Thank you for calling …”

By the fourth day of class, I was more than lost. This was just another example of either A) How old I was or B) How everywhere you turn, things have been dumbed down to the point that they had become difficult for me to use because of how simple it all is. I guess I’ve gotten used to everything having some level of difficulty and now that everything seemed so easy, I was having a rough go of things. It didn’t help that I dragged along with me an 8-foot tall googly-eyed doofus.


Picture Lennie in Of Mice and Men. Or better, picture the enormous lovable behemoth in The Green Mile who is afraid of the dark. Now, picture a similar lovable behemoth dressed in blue denim overalls, but with only one strap fastened and peanut butter smears all over with huge filthy feet like a hobbit and a completely bald head except for 2 Homer Simpson strands on top. And imagine looking this behemoth in the eyes. Except when you gaze upon this mug, you see only two bug-eyed orbs bulging out of their sockets, one of them swooshes around randomly and the other is fixed in a gaze that appears to be at the corner of the ceiling behind you. That’s what sat at cublicle 20 (or “training station 20” if you want to get technical and annoying). And this fellow isn’t afraid of the dark. He’s afraid of toasters.  And he licks rolls of Scotch tape like a Tootsie Pop while drooling for fun. That’s what sat next to me.


The trainer had mentioned a couple times that they were only giving us the bare bones necessary to get on the phones and start taking orders. This was normally a two-week training course and we were getting the one-week version because it was so close to the holidays. That was all well and good. And the stuff about how quality the swordfish steak was and the level of care that went into the packaging and shipping (they put dry ice in the custom made syrofoam coolers with the company logo on the lid) was actually really interesting, as was the storage and “aging” of the meat during the preparation process and the level of quality that went in to choosing the, ahem, swordfish steak and that it was only fed the finest, ahh, sea weed. I was looking forward to cashing in on my employee discount and bringing home the finest Omaha­­­­ swordfish steaks for Christmas dinner. But in order to get to that point, I had to complete the training class. Tough to do with this much cargo breathing next to you.


“Now once you have captured the customer’s name and personal information and they’ve made their initial purchase, it’s time to move on to the upsells –“




The trainer paused for a moment, took a deep breath, and continued. “Now it can be anything on this list. The smoked chicken breasts, the marinated pork chops, just pick the one you’ve maybe had and liked or just pick them at random, whichever you think you’d be best able to sell and-“




You see what I was dealing with? Unfortunately, this lovable ogre accompanies me everywhere. He usually keeps mostly to himself, playing with Play-Doh and spontaneously napping with his tongue hanging out. Though he has been known to speak for me, stammering and stuttering at important moments and always giving me wet willies when I see someone I recognize so I get distracted and can’t ever remember their name. His technical name is Brain Damage. My mom just calls him B.D. I call him Big Doofus. He calls himself The Ol’ Turnip (don’t ask).


On my fourth day of the training class, it was apparent that even if I “graduated,” it would probably take less than 2 eight-hour shifts before I was on the phone with a customer placing an order and, due in part to the Ol’ Turnips antics, I would trip up trying to navigate through this oh-so-easy system that I would run out of excuses, get flustered and anxious as is my wont, and flat-out piss somebody off and they would never call and order swordfish steaks again. I happen to like this particular brand of swordfish steaks a lot myself and didn’t want to be responsible for giving this Omaha-based brand of swordfish steaks a bad name. I’d be in the middle of a simulated order with my fellow trainee next to me who was just following the script.


“So, how thick are the steaks in the Triple Trimmer combo package?” he would ask. I’d be searching madly to find the key that pulls up details about the Triple Trimmers and the Ol’ Turnip would glance around frantically, then thrust a couple outstretched fingers at the computer screen.



By the time the class broke for our first 10-minute break, I knew that not only would I probably not pass the second assessment test, but I’d be lucky if the Ol’ Turnip hadn’t soiled his trousers and cried out “UH OH! BOOM BOOM!” right in the middle of something important like a breakdown of all of our commissions or where the nearest bathroom was.


I don’t know if my foolish pride would have let me do what I did back when I was drinking or not. But coming at things with a totally clear head, my future was stark and surprisingly relieving. I approached the trainer at the break and told her that this just wasn’t working. Rather than waste her time and mine and potentially the name of the Omaha-based swordfish steak company, I was bowing out with my meager ego still in tact and I would I live to fight another day. I interview for another job on Monday.


I just pray there is a Play-Doh convention coming up soon.

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