Tuesday, 16 February 2010
Lassie's Stunt-Dog Jumped on Me
I have yet to see one completely unspoiled star, except for the animals - like Lassie.
-Edith Head, costume-designer-to-the-stars
It's early 2007 and I'm trying to chase after a girl who's a few years younger than me through some dodgy South Manchester suburb as dusk falls. It's hard to run when you're in a suit and business shoes with a long black overcoat and you've got a lap-top case strapped over one shoulder.
You should always dress up for a job interview.
Tonight I'm shadowing a door-to-door saleswoman as a working interview with CSC, a face-to-face marketing company in Manchester. At the office they'd given me a purposefully vague introduction to the work- I can't even remember what they told me it was I'd be doing. “Forward-thinking marketing”, or some psycho-babble that made it sound a thousand times more complex and yuppie-fied than it turned out to be: Going to people's houses, and getting them to change their gas and electric suppliers to CSC's.
That is Saleswoman's job.
“I joined this company when I was sixteen,” she snorted, “and within a year I was living in a penthouse apartment.”
Really, I thought. And you're, what, a supervisor? Who brings these people up? Don't they get taught not to brag? And why “Was living” ? Been demoted to the basement, maybe? Her attempts to seduce me into the job are having the opposite effect. I answered the ad because I wanted to promote ideas to people. That's how I interpret “marketing”. Pushing your way into ageing people's homes in an attempt to get them to pay for something is “sales”. Funny how the professionals of these fields don't seem to accept the difference. I know I'll be saying “no thanks” to the manager.
We leave one door after the home-owner seemed half asleep and completely disinterested. She didn't exactly force us away, though.
Saleswoman asks me, “What did you notice about her?”
“Um... her house was very- warm.”
“She was on drugs.”
We march further down the street. “Not this one,” Saleswoman says, passing one one of the semi-detached houses that already uses her supplier. She walk-runs up the next drive and simultaneously knocks on the door and rings the bell. A middle-aged woman answers hesitantly.
I'm starting to feel depressed from all the rejection, even though I'm not the one being turned down.
“You're eligible to pay less,” Saleswoman says, showing her a chart of complex figures. “Just give me a few moments and I'll explain it to you.”
In a few seconds, Saleswoman has managed to bully the home-owner into inviting us into her lounge, where I'm greeted by three large but playful collies. The closest jumps up to me and I catch her front paws and drop them down carefully again. The woman calls the dog's name. It's a girl. I ruffle the thick fur around the dog's neck, my fingers disappearing into the coat.
“They look just like Lassie,” Saleswoman says.
Home-owner tells us it's funny she should say that- it's funny that everyone says it- because parts of the new Lassie movie were filmed nearby in Yorkshire a couple of years ago. Dogs in films can't be overworked, she heard, so the film crew needed a few collies to act as stand-ins. One of her dogs- she points her out- got a walk-on part in the film.
She doesn't show us any proof of this and we don't ask, of course. She does give us proof of identification and home ownership as she fills out the paperwork, however, while I keep the dogs company for a few more minutes.
It occurs to me at that moment that there is a big distinction between the dogs and Saleswoman. Saleswoman has to be overtly nice to every potential customer- an act she has down to a tee- in order to get commission. In contrast, the dogs just want company. They are truly happy to see me and have no ulterior motives. “Unspoiled”, you could say.
As for me... although today has been an interesting experience, I still need a Goddamn job. Hence, the quest continues...