The first day of the rest of my life, started pretty uneventfully. The dress code was casual at best, so I didn’t have to bother with ironing. I dressed in fifteen minutes and was out the door within a half an hour. When I got to the “office,” everyone was already there. The Misfits were a lot mellower this morning. (Hung Over) Tracy was lying across the top of the sofa. She opened her eyes and waved when I walked in. Rich and Dan were both sleeping, sitting on the floor with their backs against the wall. Toothless was sitting at the receptionist desk, but she didn’t acknowledge me. I was fine with that, because she was still cursing under her breath. I didn’t see Tara, so I sat down on the couch in front of Tracy and waited.
Tara appeared at one of the back doors about five minutes later. She waved me over and I followed her through to the poster storeroom. The towers of posters were so tall, I couldn’t see over them. Tara walked me through the entire selection of posters. She said “Every morning we take at least twelve and sometimes up to twenty with us.” Tara sold two the day before, which apparently is a great day. I helped her pick out replacements and then we loaded her car. John came into the room and screamed “Morning Meeting.” I followed Tara into yet another garage, which turned out to be the old dude’s office. The room was pretty bare except for a desk in the corner and the only light came from the top windows of the garage door. The rest of the windows were covered in brown butcher paper.
I had never been to a business meeting so I wondered if we were going to talk about sales projections, territory and competitors. (I had no idea what any of that meant, but I had heard it on TV.) Turns out, the morning meeting was more of a pep rally. We stood in a circle holding hands and John started the meeting by leading us in a prayer of sales. After a moment of silence, he started clapping vigorously. Everyone else followed suit. The clapping was followed by yelling; Hey, Hey, Ho, Ho and then a weird sales chant. Suddenly, everyone (including me) started running in a circle yelling and waving their hands about. I bet you’re wondering, why I didn’t run for the nearest exit. The problem is I went to theatre school, where improv games are a rule not an exception. I just assumed they borrowed the techniques to better their salesmanship. (I had never been to a sales meeting, anything seemed plausible.)
Once everyone was properly pumped, we disbanded and headed to our cars. Tara and I got into hers and drove away from the city. We smoked and rode around for ages, traveling deeper and deeper into the Pennsylvania countryside. Def Leppard and Fleetwood Mac was the soundtrack of the day. Tara and I sang at the top of our lungs with the windows open and our hair blowing in the wind. I felt like I was on a road trip. Finally, Tara said she knew of a spot that hadn’t been tapped yet. She made a U-turn on a police turnaround and drove back two exits. Once off the highway, we drove down an industrial road for a couple of minutes until we came to an office building. Tara pulled into the garage, we got out and she grabbed two posters from her trunk. We walked into the building and suddenly Tara seemed nervous and a little lost at what to do next. (Something at this point finally clicked as being off to me.) She studied the building directory for a few minutes and then finally pointed at the name of an accounting company. We took the stairs up to the second floor and walked directly into the office without knocking. The whole room was filled with white, middle-aged, grey haired women, who turned in unison and stared at us. My face started to burn with shame and embarrassment. It felt like we had walked into someone’s home uninvited. Tara nervously said “Would anyone like to buy some art?” The oldest of the women came to the door and asked us to leave. Tara said “Sure” and we walked out of the room and then ran out of the building. As we were running, I started to question my participation with the company. Tara didn’t seem all that comfortable with her participation either, but neither of us expressed it, we just ran.
As we were loading the posters back into the trunk, two women from the office appeared across the garage with wallets in hand. They called to us and asked to see our selection. In the end, Tara sold two posters. She turned to me after the ladies left and said ”See, that was a great sale.” (I think she was trying to convince herself.) We drove around the rest of the day singing and talking. We both really liked Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, so we played it at least twenty times that day.
At 3:30, we went back to the “office.” Toothless was still at the front desk when we arrived. Tara and I sat down on the couch and Toothless struck up a conversation about a lingerie catalog, she was thumbing through. Then she started regaling us with her and John’s sexual escapades from the night before. Apparently, she had dressed in a french maid’s uniform and you can fill in the blanks, but I will say there was a lot of laughing and grunting noises made during the telling of the story. I sat quietly with a strange smile pasted on my face, hoping they wouldn’t notice how uncomfortable I was. John came out and asked Tara to come to his office. She whispered to me, that she was going to give me a glowing report. About five minutes later, John called me in. I wasn’t sure what I was going to say to him. He asked if I would like to continue and I said “Yes.” (Still can’t explain why I didn’t take the out.) I have a problem with follow thru, sometimes I follow thru to a fault. John said “Great, come back tomorrow same time and you’ll go out on your own.” I knew I wasn’t ready for that, but my pride would not allow me to say so. I drove back to Sarina’s with a pit in my stomach knowing I would have to go back there tomorrow.
When I got home, Sarina quizzed me about how it was. I said “Great,” leaving out all of the details. I spent the whole night tossing and turning in bed. I just kept asking myself “How in the world am I going to sell posters out of my car?”
I was exhausted the next morning, but I got up early and drove back to the “office.” Tara greeted me with a big smile and Rich came over and said “I’m going to help you set up your car. Can you pull it around to the back?” Rich turns out was a really nice guy. He got in my car and put my back seats down and then lined my trunk with a box. We walked around the storeroom together and picked out some posters. He told me which ones sell the best and then he loaded them up, just in time for the morning meeting. The meeting was the same as the morning before, lots of yelling and clapping. (I was hoping the meeting would never end, but it did.) The moment finally came for me to go out on my own and sell posters to unsuspecting normal people. I was so scared.
I got in my car and drove around for about an hour, until I had worked up enough courage to get out and try. I stopped at a dentist’s office, walked in with my samples and the receptionist gave me a puzzled look. I asked her if the office had any interest in new art work. She said “I don’t handle that.” Then the dentist appeared behind her and said “Sorry, I collect art and spend a lot of time and money investing in original art work. I wouldn’t put cheap reproductions in here.” I said, “Sure, your art is really nice, thanks.” Then I slunk out completely embarrassed. I drove around for another hour and then I made the decision to go back to Sarina’s. I just couldn’t do it. So, I parked the car in the garage, sat on the couch and watched TV for the rest of the day. I called Reuben at work. (We didn’t have cell phones yet, so it was a dead giveaway I wasn’t selling.) He said “Where are you? Aren’t you supposed to be at work?” I said “Oh, I’m quitting, I couldn’t do it.” He response was “It’s only Noon.” I said “Uh-huh, that’s all I could handle.” He laughed and said “Why don’t you come over for dinner after work.” I said “Ok.”
I drove back to the office and everyone was so excited to see me. Rich asked “How did you do?” I said “Oh, I didn’t sell anything.” Tara said “That’s ok, it’s only your first day.” John said “We should keep the posters in your car, so you don’t have to load up tomorrow.” I knew I wasn’t coming back the next day, so I said “I’m not sure they will be safe because I park my car on the street in Center City. Can I leave them here?” John said “Sure, we’ll leave them in a pile, out-of-the-way.” I left the office, but not before I told everybody that I would see them tomorrow. (I didn’t want to hurt their feelings.)
Around midnight, I called the office and quit via the answering machine, citing a family emergency. That call ended all contact with the poster cult, but I still wonder what happened to everybody, especially Tara. I sort of felt like I had abandoned her, but it’s every man for themselves. To this day every time I hear Tusk by Fleetwood Mac, I think of my time with the Poster cult.