Monday, April 12, 2010
Lowered Expectations : Part II
My next venture was with a self-described "Marketing Firm" that had a "warehouse" just off Windsor Street in Halifax. When I went there to apply in person as per the want ad's request I discovered that the "warehouse" resembled an ancient, rural service station grafted onto our reality from Dog River. The office portion looked like a prefab structure, its sky-blue siding in direct collision with the weathered dark-green clapboard on the "warehouse".
The interior of the office was unnaturally bright and spacious, obviously using the same dimensional technology responsible for Dr. Who's Tardis. It came complete with pastel walls, a prerequisite file cabinet, some chairs by a coffee table bearing stale magazines and one standard-issue secretary who at face value appeared to be both friendly and professional.
"Hi! How are you this morning?" she gushed as I entered the office. "Are you here to apply for the marketing job? Great! I just need you to fill out this application form for me... "
A pen, a clipboard and a rictus smile were fired at me in quick succession. Impressed by the rigorous selection process thus far, I attacked the paperwork with gusto, trying to justify their inherent faith in me.
A few hopeful co-applicants surrounded me, hunched over in their high-backed chairs over the disproportionately short coffee table. We looked like a bunch of yuppie larvae swarming over our first introductory line of cocaine.
I didn't leave so much as a square millimeter of the form blank. I proudly handed the effort back to the still-grinning mannequin and silently hoped that my labors where fruitful as I left.
Well, my labors must have been on friggin' Miracle-Gro because by the time I got back to the commune my bitter friend told me:
"Some marketing place called and they wanted me to tell you that you start tomorrow. What am I, anyway? Everybody's goddamn secretary?!"
Wow. Just like that I was about to begin a career in marketing. Sounded classy. I was a marketer. Or was I a marketeer? I reasoned that this would likely be my first question. After all, I would now be paid to market things. What exactly would I market? Surely something market-esque, market-like or something predisposed to being marketed. Next morning I assumed my identity as BUSINESS CASUAL MAN and reported to my new job at 8:45 am sharp.
It was a beautiful summer day with a warm breeze, making the full, heavy trees undulate hypnotically around me. I swerved off of Windsor Street and entered my new workplace with with vigor and enthusiasm.
Like a bad episode of "Three's Company" (or more like a really bad episode of "Three's Company") the formally docile secretary appeared from out of nowhere behind me and began to steer me towards the door to the warehouse.
"Hi! Nice to see you this morning! They're all getting ready out in the warehouse, so if I could just get you to step out here..."
In retrospect I think she was actually hiding behind the door when I came in. She rushed me out of there as if Mr. Roper was about to burst in with a sawed-off shotgun looking for anyone vaguely resembling Jack Tripper.
"Chrissy" slammed the door behind us then began steering me deep inside this structure which was beginning to look more and more like a mausoleum for deceased farm equipment. My original appraisal was proving to be painfully accurate: this was an abandoned service station.
In fact the small clutch of people we approached were wedged in between two emaciated antique cars that had been lured in here eons ago with promises of service and repair and then locked up to starve to death.
The motley gathering also looked as if this was their permanent residence as well. Most were in their late teens/early twenties with a few dramatic exceptions just to skew the average. Their only common bond: the illusion of formality. At a glance they reminded me of a bunch of motivational speakers who had their collective riverside vans re-possessed and were now squatting together in this abandoned building. Perhaps some enterprising chap had stumbled upon their illegal occupancy and was forcing them to engage in some clandestine operation as if they were migrant workers.
"Mike, get over here. This one's with you," the secretary grunted. Was this formally angelic creature the master of these marketing thimbots?
"Hey, bud, how's it goin'?" Mike replied, sporting the most fraudulent smile I'd ever seen pasted on another human being's face.
He looked back at the group of veterans with a knowing smile which was instantly mirrored back. He had the posture of someone who'd just drawn a lifetime of perpetual jury duty.
My new marketing partner looked no older than seventeen. He was slight, clad in a white shirt so wrinkled it looked like crepe paper. All of his grooming efforts seemed to have been channeled into maintaining his hair, which was a perfectly calibrated Conan O'Brien-esque side-sweep. His hands were so discolored by nicotine stains it looked as if he's placed his hands in the "Hollywood Walk of Orange Food Coloring".
"Do you like to travel?" he asked, fingering the outline of a cigarette pack in his shirt pocket.
"Uh, yeah," I responded, despite the fact that I was preoccupied looking for hidden cameras.
"Oh, man, then you're really gonna love this job. We don't just sell stuff here in Halifax."
"Yeah, we get to go on road trips! In fact a bunch of us just got back from the Island."
Considering the scale of the operation I'd witnessed thus far I assumed he wasn't referring to one of the Cayman Islands.
"F#@& man, what a time we had! Before we left the city we stopped in at the Cold Beer store. By the time we got to the ferry every one of us was hammered, except for Lynn 'cuz she was driving."
"The only thing that kinda sucks is that you gotta share the hotel room with four or five people but even that's not so bad since you save so much money!"
My head was now swimming in a sea of Dali-level surreality.
"It's a wicked job, though, man. You make your own hours and if you got the knack you can really make a !#@%in' mint! I've been doin' real good lately. Me and my old lady are gonna get married just as soon as I got enough money put aside."
My trainer made eye contact across the warehouse with a vaguely elderly-looking woman who's own new trainee had already fled from sight. She beetled her way through the close quarters and Mike met her halfway in a bizarre parody of "Endless Love".
They embraced and kissed. I can distinctly remember feeling as if I was the sole witness to a grievously illegal act. I looked around desperately for some solidarity but could only see a clutch of seasoned marketeers psyching themselves up like Vikings chewing on the edge of their shields.
The few new hires like myself that still remained watched this display like there were mongoose (mongeese?) trying to figure out why...the cobra...was swaying...back and forth...so...hypnotically.
I had to face it. I was terribly alone.
CONTINUED IN PART III