Friday, July 25, 2014

Confessions of a Telemarketer Turned Janitor

If I told you that during my college summers I worked, on different occasions, as a telemarketer and a janitor, you would feel sorry for me, right? If there were a list of bad summer jobs, you would probably expect to find these two on the list. But, what I'm here to tell you today, is that these were actually some of the most awesome jobs. So awesome, that I'm actually questioning why I didn't just quit school and pursue these full time. What was I thinking?!

It's kind of surprising that I would be willing to call hundreds of strangers a day as a telemarketer when I still have problems ordering pizza over the phone without great anxiety, but somehow I did. And even more surprising is this: there are people who actually buy or sign up for what you're selling! Amazing, right? There are a lot of lonely people out there who just want someone to talk to (as well as a lot of people with bad credit who will jump at the chance to sign up for the credit card you're offering.) But there are also a lot of mean people. Family and friends would often ask whether I was bothered by people yelling at or hanging up on me. The answer is no. The yelling could actually be entertaining. And, if someone hung up on me, I didn't have to rebuttal them. So it was really a win-win situation, as my natural inclination was to say, "You're right, you don't want or need this. Sorry to bother you."

While the monotony of repeating your sales pitch might be terrible to some, I saw it as the perfect way to multitask. It got to the point where my script was so ingrained in my head that I could actually make calls and read a magazine at the same time. It was like I wasn't working at all! The one drawback was that I had to stay indoors all day in a windowless room. We got breaks, but everyone in the entire building was a chain smoker except for me and an old lady in a wheelchair with an oxygen tank, so going outdoors pretty much meant contracting instantaneous lung cancer (or exploding, in Sylvie's case).

Even though I'm sure I've made telemarketing sound like a fabulous career choice, I only held onto that job for one summer before I decided to make an upward climb on the employment ladder to the position of temporary school cleaner. I was hired, along with a handful of other guys, to help all of the regular school janitors and maintenance workers get the schools cleaned up and ready for the upcoming year.

I was a little nervous to start as my only qualifications for the job were a history of dusting my grandmother's knickknacks and a penchant for organizing my closet and bookshelves, neither of which I was expecting to need to do at work. But, I was happy to find that this job actually involved little to no cleaning! A typical day went something like this:

8am -- 9am: Sit around while the older janitors smoked Checkers cigarettes (who even knew such a brand existed?!) and decided where we should get food for our morning break.
9am -- 10am:  Enjoy some breakfast from someplace such as McDonald's
10am -- 11am: Get down to work, i.e., wiping off the tops of some desks in a classroom
11am -- 12pm: Abandon above work to begin a game of euchre or Janitor Olympics
12pm -- 1pm: Lunch break!
1pm -- 2pm: Wash a blackboard or two, scrape a stray wad of gum from underneath a table
2pm -- 3pm: Stop for a break, have a Popsicle, get ready to go home

There were job hazards, though. Every once in awhile, the head of maintenance would stop by and berate us for our laziness, after which we would all maybe wait just a little longer than usual to resume our card games. I also had to endure being chased down the hall by Goldenrod, the creepy old janitor who was always trying to pinch my butt. I feel that I should also mention here that his nickname referred to the color of his teeth and not the flower.

Speaking of Goldenrod, the full-time janitors also kept us amused on a daily basis. Once while cleaning an elementary classroom, we paused to have a geography contest with some flashcards we found on a shelf. One of the older lady janitors decided that we should instead have a contest to see who could write his or her name the largest across the chalkboard........I hope that my ellipsis conveys the silence that ensued as we all considered how pointless a venture this would be. Yet, the adults decided to proceed with the idea with great excitement while we temporary workers looked on. Finally, it was the last lady's turn to see how largely she could write her name on the board. When she was finished, we were immediately confused as, according to the board, her middle name was "DRABE."

"Wait, what's your middle name?"

We tried pronouncing this in every way we could think--with a long a, a short a, etc.--but we could not figure it out. We finally settled on the pronunciation of DRAY-bee. She promptly corrected us, yelling, "It's Debra, you cuckoos!"

Everyone looked at each other around the room, before someone was brave enough to share with her that this was probably not the correct spelling of her middle name, to which she responded, "Well, let's find out!"
At this, she began pulling things out of her bra: a bee sting kit, a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, some Chapstick (I guess I should mention that she was a very LARGE-chested woman), and finally her birth certificate. Because, I mean, who doesn't carry that around in their underwear?

After looking over said document, she conceded that Drabe did not, in fact, spell Debra, retorting, "Well, how should I know? I never write it!" Point taken.

It was too late, though. Drabe became everyone's new favorite verb, noun, and adjective for the rest of the summer.


All I can say is that this was one of the best jobs I have ever had!


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