Panda4christ:3 wrote:So I've been meaning to comment on this @___@;;
Geez Claec, making the rest of us feel jealous because of your amazing skills (jk, jk)
Anyhow, I love it <3 There's gonna be more though, right?
(I mean...there has to be D: )
Psh, skills my foot. I'm gonna asparagus you, Ms. Awesome Artist.
Yes, there shall be more. Hopefully, I'll be posting the whole story here once it's done, but till then, a chapter at a time.
lol, that Lilo and Stitch is priceless.
Also, thanks snowcatgrl, I appreciate the comment. But yeah, that's basically the story behind the prologue. Unfortunately, you'll probably never find out what happened with that.
Also, anyone who bothers to critique this, I greatly appreciate it, but I do have to warn you; if you give me advice/critique/suggestions/warnings/etc., I will make note of and jot it down for future use, but I will most probably not do any editing here. This is a first draft, and I'm going to try to finish it before I go back and do any editing. So if you notice I'm not changing anything, it's not because I'm throwing your advice out the window, it's simply because I haven't gotten around to doing anything. Once I get around to editing it and applying the critique of my wonderful friends, I'll share the finished product.
Joseph stared down into his water listlessly. Mr. Marco's words rang through his mind. Although the older man was always belittling him and reprimanding him for his failures, this was the first time he'd outright said what Joseph had been dreading – that he might actually lose this job. Fear clenched his chest. No, he couldn't fail. It wasn't an option. All his hopes and dreams rested on this. To be fired...
“Hey,” Connie said. She came over and sat at his table, a small plate of food in her hand. She hastily started shoveling it into her mouth. “You should eat something.”
The cafeteria was as drab and lifeless as the rest of the building. A large, room with a high ceiling, it was noticeably less illuminated than the office floors, presumably because it didn't take as much visibility to eat food, and therefore the electric bill could be cut. Long plastic tables, arranged in narrow lines to allow for maximum space use, were surrounded by simple folding chairs. The buffet line looked long and impressive, but in reality there were only a few basic foods offered their. It was longer to allow for maximum efficiency in retrieving one's food; since the employees were only allowed 10 minutes for lunch break. It wouldn't do to have people missing out on lunch break.
Joseph looked up momentarily, only to return to staring at his cup after Connie finished talking. Although he knew it was necessary for mental and vocal health, he simply couldn't bring himself to eat anything. He hadn't even bothered to go in line and get anything. Instead, he dutifully sipped at the cup of water that held his fascination.
“Don't be so hard on yourself,” Connie encouraged, daintily removing the last traces of her meal from her face with a napkin. “Mr. Marco's always like that with beginners. It's his way of making sure no one slacks off. As far as I can tell, you're coming along great! So don't worry about it.” Connie smiled reassuringly.
“But,” Joseph sighed. He knew Connie was trying to help, and maybe she was right. But even if he did keep the job, at this rate... “My father never lost more than 8 customers a day, even from the beginning of his career. Toward the end...” Joseph's voice cracked, then he pushed on. “...He only got 'no's' from 3-4 customers a day. I don't think I'll ever be like him.”
There was silence for a moment, then the sound of metal scraping on the concrete floor as Connie shoved her chair back. She laid a hand gently on Joseph's shoulder.
“I know this is important to you, but you can't dwell on it. You are not
Andrew Peters. You can't compare yourself to him. This job isn't about notoriety, or superiority. It's not about excelling. In this job, you do what you can, and you meet your quota. Our goal here isn't to stand out. We work together as a team. Because in the end, individuality doesn't count for anything. We represent Telemarketing Today, as a team that's here to make sure the world gets the services, products, and consultation they need!”
She ended with her head thrown back, one arm raised to the sky. And yet, as emotional as her speech had been, it honestly just sounded like a really convincing advertisement. Joseph couldn't help but feel like that was rehearsed. Maybe it was something they said to all newbies. He sighed and dropped his head. He understood what she meant, he really did. But what she didn't understand was that to him, this was more than a livelihood, or a career. It was his life. He couldn't very well throw away the very reason he'd pursued this from the beginning, the reason he'd spent ten years in intensive schooling. This wasn't about him. It was about the Peters name. And now that he'd managed to thoroughly tarnish that name with his miserable shortcomings, it was even more his responsibility to raise it up above the ranks, above and beyond its former glory.
