SELLING CARDS FOR CAPTAIN O

It was the fabulous prizes of course that drew me in. It would be a few years yet before talking to a cute blonde operator like "Bridget" would have much appeal. But the bike, the tent, the giant freaking trampoline! I knew I had to have it all. And it meant I'd have a job. I wanted a job. I was not excelling at school, and I was already been brainwashed into believing I was meant to be exceptional so I wanted to get past this school thing and on to the job thing as quickly as I could. Of course I did, doing well in school wouldn't put a giant freaking trampoline in your back yard now would it?

At this point in my life I had no peers who read comic books, only my Grandpa John, who also introduced me to Mad magazine. The ads in comics seemed like an amazing time machine to a cooler time. None of my friends knew that they could hatch live pet sea monkeys, see through women's cloths or earn fabulous prizes! I knew that my dad had all kinds of ways to make money when he was a kid in New York. He got to do cool things like shining shoes and selling Ice Cream on the beach. I had long wished for opportunities like that, but in the purely residential Southern California suburb where I grew up even lemonade stands suffered from lack of foot traffic.

I finished reading my comic, making sure that Conan kicked the werewolf's ass, and then I called the toll free number. Just dialing the number felt very adult. I talked with Bridget, or one of her pals and my free sales kit was on the way. This meant I'd be getting mail! How cool was that? Mail, coming to the house, for me! I was passing up my older brothers in giant leaps for sure.

Six to eight weeks was an intolerably long time in those days, but at last my sales package came.
I tore into it immediately.

This kit was slick and pretty much guaranteed my success. And if the kit wasn't enough the instructions gave me a little script that made me sound so pro I was sure I could sell anything. I decided to practice on my mom.

I put on a nice shirt and my best pair of corduroy pants and knocked on the door to our house.

My mom answered and I gave my speech. "Good day Ma'am..." I started, and then I went on to explain how convenient I was making her life allowing her to take care of all her greeting card needs without leaving her house. My mom wanted to be supportive but the idea of my going door to door just made her nervous, and I'm sure that, as excited as I was, she knew I was being scammed. She looked at the cards regardless, and at first she started warming up to my new endeavor as some of the cards were cute or pretty. Then came the prices. "Keith! That's twice what I could buy this stuff for at the store."

I was ready for her. "But mom. You waste gas and time going to the store. These cards will come right to your house."

My mom warned me that selling these cards at these prices would not be easy. My three older brothers began arriving home from their hard day of torturing small animals or some such sadistic play and as they began taunting my new career. Mom quickly ordered a few sets of cards.

I headed out to make my fortune, not following my mom's instructions to only knock on the doors of people we knew. Most folks told me quickly that they were not interested. I knew, from Captain O's instructions that I had to get the sales book in to their hands. Captain O might not have experienced screen doors or security gates. My neighbors would open their door, but there was still the obstacle of getting them to open the damn screen before I could push my book into their hands. I was tiring quick. Three house and no sales was leaving me disillusioned. So, I began skipping straight to the houses of folks we did indeed know. Maybe mom was right.

Mrs. Gonzales, known to me as Carlos' mom was thrilled to see me. She brought me in and went over my catalogue carefully, product by product. She told me again and again how great this was, how much time I was saving her, how wonderful these cards were. And she ordered a good forty dollars worth. After at least a half hour of this I was well aware the I was in the presence of an unbalanced woman. But hey, I was selling merchandise. I left her house and returned home from a hard days work.

As I entered the house my brothers' taunting started immediately. "Are you a millionaire now Keith?" "Did you sell all your cards?" Showing them a big fat check from Mrs. Gonzales only brought more taunts, but only after a moments hesitation that told me they did think maybe I'd make something of this.

I put the check and the order form that I had yet to finish filling out in a drawer where it would be safe, and I forgot about it. Mrs. Gonzales never got her cards, I never got my fabulous prizes and Captain O never got his forty dollars. From time to time I'd remember that package sitting there and I'd get a head ache. It was my introduction to a special headache that I'd get to know well as I got older. It's the headache of 'I'm not taking care of business, and it's stressing me out, but I know that I'm going to continue to not take care of business.' The first few times I saw Mrs. Gonzales after that she'd tell me how excited she was that the cards were coming, but after a while she realized what was up. She didn't give me any grief about it, but I sensed, or maybe imagined that she had decided I was no good, a failure, yet another disappointment in her life. My entry into the work force was a pretty accurate sign of things to come.

I continued to look at the Captain O add and fantasize about those fabulous prizes.

Keith Lowell Jensen
keith@retrocrush.com


Keith is a longtime contributor, friend, and man of many skills.  You can read more about the jobs he's had by visiting his blog, ALL MY JOBS.  Keith also is the man behind THE PANHANDLING BANANA.  I interviewed Keith last week, and you can listen to it by listening to THIS PODCAST.  It's laugh out loud hilarious.

Also, if you'd like to read more about Captain O and other comic ads, CLICK HERE to check out Matt from X-Entertainment's hot experiences with Bridget the operator.

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