Sunday, December 28, 2003

Why I'm a Hobopoet, Part 147
by Skald

My weirdest job stint occured during my undergrad days at the University of Georgia. I answered an ad in the paper for a telemarketing job-- a generic ad that gave no hint of the type of business involved. I was hired over the phone and given directions to an address on Atlanta Highway.

At the time I was desperate for money so I didn't ask questions.

That night I started work. I was a bit surprised to find that the address was a cemetary, but I was sure I had the wrong place. Yet I was warmly welcomed when I walked in the door by a stereotypical creepy bastard straight out of the Adams Family. The long nosed, black suited bastard sat me down and explained that I would be telemarketing burial plots. "Holy Jesus", I thought, "this is fucking bizarre".

It got worse. Mr. Creepo showed me a standardized script that I had to read... something to the effect of: "Hello! Who am I speaking to? Well, Mr/Ms. so and so, Im calling on behalf of Evergreen Funeral Parlor. Have you ever considered pre-purchasing a burial plot?" The real script was far more subtle and slimy. I sat dazed and dumfounded as the bastard showed me the pre-generated phone number listl. He then bid me good luck and told me to lock up when I left at eleven.... I would be there all alone.

Once the boss left, I cackled nervously for 20 minutes, unable to wrap my head around the idea of telemarketing death. Eventually, I started dialing. Would-be customers fell into two general groups: amused and outraged. The amused folks were primarily young to middle age people who couldn't believe I had the audacity to sell them a burial plot. "Are you for real" was a typical response. I tried my best to follow the script, but no one wanted to cooperate.

The outraged group was mostly old people who figured I'd gotten some inside information on their health. "Why are you calling me?", "How did you get my name?", "How did you know I've been sick?".... and the like were their typical responses. Some were angry. Some were afraid-- as if I were the grim reaper, calling in their number. I tried to assure them that pre-buying a hole in the ground would save their relatives alot of hassle. Also, they'd have the satisfaction of making the important decisions regarding casket, headstone, and plot location. Evergreen offered personalized, perpetual care. Most importantly, a pre-bought funeral offered peace of mind.

Yet, strangely, these old folks seemed more disturbed than calmed by my calls. While at first I took delight in the grim reaper role, the constant rejection and the bewildered outrage soon wore on my nerves. After two hours, it occured to me that there was no way I could finish out the night.... much less show up for another shift.

I wrote a brief note ("I quit"), turned out the lights, locked the door, and left the key under the mat.

To date, this has been the shortest job stint of my ignoble employment career.

No comments: