Archive for July, 2008

Balloon Sculpture and Other Reasons to Stay in School

July 2, 2008

I have done a lot of things in my life.  If I were to list the jobs I have had since leaving college it would take most of this page.  Some of them lasted as long as 12 years, like carpentry.  A couple of them lasted one hour.  One I remember in particular which was in Tallahassee, FL, not long after getting married.

I answered an ad for a sales position with a company and was called in for an interview.  They did not specify in the ad what they sold, and I didn’t particularly care since I needed a job.  Upon arriving at the office of Bison, Inc. I was given a test to complete.  Now, I am reasonably well educated, even though the proof of formal degrees seemed to always elude me by mere hours.  But I have always managed to do all right with the confidence that I am, at least in my own mind, smarter than the average guy on the street.  So I began the test only to notice pretty quickly that they were trying to determine if I was introverted or extroverted.  Knowing that typically a salesperson is likely to be extroverted, I proceeded to answer every question to reflect that tendency.  After completing the test I was asked to wait while it was graded.  Shortly thereafter a man with a big grin came out of an office, shook my hand and said, “Son, I think you have a fantastic career ahead of you with Bison.”  No doubt.  He asked me to come in at 7:00 the next morning for orientation.

I arrived bright and early the next morning to find a room full of salespeople.  The manager met me and asked me to have a seat.  There would be a short sales meeting and then we would begin orientation.  The next thing I knew, small books were being handed out and people were standing and turning to page five as an audio tape started and suddenly they were all singing, “We’re on the Bison Trail Again.”  Well my mouth dropped wide open as I looked up at the manager, who motioned to me to get up and sing.  I got to my feet, but I was not about to sing some pep rally song to the tune of “The Old Gray Mare.” 

This went on for awhile, then the manager started handing out “Golden Bison” awards for excellence in sales.  This old boy got up to receive his and said through his tears, “This may not mean a lot to some of you, but I take selling vacuum cleaners seriously.”  Oh my gosh!  These people sold vacuum cleaners door to door.  After about an hour, they were all pumped up and started heading out the door, demo machines in hand.  The manager approached me and said, “Now, let’s get you trained and out there.”  I had to ask, “How often do you do the singing?”  “Every morning,” he said proudly.  Well, I made my excuses and headed for the door, without my demo machine but with a small amount of pride intact. 

That was about as bad as it got.  Today I have a successful career, but I still dabble in a few things from time to time.  I have given guitar lessons now and again, and I have filled in as a supply preacher or music leader occasionally.  But, just the other day, I twisted balloon animals for 175 girl scouts.  Originally the group had called me for a magic show.  But the lady who booked me kept insisting she also needed someone to do balloons.  I called my friend, Zoom Zoom the Clown, but he was unavailable. (Yep, that’s what he calls himself.  He used to be “Pinky” the clown, but that was just a little too, well, strange).  So there I was, twisting dog after dog for these girls.  I chose to do only dogs because, if they knew they had a choice of other figures, it would take forever.  Once you give kids a choice they quickly begin to demand custom figures like monkeys or bicycles or a Buick.  No, it was bad enough I had sunk to the lowest rung of the entertainment ladder to even do balloons, so I did dogs.  Wiener dogs.  The only choice they had was color; red, blue, green, yellow or pink.  “No, I don’t have burgundy.  Red, blue, green, yellow or pink.”

Fortunately I had equipped a couple of girls with pumps and they inflated balloons for me so all I had to do was twist.  And, after the first 80 or so, I taught the girls how to twist a weiner dog.  They actually did very well after the first dozen or so, which looked like genetic mutant dogs.  But with some gentle coaching, by the time I left they were doing pretty well.  So I wondered what the reaction would be when they got home and showed mom and dad the new skill they had learned and proudly announced, “I want to be a balloon sculptor when I grow up.”  And dad likely responded, “Darling, there’s no security in a job like that.  Stay in school and get a good job like me.  Now, get me my songbook.  I want to be ready for the sales meeting tomorrow.”