Tuesday, August 20, 2013

If You'd Just Listened To Me In The First Place...

Nobody, and I mean nobody, can nag like I can. If you don’t believe me, just ask my husband Charlie. He'll probably roll his eyes without actually answering because Charlie isn’t one to waste words, but he knows in his heart that he wouldn’t be where he is today but for me and my nagging. Now, if you ask my neighbors and friends in Covington about me, they'll say: “Ella Boudreaux? Oh, she can be real persistent,” but they always say it in such an admiring way that I don’t mind at all. 'Nagging' just sounds so negative and I am not a negative person. Truth is, I’m the kind of person you'd ask for directions if you were lost, or tell your life story to while waiting in line at the grocery store, which has happened on more than one occasion, believe me.  
So how does a person with my unique skill set make a living? As a bill collector, of course. It didn’t occur to me for a long time that this was my true calling--not until I had tried my hand as a dog walker, burger slinger, barnacle scraper, typist (on a real typewriter, with correction tape and everything), waitress (for  fancy and not-so-fancy restaurants), and telemarketer.  
Without a doubt, slinging burgers was the most humbling job, hands down. By the end of every shift, my skin and clothes had soaked up more oil than a gusher. The worst part of that job was feeling like I was in the army. We had to follow orders and never question our superiors, even if they were no smarter than a French fry! For an independent thinker like me, that was torture, as you might imagine.
While my other jobs had their highs and lows, I have to say that telemarketer was my absolute favorite. I certainly set some records while I was there, including: fewest magazine subscriptions sold, highest phone bills racked up, and most sob stories ever listened to--which may explain why I only lasted a month. But the stories I heard were priceless!   It’s amazing what people will tell you when all you asked was:  “Are you happy with your magazine subscription Mrs. _______?”  Why, I could write a book!  I heard about runaway dogs, philandering husbands, tragic illnesses, financial catastrophes, and children whose sole mission in life was to disappoint their parents. But it wasn’t all bad stuff. Some days I heard about upcoming nuptials, new grandbabies, second chances at love, and vacations to faraway places, like California and Hawaii. 
And while this may not be news to you, it was a real eye-opener for me to learn that some people have no filter at all--whatever pops into their brains flies right out of their mouths faster than a kid coming down a water slide. So, while I tried to sell them magazines, they were spilling their guts like guests on The Jerry Springer Show. Funny thing is I never thought of it as a dead-end job, not once. No, it was more like my own personal soap opera with an ever-changing cast of characters. All I had to do was listen--and throw in an encouraging word once in a while.  
I loved that job, so I was sad when it ended. It was the last Wednesday in June, around lunchtime, and I was on the phone with a woman named Maria Teresa Flanagan who very much wanted to renew her subscriptions to Reader’s Digest and Needlepoint Now, but just couldn’t afford it with everything else going on in her life. Well, wouldn’t you know it, right when Maria Teresa got to the good part of her story my boss, Roy Charbonnet, Jr., walked over. Of course, everyone else pretended to be working when they saw him tap me on the shoulder, but I knew what was coming, especially in light of my poor sales record. He was so nice when he fired me (he said he was “letting me go”) that I couldn’t be mad. All the same, I was sorely disappointed. Now I would never know whether Maria Teresa’s son did the right thing and married his pregnant girlfriend, or joined the army to get away from his drunken step-daddy.
I must admit that telemarketing taught me a few things about people. I learned that while everyone has a story to tell, boring people believe their stories are absolutely fascinating. They do so love to talk, but their stories are rambling and pointless and never have an ending. Not much of a beginning or middle either, to tell the truth. I had to learn how to interrupt them while still being nice because if they hung up on me, I'd just have to start all over again with a new chatterbox. 
Charlie is reading this over my shoulder and giving me a look that says I need to move my story along, or someone will be tempted to shut me down for rambling. Even if I believe I'm absolutely fascinating.  I know he just wants me to get to the part where he has a starring role. Don't worry Darlin', I'll get there…             
If you enjoyed this sample, then check out my book on Amazon, it's only $0.99! What a deal!   

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