MOVING ON UP
The afternoon was moving as slowly as the potential client I had on the phone. The elderly woman had asked that I hold on the line while she went to check her schedule. That was almost five minutes ago. Had she forgotten about me? My stomach was starting to knot up. Not good for maintaining a calm demeanor with customers. People who find out they need to move are understandably nervous, especially the older clients. I closed my eyes and concentrated on my breathing. A deep breath in through the nose. Hold. Breathe out through the mouth. Deep breath in. Hold—
“Oh, hello? Are you still there?” a tremulous voice, belying old age and too many cigarettes, called out.
“Yes, Mrs. Needham. Still here.”
“Oh good. Thank you for holding. I thought I left my pocket calendar by the recliner, but it turns out it was in the kitchen all along.” She laughed. “I suppose I should have kept it in my pocket like the name says it’s supposed to be.”
I gave a small laugh, a concession to the client, and continued.
“So, ma’am, this Thursday at 11 AM is a good time for you?”
“Yes, yes. I won’t need to pick up my cat until later. She’s getting dipped, you know.”
“Great. So our representative, Keith Taylor, will see you on Thursday at 11.”
“Will Keith be wearing a uniform, dear?”
“No, the salesmen don’t wear uniforms.”
“Oh,” Mrs. Needham hesitated, “I’m not sure I feel comfortable–”
“But he will present you with his business card,” I interrupted, not wanting to lose the sale.
“Would you describe him for me, dear? So I will recognize him?”
“Describe him?” I heard a few titters from my cube mates. How do you describe a very average, very harmless guy whose biggest offense was constantly whistling the theme song to The Jeffersons?
“Okay,” I said, “Um, he’s in his mid-thirties, about five feet, 10 inches tall…”
One of my cohorts called out, “Wearing low riders with his fuchsia boxers showing.”
I ignored the remark and the laughs that went with it. “He has dark red hair…”
“And a chin stud.” More laughs.
Not daring to look back at them, I continued, “Blue eyes…”
I tried to ignore the loud guffaws all around me.
“Tell you what, Mrs. Needham. I will advise Keith to tell you that Thea sent him”
“And that the code phrase is ‘Beans don’t burn on the grill’.”
At that point the laughter reached a high pitch and even I couldn’t hold back. I let out a guffaw that I managed to quickly change it to a cough to cover what happened. If Mrs. Needham didn’t hear the laugh, she probably thought I had tuberculosis. Not daring to look at any of the guilty party, I did manage to throw a pen backwards in the direction of one, scoring a direct hit and the exclamation, “Ow, that hurts.”