Turning to look at Connie's shining face, with her pure and flawless ideals, Joseph realized he couldn't say any of that to her. She wouldn't understand, and she'd probably just say the same thing over again. No, this was Joseph's burden alone, one he had no right to force on anyone else, in part or whole. Instead, he simply forced a halfhearted smile, downing the remainder of his water.
“Thanks, Connie,” he said insincerely, but with all the marks of honesty. “I needed that. Now why don't we get back to work?”
“Yes, lets!” She replied cheerily.
Joseph slowly replaced the phone on the hook, hardly daring to breathe. “Yes!”
He said quietly, while internally he was celebrating on a huge scale. He placed a check mark next to the name, taking a few seconds to survey his beautiful list of check marks. That call made 8 successes in a row. Maybe he was on to something, a new technique that was unique to him!
After taking a few moments to recompose himself, Joseph picked up the phone again, dialing the next number on his list. In high spirits, he waited for the click on the other end.
There was a long silence when the other party finally picked up, leading Joseph to believe that maybe the person had unknowingly received the call, ignoring the phone.
“Helloooo....” I groggy voice muttered, just as he was about ready to hang up and redial.
“I'm calling on behalf of Andersen's Electronics. Is Mr. Jarbonski in?”
“....” The silence was unnerving. “What's this about?”
“We have some exciting new offers we think Mr. Jarbonski would be interested, and I just wanted to make sure he doesn't miss out on these great deals!” Joseph tried to keep his voice peppy, but his heart was already sinking.
“In that case, you must have a wrong number. I still have three hours of sleep. Leave me alone.”
Joseph flipped frantically through his book of replies, tripping over his words as he tried to find one that fit this situation. But before he could get a satisfactory reply out, that heart-wrenching click sounded on the other end, followed by a dial tone. Joseph slumped in his chair. There went that streak. Pulling out a sticky notepad, he jotted something down, then peeled it off and stuck it to the glass, next to his myriad of other ones. Study Standard Replies manual more extensively.
How he was going to manage that in his already jam-packed schedule was beyond him. But it obviously had to be done. Joseph was surprised at the huge differences between book knowledge and practical application. Tests and exams, even practice sessions, didn't begin to compare to the real world. Customers were coming up with more and more ways to thwart the efforts of telemarketers. Joseph felt like his schooling had been outdated, that it was time to modernize, and keep up with the changing world. Otherwise, more and more students would have to face these unexpected surprises that he encountered every day.
Joseph quickly dialed in the next number, reading over his script while he waited. Click.
“Are you ready for winter? It's time to get out those snow blowers and shovels. Make sure your eaves troughs are free of leaves before they ice over! And you can't work outside without a good pair of gloves and a warm coat. Harrison's Hardware has all that and more, for 50% off this weekend only. Be sure to st-”
“Eh?” The voice on the other end said in what sounded like some confusion. “¡Los jalapeños están en la mesa! ¡No come el pollo! ¡Hombre del árboles, no me gusta sus preguntas feos! ¡Insuficiente! Ayuda me, o los perros morirán...” The strange rambling continued on with no signs of stopping.
Joseph blinked, then pulled the phone away from his ear, staring at it in mild anxiety. What was he supposed to do with that? Slowly, he hung the phone up, sitting in silence for a moment.
“That was a new one...” He said to himself, still a bit shaken up. Recomposing himself, he took a drink of water from the cup on his desk. It was standard to have a cup of lukewarm water with you at all times, and drink a small amount between phone calls, to protect the throat and vocal cords from drying out. To a telemarketer, the voice was their most valuable possession, and needed to be taken care of accordingly.
Joseph was snapped out of his daze by the sound of the bell ringing, sounding the end of the work day. He groaned, looking down at his list. He'd missed his quota by 10 customers. Hesitating, he reached for the phone, but grudgingly pulled it back. If Mr. Marco found out he'd made calls outside of business hours, he'd be in a lot more trouble than for missing his quota. Sighing, he gathered up his papers, stacking them nicely, and placing a portion of them in a folder to take home. He peeled off the forest of sticky notes he'd written, pasting them on his folder instead. When he was satisfied everything was neat and orderly, he stepped out into the hall, into a river of people all going home for the day. Like a salmon, he simply flowed with it, running over in his head everything he had to do for the day.
Groceries were stocked up, so a trip to the store wasn't necessary. Being an incredibly socially awkward person, Joseph entered society as little as possible, so his grocery trips were limited to whenever he was entirely out of food, usually about once every two months. Toward the end of each period, it was common for Joseph to be sustained on canned soup, stale bread, and water; having exhausted the fresh food supply after the first couple of weeks.
