At 20 years-old and one year after my re-entry into the world, I was told to, “Straighten up and fly right.”
I was told, “You have to get honest, kid. You have to prepare yourself for the working world and corporate America.”
My first few jobs were plain and unremarkable. I held two sales positions in Roosevelt Field Mall, and that was fine.
I worked in two different stores. One was called, “Sid’s Pants,” and the other was, “Just Shirts,” but they were both owned by the same man.
I also held a stock boy position in a knickknack store, but I seldom worked, and I often teased the salesgirls.
My other sources of income were less than sober, and certainly less than legal. However, after finding myself in a relationship, my girlfriend’s father asked what I suppose most fathers ask of young men.
“What do you wanna do with your life?”
My relationship with school was not successful. My attempt at college ended in a mutual split, and while I was not thrown out, I was certainly not invited back.
And that was fine with me.
Other than English, most of my professors disliked me. And I supposed I disliked them too.
I hated sitting in classes, listening to long, drawn out lectures about things I had no interest in. I could never focus, and none of my courses (other than English Lit) were able to hold my attention.
But one does not get a degree through one class alone.
So college and I decided to part ways.
I went on several job interviews. I filled out several applications, but all the responses were the same.
“We need someone with experience,” or “You sound good, kid, but you need to go back to school and get an education.
I didn’t have that…
I returned calls from stockbroking firms because they bragged about money.
I liked the idea of making money …but there was a test called the series 7, and since I did not like tests, I saw no reason to follow that path.
I took a door-to-door sales job and one telemarketing job—but that was more abusive than anything I had ever experienced.
I would make phone calls from a list and angry homeowners would answer, often yelling at me to never call them again, and then they would slam the phone back onto its cradle.
This is when I was told about the law of averages.
“Think of it this way: eventually, someone will say yes to you. And for every ‘No’ brings you one step closer to a yes!”
This was told to me by an overly-polite sales manager, who otherwise, looked and dressed like a young Richard Cunningham from the show Happy Days. He had terrible acne and yellow teeth. He often wore the same outfit, but I had to give him credit; he always kept his composure.
He never responded to the rude comments, which came from the other end of the phone conversation, and he never broke character.
He would smile, even while saying things like:
“Why thank you, Mr. Smith. And no, I will not go fuck my mother…but thank you for suggesting that to me. You be sure to have yourself a good day. Goodbye, now.”
“Just be positive,” he told me. “And remember, for every person that says ‘No,” a ‘Yes’ will be coming soon.”
“Be positive,” he said.
“Fuck positive,” I told him.
And after one unsuccessful week of telemarketing, I quit, and threw myself back into the interviewing process, which led me to this:
In a somewhat small, but well-designed office located near an industrial side of Old Country Road, a man wearing a sharp gray suit, with a blue dress shirt and a light blue tie came to meet me at the reception desk.
His black hair was slicked to the side and his skin was tan. There was an expensive, oversized watch around his wrist, and his wedding band sparkled with a row of diamonds around the center of the ring.
His last name was endlessly long, and it was ended with a vowel, which defined his Italian background.
I politely thanked the exotic looking girl at the reception desk but she dismissed me with a plastic smile, as though I were less important.
Her top was low-cut, obviously accentuating the two big reasons why she was hired, and her short skirt revealed her smooth, tanned legs, with high-heeled and open-toed shoes.
Her focus, however, was not on my respectfulness, but on her boss.
He turned to her with his charming, white smile. “We’ll finish our conversation later,” he told her.
She just grinned, adoringly, and watched as he led me through a corridor and into one of the senior offices.
Shuffling through a series of manila folders, the man in the gray suit asked, “Kimmel, is that you?”
I answered, “Yes it is.”
“Why does that name sound familiar to me?”
“I’m, not sure.”
I never liked job interviews. I hated the questions and the answers, which I pretended were true.
I hated the nervous feeling in my stomach and the stagnant moments of silence that came between each question.
