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10:45:57 - 2000-03-12

THE WORST JOB I'VE EVER HAD

I mentioned yesterday that Waffle House was not THE worst job I had ever had.

Hands down...the ABSOLUTE WORST JOB I've ever had....

...Selling Kirby Vacuum Cleaners.

Here's a quick synopsis of the situation leading up to my vacuum cleaner salesman stint...

Summer, 1990: The wife and I had just changed jobs and were waiting for our insurances to kick in when she got REALLY SICK. She had Pelvic Inflammatory Disease (one of the reasons we don't have kids now...it complicates pregnancy) and was laid up in the hospital for two weeks with no insurance. Meanwhile...I get laid off from my job as a club deejay because they were paying me tons of money but still weren't getting the crowds that they wanted in the club.

So...I had no job...she was in the hospital...we had no insurance.

I answered a blind ad in the paper. It said to come to the Ramada Inn for a seminar on a way that I could make $100 grand per year.

Hooo boy! Count my naive ass in!!

The entire seminar, the gung-ho speaker NEVER mentioned the product that we would be selling.

He NEVER said Vacuum Cleaners. If he had, I woulda bolted out the front door screaming and waving my arms above my head spastically.

At the end of the seminar, he called each of us up there individually to shake his hand and then leave.

I walked up there and he said quietly "Do you believe that you can make $100 grand in one year?"

Truthfully, I didn't. I was a fuck-up. I was 27 and had no real skills outside of deejaying.

"Uhhhh...yeah, sure," I replied.

He gave me a business card with the company's address on it and told me to be there at 9 am sharp the next day.

I was hired.

And excited.

Kids...right off the bat...if your job interview consists of one question that is an easy question to answer...chances are you DON'T want to work for these people.

I showed up at 9 a.m. and was greeted by a dozen dorks.

I could call them geeks, dweebs, tards, mongos...but these guys were dorks. No two ways about it.

"Hi, I'm John, what's your name?" a chipper fuck chirped my way.

"Uhhhh...I'm Uncle Bob," I said, sticking out my hand. "What is this?"

John grinned a broken teeth grin.

"You'll see," he said and then began greeting some other poor, lost soul who had walked through the door.

I wandered to the back of the building where I saw broken vacuum cleaners everywhere. And it dawned on me...I was about to become a vacuum cleaner salesman.

The owner of the franchise came in and sheets were passed out with song lyrics on them.

ALL the songs were sung to popular classics, but re-worded to praise Kirby.

It was the most surreal fucking experience I've ever participated in.

For example:

"On Top Of A Dustpile"

(sung to the tune of "On Top of Old Smokey")

"On Top of a Dustpiiiiile,

All covered with dead skin

I pulled out my Kirby

And sucked it all in."

Alright ... sue me...it's been 10 years, I don't remember the right lyrics. But it was songs just like that. The owners of the franchise would sing the lyrics with gusto. The managers and supervisors were singing like their lives depended on it.

I did like I do in church. I moved my lips and hummed.

For two days, I learned how to take apart and put a Kirby back together. I learned every fabricated fact on why Kirby was the best vacuum on the market. I learned how to scoff at the mention of other vacuum brand names and had a disparaging remark ready for every single one of my competition.

FEMALE CUSTOMER: "I don't know...I really like my Hoover system..."

ME: "Oh Hoover fucking sucks, lady...and that's not a bad pun...You'd have better luck picking dirt out of the carpet with your ass than you will with a Hoover. Hoover sucks dirty dog cock."

FEMALE CUSTOMER: "I was thinking about maybe buying a Kenmore Vacuum..."

ME: "Kenmore causes cancer."

FEMALE CUSTOMER: "How about a Rainbow system?"

ME: "Oh those are nice, but all the money goes to the KKK."

FEMALE CUSTOMER: "I'll take the Kirby."

ME: "I KNEW you would..."

Here's the Kirby scam...once a week a supervisor loads up a van full of Kirby losers like me and dumps us off in a local neighborhood. We walk door to door and register people for a chance at a "free carpet shampooing".

Well guess what? EVERYBODY WINS!!

So then, once you've collected 50 cards with names, addresses and phone numbers of people that want to be entered, you can turn in your cards and go home.

Fifty cards are a LOT of cards.

Especially in August when you're walking door-to-door in a heavy-knit shirt and slacks. It would get so hot, I would have projectile sweat. I'd just stand there, and sweat would shoot off my forehead like richocheted bullets, blinding passerbys.

Then...once you got your 50 cards, you were back allowed in the air conditioned van, where ice water would be waiting on you.

Wow. Now THAT'S incentive.

Every day, you start the day at the office with about four songs and a pep talk from the coach/owner.

