After a year in University I realized that I needed to get a job. Fortunately I'd fallen in with the members of industrial/noise band "Mindsculpture," and two of the members -- Jared and Jim -- were working as telemarketers during the summer of 1992. They recommended me to their boss and I was hired.
I only lasted a few weeks. I have a deep-seated hatred of the sales game and I particularly hate being annoying to random people over the telephone. Each day we'd be given a page out of the local telephone book -- no high-tech database for OUR company -- and we'd call every number on the page. In order. For hours and hours and hours.
My co-workers and I operated out of a single room in what is now the Eaton's Lofts. There were approximately fifteen of us and we'd sit at long tables that were arranged along the walls, all of us looking in at each other. Each of us had a telephone and we'd call our numbers in sequence: "Hello, I'm calling on behalf of the Policeman's Association. Were you aware that the Policeman's Circus is coming to town this fall? Well, this circus is a charity event for the Children's Fund, and we're offering single tickets and family passes for this once-in-a-lifetime spectacle..."
Most people said "I'm not interested," and I'd say "Okay! I'm sorry! Bye!" and hang up. Then I'd look at the posters on the walls, which showed anthropomorphic telephone creatures saying things like "Turn a negative into a positive!" and "No means yes!" I'd look down at my empty pad of paper where I was supposed to write the names, addresses, and payment details of all my sales.
In my entire time as a telemarketer I sold a grand total of four tickets, to two different people.
The other employees were either detached from their roles, uncomprehending of being nuisances, or outright mercenary in their approach. In the first category were Jared and Jim, who did the bare minimum just to keep a job that was relatively easy. The second category contained almost everybody else: a bunch of public school boys who saw this as an alternative to a paper route, each somewhere between the ages of fourteen and sixteen.
The sole person in the final category was a man I'll call Rick. He was in his early 40s and was a professional telemarketer. He wore a suit and carried a briefcase and his hair had long ago receded. While the rest of us just slouched around and doodled during our calls, Rick leaned sideways into the corner and plugged his ear, talking intimately and urgently into the telephone. At the end of the day he had a stack of invoices on his end of the table. He earned COMMISSIONS. He was the COMPANY STAR.
You might think that Rick would feel out of place working with a bunch of pubescent boys, but no: he bought them pornography. Every week, when the boss was out of the room, the kids would hand over their hard-earned money in exchange for the girlie books that Rick kept in his briefcase. Jared, Jim, and I viewed Rick with utter disgust and disdain, but that didn't bother him...he was a hero to his mental and emotional peers. He had found his niche.
During our final week Rick started to call us from across the room. He'd figured out how to dial our phones internally. He'd say "I'm hiring a stripper for the boss on his birthday. Everybody's donated ten dollars except for you guys. Are you in?"
"I'm not in, Rick. I already told you." I'd say.
"You can't watch the stripper if you don't pay up."
"I told you, I'm not in."
"Then you can't watch her."
"I'll take the day off," I'd say, and look across the room where Rick was crouched in his corner, knees crossed high, staring at me from the side of his eyes. Jared, Jim, and I called in sick that day, and the following day I just stopped coming in. I'm sure they didn't miss me.
Bonus Stripper Story
Before my first year of University I had never seen a stripper, and like most sensitive virgins I had considered a woman's nether regions to be sacred, inviolable, and absolutely private. The thought that women would voluntarily lower their genitals from the mental pedestal I'd constructed for them was unthinkable and could only be due to the exploitative influence of Nasty Men.
During my second year I went to Toronto with a guy I'll refer to as "Monkey Boy," and in between shopping and clubbing we found ourselves with three hours to fill. "Let's go to a strip club!" said the terminally horny Monkey Boy, and since I looked up to him and he styled himself a Enlightened And Realistic Feminist Ally, I agreed.
We went to a place called "The Brass Rail." It was not happy hour at the club -- whenever that is -- so except for some laid-back truckers and a drunken Japanese businessman we were the only men in the audience. Having splurged on outrageously expensive non-alcoholic drinks, we watched as a series of skinny bored women swung around a metal pole, always to classic rock, always with the same appearance except for their height and hair colour.
Meanwhile, Monkey Boy was farting. He farted when he was nervous, and women made him REALLY nervous. He was also living exclusively off the discounted cheddar cheese that his fiancee brought home from work. So there was a constant stench of cheese and farts to my left.
The seat on my right had been occupied by the drunken Japanese businessman, who kept leaning against me and slurring in an incomprehensible language, pointing at the girls, pointing at me. In between songs the girls would leave the stage and I'd sit there drinking my warm 7-Up, Monkey Boy farting on one side and the Japanese guy poking me on the other.
You can understand why this was a bad first experience. And besides all that, even if I were to go to another strip show, I would not be able to think that the women on stage were doing anything besides working. It is not fun to watch people at work, and I think the whole stripping/burlesque thing is too complicated anyway.
Final Bonus Stripper Story
After a string of women who performed to songs like "Pour Some Sugar On Me" and "Thunderstruck," a statuesque blonde stripped to "How Soon As Now" while wearing thigh-high vinyl stilettos, long before that kind of thing would have been common. The strangeness of it was the only highpoint of the night.