Thursday, March 24, 2011

The Sweet Stench of Failure

The week after graduation, I got my first job out of college – as a perfume peddler. It was a multi-level marketing scheme that I fell for hook, line and sinker. And not surprisingly, the job became a major source of tension between Conspiracy and me.

On the surface, the job looked like exactly what I needed. It would let me be my own boss, own my own business and make a ton of money really fast. Enough to move to L.A. and start my acting career.

I threw myself heart and soul into the new enterprise, which entailed getting out every day and knocking on doors, bottles of perfume in hand. For every popular designer scent, I had a $5-$15 fake. At the end of the day, if I "dropped 10 bottles," I'd get to ring a bell back at headquarters.

I set a personal goal to sell 5-10 bottles every day, en route to becoming a "manager" with my own crew of perfume peddlers, from whom I'd take a cut of every bottle sold.

It didn't work out that way, and not for a lack of effort.

There were a lot of days spent going door-to-door in the hot summer sun. I would partner up with another person in my group, and we'd go hit what we hoped was an untapped, lucrative area. I hit small towns all over Connecticut, even going as far as Rhode Island and Massachusetts.

Once, I stumbled into a sweatshop, where the foreman let me pitch a group of women huddled over sewing machines. As a joke. They didn't speak English.

Once, I pitched an office where a woman I'd never met scolded me about having a job that was clearly beneath me.

Once, I stumbled into a small town with another black woman. Not one person answered the door for us, and someone even called the cops.

Conspiracy berated me every single day until I quit.

He started the very first week, when I decided I was going to go out and sell on Memorial Day. He lectured me on what a stupid idea that was. (He was right.) He said everyone would be at the beach. (He was right.) He said I wouldn't make any money. (He was right.)

"You don't take advice very well," Conspiracy snapped. "I'm not wasting anything else on you!"

His advice didn't consist of gentle suggestions that I was free to consider or not. He expected me to heed his advice. If I didn't, it was a direct attack on him and spiteful ingratitude for all he had done for me.

He frequently attacked my character, using words like "sucker" and "easy mark" to describe me. I hadn't fallen for this get-rich-quick scheme because I was young, inexperienced and blindingly ambitious, but because I "wore my heart on my sleeve."

He explained to me that I fit the profile of a girl who was easily pimped. In the street-hooker, not the metaphorical, sense. (I believed him. And a few years later, I proved him right by getting entangled with Stripper Pimp.)

When I chose to work on the 4th of July, I came home to a five-page letter from Conspiracy ... written in red ink.

I finally quit the job, after a week when I grossed $41 in sales.

Stung by my first career failure and trapped in New Haven, I plunged into a suicidal depression that lasted two weeks.

Conspiracy Diaries Part 21 of 25 (1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10 11 12 13 14 15 16 17 18 19 20 21 22 23 24 25)
Conspiracy Lessons Learned 1-4 (1 2 3 4)


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1 comment:

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