I’ve had my share of dead-end jobs. For example, I once sold history books published by a nationally known publishing house over the phone in a boiler room operation. We made random calls off computer-generated lists, hoping to reach somebody who would let us mail them a sample book as a tryout.
I was desperate to make a sale because I needed money, eager enough to stretch the rules and take almost anything that resembled a “yes.”
“Is this the Hernandez residence?” I asked into the phone.
“Si,” a male voice replied.
“Is this Mr. Hernandez?”
“My name is John Sammon, and I’d like to offer you for a limited time only, our World War I series by Acme Books. You sound like a man who’s interested in history.”
“We’ll send you our first in the series, Dogfighters of the Sky, World War I Aces, free of charge. If after 30 days, you don’t want the book, simply return it with no charge. Does that sound good?”
“I’ll send it, okay?”
“What’s your first name?”
“No……your name. El namo?”
“Okay Sy. Now, I have you living at 2000 Sue Street. Is that correct?”
“That’s Sue, spelled S-U-E? Sue?”
“So! I’ll send the book, okay?”
I’d eaten lunch not long before, couldn’t help myself, and burped into the phone. I’m sure the guy on the other end heard it.
“Si,” he said.
Click! I hung up.
The book was sent out, but was returned. I made no sale.
This was an attempt to take advantage of an immigrant, but I later made up for it when I took another dead-end job, unwittingly becoming an advocate for immigrants. I took a mindless job moving merchandise down from a storage area on the top floor of a large department store to the ground-floor-level showroom.
This stevedore work was done by illegal foreigners. I was the only American at the store willing to do the low-pay hard physical labor, which involved lifting and stacking barbecue grills, roasters and other merchandise.
The floor manager I nicknamed “Tiger Lil,” had barely disguised contempt for us “unskilled” laborers. She became incensed when I dared ask about a sign on the top floor that read, “this area contains chemicals recognized by the State of California to cause cancer.”
The crew, Latins most of them, couldn’t read the sign. I became their spokesman.
“That’s all been cleaned up,” Tiger Lil said of the chemicals, which turned out to be asbestos.
“Then, if it’s been cleaned up, why is it necessary to post a sign?” I asked.
I left the room. She put my name on a trouble-makers list. I was shortly thereafter laid off the job.
(note: This is a true story. I later found out it bears some resemblance to an old Jack Benny skit Benny did with Mel Blanc, the voice of Bugs Bunny. A tiny politically correct newspaper refused to run this column, afraid that poking fun at language differences would offend Latinos).