Marriage. It’s an institution that’s been around as long as human civilization, yet after countless centuries still serves as the foundation of society. If marriage did not exist, we’d probably still be living in a semi-nomadic/hunter-gatherer lifestyle without any of the trappings of modernity. This being said, the fact remains that the existence of marriage makes my job a whole lot harder. What would be ideal for me is a semi-nomadic/hunter-gatherer society … that is, one in which people still buy insurance.
It was a sales call in central Suffolk which provoked these baleful musings on marriage. Today was more of a second-shift sort of day, as I had two evening calls scheduled, so I spent the early part of the day doing some errands and buying the Thanksgiving turkey. While the Norman Rockwell-esque ideal Thanksgiving meal involves a multi-generational extended family with at least 20 participants, reality is seldom so picturesque. As has been the case for years, our meal will be strictly an immediate-family sort of deal, just four people, one of whom is a vegetarian and will be having Tofurkey. All of this is a roundabout way of saying that a mere 10-pound turkey was all I had to buy. That will be plenty for three people – more specifically, for three people and Sherbert the cat, who has an insatiable appetite for people food. Given the small size requirement I bought a Bell and Evans turkey, a higher quality bird than a Butterball.
My supermarket chores done, I headed off to the far eastern reaches of Suffolk County for the first sales call. It took me almost 90 minutes to reach the destination, in a wooded area well off the beaten path. My drive took me through the heart of Range Rover Territory, though there were fewer of these vehicles in evidence than during the summer. One thing still in evidence was the Tradesmen’s Parade on Sunrise Highway, as the pool service technicians and landscapers and electricians who service the luxury estates of the Hamptons head back in their vans and pickups to their houses in central Suffolk. When I finally arrived at the middle-of-nowhere destination it was rapidly getting dark. As I was gathering my papers I saw a large dog in front of the customers’ house. I sure hope he likes strangers, I thought to myself, as he didn’t appear to be chained down. Then he moved into closer view, and I saw that “Fido” had antlers. Time for new glasses.
The sales call was a bust, as while the customers were pleasant they were too old for me to sell them anything. They had called the company to make an inquiry about our products, and from what I can gather the customer service people passed along the inquiry to my local office but did not do any preliminary screening. It was annoying, but the sort of thing that happens from time to time. I headed off to the second sales call, this one in central Suffolk about an hour’s drive from the first one. I got to the house – a very nice house – about ten minutes early. Shortly thereafter the customer drove up with his wife and children and went into the house. I went to the door, the customer greeted me and asked me to sit at the dining room table, and then his wife said hello and went right back out. A little voice in the back of my head was telling me that the wife’s abrupt departure was Not a Good Thing, but I paid it no attention. I asked some preliminary qualification questions, and found out that the customer and his wife had a very substantial combined income. They might well have been the most affluent customers I’ve dealt with so far. The customer expressed interest in a couple of products, and it did not escape my notice that my commission from selling these products would be at least $750. Not bad pay for an hour’s work.
Reality reared its ugly head, alas, when I asked the customer if he were ready to fill out a policy application. I was Wifed – in other words, the customer said that he would have to talk it over with his wife (who had, of course, left the house 20 minutes earlier). I tried the full repetoire of overcoming-resistance techniques, including one that can backfire and should only be used as a last resort. Nothing worked. The customer was adamant that he would do nothing until he consulted his wife. He said they would make a decision by noon on Saturday, and that I could call then. It’s 100% guaranteed that I’ll get voice mail. Instead of leaving with a $750 commission I left with a goose egg, and with a visceral hatred of the whole institution of marriage.
While I made it home in time to make a quick gym trip, I was in such a miserable mood that I didn’t go.