Running through his mind all the other possible circumstances and needs, Joseph was satisfied that he could go straight home from here. As he stepped into one of the 3 elevators on his floor, he quickly made his way into the corner. Even though it was a good way to be crushed by the press of people, it was also the most isolated part of the elevator, where he could make the least contact with people.
The transition from the 28th floor to the 1st was long and silent. Some people found room to pull out a newspaper and read it, or were writing in small notepads. But no one bothered to make conversation. In fact, they almost looked like the living dead. The monotonous routine had worn them all out, and everyone just stared straight ahead as they waited for the doors to open. Looking around, Joseph didn't see anyone that he knew. He recognized a few faces from riding in the elevator with them for 6 months, but he'd never made contact with them. He didn't know one thing about any of them. There was something...unnerving about that fact.
Joseph shrugged it off, wondering why now of all times he was thinking about that. What he needed to be thinking about was the day's events. How many customers had he successfully suckered into deals? How had he accomplished that? What new techniques had he tried? Which had been successful and which hadn't? What could he try in the future? What solutions were there to some of the problems he'd encountered? Joseph recalled his last phone call. With a start, he pulled a pen out of his shirt pocket, looking for space on one of his sticky notes. Learn every major language.
Satisfied that he'd given himself enough homework, he started thinking through what kind of a schedule to build for all of it. Over the course of these months, his self-assigned homework had been building up, and he was running out of free time. But this is what I committed to do
, he reminded himself. I'm not going to get anywhere if I don't take this seriously.
Stepping off the elevator at the bottom floor, Joseph found the lobby packed with people all trying to fit out the door at the same time. The lobby was a bit more glamorous than the rest of the building, simply because it could be accessed by the general public. A red and brown paisley carpet, random assorted lamp and table sets lining the walls, and a shiny mahogany counter manned by a smiling attendant were all a stark contrast to the dull and boring upper floors. Domed overhead lamps shed a warm yellow glow on the room.
When he finally managed to get clocked out and step out the giant glass doors, he breathed in deeply, reveling in the fresh air. Although “fresh” probably wasn't the most accurate description. A chill November breeze cut through Joseph's light jacket, bringing with it the smell of car exhaust, pollution, and a myriad of other city-related smells. Joseph shivered and looked back at the 50-story skyscraper, with it's steel frame and giant glass windows. As drab and lifeless as the interior was, at least it had a heating system.
Stepping out onto the sidewalk, Joseph surveyed the highway. A long line of yellow cabs invited him, but he ignored them. Hailing a cab would mean standing next to the road, drawing the attention of hundreds of people he didn't know, demanding service from a random stranger, sitting in someone else's vehicle for the distance to his apartment, and at more than one point having to speak with said individual. The last time he'd been foolish enough to do that, the driver had insisted on making conversation the whole way, much to Joseph's horror.
Instead, Joseph wandered down the street, wishing he'd worn a thicker coat. The clouds overhead warned of a potential rain, which would inevitably be cold and unrelenting. The glistening streets indicated that there had been a light drizzle not more than an hour ago. Joseph took comfort in the fact that the weather had scared most pedestrians off the sidewalk. Most people were waiting for cabs or huddled under overhangs, warding off the cold. Joseph lowered his head and picked up his pace as the wind gained intensity. It cut right down the main street; so the buildings, as crowded as they were, offered little to no protection. It wasn't until the first drops dampened his hair that Joseph realized he hadn't brought an umbrella.
Joseph heard footsteps behind him, but didn't dare to look back. Instead, he stared intently at the sidewalk under his feet, hoping he wouldn't be noticed. The next thing he knew, the rain had stopped hitting his head, and he could send a presence next to him. Glancing a few inches to the right, Joseph caught a glimpse of high heels. He instantly panicked. Oh, no
, he thought desperately. It's a girl. What does she want? Does she want me to say something, is she going to ask me to marry her? I don't have time for that, and I don't know how to say no. This is really bad; if I don't do something soon, she's going to start talking to me. I don't even know how to talk to people, let alone girls.
“Hey, slow down,” a familiar voice said. Joseph closed his eyes and sighed in relief, looking up to see Connie walking next to him with an umbrella that she was trying to share equally between them. She was struggling to keep up with his long strides, her high heels encumbering her. Joseph slowed his pace till he thought she could comfortably match it.
