Maura Murray — Call Me

I remember back in my early college days, one summer in particular, I was having a tough time finding a suitable summer job. I wanted to try something different, but the problem was, there wasn’t much different. Every day for two weeks after school let out I would scan the Help Wanted ads looking for different until one day I settled on something different — different for me, at least, or so I thought. This ad had been there every day, and actually, this employment ad, in one form or another, was always there in the Help Wanted section of the newspaper, so, I thought I would finally check it out.

I kept telling myself on the way there to keep an open mind — to give it a chance — to hear them out. I had no idea what to expect, so I had no expectations. Only curiosity.

After wandering around the nondescript office complex that looked identical to all the other myriad office complexes that blighted the landscape then and still do to this day, I finally found the conference room where the interview was to be held. Needless to say, the directions they provided were terrible. Not a promising sign, and once I entered the conference room, I started to realize why the ad was not more forthcoming, and, in fact, was downright misleading.

This wasn’t a personal one-on-one interview as the ad led me to believe. It was a conference room full of applicants just like me. Well, not exactly just like me as we’ll soon see.

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Once we were all settled in, and one of the goons was done chastising many of us for being late because we couldn’t find the location because of the crappy directions, another goon closed the conference room doors and blocked the exit with his massive body. I kid you not. I’m starting to get worried and nervous. And I call them goons because that’s what they were. They were Bikers in full regalia to include the jackets and the billfold and knives chained to their belts.

My mind is spinning at ten thousand revolutions per minute — far exceeding the Redline. My brain is overheating and smoke begins to billow from my ears, eyes and nose. I need to get the fuck out of here. Sons of Bitches (versus Anarchy). I should have known. Me and my different. Why do I always need different? Why can’t the same be good enough?

As I’m thinking all this, the head goon starts his sermon. It’s basically an admonishment. A chastisement. We’ve all been a bunch of losers up to this point and that’s why we’re there. Because we don’t want to be losers anymore. And he and his fellow goons are going to show us how not to be losers and instead, how to be winners. Ironically, I should note, unlike his fellow goons, this goon is rather diminutive in stature. He looks to be 5’ 7” and 140 lbs, if that. But he commands the Ship of State like a natural-born dictator. When this dick talks, people listen — except me.

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He has strategically positioned three carrots at the front of the conference room. The carrots are his success stories. They’re his puppets on a string. They’re the enticement after the chastisement. He makes them talk and say great things about him and the program — about how it changed their lives and how they’re no longer losers and how much money they’re making now. They’ve made it. They’re successes, and we can be too. Yeah, right. Sure. Whatever.

He goes on to explain what the program is and how we can make so much money if we prostrate ourselves before him. It’s a Boiler Room Call Center, if you haven’t guessed already. And it’s run by Bikers. This is priceless. For everything else there’s Mastercard — and this Call Center wants what’s in your wallet.

At this point, I’m thinking of a plan to get the fuck out of there — but the big goon is blocking the exit and I don’t want to make a scene if I don’t have to. Then, it comes. My chance. He didn’t mean it as a chance, but I took it as my chance.

As part of his Hard Sell, he dared us to get up and leave. He said, and I’m paraphrasing here since it was so long ago I don’t remember the exact words, “this job is for people who want to work hard and earn a ton of money. It will involve a lot of long hours and a lot of odd hours. But if you follow our lead and our direction, I guarantee you will be successful. You will no longer be a loser. If you don’t want to be successful and you want to remain a loser and not make a lot of money, if you’re not up to the challenge, then there’s the door.”

So, I got up from my seat and headed to the door. I was the only one. Almost immediately he lights into me. “Where are you going?” he barks. “I’m not up to the challenge,” I say, “this isn’t for me.” “So you’re a loser then?” he says. “I guess I am,” I say. “Go ahead, throw away a great chance to make tons of money and finally be a success,” he retorts. I don’t respond any further but as I approach the exit the big goon blocking it isn’t budging. The head goon is still rambling on and on about what a pussy loser I am, so I turn to him and say, “please have him move out of the way or I will contact the police about this. I want no part of it.” At that point, he waves the big goon out of the way, and I exit the room, all the while he’s calling me every name in the book — names I’ve never even heard before.

As I head towards the parking lot I hear someone behind me yelling. I turn and there is some guy, middle-aged, running after me asking me to “hold on.” I wait for him to catch up and once he reaches me he proceeds to thank me up and down. He’s so grateful. Grateful for what? For breaking the ice, he tells me. My walking out of the room gave him the nerve to do it and it inspired several others. He then goes on to explain that he’s done this Call Center gig before and he was always too scared to say no — that they go so far as to get your personal information and call and harass you once you’re on board. They intimidate and threaten people to work for them, and if you don’t they make your life A Living Hell. He thanks me again and we part ways.

Make of this story what you will.

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