As I rapidly approach the traditional retirement age (65), I sit here this morning thinking back on how many “straight” gigs (ones for which I had to get up in the morning Monday to Friday) I’ve suffered through in my life. At one point in my early adulthood, I remember my mother observing that it was my life ambition to never have to get up in the morning. Ha ha! And whether that was true or not, an impartial bystander might agree with her given how few times I actually had employment that required I set an alarm clock.
Let’s see…besides those silly summer jobs I used to work during high school and college…there was that 8 weeks as a preschool teacher…6 weeks as a taxi top salesman…and one week at the Village Voice. And that’s it…unless you count my 3+ years at Action Magazine. But that wasn’t a job for which I needed to rise in the morning – except for 1 day a month. And on that day, I did endure multiple humiliations pursuant to my earning a legitimate paycheck. Ah…the sales meeting…Action style. Those were the days!
It may not sound like much of a burden to some but bear in mind that the Action offices were in suburban Philadelphia – and everybody at the company lived there except me. So you know who did the commuting!
Initially, I would make a two hour trip on Amtrak – and then another hour on SEPTA (the Philly version of the LIRR) before I’d finally arrive at the Action office/warehouse. Well that wasn’t working so I did a little research to discover that alternatively, I could ride to Trenton on NJ Transit for an hour and 50 minutes where my homey and fellow salesman Howard would be happy to pick me up for another 45 minute ride to the office. The train was kind of skanky but overall, that commute was better than the Amtrak/Septa deal – which was like 5 times as expensive as well.
Getting picked up by Howard had a special appeal all its own. The first thing he’d do was light up a phatty for the ride. Howard was a serious pothead….and a juggler of sorts, too. He could drive fast, talk on his phone, check his pager, and take a drag off the doob all at once without for one second being distracted from the main mission at hand: driving us to the office safely! The guy was totally in control even through all that multi-tasking.
Almost without fail, we’d arrive right on time (9AM) at our little suburban oasis…a set up which consisted of a big warehouse filled with endless smut rags all of which the boss distributed, and a pre-fab office area up a flight of stairs.
So we’d walk in to say “hey” to the distribution slaves and then hike the flight to the corporate offices where the bean counters and bosses hung! And there at a big table in his big office sat Joe Rose – Philadelphia’s version of Al Goldstein – ready to intellectualize the sales function ad nauseum. But while Goldstein was an artist type who valued a good writer more than a good salesperson, Joe was exactly the opposite. His book was all ads and almost no editorial – save phony stories about girls the writers had supposedly bedded though mostly, we’d never even met the objects of our lust! Whatever…all his energy went into how he could get his sales people to up their numbers – and not how he could get the writers to submit better stories and features.
Obviously, this was not a good fit for me who was (and is) all about writing and couldn’t give a crap about sales even though I was hired to write and sell! But I’ll credit Joe with one thing: He willed me to become a salesman. And by the end of my employment at the firm, I stopped writing for the magazine and concentrated solely on selling – and the numbers that would prove I was doing my job! If I did write, it was for Screw or the Voice, or Oui Magazine where I became the Managing Editor while still collecting a weekly paycheck from Joe. Naturally, none of this met with his approval.
Anyway…the sales meeting would go on for hours as each salesperson chronicled collections, leads and which publication (like NY Mag, The Press or Voice) he’d been telemarketing to beat the bushes for new revenue. Gaaag! If there was one thing I hated more than cold-calling escorts who were advertising with other publications and not ours, it was reporting the results of this fruitless pursuit to a boss who lived 100 miles away – and all at 9 AM! All I could think was “I could be out drumming up new business instead of coming down here to listen to this bull shit!”
But it wasn’t all bad. Inevitably, all the sales gab degenerated into blow job gab…and who was best at that! The boss’s son was fucking (and getting high with) everything in sight so there was no shortage of anecdotes – as you might imagine with a magazine whose advertising base consisted solely of flatbackers and whip whores. (Oh, yeah! And there was Doctor Kaplan the penile enlargement specialist too!)
Finally at 12, we’d take a lunch break and Joe would order out to an Italian joint for everybody. That was the best part! You can guess what I ate. Yup! An eggplant parmy hero! I’m predictable if nothing else!
Once stuffed to the gills with some red lead, it was downstairs to the production room where all the mistakes were made. And trust me…that crew specialized in fucking everything up. They were so bad that eventually, the sales meeting more or less morhped into the production meeting, a function that ensured every ad got in the paper – and every phone number was correct! Things got so bad with all the errors that I had to admit to Joe and myself that what was once a useless sales meeting became the most important and essential day of the month. Without it, I was sure to suffer multiple headaches from people whose ads hadn’t run…hadn’t run correctly…or had an incorrect phone number.
Well…I’m starting to ramble so it’s best that I wrap this thing up for the day and somehow pull this stream-of-consciousness mess together. So I’ll say this: Sales meetings are for squares. They’re for salesmen – and certainly not me. That I ever got into sales demonstrates what a whore I truly am because selling is the last thing I ever wanted to do….right next to getting up in the morning to an adrenaline rush caused by an alarm clock. The funny thing is that having said all that, I’m usually up very early nowadays. Go figure!