“Th-thanks,” he stuttered awkwardly.
“Oh, it's no trouble!” She replied cheerily. “We have almost the same route home. We'll have to part ways at 4th Street, but I can keep you dry till then, right?” She tilted her head to the side, smiling warmly.
Joseph nodded. They took the same route? In the six months he'd walked this street, he'd never known that. Of course, that was probably because he tended to shut the entire world out on his way home, hoping no one would bother him.
“I couldn't help but notice you didn't have an umbrella, and you looked so miserable in the rain.” Connie laughed, a light, bubbly laugh. It was the same one she always had, like a recording.
“So, how'd you do today?” She inquired curiously.
Joseph shrugged, wishing he didn't have to talk about it.
“It could have been better,” he said simply. “What about you? Did you make your quota?”
“Well, I didn't quite get as many as I would have liked, but I made double the quota,” she said casually, then in a lighter tone, “A few of my customers were more talkative than me!”
Joseph sighed. Double, huh? He was beyond being surprised, though. That was typical of her. Her charisma was overwhelming, and it was rare that she had fewer than 60 successes in a given day. And she wasn't even among the highest ranks...
“Well, this is it,” Connie interrupted his thoughts. She held a hand out from underneath her umbrella. “Looks like you'll have to make a dash for it. But at least the rain let up a bit, right?”
Joseph nodded to Connie, placing his folder inside his jacket. “Thanks,” he mumbled, sprinting down the street to the left. Despite Connie's upbeat weather report, it was still pouring. By the time Joseph arrived in front of the small apartment building, he was thoroughly drenched, and equally frozen.
The outside of the building was nothing to get excited about. A simple, unattractive brick building with small windows. On either side were newer, nicer, and bigger apartment complexes. The proximity of the buildings, paired with the contrasting styles, made it look like a hole had been cut out of the other buildings and this one had been inserted.
The interior, however, was another story entirely. Recently renovated, it was like entering a different dimension. The walls were a bright white, with real wood trim along the floor and doors. Laid out on the wood floor was a long, brown rug that stretched across to the other end. On either side of the hall were four doors. In a two story building, that made twelve apartments in all. Although the building wasn't huge, the space was managed well, so each apartment was a comfortable size.
Directly inside the door was a staircase that led to the second floor, which Joseph mounted tiredly. At the top, he walked down to the end of the hall, where his room was located on the left hand side.
“I'm home,” he said to no one in particular. Flipping the light switch, he surveyed the room, acknowledging that it hadn't changed a bit since he'd left that morning. Taking off his shoes, he stepped into the living room, disregarding the trail of water he was leaving in the thick green carpet. Consisting of a recliner and short couch, along with a small coffee table, it was nothing extraordinary, but it was comfortable enough for just one tenant. To the left was a kitchen that really couldn't be called more than a sink, stove, and some standing space. A microwave rested on a rack above the stove next to a small set of cupboards; but other than that, the only appliance was a small fridge that stood at the edge of the kitchen, next to what little counter space there was. The narrow wood hallway that separated the two rooms extended a few yards past them, where a door was set in either wall, leading to the bedroom and bathroom.
Despite it's small size, the apartment was in pristine condition, due to the recent remodeling. Its brand-new appearance was added to by the fact that, aside from the standard furnishings, there was no décor to speak of. No pictures, magazines, household trinkets. The fridge didn't wear a single magnet, and there were no dishes left out, save for a lone pot that rested on the stove. The apartment went beyond the definition of tidy. It was desolate. You could have advertised it as vacant, and people would be none the wiser.
After changing into a fresh set of clothes, Joseph absently tossed the soaked ones into a laundry bag, telling himself he'd take it down to the laundry mat when the rain let up. It wouldn't do to waste another set of clothes going out in this weather.
After eating a quick meal of potato soup, he washed the few dishes he'd used and returned them to the cupboards. Stretching his arms, he contemplated what to do next. He had so many things on his mind, but he was so tired. Tempted to take a break, he thought better of it when he remembered the events of that day. Pounding his fist against the wall, Joseph resolved to work himself till improvement or death, whichever came first.
“So many failures,” he berated himself. Entering his room, he slammed his barely salvaged folder down on the desk next to his bed. Then he plopped down in the chair, resting his head in his hands.
