In and Out

Believe me, I’ve attempted, on occasions too frequent to count, to find beauty and attraction in the avarice and greed proudly on display at our sales meetings.  Call me odd if you like (you’ll have to get to the back of a long, long line) but I can’t do it.

So, why am I here?  Simple.  It’s a mistake of fate and of one bad decision too many.  You know when bad decisions are prettily packaged and you think Ooh that looks promising?  Well, that’s what happened here.   I applied for a job.  Clerical work, it said.  Routine, it said.  Reliability required, it said.  Well it lied.  At that point in my life I wanted more than anything to work in the kind of job where I had a large desk.  On the right hand side would be an inbox.  On the left would be an outbox.   I would sit in front of my screen processing the right and transferring to the left.  No personal interaction required.  No stress.  Just in and out.

One hour after arriving with my new employer I was excitedly informed that the department was the most active, most dynamic and most sales- oriented in the whole county.  I made the right noises, and didn’t allow alarm bells to ring.  After all, I didn’t have another job as back-up and my newly acquired wages were double those from my old job.

Throughout the day various buzzwords and buzzphrases were thrown at me – marketing, sales pitch, income generation, touching base, getting things on my radar, targets, curves – again, I made the right noises, but my own tiny buzzers began to vibrate behind my eyes.  This was not sounding like me at all.  Surely they’d made a mistake?  After lunch the first day I got my confidence together and asked lively, pretty Amy for confirmation. ‘Oh yes,’ she said.  ‘That’s the job.  You’ll be amazing.  It’s just first day nerves.’

So, it’s now three weeks later and I’ve been scheduled to attend a small meeting each day and a larger Monday morning meeting, once a week, every week.  First thing Monday too.  So I turned up to the meeting area – a dark, subterranean corridor of anonymous beige doors – along with six other colleagues.  Giggly Amy. Stern John. Greedy Elliot. Arrogant Mike. Greedy Judith.  Avaricious Anne.  Apparently (and I discovered this on day 3 of my new employment) I was now a key member of the sales department.  My job title was Senior Sales.  This was not the job I applied for.  It was not a job I could work up any enthusiasm for.  It was not even a job that I understood.  Every day as I took the bus to the office I would wonder what the hell I was doing, but there seemed no escape.  Each time I mentioned concerns to co-workers they said I was doing great.  But I did nothing.  How could I do anything – I had no idea of what I should be doing.

Monday meetings were, I could tell, going to become my most puzzling and unpleasant part ofthe week.  Two minutes in to the meeting I had to confess that I’d made no sales.  Never mind, they said, you’re still training, you’re doing great.  I confessed I did not enjoy the job and did not understand it either.  Never mind, they said, you’ll love it once you get used to it. 

Was I in some form of candid camera situation?  Was some vaguely recognised celebrity going to jump up from under the table and suddenly make things clear to me?  It was all a practical joke and I was waiting to be humiliated.  Surely that was the only explanation.

Or I had become lead player in some surreal outwardly imposed plan?  Or had a life coach taken over my feeble personality in a bid to transform me into something majestic and powerful?  No.  It was candid camera, it must be. 

Inbox and outbox, I longed for them.  Organisation.  Order.  Meanwhile, the meeting was hotting up.  I looked at the clock and realised I’d lost twenty minutes.  Almost twenty five.  I’d been in that meeting room for half an hour and couldn’t remember anything but my own comments and their resultant platitudes from the first five minutes.  ‘What do you think, Dianne?’ Avaricious Anne asked me.  ‘I’m too inexperienced to comment,’ I blurted out.

She turned up her top lip.  The others turned their backs on me.  Meanwhile I turned to flee.  Out of the meeting room, into the dark subterranean corridor, up the stairs to the light, bright foyer of our office.  I pulled the identity tag from round my neck and the Velcro gave way.  Relief, I thought. 

Freedom. 

I held it out to the security guard standing at the revolving door.  ‘I won’t be returning,’ I said. 

‘Sales?’ he enquired. 

‘Yep,’ I said. 

‘Told you it was something else?’

I nodded. 

‘They do it all the time.  It’s the only way they can get anyone to do the job.  Don’t blame you for leaving, darling,’ he said. 

‘We’ve got a security vacancy here,’ he added.  ‘You’re a big lass.  Tough looking.  Fancy it?’ 

I did.  I very much did.  I got a navy blue uniform and a walkie talkie the following day.  I didn’t get my in tray and out tray but, even better, I got my in door and out door, and both of them revolved.  I was in heaven.
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Lesley Atherton - Author

I'm an author of novels, short novels, and short stories, and have contributed to quite a few anthologies. I'm also Director of Scott Martin Productions, Publisher.

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