Percy knew he had to wipe what his wife Tina called “the smug look” off his face before he went through their front door. But it would be difficult not to crow. Just as he had predicted, he’d succeeded without a lot of preparation at his new métier. Now fresh from his first Marketing Consultant interview, victory was assured.
Tina, always one for research and planning, had urged him to take a few courses on marketing if he wanted to get into the business. “At least one course,” she had insisted as she headed up to bed the previous week.
But unlike his timid wife, he had no time to waste on training. He already knew everything there was about sales and marketing. He’d had 18 years experience checking out billboards and watching TV and the Internet. A top salesman at Beaver’s Hardware Heaven he could sell a shovel to a condo owner who lived on the 8th floor with a straight face. And, as he modesty acknowledged, he had all the qualities to be a success: he was young, with it, personable, and could, as even Tina agreed, charm the spots off a tiger, although he was never sure why you’d want to do that.
So when he was laid off at Beaver’s Hardware Heaven, Percy decided to try something new: to freelance as a marketer. And lounging in the back yard, beer in hand, he’d seen his chance. Before you could say Bob’s Your Uncle, which in fact was true (although his uncle preferred to be called Robert), he found an ad for a marketer to “put their produce on the map.” He’d e-mailed the advertiser immediately and copying their words exactly, said he was experienced in marketing, promotion and customer development.
Later that night he got an e-mail offering an interview two days later. “But you don’t even have a card,” Tina had cautioned. Who needed a card? If they asked for one, he’d say he left them in his other jacket’s pocket.
“Or a vita,” she added, “which might be just as well as you can hardly call yourself a marketer as they request.”
“I did the windows at the store,” Percy replied to his negative naysayer wife.
The farm with the mysterious produce was out the valley but following the GST lady, Percy arrived in good time. Unfortunately, the voice directed him in the back way so he missed the sign out front describing what the farm produced. Knowing that, might have made the interview go more smoothly. How was he to know it was an endive farm? I mean who even knew what an endive was?
“Research the place before you go,” Tina had said, although advice had not been asked for. But as Percy was watching a football game the night before the interview he hadn’t time for checking things out. “I’ll wing it,” he replied confidently and he had. And although there were a few sticky moments, the interview had gone well although the farmer’s wife, who hunkered in a corner near the door, reminded him of Tina, a cautious not daring type.
At the end of the interview, the farmer, Mr. Whittacher or something like that, had given Percy’s hand a good shake and said he’d call him the next day. Percy thought that he could have given him the job right away but wanted to look like he was thinking it over, as Tina would say.
There had been a few moments when Percy recognized that he had faltered. Mr. Whiteacre asked how his background had prepared him for the job, and if he’d brought his resume. Percy laughed, “It’s in the mail as we say. Of course one needs more than formal training. For an ideas man like myself it’s the school of life and creative spirit that gave me the know how.”
Mr. Whitechapel leaned forward and said, “The farm next door has a sign that says ‘I love endives’ with an endive in the middle of a heart. We can’t use that, of course, but we should do something along that line perhaps in French because it would make it seem less New York and more Paris.”
At this point Percy wondered what an endive was and why it was French. But he had learned a trick or two about getting on someone’s side so he said, “You have a dream for your endives. Can you just share with me how you see that playing out?”
“What do you mean, playing out?” the wife had piped up. He had forgotten about her since first telling her how much he liked her jacket. He knew it was always good to start with a compliment, although the jacket was not much to admire.
“I mean how would you describe an endive?”
“I imagine you’re going to say it’s phallic,” the husband laughed, “And were we going for a younger audience I might play that up but I would say it’s a step up from an onion.”
“So a fancy, French, phallic type of onion?”
“Did you have a demo of a proposed ad,” the wife piped up, “I noticed you didn’t bring a computer.”
He sidestepped that one, and then a few more questions and the husband looked at his watch and said, “I think we’ve learned enough. Most interesting. Not what we had expected.” And of course they were country folks and probably hadn’t imagined someone as out-of-the-box (as they described him at Beaver’s staff meetings) as him. Smiles all around and then Percy had soared out of the place, the sweet taste of victory on his lips.
As it was still early in the day and Tina would not be home from work for a while Percy ducked into a nearby pub. He was tempted to call the motorcycle shop and tell Fred to put the bike he’d been looking at aside for him. He had agreed with Tina that he wouldn’t make a major purchase until he had some money coming in but his first contract was already a bird in the bush.
After he’d finished his beer, the bartender called out, “Another one sir.” Sir? The man had obviously noticed that Percy was a step above his regulars. He decided to have a quick one and then head home. He wanted to be near the phone (and his cell phone was out of juice) just in case they moved quickly and called him tonight. Not to look anxious, he’d say he couldn’t start until next week. And there was the game on tomorrow afternoon, well two games, and he could hardly miss them.
Just as he was finishing his beer and free pretzels, a man he had noticed at the farm came in and headed for the bar. “Yippee,” he said to the bartender. “I got the contract. That video I put together paid off. They told me right away, there was a guy in earlier in the morning but he was out of touch and then they admitted, insisting I promise not to share it with anyone that a guy came in before me, without a resume, a proposal or a card.
“No way,” said the bartender, handing over a pint of beer.
“Yes way, and to add to the joke, he didn’t know what an endive was.”