Disciplines.

Hey! Who took the gabbagoo?

The guys who wrote “Take Me Out To The Ballgame” also wrote “Shine On Harvest Moon”.

“Every Little Thing She Does Is Magic” by The Police, “Beth” by Kiss, “We Got The Beat” by The Go-Gos. “Dancing In The Moonlight” by King Harvest. All these songs have what in common?

Another sensitive female chord progression song is Bon Jovi’s “It’s My Life”, possibly the worst song ever to hit the top 10. A mawkish, thick-headed attempt to relive past glory days by writing basically the same feel-good shit. Yeah, just write some stupid lyrics, throw in some distorted pentatonic noodling, and keep playing it over and over, in different forms. Do an acoustic version! Do it as a waltz! Play it as a Slavic Folk song. Keep it in the public’s face until it becomes a sort of classic-by-association.

Any band that plays an acoustic set but cannot reinvent their accompaniment to facilitate this vastly different discipline is merely wanking to make more money. Nothing more.

Yesterday was the busiest day ever for this blog, and I thank you. I’m still finding my feet, but I do so love writing. Almost as much as I do singing.

The older I get, the more I am convinced that Led Zeppelin were just a group of cynical music thieves. Well-documented are the various complete and utterly fraudulent bastardizations of their betters, but I revisit it now and again to remind me.

I was thinking about the latest incident wherein I was disciplined or admonished by a manager. It was back in March, I think, and it was for singing in my cubicle. And I thought about how choppy a resume I’ve sort of slapped together, and all the stuff that isn’t on it because it’s either too old or not what I want to do any more. I suppose…ahem…you’ve all seen this?

I was a telemarketer for the Buffalo Philharmonic. This was back in 1987 or so. Our job was to solicit credit card donations over the phone. Later, we were asked to call former “subscribers” to the season and ask them to renew. Hot, relevant acts like The Lettermen, John Dankworth and Doc Severinsen were an easy sell. In the middle of our big oak table, strewn with ash trays and coke cans, a wicker basket held about 100 or so blue computer-printed donor cards with information on people who had donated/subscribed in the past season. We (the young, hip co-workers, some of whom I still speak with today) would grab a random sampling and go to town. Not me. I would grab more than my share of cards. Then I would find the women. The ones with “Miss” were the best. Then I would work the Neal Magic©.

“Hi, this is George Smith. I’m calling for the BPO, and I have this script in front of me, but I’ll spare you that if you would like to donate this year like you did last…” or something witty and urbane like that. Thus did I turn my $5.50/hr. base salary into about $6.75/hr via commissions. I actually kept a log of how well I did from week to week. Not just that, though! I actually met 13 women outside the office for dates thanks to my everyman jive. None of them were consummated (and more than one were humiliating) but it was a sport to me. One lady crocheted her own sweater. One wanted to go out dancing at the Playboy Club near the airport, a 40-year -old in stone washed jeans and high heels. One claimed she was a lesbian as soon as we met face to face. One shared her deepest sexual secrets with me over the phone, which was nice. But we had to go and spoil it all by meeting face to face. Who could live up to that?

My manager started to notice that I was eschewing all the male donors in favor of the fairer sex. I was gently admonished and sent back to my seat. It didn’t bother me too much, because I knew that I was starting a new job the next week at a large computer software/hardware distributor in Buffalo, NY. A bus ride from my apartment. Sales. I knew nothing about any of it, but it was exciting, and the money was much much better. But, like most of the things I had done to that point, I exerted the least possible effort, coasting on my gawd-given intellect instead of trying to improve myself.  Sometimes I would go days without showering, wearing the same dirty shirt days in a row. A small heap of ties in the middle of my bedroom to choose from. When I was doing well, it was fantastic. Sadly, eventually, the truth caught up to me. I knew next to nothing about software compatibility (back then it was a big deal) and when a customer would call with a yes or no question about what would work with what, I would just say “yes”. If need be, I would pretend to be on the line with customer service for a few moments, and inevitably come back on the line with an affirmative answer.  One day a savvy customer accepted my answer, called our tech support people HIMSELF, got the REAL answer, and then called my manager to express his disappointment.

