Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Skull Cap and Smoky Pickle

"If it appears too good to be true, it probably is."

How many times have we heard that?

Here is a story of a day that this statement came to life and kicked my a*&.

I was reminded the other day of my worst "job" ever. It may even rank on my "worst days of all time" list.

I have had many jobs in my life...summer camp counselor, waitress, mill-worker, bartender. I have sold clothes, office supplies, cell phones and and advertising. I'm sure there are more...but nothing...I mean NOTHING was worse than my very short stint in "Sports Marketing."

It all started after I moved back from St. John. Paradise, no less. I was waiting tables and working for a telemarketing company, and not very happy.

I can't believe it has been almost 15 years since this happened...but I remember every.single.detail.

Back in the 90's, cell phones and internet were still really thought of as this futuristic technology that only the very wealthy had...I still relied on newspapers and pay phones...I searched for jobs in the classified sections of the papers, and one day came across for an ad that looked something like this:



I had a Marketing degree, was a "people person," and the desire to advance my career! PERFECTO! I rotary dialed the number listed.

"ABC Marketing, where can I direct your call?"

"Yes. I am responding to an ad for a Sports Marketing Consultant?"

"One moment please."

Very professional.

I felt very grown up.

"Hi this is Jake." (of course, I won't use real names).


I got an interview!!

I was so excited! I called my mom and dad. I called my sister. I called my college advisor.

This was it.

I felt my future calling.

I felt like Mary Tyler-Moore. I ran out of my apartment and tossed up my hat.

Well, not really. But that's how I felt.

The next morning I prepared for the interview of a lifetime. I printed fresh copies of my resume and put them neatly into my initialed briefcase that was a graduation gift from my parents. (I know, right)?

I put on my very grown up business suit and put on my very grown up, but conservative, heels, my grown up lipstick and my grown up, well, I hadn't outgrown this yet, bright, blue eyeliner. (I had to be me, right)?

I drove into the city feeling on top of the world.

The building was right in the middle of the "Old Port." I had visions of driving in every day, getting a very metropolitan coffee and talking on my "flip phone" as I walked into my office, my assistant handing me really important messages from really important people who wanted to have really important meetings with me...I was a successful Marketing Consultant! Whatever THAT meant.

I was a bit disappointed in the wasn't the luxurious setting I had imagined. There didn't appear to be anything but a few folding chairs and a couple of desks. The phones were not ringing off the hook, and the girl who had the professional voice that answered my call was younger than me. She wasn't wearing red lipstick and chewing gum like the receptionist on "Moonlighting," she was decked out in jeans, maybe flip flops...ugh.

"I'm here to meet with Jake." I approached boldly.

"Have a seat, he'll be with you in a minute."

I went to sit on one of the few folding chairs, in between one very large guy in a knit hat(okay, we call them skull caps now) and a leather jacket, and a skinny kid who smelled like smoke and pickles or something, and had a rat-tail.

Where were their suits?

Their briefcases?

WTF. I would definitely get the job. Maybe I would go car-shopping later...

I walked into Jake's office when the "secretary" called my name.

I was nervous. It was an interview for crying out loud!!

Jake at least had a tie. He was much younger than I expected. But, he had a nameplate on his desk. That had to count for something.

The interview was like any other. He asked me about my work history, college, "where I saw myself in 5 years..."

I answered with all of my rehearsed responses. He seemed pleased.

He explained that he had been with the company for about a year, and had moved up the corporate ladder at a rapid pace. The "Sports Marketing" aspect never really even came up!

"I would like you to come back tomorrow and "shadow" one of our reps. Then you can see if you like it..."

"OF COURSE!" I would! I would!

"Wear comfortable shoes," he said as I was walking out.

"Okay." Didn't even ask why.

I was on my way to being Sports Marketing Director of the World!

The next morning was dark, cold and rainy.

My crazy ass curls would certainly not cooperate in this weather! I tried like hell to tame my frizz, but alas, put it into a ponytail and headed out. My expertise and professionalism would mask my wild hair.

I had my other suit on, a beautiful white one, with shoulder pads and gold(ish) buttons. Comfortable shoes? Not a chance. This was the big time. I would be fine in heels, thank you very much.

I drove into the city again in the pouring rain.

I ran into the office and was surprised to see skull cap guy and smoky-pickle kid! They were "shadowing," too? Something was wrong.

Jake and another young man came out.

"I'm glad you all came back." He squeaked. From behind the desk, District Manager Jake was a very short, bowlegged dude that may have weighed 100 pounds soaken wet.

"Today you will be going with Roy here on his route. If after a few stops you feel like you can make the approach, feel free. Roy has been at this for a few weeks now, and is soon to start in the manager's program." He said, patting Roy on the shoulder. Wow!

A few weeks? Roy? A manager? Route?

Roy spoke..."I can't fit all of you in my ride...can we take one of your vehicles?"

Skull-Cap: "We can take mine."

What in the world?

I followed that odd bunch right out the door. I had no idea what I was doing when I climbed into the backseat of the little black beater with the license plate "ISLAM 1."

