 hiding from work just as vigorously but in a tavern, drinking 2-for-ones and buying shots for their pals on the company expense account. This eventually resulted in a technicolor officewide scandal which was dramatic enough to obscure my abysmal performance, and which put an end to all of our careers in toilet paper.

Some years later, having landed with relief in the real estate biz, I paid a fantastic amount of money to attend a weekend long seminar with a sales guru who closed the conference with these inspiring words. “It’s not rocket science! Get out there and Cold Call, Cold Call, Cold Call!”

Elliott Joachim pulled the plug on life in Metro D.C. and headed South of the Border. In her blog, Lifestyle Refugee (honey, what the hell are we doing in Mexico?), she regales you with how a middle range baby boomer builds a new life in Ajijic.

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