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Home Again

On Sept. 9, 2001, I accepted the job offer from the Fort Worth Star Telegram with a start date of Oct. 1. Two days later, I dropped Katherine off at school and went to McDonald’s drive-through for a routine breakfast stop. “A plane just flew into a building in New York” the young man told me as he handed over my McMuffin combo and my $1.28 change. “Really?” I replied “Was it a small plane?” He said he didn’t know. When I got home, I turned on the TV to the image of black smoke billowing from both towers of the World Trade Center and reporters scrambling to show the latest footage and information. Everyone stopped what they were doing to watch, horrified and unbelieving. Four planes were commandeered that day to pierce the heart of our country and its people. The day would end with the towers both down, Wall Street disabled, the pentagon on fire, and a plane driven into the ground in Pennsylvania. As a people, we came together. The nation watched as congress sang “God Bless America” from the steps of the Capitol. Our lives were forever changed. Travel Industry stocks plummeted and businesses regrouped for new direction.

A few days later, I reported for my second first day at the Star-Telegram. Carla Crow was the department manager and Debi Morris was a supervisor. I was relieved to find that cigarettes were no longer allowed at the desk and the calls holding beeper had been replaced by a flashing light. I was greeted to the familiar sight of a room filled with sales reps, answering one call after another to assist someone in advertising their car, house, German Shepherd puppies, or garage sale. It was good to be home. I was introduced to my supervisor, Justin, who let me know that he was unaccustomed to having new employees that he did not personally select. I told him that I would try not to disappoint.

A large whiteboard at the front of the room listed the name of each sales rep and their current revenue for the month. The one with the most revenue was at the top of the list. That coveted top spot was always occupied by a guy named Danny. Ten days after I started taking calls, Danny was de-throned and my name smiled from the top of the list. Justin was a happy guy and asked me my secret. “No secret,” I said “I make it a game to finish each call as quickly as possible and I treat each customer the same, whether they are placing a $15 garage sale ad or a $3,000 ad to hire an engineer.” That is the truth, it was a ministry of sorts to make each person’s day a little brighter and to take as many calls as possible each day.

Other jobs I had in my career paid more or were more sophisticated but not one position on my resume came close to the entertainment factor of working with sales personalities and answering calls from the general public. We usually had fun. There was Richard Elizondo, the spunky, mischievous, training supervisor who loved to and play practical jokes. He would cartwheel down the aisle of the department on request. When things got really busy and tense, Carol, normally very quiet, would sing out loudly “Is Everybody Happy?” Carol and Richard often danced the jitterbug in the middle of the room. One would think that everyone had something other than water in their drinking bottles but it was just a creative group letting off steam.

We often got a big laugh out of misprints. There was “night shift,” minus the “f,” “Shih Tzu puppies,” spelled phonetically “Shit Zoo puppies,” and “first come first SAVED,” which was particularly funny because it was printed in an ad for a church rummage sale. It was a good time. Carla Crow did a good job of creating a fun, relaxed, atmosphere for a job that carried the challenge and stress of goals, deadlines, and crazy people.

At the end of 2002, I was proud to be given the title of Salesperson of the Year along with the accompanying bonus. I liked the job and I was good at it. I like staying busy and making the most out of every call. But calls began to dwindle as the internet and the new capabilities it offered continued to grow. The thick daily paper offering hundreds of classified ads began to shrink.

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