I’ve never fallen out of love so fast. Yeah she was beautiful, yes she was a nice young lady, but she’d crossed a line that revealed her true character.
Selling books door to door was always going to be a sketchy enterprise. But despite my well known cynicism, I fell for the lure of a summer of hard work and adventure coupled with making a boat load of money. It was a rah rah affair, a real believe in yourself, what’s his name bullshit festival.
We targeted the most vulnerable, never a well to do neighborhood, and never when a husband was home. If you can think of a more crass approach I’d love to hear it. When I managed to get inside it was most often a lonely woman who wanted company. I could never close those sales…maybe they reminded me too much of someone.
The net of all this was I was always having to go on calls with the local sales manager, another student not much older than me, so she could show me how to close. I was in love with her, and her roommate, another crew member was, possibly, in love with me. I’d go over and sleep on their couch the night before we went out on calls. They’d make breakfast for me. Was this supposed to be punishment? I was in fricking guy Heaven. I got sent out with the roommate once…that never happened again because I talked her into goofing off all day. So I went out with Claire, and pretended to be interested in selling books.
The morning went well, we sold three or four sets and I took the lead while she watched and coached afterward. We split the commission, which was fair because she would have sold at least that many on her own. And then a very young mother came to the door with her baby in her arms. She was trying to feed her baby but listened politely to Claire’s spiel.
Let me stop right here and mention what really got to me on some calls. Usually when you got in, they knew you were selling something educational and they wanted to be good mothers. And they could almost never afford it. We had methods to get around it, but that was my problem, I’d look at this struggling young mother and I couldn’t pull the trigger, “you’re right ma’am…the library down the street is probably your best bet, and so on”.
This was one of those situations, this poor women was all wrapped up in guilt…she wanted those books for her baby who could start reading soon but as she put it, “I’m already having to choose between food and rent”. That’s where I would have just hung out for awhile and chatted because she was sad and pretty and who could resist that? But this wasn’t about me, this was Claire’s sale and she bored in for the kill “we just need a deposit”, the woman shook her head and said “ I only have eight dollars to last the rest of the week”. “We’ll take it!”. And so Claire did take it.
I don’t remember exactly what happened when we got outside, other than I was furious. I do know it was only around 1 in the afternoon and we had 8 more hours of sales calls to make. But not me…that was my last call ever. I quit on the spot and hitchhiked back to the apartment I shared with the male crew members about 40 miles away, found a Greyhound and went home without a job. On the way home I missed Claire’s roommate…we’d had fun together, but whenever I think of Claire, I can only think of how unfeeling she turned out to be.
© Glenn R Keller 2020, All Rights Reserved