It was the oddest setup: a company that sold swimming pools but operated out of an office in Longview, Texas. When customers stopped by expecting to see a store with a display pool and shelves of chemicals and pool toys for sale, they often thought they’d walked into the wrong place. Although a display pool would be built later, for now they took prospective customers out to view residential pools they’d built. They needed someone who could handle their calls and a certain amount of paperwork, as well as direct visitors to the other businesses in the building. I felt thrilled when they offered the position to me since it seemed like a huge step up from McDonalds. Plus, there was a pretty red phone on my desk.
Still unaccustomed to the southern drawl, I took a message one day from someone named Montel Siggs. I asked him to repeat his name to make sure I got it right, but when my boss read the message he scratched his head, trying to recall anyone named Montel Siggs. When he dialed the number and they picked up, he burst out laughing. The person on the other end had answered with, “Motel 6, how may I help you?”
My boss decided he could get a better bang for his buck if he trained me in pool chemistry so I could help clients when he wasn’t around. He sent me to Dallas to take a two-day training course from our supplier. My husband came as my chauffeur, and it felt like a grand prize for us to enjoy an all-expenses paid trip. Hubby decided to sit in on the seminar too, which saved my hide in the end. The course assumed one had taken basic high school chemistry and I had not. (Hubby had not, either, but Hubby is a brainiac.) It also assumed the students paid attention and didn’t spend the day dozing and daydreaming.
That evening as I studied for a test I felt sure to fail, Hubby explained everything we’d covered in class. The next day, he aced the test and I managed to pass. I returned to my boss with a certificate proving my expertise in pool chemistry.
What a joke.
My first client’s pool looked like pea soup with a cloud of mosquitoes hovering three inches above. But with my expert help, they could soon enjoy clear sparkling water. What a fun challenge! How amazed would they be when I miraculously turned their green swamp into a glorious, shimmering oasis? I tested a sample and laid out the prescription. When I returned two days and hundreds of dollars later, the water had improved to the point where you could actually see your hand below the surface…provided you were brave enough to stick your hand in it.
My customer was not impressed.
I suggested more chemicals, but he would have none of it. He took it up with my boss, who was kind enough to deal with it and not give me a hard time. After that, I stuck to selling chemicals to people who already kept a well maintained pool and left the fatal cases to others.
One of our building’s more eccentric tenants was a hypnotherapist. This guy specialized in helping people quit smoking or lose weight by hypnotizing them in private sessions. He freaked me out, but I refused to give him the satisfaction of knowing it. One day he asked if I was connected to Lee Harvey Oswald, the assassin of President J.F. Kennedy 16 years earlier in Dallas.
“No,” I said. “Why?” I didn’t tell him my maiden name was Oswald.
He said he was receiving some kind of “vibe” about it whenever he came near me. Later, after I figured out that he’d seen letters addressed to my parents in my outgoing mail tray, I felt like vibing him right in the jaw.
I left that job looking forward to becoming a full-time mommy and finally getting enough sleep. But that’s a story for another day.