I’m not going to say much of anything about these days because there’s nothing much to say. I didn’t feel physically up to going to the gym for most of the time. On Monday, which was Memorial Day, I was finally okay, but the gym closed early and I had to prepare a family cookout. Word of advice: the inexpensive charcoal grills sold at Target are inexpensive for a reason. Let’s see, what else did I do … on Sunday evening I caught the new episode of Girls on HBO, and has been the case for the past few weeks I wrote a lengthy recap and posted it as a comment at Siggy’s. I also started watching this new show, Borgen, on Link TV. It’s a drama about politics in Denmark. Now that may seem like an odd topic, but the last work of fiction on Danish politics was a real classic even if it was quite a while ago. It was called Hamlet.
Bureaucracy in inaction
Days off for me, now that my sales days are in the rearview mirror. Tuesday was m wife’s birthday, so I went to a new fish store in town to get her a lobster. I asked for the biggest one available, which turned out to be a 2.25-pound behemoth. One slight disadvantage is that the rubber band had come off one of its claws. The store clerk cautioned me about it, and on the drive home I was half-expecting to feel a very sharp pain as the lobster made a counterattack. Fortunately, it made it into the boiling water with all nearby human flesh still intact.
Wednesday I didn’t do much during the day, but in the late afternoon made a trip to the gym. I did some benching as well as the back work I had meant to do last time. Bench press: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 7 x 225, 5 x 235. T-bar rows: 8 x 150, 8 x 155, 8 x 160, 8 x 155, 8 x 150. My weights on the T-bar rows are well off what I’ve done in the past, but because I haven’t done any in a few weeks I figured it was better to start out light.
Thursday morning I drove into Queens to get an EZPass for the (obscene) tolls on the Throgs Neck Bridge. While EZPass does not offer any discount on the (obscene) toll amount it does often let you get through the toll gates much more quickly than cash customers. Next week I’ll be going to Connecticut at least twice and therefore will have to take the bridge. Now, had things worked out as planned I would have been able to take a far more convenient bridge farther east on Long Island Sound, but of course it never was built. At any event, the EZPass service center in Queens wasn’t crowded and I was in and out in less than 15 minutes, shiny new EZPass in hand. Not that I could actually use it just yet. It turns out that it takes about 24 hours to “activate” a new EZPass. As it’s a completely computerized process with no human input there is no reason whatsoever why there should be any time lag. Getting the approval code on my credit card took all of three or four seconds. Of course, the difference is that the government runs EZPass, and commits legal extortion by collecting the (obscene) tolls [Note: given that my employer will be paying me for the (obscene) tolls I shouldn’t be complaining about their obscenity, but it’s the principle of the thing.]
By the time I got home early in the afternoon on Thursday, my back and knees ached and I was a slight bit dizzy. Oh great, just the time to come down with some bug. I pretty much lay around for the rest of the day, my gym plans being set aside, and by the evening was in better shape except for some coughing.
The end of an era
I decided over the weekend to take a few days off in preparation for my transition to a customer-service-oriented work function after Memorial Day. While at first I thought I’d take Wednesday through Friday off, when I arrived on Monday morning I found out that I could get Tuesday off too. What all this meant is that today marked my last workday in a sales function, since starting at XYZ Insurance two and a half years ago. As I noted in a post last week, I do not remotely miss leaving sales and its lack of control over one’s destiny. Today therefore was not a solemn occasion. It was more like an occasion for celebration.
I decided to get back to weights this weekend. On Saturday, I started with 24 minutes’ ellipting, and then did some bench pressing: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 6 x 225, 2 x 4 x 225, 8 x 185. I was pleased to have gotten six on the first set at 225, in a couple weeks of non-benching I hadn’t lost much.
I almost didn’t go on Sunday because I was pretty beat out by some heavy yard work. Nonetheless, I went to the gym in the mid-afternoon with the intention of doing some back work. The T-bar apparatus I like to use was occupied, so rather than wait a few minutes I did something quite unusual for me – despite having benched the previous day, I did some more: 6 x 135, 6 x 165, 4 x 185, 2 x 205, 7 x 225, 4 x 235, 3 x 245, 2 x 255, 1 x 265, 1 x 265. Doing the same exercise two days in a row can create a condition called “overtraining” and be counterproductive, but I figured that I didn’t do so many reps that it really should matter.
I’m glad I went to Connecticut on Tuesday
No, it’s not just because I got to see my old home state for a (very) short time, or that I rode Metro North for the first time in years. It turns out that I did well enough in my customer service function that as of the day after Memorial Day I will be doing that sort of duty exclusively. As in, no more actual sales, all my dealings will be with existing customers. I can’t even begin to say how happy I am over this development. Whatever else one may say about being in sales, the salient point is that you don’t have full control over your destiny. With most jobs, if you do your assigned duties in the correct manner you will do well at the job. With sales, no matter how hard you try, ultimately it comes down to the customer’s whim. As I’ve said, if the customer isn’t interested, there’s just not a whole lot you can do no matter how high your skill level may be. Even when you’re working primarily on salary rather than commission, as has been the case with me for a while, the lack of control can be grating.
I found out about this change on Wednesday. That day, and the remaining two, went by in a comparative blur. Which may not be an entirely good thing, I still have to finish up what I’ve been doing, but I’ll manage. On all three days I was able to adjust my hours just enough to miss morning traffic on the Sunrise Highway and most of the evening rush as well.
Back on the trains, for a day
Not much to say about Monday, it was a pretty ordinary workday. Well one thing was a bit out of the ordinary, I came in and left a bit later than usual, which enabled me to miss any traffic delays on the Sunrise Highway. Not that the delays always occur, but in the mornings they have happened often enough that it’s generally a good thing to be able to drive at a later time.
Now Tuesday, that was something very much out of the ordinary. I was dispatched to Connecticut to make a call on an existing customer who had a bit of a problem with the products and/or services we had sold him a while back. Now, the problem is nothing that couldn’t be solved over the telephone, or even via e-mail, but the customer in question is an antsy sort and might well have bolted for a competitor without some hand-holding. Hence, my assignment.
I was debating whether to drive or take the train. Normally I would have driven, but in that I’m still using the Chevy Silverado behemoth the train won out. While I would be reimbursed for gasoline I’m a bit wary about driving such a big vehicle through heavy traffic. Now, being that I had to be in Darien by 10, and certainly didn’t want to risk being late, taking the train was a bit of a logistical challenge. Or trains, being that there’s (obviously) no line running from Long Island to Connecticut. My routing was as follows:
- LIRR 6:24 Ronkonkoma –> Penn Station
- subway 1 –> Times Square S –> Grand Central
- Metro North 8:34 Grand Central –> Darien
- Metro North 10:44 Darien –> Grand Central
- subway S –> Times Square 1 –> Penn Station
- LIRR 2:14 Penn Station –> Ronkonkoma
As for my train observations, the 6:24 from Ronkonkoma to Penn was a “super express,” stopping only at Hicksville. Even though I was riding in one of the rear (east) cars, which sometimes are less crowded than others, at least three-quarters of the seats were full by departure. Yes, I engaged in the Baby Elephant Walk to find a seat. What few remaining seats were still empty filled up at Hicksville and there were some standees. Fortunately, the older man who sat next to me wasn’t large and I had sufficient room. We got to Penn right on time at around 7:30, which normally would have been enough time for me to walk to Grand Central, but it was raining so heavily it would be the subway for me. I actually bought an umbrella from a street vendor for $5. Under normal circumstances I don’t do the umbrella scene, wet clothes dry out and all that, but I figured it would be raining in Connecticut too and I didn’t want to make a bad impression on the customer.
There was nothing much to say about the subways from Penn to Grand Central, though the connection at Times Square was really quick. The Metro North 8:34 to Darien made Greenwich as its first stop, not counting the boarding-only stop at 125th Street. I’d been hoping for one of the new M-8 consists, but the cars were older M-2’s. I rode near the head of the consist, and the car never got more than about half-full. It was a quick ride, no delays of any sort. It’s been so long since I’ve ridden the New Haven line that I’d actually forgotten the names of some of the stations that we passed. Harrison, for example, and across the Connecticut line Old Greenwich and Riverside. Oh, one more thing I noticed, this time with some dismay, is that Metro North charges peak fares on outbound New Haven line morning trains from Grand Central. Not only do they soak it to regular commuters, they do so to reverse commuters too. Wait, did I say “dismay?” Dunno why, since I was not of course paying for the tickets.
