Monday, January 4, 2010

Last Call, Last Stand Part 4

Chapter 2 - The Other Shoe

When you get right down to it, cold call telemarketing is a lot like knife fighting. You do best when you obscure the point for as long as possible before you stick it in 'em. Obfuscate the main point, say "FREE TRIAL" as much as possible, and only mention the 299.99 closing cost and return shipping when you've already got them far enough that they'll feel awkward pulling out-specifically, after you've got their name and address. It's the conversational equivalent of holding your hand up high, waving it to draw their attention, and drawing your knife with the other hand and spilling their greasy guts to the floor in one swift swipe. I'm good at my job; I'm a good talker and a pretty good knife fighter to boot. The fundamental instinct of misdirection goes a long way in both fields.

The rain had finally stopped at 8:54 when I pulled into the parking lot. As usual I was knee deep in trash in my old 91 chevy cavalier, beer bottles and fast food wrapper trash clinking and rustling around my sensible work shoes. No one cares at DialDos (The premiere language learning direct marketer in the Midwest, at least according to our website) if you show up drunk or high, but I spritzed myself with some of that noisome Axe body spray and popped a breathmint out of rote. People were still milling around the office entrance, enjoying the brief flash of hazy sunshine beneath a sky the color of dirty wool. As I stepped out of the car a couple of them called me over.

"Mackey! Hey, Mackey!" bellowed the loudest of them. I won't say Cesare is a douchebag exactly, but he has three kids and I still get two thirds of his paycheck every week for pills. He could charitably be called jovial, with a thick tangled beard to hide his chins and flaccid bitch tits from hell, in a silk crimson dress shirt, he looks like a weird fat Mexican santa claus. He strode over to me with a Swisher sweet hanging from his mouth. "You been watchin' the news dude? That's some crazy shit right there."

"Caught it last night," I said cautiously. I lit my own cigarette, more to cover the smell of that cheap cigarillo than any genuine need. "You see them drag that chick out of her car? Unbelievable." It was 8:57 now and I wasn't thinking about her at all. My coke buzz had worn off, and I felt nearly nothing from the joint on the way to work. It was as close to sobriety as I cared to toe, and I was already more interested in a quiet moment in the bathroom than hearing whatever Cesare's take on the food riots were.

"Yeah, I watched that shit all night, that was unbelievable." His wormy lips moved even when he paused in the conversation, mouthing that cheap swisher like a goddamn pixie stick. I hated that. "Anyway man, can I get a front on some Vinnies and maybe some e? The missus and I are going partying this week and..."

I tuned him out, made the appropriate noises. I assured him that Dr. Mackey was still in business and I would call him at the end of our shift. Yes, on the second cell phone. No, I didn't have one on me now. No, I didn't want to go clubbing with you and your mistress while you left your girlfriend at home with the kids. No, I was most especially not interested in the strip club. Yes, I'd call you. It was 9:03 before I finally got punched in.

My first order of business was a quiet trip to the bathroom, where I locked the door and crushed up some Vicadin (I had lied to Cesare) between two spoons. The marble countertop was cool and smooth against my face when I snorted it, a comforting pressure with the color and texture of melting cotton candy taking up residence in my frontal lobe. Then I stepped out onto the call floor. The drone of telemarketing chatter swirled around me, further muffled by the drone of harder rain against the dirty windows. I took my seat at the end of the row of cubicles beneath the faded "Monthly Sales Stars" Banner. I hated sitting there, with my own face on the wall of top employees staring down at me, but it was the only place I could get away with a bump.

Between calls everyone was talking about Chicago, and the rising floodwaters that were threatening the rest of the midwest now. Other than a really persistent rumor that the media blackout was to cover a secession and the occasional whispered discussion of the rape video, nothing really interesting came up. My sales numbers were poor; for some reason my heart wasn't in it. All I could do was continue my scripted knife fights and count down the minutes to my next cigarette break. Time passed slowly, to the tune of pouring rain.

The power flickered off at 11:07, twenty three minutes from my break. The chatter grew more excited for awhile. The Chicago riots were on everyone's mind, but mostly they were all excited at the prospect of going home early. Still, the undercurrent of fear ran like a live wire through the place while management scurried back and forth on their cellphones demanding various impossible things from the municipal power company. Me, I just wanted a fucking smoke.


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