November 13, 2006

Atmosphere

I quit my job this morning.

I don’t think anybody even knows about my job that I quit. The last time I talked about work I felt like I was at the Cleveland Playhouse or something… For the record, that’s true again. I’ll be starting on A Christmas Story after Thanksgiving. Exciting times.

But let me fill you in on the job I quit. I don’t know how many of you have ever worked in sales. Most of the people reading this have gone a fair ways in higher education, so I assume you haven’t. I’ve been told that what I’m about to describe to you is fairly common among such companies, but that doesn’t make this past month any easier to accept as reality.

Shall we start at the beginning? Great. I was done with Rabbit Hole at the Playhouse, and they were interested in signing me up for R.F.K., a one-man-show about that other Kennedy. I was excited to do so and told them that my only conflict was a wedding (THIS WEEKEND!!!). They told me that if I couldn’t make all the performances I couldn’t be contracted for the show at all. So I went a-job hunting.

The company that I ended up working for is very much in sales. Half of the office deals with Quill, the company that owns Staples. The other half of the office works for AT&T, which is where I come in. Basically, it’s been my job to go door to door and help small businesses with their phone/internet bills. I lock them into a better plan; they save money; AT&T is guaranteed their business for another three years. Everybody wins. But of course you run into people who think you’re selling something, who curse and spit at you, and who in some cases throw you bodily from their place of business.

I drove an hour and a half past Akron to my territory every day to start walking. I put about 170 miles on my car every day and was not reimbursed for gas. I left my house at 6:30 every morning and didn’t return until 7:00 every evening. On an average day I made about $60. It sucked. Not to mention that our paychecks were offset two weeks (to make sure the paperwork went through) so I worked three weeks before even getting my first paycheck. There were also three days where I sat at AT&T’s main headquarters in downtown Cleveland with no compensation.

Why did I do this? It was the only job available at the time, and I figured if it went well, I could eventually make some serious money. There is much room for advancement in the company. For instance, I had already been promoted a week ago. The goal is to learn the sales, then you’re promoted to teach sales to other people. After you’ve trained enough people you get to learn how to run the office. After you learn the inner workings of that office, you relocate and start your own, effectively running your own business. When your office starts enough new branches you’re promoted to consultant. And from there you become a god. This all happens in approximately five years. No experience necessary. Nor is a degree. Chart it all out and it forms kind of a triangle-shaped structure…

But by running your own company and consulting and all that, it basically becomes your job to keep people like me working for you. People who are toying with the thought of selling their souls for the promise of money and independence. I gave it about a month, and decided it wasn’t for me.

But the best part is completely separate from the structure of the company and the pathetic salary I was pulling. (Some people are making very good money) The best part is ‘Atmosphere.’

Atmosphere is a room in the office. It’s a tiny office: there’s the foyer, the break room, the filing room, the two managers’ offices, and… Atmosphere. Each day begins and ends in Atmosphere. Atmosphere is much like any ordinary room, but with key distinguishing features: dry-erase boards, motivational posters, a wall-mounted stereo, and poorly assembled drum set (we’ll get to that later.)

My first day on the job they ushered me into Atmosphere, where the first thing I heard was unmistakably “Eye of the Tiger” blaring from the wall.
That’s right. “Eye of the Tiger.”
Everyone was practicing on each other how they would present themselves the rest of the day. By itself, this is not odd. It was actually beneficial to get those first few flubs out of the way before you made an ass of yourself when you were actually working. Sure, there were cheesy posters and blaring 80’s rock, but it still made sense.

Then the music is turned off (Well, down. But by then you can’t hear much anyway) and the manager comes out with a clip board: “Alright we got a long list of high rollers this morning!”
Everyone starts clapping.
He continues: “Alright we got a guy.”
Everyone repeats in unison, “WE GOT A GUY!”
“This guy had a kick-ass day yesterday. Let’s give it up for Ted!”
Everybody claps some more until Ted steps forward and cuts them off. Then he goes into a formulated 37-second speech about one of our sales techniques and how if we use it effectively it’ll get us to our goals.
Everybody claps some more.
The boss says, “We got a girl!”
Everyone repeats, “WE GOT A GIRL!”
And the phrases ‘kick-ass’ and ‘give it up for’ are repeated many times buffered by applause and mechanical speeches from virtually everyone in the room. For the sake of the story, let’s say they’re all named ‘Ted.’
There are also exchanges like, “Hey guys!”
“HEY WHAT!”
Or, “What time is it?”
“SHOWTIME!”

You’re in Atmosphere for about an hour every morning.

Then you drive out into the field and work. At 5:30pm, everyone has to return to the office for Evening Atmosphere.

Here it’s different. There aren’t any speeches. You walk in (“Eye of the Tiger”) and everyone is pretty much just chatting away, talking to new people about how their day went, etc. Until suddenly you hear a strange percussive noise. It’s a bell from the corner with the crappy drum set. You see, in the office there is a non-verbal way of bragging so that no one is actually talking about how much money they made that day. Instead, there is in place a system of noise-making to let everyone know that you either made a certain amount of money or a certain number of sales. These noises include but are not limited to a bell, a gong, banging on the wall, shaking a jug of markers, and (of course) a cowbell. Not only does everyone make their celebratory noise, but they also go around the room and high-five everyone present. It takes a while.

Better than my first day through this experience was watching new people on their first day. I stared at them and relished the poorly repressed astonishment in their eyes. I savored the flushed faces of those who don’t quite accept what was happening. Truly, Atmosphere was the only thing that kept me there that long.

If I ever go to a magical place that has a Room of Requirement, I’d make it Atmosphere at least twice a day. As it is, I’m going back to the theatre.

But I’m taking the cowbell with me.

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Comments on "Atmosphere"

 

Blogger Rainey said ... (7:52 PM) : 

Oh honey, you did not go into that much detail with me this weekend... that sounds utterly ridiculous. Wow... Congrats on being back to the thing that is worthwhile in life (aka theatre). :-)

 

Blogger Kokanut said ... (10:36 PM) : 

There is an unmade movie that you must make that includes ALL of that in it. Please????

 

Anonymous James said ... (10:53 PM) : 

You should make a movie.

I should have some sort of role. Maybe a homeless man?

 

Blogger Graceful Peaceful German Fischer said ... (12:40 PM) : 

PINNACLE!

 

Blogger Cap'n Ganch said ... (12:21 PM) : 

Your job sounds like a living RPG. Like instead of being promoted ... you level up? To a God.

 

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