A crowd had gathered. The quotas on the bulletin board seemed to shackle Brian’s soul to an enormous anchor that teetered on the edge of a deep, watery abyss.
As a college student, Brian needed a work situation that accommodated his topsy-turvy class schedule, and this evening position as a telephone solicitor for a timeshare company seemed to fit the bill.
The job task was relatively simple; dial the number, which was computer automated, follow the scripted presentation, and close the sale. $12 an hour to talk on the phone— nothing to it! But then you learned about the quotas.
Gary, the night supervisor, was an aggressive, cut-throat shift manager, and his reputation garnered him not a few nicknames. Brian’s favorite was Gary the Gutter, for the way he would ripped the guts out of any employee he felt was not keeping up with the rest of the team. But others thought Gary the Greedy fit better, and Brian could concur with their reasoning, because Gary’s favorite mantra was,
“Above the bottom line is life and breath;
below it you’re a corpse laid out in death.”
That was all well and good, Brian thought; Business is about making money. That’s why I’m here. But his anxiety was founded on the constant upward motion of the bottom line.
Every six weeks, the highest average weekly sales made by any particular person was set as the new quota, and the posting on the bulletined board blared loudly what the new benchmark was for the next term.
“How on earth am I going to get thirty-five sales a week?” he mumbled. He could see in the eyes of a few of his co-workers the same bewilderment. “That’s more than one sale per hour.”
“1.4 per hour to be exact,” an indicting voice said from behind, “don’t think you have what it takes to keep up, Mr. Crites?”
Brian turned. Gary’s devilish grin taunted him. “I don’t think there anything I can’t do.” he replied, trying not to blink.
Gary stared equally hard at Brian, but was the first to break their deadlocked gaze. “Good; that’s what I like to hear, Crites. Attitudes like that don’t get buried below the bottom line. A fulfilled quota is a fulfilled checkbook!”
Brian resisted a retort, only forcing a faux smile across his face; his eyes still yet to blink.
His trance was broken only by the sound of another, much kinder voice.
“Gary gutting you, Brian?”
“Huh...oh Shelly,” he stuttered, “no, just poking his fork in me to see if I was done.”
“Hu-huh,” Shelly returned with an empathetic nod, “he checked me out too. Did you pass?”
“I think so; though I was not convincing myself of anything. I don’t believe I can make quota. Did you get the 1.4 per hour bit?”
Shelly nodded. “We can thank Greg on dayshift for that; he had a monster three weeks last term.”
“I’ll send him flowers.” Brian muttered.
“So what are you going to do, Brian?”
“Don’t know, Shelly. If God exists I could sure use a little help; but I’m not sure God could sell these packages at 1.4 per hour.”
“Let’s ask him.” Shelly said. Brian’s neck turned so fast it let of a loud Craaaack.
“God, of course.” Shelly replied. “You know what; I believe you will not only meet quota, you’ll set the new standard. Then you’ll be getting all the flowers!”
“Uh, I’m Brian, not Moses. Besides, you know I don’t claim to be a Christian; heck, I’m not sure I believe a god like yours can exist.”
“You concentrate on calling, Brian; I’ll pray.” Shelly said smiling. “And clear your desk space for the flowers.”
“You best be calling instead of praying; you have 1.4 per hour to make too.”
“I can do both.”
The crowd at the bulletin board thinned. Brian remained, staring at the quota figure, his disbelief evidenced by his gaping mouth.
“Still think you can do anything, Mr. Crites?”
Brain turned to see Gary again. “1.8’s going to be tough, sir; the bottom line keeps getting higher.”
The bouquet sat at the center of the overhead shelf. Brain read the card again.
A flower blooms, though planted in the sand;
and God, who birthed the universe,
has offered you his hand.
You have received,
can you believe?
Proud to be second only to you,
Brain bowed his head.
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