I felt as if I were being interrogated, or worse, because I was less nervous when the police hauled in for questioning.
I could not stand being spoken to while an interviewer read, and drew questions from my application, and in this case, my interviewer was Anthony.
Anthony rarely looked at me while reading from his pile of folders. He asked several questions, and to the best of my ability, I answered them without sounding nervous or desperate.
I was asked, “How long have you been a salesman?”
“I worked a little retail,” I explained, “And then I did some door to door sales for a while.”
“Oh yeah, how did that work out for you?”
“Not so good.”
“Ever do any telemarketing?”
“I did, but that’s not something I’m interested in.”
Anthony folded the corners of his lips and nodded curiously while reading from my application.
“You forgot to answer one of the questions.”
“Which one,” I asked.
“Have you ever been convicted of a felony?”
Anthony glanced at me, “Ever been arrested?”
I lied, “No sir,” but I think he knew I was lying.
Quickly, Anthony moved on to the business at hand.
“We sell windows here. Vinyl-lined, triple-pane windows. We have our telemarketing staff schedule appointments, and then we have our sales team go to those appointments. You’ll be going to homes all around Long Island, some parts of Queens, and occasionally to Brooklyn.”
“Do you drive?”
I answered, “Yes.”
“Can you find your way around with a map?”
He finally looked up from his stack of paperwork and made eye contact with me for longer than the length of a question.
“Very good. We’re going to have a class in our conference room. The class is a few weeks long and you won’t get paid for it. But you will learn about our windows…how they’re made, and how to sell them.”
He said, “You seem pretty clean-cut, and that’s what we’re looking for. So while you’re going to class, I’m going to send you out with some of our salesmen, this way, you can get your feet wet and see how it works
Then, when you’re ready to go out on your own, you can make as much money as you want.”
Anthony explained about the financial size and growth of his company. He told me about the other sales managers.
There were three, which was strange, because there were only four salesmen—and three of them were managers.
“Come in Monday, kid. Start, work hard….and you could be a manager too,” he explained.
The smell from his cologne was slightly overwhelming. I looked around his office; I looked at the vacation pictures of his wife and children. I noticed the expensive feel of his lifestyle, and I liked that.
I also noticed a sexy picture of the receptionist tucked beneath the monthly planner on Anthony’s desk.
I liked that too
“So what do you think, Mr. Kimmel? Do you want a chance to make some real money?”
I stood and reached my hand across to shake his.
“Yes,” I said.
“And thank you for the opportunity, sir …I won’t let you down.”
“I don’t think you will.”
That following Monday, I showed up as instructed. I came in with a black leather briefcase, complete with a series of notepads, pens and pencils. I was wearing a suit and tie, with a new pair of shoes; my hair was neatly combed and I shaved (not that I needed to shave much at that point in life).
I was the youngest man in the room. Sitting next to me was man who reeked from curry. His dark almond skin was pocked around his cheeks; his nose was hooked, and his mustache was as black as the hair on his head.
Behind me, an old man sat in a chair against the wall and spoke to himself as he read the morning newspaper. He was blading, gray-haired, and the powdery residue of his breakfast laced in the corners of his lips.
He joked, “When did they let you out of school?”
“Right after prison,” I answered.
But the old, heavyweight man did not know how to respond to that.
(This does not mean that my time away was spent in prison—because it wasn’t. Where I was is kindergarten compared to prison.
I did a few overnight stays in the Hempstead Holding Facility, and I saw my threats in county jail—but my year-long stay in a therapeutic community was nowhere near prison. It was just rehab)
But I digress…
There were other candidates in the conference room. Most of them were poorly dressed. One man, specifically, wore a pair of dirty white sneakers with brown dress slacks, a white dress shirt, and thin red leather tie.
There was a hairbrush sticking out from his back pocket, which, I assumed was to comb his long mullet hairstyle.
Steven was the first to enter the room and greet us. He was the fourth salesman in the company. He was the only salesman that was not a manager, and as I recall, he was slow speaking and dimwitted.