That's right.

I listened as Roy explained our mission. We were going door-to-door selling packets of restaurant and sporting event vouchers.

"Sports Marketing."

The packets were filled with coupons for chain restaurants and passes to local sporting events, most of which I had never heard of.

"There is over $500 in value in these packets and folks are getting them for $20!" Roy was over the moon.

"So we are selling these today? In the rain?" Smoky Pickle asked timidly.

Skull Cap just drove in silence.

"Where are we going?" I finally managed to ask. I had no phone...and no one that cared about me knew what I was doing.

"We are gonna do the Old Orchard-Saco-Biddeford area today."


"You shoulda worn better shoes, hun." Roy said from behind the passenger seat of the Islamobile.

Rain. Wind. I watched My life passing by me out of the backseat of the beater.

Skull cap stopped when Roy asked.

"We'll park here. You can listen to my pitch a few times and then you can take turns trying."


Yup. I was once a Ding-Donger.(see, Roni? I told you).



"I guess nobodys home." Roy said.

I saw the old lady on the roof with binoculars. Of course they were home! Dumbass.


This went on for a few houses. Until finally, a door opened.


"Hi, I'm Roy, and I have a great deal for you tod-"


Next house.

I imagined phones lighting up all across town.


Dogs were barking, people were looking wearily out their windows at this motley crew of soaken wet peddlers of sports marketing.

Finally Roy gave up. "Lets go to another neighborhood."

Smoky Pickle seemed fine with this. So did Skull-Cap. After all, what else did they have to do? I'm pretty sure they were on parole.

They seemed as smitten with this plan as our fearless leader, Roy.

I was freezing cold and soaked. My grown up shoes were ruined. My shoulder pads were sopping wet. My blue eyeliner was running down my face.

Roy went over his pitch that we had yet to hear...

"yaddahyaddahyaddah...a great deal...blahblahblah, just twenty bucks for the standard...twenty five if they want the deluxe..."

"And if they say no?" Skull Cap asked in the deepest James Earl Jones voice I have ever heard...even deeper than the real James Earl Jones...

"I just ask...You ever eat? You ever have fun?"

Oh, yes, Roy. Yes. Of Course. These people will jump right on it after you put it that way. It was the dumbest thing ever.


We parked next to what is most likely the WORST neighborHOOD in Southern Maine. I doubted the inhabitants of these homes did much for fun. Except maybe rob banks and steal cars.

These places didn't even have doorbells to ring.

Roy knocked on the plastic covered area where there may have once been a door.

No answer.

Big Surprise.

We walked up and down streets of the ghetto for hours.

Soaked. Sopping. Dripping. Smoky Pickle with a butt hanging from his lip. He couldn't get it lit...Freezing, numb hands and toes.

And then, the turning point of my day.

The Cops.

Blue lights and all.

I was surprised that it took this long. I had seen several old ladies behind the window curtains on the phone. I would have called the cops, too!

"What are you out here doing today?" The officer asked. I was saved. Maybe he thought I had been kidnapped.

"Officer, we are with ABC..." I could barely hear his explanation. All I could think of was who was I going to call to bail me out of the clink. At least a prison uniform would be dry! I was ready to surrender.

"Could I have your i.d.s, please?"

I almost passed out.

I had left my bag in Islam1. Smoky Pickle said he would have to go back to the car, too.

Skull-Cap seemed at ease with it, as he pulled his out of his pocket, Roy proudly flashed his Company Name Tag.

"You can't be selling this in this neighborhood. No Soliciting unless you have a permit." The officer told us sternly.

Thank The Lord.

I was done.

We walked back to the car.

"Lets go get some lunch and figure out the next area," Roy said, a little rejection creeping into his voice.

Finally, I found my voice of reason.

"You are out of your mind." I told the group. "This is bullS*&t."

I glanced around. I was pretty sure I knew where I was. And I was NOT getting back into that car.

I got my briefcase from the backseat and walked away.

"You can't..." Roy started.

"See ya."

They didn't try to stop me. They piled in and drove off. Gentlemen.

I must have walked two or three miles until I came to town. I saw the oasis of lights from a Burger King sign and stumbled into the parking lot.

Payphone. Sweet, reliable payphone.

I pulled out my quarter and called a friend that I knew could come and rescue me.

I explained where I was, and how I got there.

I have never been so pissed off at myself.

"Don't even ask. Just please come and get me!" I think I was screaming.

He and one of his friends came to pick me up. I left those damned shoes right there under the pay phone. They were ugly, anyway.

Talk about too good to be true.

One of the worst.days.ever.

You know, I ended up with a great job soon after and I guess have been blessed to have a pretty succesful string of real marketing positions. But that lesson of being too good to be true is one that I will pass on to my kids and their kids and so on and so on.

I think I saw Smoky Pickle's mug shot on the news soon after, I don't know. I never got his name.

And ABC Sports Marketing no longer exists, just in case you were wondering.

Thanks For Reading.

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