Many years ago, I made a miserable mistake. I majored in newspaper journalism while in college.
Now, I know what you’re thinking. “What’s a newspaper?”
Back many years ago, people got their news from these assemblages of dead trees called “paper.” Words would be printed on them, and after reading these papers with news printed on them, they would either use them to line their bird cages, wrap presents if they ran out of wrapping paper, or roll dead fish in them at a fish market.
Well, after 12 years of doing that, and watching my benefits and pay shrink every year, I had to make some changes. Ever since that day about seven years ago, I’ve had a string of different jobs with a varying degree of fulfillment. I’ve managed a pizza restaurant on several occasions, and I’ve been a rideshare driver.
I enjoyed my time as a Terminix termite inspector, but my poor eyesight and inability to properly judge distances led to me running into a lot of things, so I made a switch. (The guy who had to report my vehicle repairs wasn’t sad to see me go.) When I was looking for a way out of termite-ville, I stumbled across an ad for life insurance sales.
The ad looked promising. “Do you enjoy helping people?” Why, yes I do. “Do you want to make enough money to live how you want?” Of course. “Do you have charm and charisma?” Well, nobody’s perfect.
So I called the number, and I got connected with a mentor, whom I’ll call Anna. That’s not her real name, but I figure she’d rather forget this story.
Anyway, we were quite a bit different. I was a recently remarried Alabama native living in Hawaii; she was a cancer-surviving mother of three, and she was supporting her family with an important job in a bank in town. She helped me get my insurance license and attended our weekly meetings with me. There were a lot of things to admire about her. She was a responsible adult with a good outlook on life, and we shared a similar faith.
One of the rules for the company we worked for was the trainer would accompany the trainee on the first sales attempt. That seemed like a great idea to me, because I am not the kind of person who talks someone into getting something they don’t want. For example, I love helping customers figure out what they want if they’re in my place of business. But I have trouble calling someone up and convincing them to get something they don’t want. That’s probably why I ended up taking a lesbian to prom. (Well, she wasn’t one at the time, or else that could have been a great case of salesmanship.)
Anyway, back to my story. One day I was calling my leads, and I got a voicemail after calling a number. The language wasn’t one familiar to me, but I noticed a secondary number, so I called that one. The wife answered, and her broken English showed she clearly was not a native speaker. I confirmed her name, and I explained I was calling about a form her husband had filled out for life insurance. She excitedly set up an appointment for 7 p.m. Friday.
Wow, I had never had a person set up the appointment that quickly! I read out the address on the lead sheet to confirm it with her. But she corrected it to another address, and said “room 337.” I assumed she meant “apartment,” but with her broken English, she used the wrong word. Plus, people move a lot in Hawaii, so changes in address aren’t uncommon.
After hanging up, I decided to text her to confirm the appointment. She replied, “That’s right, baby.” I’d never had a customer call me “baby” before, but I thought, “She must just be friendly.” I should have taken it as a clue.
Well, Friday night rolled around (as it does once a week), and I went to pick up Anna for our sales call. On the way there, she gave me a few extra pointers and reminders. The plan was for me to introduce us to the client, and for Anna to take over the meeting.
A short drive later, we arrived at a building in downtown Honolulu. We went to the elevator, and took our elevator ride to the appropriate floor. Once the door opened, we cast our eyes onto a darkened hallway. The room numbers were barely visible, and the poor lighting caused us to squint. We both had a strange feeling as we walked down the hallway and looked for the appropriate room. A dull moan escaped from one of the rooms, prompting Anna to wonder aloud, “What kind of place is this?”
We found the room and looked for a doorbell. There was only a buzzer, and I pressed it. Immediately, the door opened to reveal a Chinese woman in a short skirt, back lit by (if I’m lying I’m dying) a soft red light, and a massage table surrounded by curtains.
“Hi, I talked to you on the phone about life insurance?” I said, voice quavering.
“You want table?” she replied, looking more than a little confused.
As long as I live, I’ll never forget the look on her face as she scanned first me, then over to my partner. A fat white man in business-casual attire probably wasn’t too strange a site to her, even with my clipboard and my insurance license clutched nervously in my hands. But as her eyes trailed over to a short-haired, heavyset black woman in a pantsuit, a look of bewilderment overcame her.
In a short moment, she grabbed her cellphone and said, “I call husband.” Then the two started squawking at each other in Mandarin for several minutes, as Anna and I followed her into the room.
I still wanted to make the sale, of course, so I tried to talk to the angry husband. I was embarrassed, flustered, and I felt a strange obligation to apologize for not trying to sleep with his wife. I rambled and sputtered for a few minutes, and Anna said, “just shut up!” She then took the phone, spoke to the angry husband and tried to set up a future appointment at his home.
As Anna and I left, I looked at my phone, and I had a message from my wife. “I hope everything is going well”
“No, you don’t,” I thought to myself.
Anna and I went to Taco Bell afterwards to discuss the night. We could barely hold it all together. Then we called our mutual boss, and he had a good laugh at our expense.
Later, I finally came home, and an excited wife wanted to know all about the experience. You never want to begin a conversation with your wife by saying, “Tonight, I took my boss to a brothel.” But the marriage survived, and I lived to tell the tale.
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This was definitely a misadventure and an amusing one at that. I like the sarcastic undertone of the story which adds to the amusement. My only suggestion would be to try telling the story in a more active tone, for instance, give the back story in the past, but bring the insurance story into the present. This will help bring the reader on the adventure with you.