This was the job where the owner of the company flew all 100 or so of us to Nashville, TN for some sales conference weekend. It was my first flight, and I have never known such terror. Not because of the bumpy flight, but because it was the first time I had experienced such claustrophobia in my life. Mercifully, we connected in Detroit, so the longest part of the flight was only 1.5 hours.It was a beautiful hotel, but I was in no shape to enjoy myself. You could say something snapped. For some reason, I brought my sad excuse for a boom-box to the hotel, perhaps so I could play my latest 4-track recordings to myself to help me sleep. However, there was a party down the hall, being hosted by a new guy whose name I won’t say here. He was one of those good-time fellas who always seemed to attract a party wherever he went. I wanted to be that. Why wasn’t I that? He wanted to borrow my tape player for his party, so he could enjoy the Grateful Dead while drinking and flirting. So I let him have it. Even though his presence made me sick. There was nothing fundamentally wrong with him. Maybe he was just someone who exemplified everything I was not.

Everyone liked him.

So I’m in my room, trying to get to sleep. But the thought wouldn’t let me go—Why wasn’t I invited? Why does HE have my boom box? Why is he so popular? Am I ever going to see that thing again? Is he, are they…laughing at me? Am I some kind of sucker? Is the tinny warbling of Jerry Garcia’s aimless jamming going to ruin my speakers?

They’re all laughing at me behind my back.

So I did the only thing I could do. I marched into the party, politely handed party boy his 75-minute version of Dark Star or whatever, and yanked that thing out of the wall socket. While the chorus of “Awww…” and “Jeesh..what a…” serenaded my twitching countenance, I ran out of the room, and quietly enjoyed my latest soon-to-be-forgotten 4-track incompetence, serenely satisfied that no one would forget me now.

That act changed people’s opinions about me for years to come, I discovered later. Where I was once just some dude who might have let his love affair with his own musk linger on a bit too long, I was now “that asshole”.

I worked for Harlequin Books in Depew, NY as a temp. It wasn’t as romantic as it sounds (haw haw). Our job was to collect all the mail correspondence, try to decipher what Gertrude Albrecht, age 87, was begging us to no longer send her because she didn’t ask for it and her arthritis kept her from opening our boxes, and click some computer buttons to ensure that we no longer send her that thing.  About 100 times an hour. Over and over. Our manager was Nicole. She was from France. I asked her what “Zoot Allures” meant, but she didn’t know, assuring me that no French person would ever say that. These piles of postcards and letters were called “batches” (every office has these little proprietary terms. I know so many that I sometimes dream in their terms) and when you were done, you would “batch back”, or, as non-sexy French woman Nicole would say, “botch bock”. As ever, one of the first things I learned how to do was a spot-on impression of my boss. I shared it with my co-workers in the break room and they loved it! Once they asked me to do it in front of Nicole herself. I did. She was like John McCain in front of a Wii. Mystified.

I would try to be very funny and open one day, and when I began resenting people’s reaction to that, dead serious. In a small break room, it’s pretty easy to affect other people’s moods with your own, especially when you run to two extremes and nothing in between, like I did. There was one devastating beauty working there, and when she asked me to go bowling, I thought “Boy oh boy!” But she had a boyfriend. Turns out the Harlequin Batchers were a bowling team and they needed a fourth. Cue Mr Hostility. I didn’t speak another word to this poor girl for the entire three months left on my contract. However, it’s still a handy conversation starter to be able to say “I worked at Harlequin Books” and be telling the truth. The stuff about me authoring an entire (rejected) series of books based on lovers who had Down Syndrome, books like “Strong Like Hulk” and “We’re All Winners” were falsehoods, and trying to describe the book cover illustrations becomes burdensome after a while.

I tell people I was a dancer just to see their reactions. You might not find that funny, but it is disarming, and that’s what I thought I was doing. But if people don’t know if you’re kidding or not, pretty soon they just assume you’re kidding. Who has the energy for that?

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3 thoughts on “Disciplines.

  1. Morrighan says:

    I kinda miss you singing in your cubical and now I know why it stopped. *sigh* Good writing – keeps me entertained!🙂

  2. gilbert neal says:

    That’s why I’m here, Suger Bee.

  3. […] happened! She was one of these BPO women. We connected via my phone solicitation and the “action” quickly went to my apartment […]

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