His clothing was outdated and his two-tone jeans (gray in the front/black in the rear) were as beaten as his gray Capezio shoes with white laces and white socks. Steven had a thin mustache and fever blisters in both corners of his mouth.
He was odd looking and socially awkward…but that didn’t bother me.
“Maybe they hired him as a favor,” I thought when meeting him.
The receptionist was kind to Steven, but not the way she was kind to Anthony or the other managers.
She was kind the way someone would treat a child with special needs. She spoke slowly and accentuated her words when speaking to him. Then, she would roll her eyes after Steven away.
She noticed me in the conference room. “You made it back, I see?”
“I did, thanks.”
“Nice,” she smiled.
That’s when I noticed the pendant from her necklace, which was nearly lost between her soft fleshy mounds that pushed up in her bra.
It was a symbol that I was familiar with. It was a symbol from a 12 Step Program.
“Maybe she’s sober too,” I thought.
“Maybe I should ask her about this when we break for lunch.”
Anthony entered the room, followed by Tim the other manager, and Tim was followed by Brian, the other manager after him. They introduced themselves and explained what they expected from their salesman.
After Anthony spoke about his expectations, Tim pointed to the mullet-haired man in sneakers. “Thank you for coming in today, but I don’t think this is the place for you.”
Defeated, the poorly dressed man, stood, collected his things, and then he walked out complaining, “This is bullshit!”
Brian pointed to the old, heavyweight man. “Sir, you have food all over your face.”
The old man nervously wiped his mouth.
“Maybe this place isn’t for you either. Have a nice day,” said Brian.
One by one, the number of candidates trickled down to only a few.
If someone cleared their throat wrong, or could not answer a question; they were excused.
Tim held up a small cross section of a window.
He pointed at me. “You, what’s this?”
“That’s a cross section of a window.”
“And what ‘s it used for?”
“It’s used to show the quality and construction of our windows to our customers.”
“Good,” he responded.
“I like that you called them ‘Our” windows. That shows initiative!”
“Always have an answer,” he told the room.
“Always answer quickly and with confidence. That’s what we want here.”
Something wasn’t right.
I had been around enough junkies and thieves to pick up on a scam.
The switched roles of nice guys into hard-ass businessmen was too suspicious.
This was a scam…It had to be
Why else would they bring in the people they did and then dismiss them?
Why would an interviewer sell themselves when it is the interviewed that should be on the selling end?
But sadly, I thought, “Why else would they hire me, an uneducated kid without experience?”
Their idea was to throw as much shit against the wall as they could and whatever sticks, stuck.
This was their way of sifting through the law of averages; milling through people to push their windows into the market, and washing money every chance they had.
After the morning meeting, I walked passed the reception area and there she was.
She asked, “How’s it going in there?”
“Not bad,” I told her. “I like your necklace.”
“Thank you,” she said, but her plastic smile vanished and she looked away.
“Honesty, Openness, and Willingness…..that’s what the necklace means, right?”
“Excuse me,” she asked.
“Your necklace, that’s what the triangle stands for, right?”
She looked at me with a wide-eyed expression, like a deer caught in the headlights.
“How do you know about that?” she asked
“I think we belong to the same club,” I told her.
“Don’t say anything,” she pleaded. “No one around here knows about this.”
“Don’t worry,” I promised. “That’s why the last letter ‘A’ stands for Anonymous.”
She laughed slightly. “Thanks.”
“My name is Ben, by the way. But most of my friends call me Benny”
“It’s nice to meet you, Ben. My name is Amanda.”
Then I moved in closer and whispered, “Look….since we belong to the same club and all, I need you to help me with something?”
“What,” she asked.
“Is this place legit?”
She looked ashamed, almost like a young child after her father discovered she was lying.
“You’ll see,” she said.
It was a scam
I knew it….
“You have to get honest, kid, and prepare yourself for Corporate America.”
This end of Corporate America was far from honest