Tuesday, October 19, 2004

Shampoo 1: You Asked For It

I'm going to regret this, I know, but how can I resist? It's a story that, while I don't tell it often, I've told enough to know how it goes. It's got SEX in it, dirty freaky monkey sex, but as usual there won't be anything terribly erotic about it.

In the Robert Johnson story, I talked about how I had broken up with a really sweet girl that didn't take it very well, and moved in across the street from me for a period of time. This was a very difficult time for me, although I masked it pretty well by drinking a lot, having a hell of a good time at parties and bar and strip clubs, and in general doing everything I could Not To Be Alone, Ever. There's also the story of the Minuard Foundation, which you must remind me to tell you after I finish this one and the ghost story I have on deck.

To give you an idea of where I'm coming from, I have to tell you what I do for a living. I know, I've told it before, but those posts are 10 months old, and I'd be surprised if anyone other than John Ashcroft has delved that deeply into my past...so here we go again:

I work for a landscape maintenance company in Oklahoma City. I've worked for the samw company for nearly 14 years, or will have by the time I leave, and for the last eight years I've worked in the office doing dispatching, insurance and Dept of Labor audits, landscape designs, proposals, payroll, and any other menial but necessary task that involves pushing paper and does not involve being outside, which is why I quit fucking college to begin with.

But at the time this story takes place, I think in the spring and early summer of 1997, I was still pretty new to dealing with customers. I was still learning to do the things I do effectively--learning to be "in business," in other words. I was also incredibly naive and short sighted, as the story will convey.

Springtime is when a lot of property management companies and homeowners start making phone calls to solicit landscape maintenance companies for the year. It's a very busy time for us, and back in the mid/late 90's there was more work than you could ever possibly want, so we were able to be pretty selective about what we took. Residential work tends to be more reliable, because property managers, let's face it, have exactly zero loyalty to anything except their bottom line--but PM's are also pretty easy to get along with, and you get a lot fewer phone calls per dollar from a PM on a commercial account than you do with a residential yard. On average, yes--there are people I haven't spoken to in all eight years I've been answering the phone, but these are more than made up for by the fuckers that call me three times a week.

Anyway, I got a call from a property manager, an articulate and businesslike woman of about my age, who wanted a lot of work done at a shopping plaza (read: upscale strip mall). In essence, a good contract. My boss did the bid, I corrected his spelling and faxed it over to her. A month went by.

When a month in the springtime goes by, you know you didn't get it. Now, I'm more pleased than anything else when they don't call back, which is one of the reasons why I'm getting the hell out of here before I run this business into the ground. But back then, I was still prone to make the follow up phone call to see how things were going and why we hadn't been chosen. So I made the call. The property manager (who I'll call "Gail," because that's her name) was very pleased to hear from me, and told me that we'd lost the bid because another company was substantially lower in cost, but HER bosses were now seeing that you do, indeed, get what you pay for. They were going to rebid in a couple of days, and she was "really going to push me [my company] hard." She was very friendly, and I responded in an equally friendly manner--this is what you do with customers, or potential customers, or just people in general: I'm a big fan of the honey-not-vinegar school of thought.

It wasn't until a year or so later that I realized when girls are being friendly, sometimes they're flirting. Sometimes, and this is probably the biggest frustrations of both genders, I think--actions or words being misconstrued one way or the other.

She apparently figured out that I had no clue, because when she called me to tell me we'd gotten the contract, she asked a few leading questions which ended ultimately with "you have a rrrrreally sexy voice, you know that?"

Now, this is back in the days before I even had email, kids, and the thought of "meeting someone" over the telephone was something that had never even occurred to me. I'm still not entirely comfortable with edating or whatever, so things haven't changed much in that regard, but still--I felt like someone had dumped some cold water down my neck.

I also realized that if she was flirting with me, this was an extremely odd situation. One I very definitely didn't have any training in. It forced me to dredge up words I hadn't used in a long time, like "ethics," and "morality." It also seemed to me that this was a pretty shoddy way to run a railroad, hiring a contractor in part based on what his voice sounded like. And hell, I was just the spreadsheet jockey, anyway.

Ultimately, though, I did what I always do, and went with the flow. Fuck it, if she was silly enough to be enamored with me after listening to my voice a couple of times, and further, if she was able to act on that infatuation by sending us a check every month...who am I to stop her? Hell, she was the one with the checkbook and Lexus. I'm the dude with no car stereo and an apartment in Jefferson Park, with a peephole so high tech I could read license plates off moving cars a block away.

Yeah, really. It was pretty cool. Wayne and Dan probably remember it.

So the flirting was on, with its inevitable result: madness.


Post a Comment

Subscribe to Post Comments [Atom]

<< Home