One day in May, Dougâ€™s dad came to him and said, â€œJoe DeFigure wants to know if youâ€™re coming back this summer.â€Â Doug had worked at the School District Warehouse (where Dad was Staff Architect) for three summers.Â Doug told Dad to tell Joe, â€œIâ€™ll come back if they give me a 25Â¢-an-hour raise.â€
Doug didnâ€™t get the raise and didnâ€™t go back to the School District that summer. He was taking the year off before going to college anyway, so he went out and got a regular job. Two years later, it was the end of his freshman year at Pomona College and he didnâ€™t have a summer job. Then he saw a poster: â€œMake $3000 This Summer.â€ He went to the recruiting session, the recruiter came on like Billy Sunday, and come June, Doug was caravanning with a bunch of other Southern California college students all the way from Los Angeles to the Southwestern Company in Nashville, Tennessee. After two weeks of intense training and indoctrination, he was sent to Northern Indiana to sell dictionaries door to door. He was told not to call his parents if he got discouraged.
The idea seemed simple and the logic unassailable. Knock on doors for 6 days a week, 12 hours a day. Give 30 presentations a day. He would inevitably sell 3 dictionaries a day and come September, he would return to college with three thousand dollars. For awhile, it worked. He was on a tremendous roll, using the names of previous customers–which were coming thick and fast enough that the housewife he was pitching usually knew the neighbors whose names he was dropping–and getting high deposits (he was to deliver the books and collect the balance at the end of the summer).
But then about mid-July, Doug had done so well that he had saturated his assigned territory. He was given another territory in southern Michigan, but never got his momentum back. He would spend half the day wandering around in a dither, unable to decide which door to knock on first, then go hide deep in the woods somewhere where nobody could see him, sit on his sales case and wait to be picked up late in the evening. By the time the summer ended, Doug was $300 in the hole and in a severe clinical depression.
Sophomore year, Dougâ€™s depression and drinking got worse and worse. That summer, incredibly, he went back to Southwestern Company to redeem himself, bringing two classmates he had recruited with him. He was sent to Orlando, Florida, and lasted for two weeks. Then, Junior year, before fall term was over, Doug had drunk his way out of college and driven home to Oregon.
Moral:Â A summer job in the hand is worth two in Nashville.
Â© 2013 Douglas J. Westberg. All Rights Reserved. Â Please share this on Gather.com, and elsewhere on the web by means of a link back to this page, but please do not copy. Â Doug’s latest book is The Depressed Guy’s Book of Wisdom from Chipmunka Publishing.
Doug’s Gather Group is Depression and Creativity, devoted to creative writing about depression and related illnesses, and creative writing as therapy. Â Please consider joining. Â You can read more of Doug’s posts there, or here.