My seasonal employment had ended last December, ten days before Christmas. Up to that point, all us new, temporary-hires were jostling for the chance at permanent employment, trying to make sales, to leave a good impression, all in the hope that sometime mid-January we’d get a phone call asking us to return. From August to December I’d had perfect attendance. Each month, they gave me a stupid form commemorating this occasion. In my file there would be a half-sheet of paper saying, “CONGRATULATIONS! For perfect attendance during the month of __________, you have earned one (1) attendance point to be used at your discretion.” Insert cheesy, shit-eating managerial-smile here.
My attendance was the only thing going for me. I never made sales. The entire four months I never once made the monthly 16% sales requirement. The closest I ever got was about 14%, and that was following a couple of (what I thought were) phenomenal weeks. Every other phone call, despite my amazingly lackluster technique, I seemed to be selling old ladies crap they didn’t need. And for a moment maybe I actually believed I could do this.
There are many things that bother me about my job. Among them, the fact that my company hired an army of temporary workers to handle their busy season, paying them roughly a dollar under a liveable wage, while so artfully dodging the requirement to provide some sort of health care plan. So we were their hands and their mouths, their money-making machines, during the most profitable time of the year, all without them having to provide some of the more important aspects of regular, year-round employment. You know, things like 401(k), a prescription drug plan.
This is, among other things, how I know my company does not care about me.
But, despite my shitty sales record, they called me a couple days after Christmas and asked if I wanted to come back. “Absolutely,” I said. Up to that point, I didn’t know what I was going to do. I didn’t have any other jobs lined up. I needed the money.
Honestly, I was excited about returning to work. They said I’d be moving to Customer Service, where, I’d been led to believe, no sales requirement existed. This is what I’d wanted all along: during our seasonal free-for-all, I’d submitted two internal applications for transfer. Nothing ever came of either attempt. But now, it seemed, I could move into an area better suited for me, my personality. I was alright on the phone, helping customers figure out order-related issues. The entire month leading up to my return, I allowed myself to believe that this could work—that I could hang with this job, get steady hours, steady (but shitty) pay, long enough to work through Radiology school. For once, my days weren’t quite as dark.
My new boss Amanda is a petite blond lady, about my age, maybe a little younger, like in her mid-late twenties. Different than the boss I had before, during seasonal employment. His name was Don. He was a nice man, too, very effeminate. Easy (and kind of wonderful) to talk to, since he was very good at making you feel like the rest of the world didn’t exist and you were the only person who mattered. I didn’t trust him, though. He struck me as the kind of person who assured you everything was fine, everything was okay, right up to the moment everything was not okay and, in fact, falling apart. Like the two of you could be in a burning building together, faces cast orange like pumpkin skin—fucking literal smiling jack-o-lanterns, the fires in both of your eyes you’re so close—and he’d still want you to have a seat, to get comfortable. “How’re you doing, Jon? You’re doing great. Stats are just great …” he’d say.
So about ten thirty on my first day back my new boss, Amanda, pokes her head above my cubicle wall like some kind of Whack-A-Mole and asks if I got time for a chat. You know, like a Welcome Back chat. I’m in the middle of a phone call, muddling through what she just said while also listening to the customer drone on about her next item:
“Eye-en, twenty-five … duh, uh … diagonal slash (amazing the kind of names people drum up for the Backslash), fifty-nine eighty-seven. I want one of those.”