Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Seven Or Eight Of Nine Lives

Did I tell you about the time I used to be a door-to-door saleswoman? 

It was on a commission only basis, and as if that wasn't pressure enough, I was a travelling door-to-door encyclopedia saleswoman (blush). 

I needed to earn enough cash to cover not only the rent on my flat at home, but also enough to pay for the weekly board and lodgings too. Oh yeah, on top of that, technically self-employed, all tax and insurance dues fell solely down to me.  So yeah, I grant you, it wasn't much of a dream job, the hours were long, the security nil, and frankly the safety aspect was to say the least, decidedly dodgy.

That said, I was only eighteen and travelling week in week out on the road, with mostly the same bunch of girls in tow, it brought it's lighter side. Working, living and socialising together five days out of seven, we looked out for each other, we borrowed, lent and frequently bickered, but there was no denying we formed a tight knit crew.

As luck would have it, as it turned out I wasn't too bad at what I did, there were less lean weeks than productive ones, and I ended up staying for over eighteen months in the job (even gaining the dubious honour of being anointed the top UK salesperson of 1978).

We worked on a six-weekly rota basis, visiting the same six patches of Armed Forces properties. We only worked on the Married Quarters base, selling mostly to either young families or to newly-wed couples. By the end of a sale I'd usually felt I'd also made a friend or two, which often came in really handy when I needed a place to duck into.

Especially if the military police were chasing after me.

Which they frequently did.

See, the set up went like this; the crew leader did the driving, dropping us all off individually at our allocated posts. The pick up time varied, but it was usually between 9-10pm (since none of us could afford to walk out in the middle of a sale). Come hail or shine, wind or snow, we were on our own until the car showed up. 

Now, technically, we were meant to have obtained passes before entering any military base, but for some reason our "not-an-employer" never quite seemed able to obtain any of these (can't think why). Entry was ordinarily gained via the back route, usually by sloping under some barbed wire fence or other. Dropped off on your own in the middle of no-where, especially with more than a spare hour or so to kill, you find yourself pretty motivated to find entry into the odd warm house or two.

It was all a big game really. Being civilians, if caught, the military police were powerless to arrest us for flogging our stuff without a permit. But they could, should they so wish to, pick us up, confiscate any orders they might find, and unceremoniously dump us outside of the base to sit and freeze our bums off for the night. 

'Course, we knew they wouldn't really, 'cos we'd only sneak back on to the base again the moment their backs were turned.. lets face it, where else did we have left to go?

Threats of calling the local police were only that, these guys were never so mean as to follow through. Not being sadists and knowing the score, they were actually very benign, bless 'em. We eventually got to know most of them on a first name basis, being as how we were always on their patch every six weeks. The worst that happened if caught is I 'd get treated to a fish and chip supper back at their HQ, whilst we shot the breeze until the time rolled around for one of them them to give me a lift back to my pick up point again. ('Course, nice as they were, before they caught me I was always wise enough to have already stuffed any sales orders down my bra, after all, a girlie still had to make a living, didn't she? )

Needless to say, the fun really began after work was through, and we had our nightlife well and truly sussed - there were always friends and acquaintances waiting at the chosen club of our preference, and we sure had a guaranteed welcome at every port.

Ah, those were the days! (Grin.) 

There are lots of tales from that time, mostly good, though not all of them. I feel I might share a few, if that's all right with you. I have a fancy to dip into the sack of the mostly forgotten, maybe pull out one or two for a last gulp of air. My fingers are already around an Irish remembrance, one reaching right back to the place when "The Troubles" were rife, and to a time when England became a necessary refuge to one hapless soul who fell foul of his own stupidity. 

Or perhaps I might open Vi's story, our alcoholic landlady in Gosport, Portsmouth?  She became our self-appointed house-mother, but in reality it was she who was most often the one who fell to our charge. Sharp, funny and tragic, she gave us many's a cause for concern.

Or maybe I'll dredge up the time I almost ate cat (yup, cat!) but was saved by the distraction of a knife fight breaking out over someone flirting with the wrong guy - sheesh, that was some seedy nightclub, that was!

Oh! I should definitely tell you about the weirdest couple I ever had the misfortune to enter the house of. eek, yeah, that was very scary. 

And that time I got snowed in for three days without so much as a change of clothes to my name. We lost the car under a snowdrift! 
Let me have a think and mull it over a while, I'm pretty sure I can dust off something worth the recounting of, back from those old days of mine spent out on the road..


Deutschland said...

Thank you so much for this! I haven’t been this thrilled by a blog for a LONG time! You’ve got it, whatever that means in blogging. Ha-ha. You’re definitely someone that has something to say that people need to hear. Keep up the great work. Keep on inspiring the people!

Leslie: said...

It is so much fun to look back at some of our youthful adventures! I could tell you about the time I climbed a cliff in the pitch black of night! ;D

Grandma's scrapbook said...

If me are lucky to be going first to comment on this brilliant text. I wish you all the best

Anna said...

Shrinky, looking forward to more. Top sales person, wow, but you know I am not surprised. Your blog is your book, I love it every time I am here. Hope all is well otherwise. Anna :)

Suldog said...

Bring on the tales! I'm sure I'll enjoy every one of them.

I was a door-to-door salesman for a short while. I hated it. And I was lousy at it. I don't know if the being lousy led to the hating, or vice-versa, but it was both.

Anonymous said...

Knock Knock... (giggle)

Middle Child said...

I'm with you petals - some of my early 70's memories don't bear thinking about and yes...I will write them sown one day

Anonymous said...

I want to hear them all! I bet you (like me) often wonder how we survived being 18.

texwisgirl said...

oh, you are a treat!

your 'moon' post was SO wonderful! just truly touching and beautiful. God bless you and your Sam. :)

Parabolic Muse said...

I'm ready for one of these tales!...

simon said...

hey shrinky. Maalie died the other week.

Linda said...

I'm looking forward to hearing some of these stories in more detail. But it sure makes my life look boring. :)

Pat Tillett said...

Great post! I love the stories from your earlier days. keep 'em coming...