Unless you’ve been living a small mountain cave somewhere in Scotland, or inside an MP’s bottom, you’ll be well aware that we are in a recession. Yes, last week the glasses wearing man on the telly box told us we’re officially out of it, but we aren’t. It’s something like a 0.01% growth, which is rubbish. Imagine if you bought a penis extension kit that managed to add on 0.01mm, would you then consider yourself well hung? That small economic growth could actually be down to my exuberant purchase of some sweet chili sauce last week, it’s that tiny.
I’m sure most people reading this also know what a recession entails. Misery, disappointment, bankruptcy, unemployment… All terrible things and everyone is certainly feeling the pinch, including me (despite my extravagant chili sauce purchase). I am unemployed, and it’s no fun. I’ve been tirelessly job hunting for months on end, so imagine my delight when an opportunity in the form of sales presented its self to me. Sales were something I was told I could excel in, because I have a “friendly fat face” – I think it was a compliment.
Anyway! I skipped merrily to the office where I’d been offered the job, listened to all the bumf when I got there, nodded my head, agreed with whatever the man was saying and signed some pieces of paper, the whole time being in some kind of deep celestial fantasy, filled with flying pound signs encrusted with gold and women. I wasn’t paying attention. The well dressed man behind the desk, with his Colgate smile, threw phrases at me and I had no idea what any of them meant. But instead of asking I ascended ever nearer to my castle in the sky, high off of the fact I was now employed.
“Finally!” I thought, not caring what the job actually was – for all I cared I could have been signed up to Al-Qaeda. I skipped out of the building like a giddy school boy, on his way to the ice-cream van, singing songs of merriment and laughing at the people queuing outside my former Job Centre. T’was blissful. I sat at home counting down the days to when I started my shiny new job, becoming increasingly excited and drowning in ecstasy.
Then at last, the day I had long awaited dawned, the first day of my brand new job. Joy ran through my veins as I did up my tie, ready to impress Colgate’s walking manifesto. I arrived astonishingly early, far more punctual than I had ever been before. Sat down, listened to the well dressed man flannel some more fancy terms around and sunk back into my trance of employment harmony, staring into the water dispenser as though it were made of a string of rainbows, knitted together with the fabric of happiness, by children.
But then! A phrase I did recognise slingshot my back into the harsh reality of what I had agreed to do (without realising). “Door to door sales”… At that point, part of me died. All the joy was sucked out of me by a colossal black hole of realism… “Commission only, working from 9am-8pm”, he continued… It was as if we were imprisoned, and now he’d got his sparkly teeth around us, he could reveal why we’re really here, in the fashion of a poor villain straight from the world of cinematography. That was it for me. I gazed up beyond the ceiling, past the grey sky and straight into space, desperately awaiting some form of divine guidance… Inevitably, I received none.
I started to ponder, “Should I quit? But then I’ll be unemployed, again, in that eternal recession”. The thought of which was enough to make me decide to brave it, if at least for just a few weeks… And so my journey of discovery began.
It wasn’t a pretty trade, I could tell from the start. Surrounded by men with more grease than hair atop their head, and women with that horrid discerning, patronising monotonous harmony of blatant swindlism for a voice. I just didn’t fit in. We learned our horrid scripts, again with an air of Arthur Daley about them, tirelessly repeating them in sync, as though we were calling to some kind of occult force from beyond the stars. Ironically, I actually was, deep within me, thinking, begging for some natural disaster to focus all its cataclysmic energy on the building I was in, a desire which only grew, as I was briefed on “Getting in the house”, a briefing which I shall never forget. It was as if it was devised by a ‘school for scoundrels’ head boy, all the various seedy methods of worming your way into a widow’s house – I was half expecting to hear how to steal her grandchildren’s inheritance.
One impish little chap was rather eager to announce his ingenious method for forcing himself into terrified aging spinsters homes. You’ll love this. He actually used to throw his pen, normally a parker, into the persons house when his chances of entry were looking bleak. This meant he had to go in and seek it, and once he was in, he was in, and could commence selling. Marvellous! Of course this amazing awe inspiring scheme made him the office hero, and consequently gained him a round of cheers and woops, as well as automatic entry into the initiative of the week award. I immediately took a dislike to him, and longed for large slab of lard to fall from the skies and engulf the bastard. It didn’t.