I had been counting on spending at least a couple of hours with the customer in Darien. What I did not expect was that I was able to solve his problems in less than a half-hour. Yes, that makes it more obvious that the issue should have been solved over the phone, but sometimes it’s necessary to go the extra mile. Or extra 150+ miles, as the case may be.
My return journey, all the different legs of it, were uneventful. I’d been half-expecting some delays from the rain, but none happened. The Metro North train was as uncrowded as its (slightly) earlier outbound counterpart had been, but the LIRR 2:14 was much busier than I would have expected for an off-hour train. At least the man who sat next to me weighed under 350 pounds. I’d place him at no more than 340 – 345. After I got my half-squished self back to Ronkonkoma, I went into work for a couple of hours. I wouldn’t have gone in had my stay in Darien not been so short.
Nothing much of note to report this weekend, though I did pretty well at the gym with 30 minutes’ ellipting each day. I’m steadily boosting both the speed and the resistance setting.
What’s up with the traffic?
I sure wish I knew. All that I do know is that traffic on the Sunrise Highway was horrible on Wednesday and Thursday mornings. Friday morning was a little better, but still bad. Wednesday was the worst of the days, with at least a 20-minute delay approaching the Southern State Parkway exit, though inexplicably clearing up about a half-mile before the exit itself, followed by another significant delay farther west near the Robert Moses Causeway exit. There were no crashes or other obvious explanations for these delays. Moreover, the slowdown near the Causeway exit was the very first one I’ve encountered in that location. I actually was about ten minutes late getting into work on Wednesday, which is something I absolutely hate. About the only saving grace is that my return trips were perfectly fine each day.
The new sales campaign that began on Monday seems to be going as well as can be expected, though it’s way too early to reach any conclusions. My discussions with potential customers take longer than had been the case with the earlier campaigns, due to the greater complexity of the products and/or services involved and also due to some extent to the types of businesses with which I’m now dealing. While I won’t know for sure until Monday, it looks as if on Tuesday I’ll be going to Connecticut for a sales call on a major customer. An interesting fact is that even though I’m a Connecticut native, having lived there all my life until 1997, I haven’t been to the Nutmeg State in over two and a half years. Of course I’ve seen it many many times across Long Island Sound, but that doesn’t really count.
Gym: a solid 30 minutes of fast-paced ellipting on Thursday.
Kicking off the new campaign
Our new sales campaign got off to a generally smooth start on Monday morning. There were a few delays, mainly related to software issues, but nothing too significant. It will be at least a few weeks before any preliminary evaluation of its success can be made. As it involves a major change in the product/service mix and in the primary target markets, past performance doesn’t offer much if any guidance. Even so, I’m eager for the new challenges it will bring, and I don’t even mind the fact that I’ll probably be doing somewhat more work in the field than has been the case in recent weeks.
In the early afternoon, we had a 45-minute conference call with the sales manager from another company, who is acting as a more or less informal consultant on the new campaign. He has decades of experience in all aspects of commercial sales. While I generally dislike conference calls, this one was a notable exception thanks to the sales manager’s insights.
He laid out what some might consider a fatalistic if not outright cynical viewpoint. In essence, he said that he’s learned over the decades that what a salesperson says or does has relatively little effect on whether a particular sale goes through or not. It’s the extent of the customer’s interest that really matters. What salespeople must concentrate on is being able to explain the products and/or services in detail, including answering all but the most technical questions and being able to make comparisons to the main competitors’ offerings. The sort of “salesmanship” that many sales managers constantly harp about – firm handshakes, nodding in agreement, avoiding pauses during the pitch, always returning to the close – count for just about nothing. In a way, I found this candor very refreshing.
As for traffic conditions, Monday was pretty good, but Tuesday most definitely was not. There was a long slowdown on the Sunrise Highway in the morning, leading up to the Southern State Parkway exit – but strangely, as I’ve noted before, clearing up about a half-mile before the exit. I just can’t explain it.
Gym: a half-hour of ellipting on Monday. I’m still procrastinating about running on the treadmill.
More weight-loss exercise on Saturday. I ellipted for 30 minutes, with the resistance level up one notch from last time. I really should be doing some running on the treadmill. Soon enough. On Sunday I didn’t go to the gym, because I had done some heavy yardwork in the late morning that had plenty of exercise value. In the evening I made one of my old favorite recipes, chicken thighs with tomato over rice, flavored with onion soup mix.