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My "Jobs and Chores" story

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  • cbohnson
    JOBS AND CHORES Back in the late fifties (or perhaps the early sixties), I took a job with the Prudential Life Insurance Company as an insurance salesman. As a
    Message 1 of 1 , Jun 19, 2008
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      JOBS AND CHORES

      Back in the late fifties (or perhaps the early sixties), I took a job
      with the Prudential Life Insurance Company as an insurance salesman.
      As a trainee, I worked with one of the senior salesmen out of the
      local office. My trainer was a highly-successful salesman, and in my
      youthful enthusiasm, I tried to emulate him—even to the point of
      smoking (or rather, trying to smoke!) his brand of cigars! A suit and
      tie were, of course, required, even though we were working from an
      office that was not open to the public.

      My first few weeks were heady: I sold enough insurance to make several
      thousand dollars—a huge sum in those days—at least to me!
      Even though I appeared to be making a successful go of it, company
      policy required that I spend at least half the day, every day, making
      "cold calls"—that is, dialing my way through a phone book, trying to
      sell life insurance to the person who answered the phone. I hated it
      with a passion. I am not the sort of person who feels comfortable
      making that kind of call—when I receive one, I hang up as soon as I
      identify it as a sales call. My appeals to my boss went unheeded, and
      my frustration grew as my list of completed (and largely unsuccessful)
      calls grew longer.

      I had been on the job about a month, still making good money from
      those calls where I was able to make appointments to meet a prospect
      through referrals from friends and relatives, when I made my last
      "cold call." I had dialed my way through about twenty or thirty
      numbers—with no success. The office was air-conditioned, but the day
      outside was hot.

      I dialed the next number reluctantly. My frustration-level was high;
      my reluctance was even higher. The voice on the other end was clearly
      that of a very young child, so I asked, "May I speak with your mommy,
      please?"

      "Just a minute," piped the small voice. "Mommy! Mommy..." the voice
      disappeared into the distant recesses of the house. After some silence
      I heard the growling and cursing voice of the lady of the house as she
      came closer to the phone.

      "I'm sorry to take so long," she said when she picked up. "I was up on
      the roof, cleaning out the gutters. Who is this, please?"

      I started my spiel, "I am really, really sorry. My name is Cliff
      Bohnson. I'm with the Prudential Life Insurance.."

      Her scream of rage cut me off in mid-sentence. Then she did what I
      would have done in her place: she slammed down the phone.

      The crash of her receiver echoing in my ears, I stared at my phone for
      a long time, the dial tone replacing the noise. Then I gathered up my
      personal papers and placed them in my attaché case. After neatly
      stacking the various company manuals and information packets on my
      desk, I went over to my boss's office and entered without knocking.

      "Bob—you know how I've been asking about not having to do "cold calls"
      anymore?"

      "Yeah?" he looked up, annoyed at the interruption—and my daring to go
      back to what he considered a settled question.

      "Well, I don't have to make any more of them. I'm not going to make
      any more of them!"

      "Yes you will! As long as you work here, you will make cold calls
      until I tell you otherwise!"

      "Ah, Bob—that's just the point," I said. "I don't have any intention
      of making any more cold calls, because I don't have any intention of
      working here any longer. A small percentage of your precious cold
      calls may result in sales—but the much larger percentage of them
      result in seriously-annoyed people who will probably never want
      anything to do with Prudential ever again! In this case, I'm one of
      them. I quit!"

      Bob stood up and blustered a bit, but I was gone long before he
      finished. I went back to working for my uncle as an electrician. I
      didn't make as much money, but I made the people at whose homes I
      worked happy—which in turn made me happy at work. It was a
      life-changing moment. Ever since, I have only done work that I
      enjoyed. It turned out that none of the work I enjoyed paid very well
      (at various times I worked as a church organist; nurse's aide; school
      teacher; church secretary; composer)—but I have felt richer anyway!

      - Cliff Bohnson
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