Mercifully, the time for briefing and indoor training was over, armed with nothing more than a cheap suit and a script forged in the fires of mount monotony, we were let loose upon the unsuspecting unemployed and retired, all be with a ‘Leader’, who was sent by the Colgate man to guide us through the perilous rat race.
And so it began… We were driven to a distant estate of terrace houses, hidden somewhere in a time pocket of 1950’s Britain, before being assigned our ‘territories’, and setting out into the assumingly coal-powered world of wherever we were.
This was it. I looked on from the safety of the pavement as my leader person man knocked on the first of 100 doors. No answer. We moved on the next door, no answer, and then the next, you guessed it, no answer. This went on and on, a never ending spiral of perpetual knocking, followed by a hollow silence. Curtains twitched as we approached houses, I started to feel like some sort of misplaced Gestapo wannabe. “Bastard!” my superior commented, “Hate people that just don’t answer when they’re clearly f**kin’ in!” He grew angry, and took up the method of knocking for abnormally, hand-throbbing long periods of time – if he’d spied evidence that his victim was at home – a method which proved extremely successful.
The first woman to answer was adamant that she wasn’t interested, but despite that the leader man ploughed on, bulldozing her doubts and rejections into dust, hoping that she’d cave in and grant him entry, like a moderately civil but persistent rapist, if you will. But no, like the majority of us would have done she slammed the door in his face, banishing him and his sales slime to the grey outdoors. “Good”, I thought to myself, scorning at his assertive sales technique.
We moved on to our next victim, a drunk, which was jolly good fun. He invited us into his nicotine encumbered palace, not just to smell the piss and discarded fags, but to offer us a drink of something incredibly pungent. After sitting in his house for 20 minutes trying to sell things to him, in-between him telling me how his wife left him and that all women are a waste of time, we left.
However, not empty handed (or headed if you like), it made me consider the dangers of the job in hand (imagine if I knocked on the door of a violent drunk? Or someone with a penchant for making skirts out of skin.), and how I didn’t want to be a part of them, at all.
Further confirmation of not wanting to be part of whatever this was came with our next victim. The leader man knocked on the door firmly, emanating a satisfying wooden thump – the noise of which was enough to make him salivate, like a tiger, or similar analogy, creeping up on its prey. We stood back, and waited, and waited…and waited… A shadow slowly emerged and cast itself over the door pane. The satanic leader glared at me “It’s your turn to have a go”, licking his lips like a sadist sex fiend from the telly (I may have exaggerated that a bit), at which point I let out a girlish eek so feminine I no longer felt worthy of my testicles.
The shadow loomed closer and I stepped forward to greet the unsuspecting victim, in the fashion of a warped Noel Edmonds. The door swung open, my heart did the Cancan, but then! Rather anticlimactically, an elderly woman crawled out from a farcical mist I’d invented. I desperately fumbled through the draws in my brain, trying to piece together parts of the god awful script I’d being learning all sodding week… I stumbled. I stuttered… Then I looked up at her, this poor woman that we’d disturbed. She looked frightened, cowering slightly behind the door.
Unexplainably I began to dream up her situation. All alone, peacefully watching countdown, it’s early evening, tea’s cooking, and all is calm. Then suddenly an unexpected and relentless banging at the door, two lads stood in your garden, throwing words at you that you’ve never heard of, bamboozling you, and then before you know it they’re trying to force themselves in your home, dodging any blocks you throw at them and persisting. She’s seen it on Crimewatch, she thinks she knows how the story ends, she panics. How awful must that be, to be that poor terrified lonely woman. I couldn’t bare the thought of it. So instead of completing my assertive sales pitch, I let her go, with a friendly “Ok, don’t worry, thanks for your time”, and left, receiving a disappointed and scornful look from my leader person.
Despite the incident I carried on the rest of my day as normal, but it was haunted by that fragile woman. She made me think about my own grandma, who also lives alone. I thought about the times she’d rang me up, complaining about people knocking on her door, and how it frightens her. My conscience took over, and any doubts I’d conceived throughout the day grew into a monster, ripping through my train of thought as though it was made of marshmallow, preventing me thinking about anything else, other than the frightened elderly. I couldn’t continue, and at that point made a decision. I quit, and entered the recession-sphere once more, hoping to find a trade less horrid. I came home, and I wrote this, a call for this assertive, door to door, cold pressure selling to be brought to an end. It has no purpose and should, in my mind, be banished to the history books, so that future generations may chortle at our primitive methods, as we did with witch burning.