This guy would literally try to get us stark raving mad for Kirby vacuums. He'd be pulling out all the stops, trying to whip us into a mad frenzy so we would sell, sell, SELL!!!

Well...hate to burst any bubbles here...but Uncle Bob is NOT a salesman.

Each day, we had three appointments given to us. One in the morning, one in the afternoon and one in the evening.

We would go to these homes and shampoo a room of carpet (usually the den). I would help the people move all their furniture, shampoo their carpet and put on my weak demonstration of the Kirby vacuum.

This normally took about an hour. Afterwards, I would start the inevitable sales pitch while the home's occupants tried to force me out of their home.

My first week I sold a vacuum to a young military couple. They told me that a Kirby guy had come by the previous year, but they didn't have the money to buy one ($1,400 for a vacuum cleaner, people. Fuckin' Bill Gates ain't got that kinda dough...). They both swore if anyone ever came by with a Kirby again, they were going to buy it.

Woooohoooo!!!

I got my pay check....$300.

Whooohoooo!!!

I was pumped. I was promised that in one month, I would be a manager of Kirby because I had a good head on my shoulders and "charisma".

Apparently...charisma is what rocks the vacuum cleaner world.

My second week, I didn't sell a single vacuum. That's okay. Everyone has their bad weeks.

Except...at Kirby...if you have a bad week...your ass doesn't get paid.

Excuse me???

Ummmmmm....I don't recall hearing SHIT about this I informed my manager.

"Well, we obviously can't pay you if you didn't produce," was his reply.

PROFUCKINGDUCE???

I had been producing since day one. I never missed an appointment or a goddamned singalong.

WHERE'S THE MONEY??? SHOW ME THE FUCKING MONEY!!!

The owner, sensing my hostility and disgruntled postal worker-like behavior, took me aside and calmed me down. He gave me one of his trademarked peptalks, except at a much quieter level. He explained how there was a huge future for me within his company. Everyone has their bad weeks, and you have to learn from those bad weeks and move on.

After the talk, I was pumped. I'll give the old coot some credit here...he knew how to keep his people pumped, whether it be fucked-up singalongs or fatherly advice and comments on your positive and strong points.

Regardless ... I gave it one more week.

One more week of toting around a 75-lb vacuum in the heat of summer, sweating all over people's dens, giving them the most beautiful carpet of their house's lives, and then ushered out the door.

Two things I remember distinctly about that job.

* Every house I cleaned, after they politely refused to purchase a vacuum, I would pour out my sob story of how my wife is in the hospital and we have no insurance and I can't sell a single vacuum and I can't pay the bills and I don't know what I'm going to do.

I didn't do this as a last ditch effort to sell the vacuum based on pity.

I was simply having small nervous fucking breakdowns in three homes a day.

* The second thing, was one of the hardest moments I've ever had in my life and it became the last house I shampooed.

I was shampooing a couple's home and demonstrating the vacuum. These two sat on the sofa, listened intently and grinned the whole time.

I finished shampooing and started the sales pitch. They declined the purchase, I started packing up and began having my nightly breakdown.

The man said "Can we ask you something?"

Sure.

"Didn't you used to be a comedian?"

Ouch. Oh motherfucking ouch.

"Ummm...yeah, that's me," I said, curling up the vacuum's cord.

"And you were a deejay at Stagger Lee's too, weren't you," the lady said.

"Yeah...that's me," I said, forcing a smile.

"We used to come see you all the time," the man said. "You were great."

"Really? Well, thanks."

Then the clincher....

"So ...why are you selling vacuum cleaners now?"

Christ. I didn't know. All I knew was that I went from jobs to where I entertained hundreds of people a night for several years to vacuuming ungrateful people's carpets in no time.

I just wanted to cry. Unfortunately, a 28-year old man standing in your den and sobbing while trying to box up a vacuum cleaner isn't socially acceptable.

I explained to them the sudden fall I've had in the public eye. How I left comedy to go into deejaying, then left a successful club to go to a small, unsuccessful club who were banking on me to turn things around for them ... it didn't happen...they let me go while my wife was in the hospital with some freaky assed disease that would probably keep us from ever having children, we have no insurance, and I had to find something quickly to pay the bills, so I took this shitty job but I didn't sell a vacuum cleaner last week, so I didn't get paid and I probably won't sell one again this week which means I've worked for two weeks with no money coming in and GODDAMMIT WHY DID YOU HAVE TO FUCKING RECOGNIZE MEEEEE?!?!?!?

It was a most humbling experience.

I quit Kirby the next day when I didn't get another paycheck. I explained that there were no hard feelings, but I wasn't a salesman, and I needed to find something that would keep a steady paycheck coming in. I had no idea what that would be, but I couldn't keep working for free anymore.

That's the story of My Worst Job Ever. I know it wasn't funny, but at the time...Jesus...it WASN'T funny....

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