Friday, January 29, 2010


The message on my answering machine said, “Mr. Melahn, you filled out an application for American TV for a full-time sales position. Several positions have opened up and if you are still interested please give me a call. I’ll be in the office until five today. I will be out of the office on Monday and Tuesday but you can reach me on Wednesday.” I was so excited to have just gotten a call I didn’t take the time to really evaluate the situation, but then what difference would it make. I needed a job no matter what the circumstances. I called back and left a message saying I would call back on Wednesday to confirm an appointment. If you remember from a previous blog this was the company that had me fill out forty pages of psychological mind games to see if I’d tow the line or steal them blind.
Wednesday’s phone call led to a Thursday interview with human resources. I was told to ask the greeter for Tammy when I arrived. I spent hours in the closet (this has nothing to do with the wasted years previously spent in there deciding to come out or not to come out) going through what I thought would be the appropriate attire to wear for the interview. I didn’t want to over dress.  I didn’t want to look too Soho chic or too Detroit destitute. I wanted to strike the right balance between a flair for style and the appearance of an ability to hustle a sale. After all, this was the company that once sponsored “Lenny’s Inferno”. A local TV show airing horror flicks every Friday nights at midnight. Mr. Mephisto would intro the films with his sidekick the voice in the box and then “Crazy TV Lenny”, the quintessential huckster, would pop from the screen screaming at you to come on down to American TV. They have since dropped the “Crazy TV Lenny” sales approach and gone to a softer sell but I can still see Lenny in his plaid suits, with a single greasy spit curl hanging from his forehead, arms outstretched and a Cheshire grin, waving his fingers as he barked out the latest deals on TV’s and appliances. Now the company has stores all over the Midwest, thousands of employees, and an online application form with forty pages of psychological torture not even Freud could have dreamt up.
I settled on an outfit based on multiple textures in black, white and grey. I felt I looked stylishly friendly, both approachable and knowledgeable simultaneously. I confidently walked through the front door of the eastside store, a mega structure easily the size of three football fields.  I introduced myself to today’s greeter, a tall handsome guy in his late thirties. I tried to imagine his history. Is he married? Why is he here? With his looks he could be doing better than hawking mid-range furniture for ten bucks an hour. I think he was supposed to smile but my guess is no one enjoys his required stint at the front of the store. He calls Tammy. “If you’ll just hang around, she’ll be out in a few minutes.” I pretended to look at the furniture vignettes as other salespeople hung around looking bored. I ended up trailing a young couple apparently looking for a sofa.  During their unchaperoned search they stumbled on a coffee table that’s top lifted up and transformed to a dining table.  The incident calmed me on two levels: the table was actually ingeniously designed and the fact they were allowed to roam without an escort gave me hope about the sales approach necessary to survive in the new American TV culture.
Tammy came out, hand outstretched, to welcome me. I was unable to read her first impression, which she kept hidden behind an expression that had sparkle and disinterest in equal measures. She ushered me behind closed doors to the administrative offices. For a furniture business the formaldehyde scented paneled walls, synthetic industrial carpeting, and dreary acoustical ceilings all pointed to a corporation more interested in the bottom line than the quality of their image. Tammy offered me a seat and the interrogation began. The disregard of any pretense with the surrounding decoration put me at ease. Knowing I could approach this job as simply a job stripped away any pressure and allowed me to answer all of Tammy’s questions with candor and humor. I started to see Tammy’s expression begin to sway more and more toward the sparkle side, or so I thought. She finally moved into giggle mode and ended the interview with an invitation to the next step in the hiring process. I suppose I could have said, “No thank you” right then and there but by now I realized my options were thin to nil so I had better not cut of my nose to spite my face. I need to become a provider no matter what the cost to my vanity and pride. I left thinking I had pretty good chance at a fifty hour a week gig coaxing the masses into buying things they didn’t want or need.
It was three days, well after store hours, when Tammy's email popped up on computer screen.
"Thank you for your interest in employment opportunities with American TV & Appliance, Inc. Although we found your background and experience of interest, we have offered the position to an individual whom we feel best matches our needs for the position."
I'm hoping this is my karma directing me toward something better, but right now I'm having a rough time trying to stay  positive.

Failure requires you to dig deeper than you ever thought possible in reaffirming your self-worth. Giving up only means more failure and that is not an option.

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