The most lively room in the entire apartment, the bedroom consisted of a twin bed, the desk, and a dresser. Instead of a wardrobe, he had a rack on which his suits and dress shirts hung. This room had a vague lived-in feel, with a pile of boxes in one corner; and a stand on the other side of the bed that hosted a framed picture of Joseph and his parents from the previous summer, the only land line in the apartment, and a digital clock.
But the biggest deviation from the pattern was the desk. Besides a laptop and lamp, the desk was absolutely covered in papers, pamphlets, and a huge stack of books. A pencil lay across a sheet of paper, as if its owner hadn't finished using it, and a half-filled cup of water perched dangerously close to the edge. Overall, the desk reeked of disorganization and sloppiness.
Joseph straightened up and sighed, looking over at the clock. Then he whipped his head around to face forward, nodding firmly with a grunt. For the next several minutes, he just sat there. Perfect posture, perfectly still, nothing moved except his stomach, which expanded and collapsed as he inhaled and exhaled, over and over again, a perfect rhythm.
After exactly 15 minutes, he looked at the clock again. Nodding to himself yet again, he turned cautiously to the mess in front of him. Joseph proceeded to straighten and organize, nicely folding and depositing in a wastebasket the ones he deemed unnecessary. Sifting through the mountain of books, he separated them into two separate piles. The one pile he replaced in its original spot, the other he relocated to a drawer in the desk. When he was satisfied that everything was in its proper place, Joseph pulled a book off the top of the pile, along with a fresh piece of paper. Flipping to the bookmarked page, he began to peruse its contents, occasionally stopping to scribble something on his paper. Hour after hour, it was the same thing, until he was down to the last book and had a pile of papers filled. Ring, ring.
Jerked out of his deep study, Joseph stared at the phone. In an instant he was across the room, the comfort of a telephone cradled in his hand.
There was silence for a long while as Joseph waited for the other person to start talking. Then he remembered that he was the one receiving the call this time.
“Um, uh,” he stammered, trying to remember how a regular person spoke on the phone. “Hello?”
“Good evening,” the other voice said pleasantly. “You're on a list of only fifteen people in the county found eligible for entry in this month's “Win-a-car” drawing. Enter today, and you could be the proud owner of a 2012 Jeep Wrangler Unlimited. Tickets are only $18.69, so hurry and enter today!”
“Wait a moment,” Joseph said matter-of-factly, instantly on to the situation. “Your delivery was excellent, and your tone leaves nothing to be desired, but why on earth would you advertise a Jeep Wrangler? It's a well-known fact that most people are not fans of the Jeep franchise. Although those who do like Jeeps are extremely loyal to them, those supporters are few and far between. The Jeep, especially newer models, are known for low fuel economy, rough steering and brakes, and an overall uncomfortable ride. A sales pitch like that is going to turn most people away, and you won't get many entered in your drawing. And you need a more believable number than fifteen. The saying 'too good to be true' is held as a mantra of the general public, and when they catch a whiff of something that fishy, they'll turn tail and run. As a fellow telemarketer, I promise you I've studied these areas thoroughly, and I know what I'm talking about. So please, rethink your spiel before you try to use that on any more customers. Perhaps the Toyota Camry? Toyotas are held in high regard in general, and anything in that line is likely to attract sales.”
There was silence for a moment, followed by a nervous cough.
“Um...thank you...good evening.” Click.
Joseph looked back toward the clock. 8:00 P.M. Looking out the window, he realized it was long since dark. He crossed the room to the window to draw the curtains, then returned back to his chair, staring at the papers with bloodshot eyes. Blinking slowly a few times, he then picked them up and started to read over them again. Every once in awhile, he would lean his head back and mutter something to himself, rehearsing over in his head what he'd read. Eventually he dropped the papers back on the table, pulling out the biggest book in his pile. The cover wasn't in the best shape, and the pages were worn and dog-eared; the result of much, much use. Starting at page one, Joseph worked his way through the book.
Slowly, his vision blurred, and he caught himself slumping forward once or twice. Fighting off sleep, willing his brain to keep working, he smacked the side of his head with the heel of his hand, shaking off the drowsiness. After a handful of these small battles, the melatonin attacked full force, without warning. Joseph's head dropped forward, followed shortly by his shoulders, which then rested on the desk. Defeated, Joseph fell into a deep sleep, head resting on a mess of papers and books.
And thus ended yet another routine day in the life of Joseph Peters, aspiring telemarketer.