I couldn't go through with it.
Walked up to it, had a hand on the door, and I couldn't force myself to push through.
Here's the thing: I was prepared for one thing, but when I saw what the reality was, I couldn't bring myself to perform the task at hand.
Let me explain.
I hopped into my car for the drive to Hagerstown, already carefully preparing the white-hot denunciation that was taking shape in my mind. I was imagining a one-on-one scene, the Regional Sales Coordinator of Annoying White-Duck Insurance Company quaking in his boots as I ripped him up one side and down another for his spectacularly cynical waste of my time. I had imagined a corporate office: cool fluorescent lighting complimenting tastefully placed house-plants, a stunning receptionist who, when I announced my name, pressed a button on a sleek phone, announced my presence; an assistant glimmering into the room would escort me to my interview with Mr. Reg. Sales Coord. That's how it's always happened before.
Me and Mr. Reg. would converse lightly for a brief moment, noting the gloriousness of the weather, and then he would begin his spiel, at which point I would interrupt him and eviscerate his fatuity, ending with the zinger: "There are creatures lying on their backs at the bottom of ponds that I would rather associate with!" (Protip: Sybil Fawlty is a great source of putdowns.)
But, as I say, the reality was so different that I was unprepared for it.
Hagerstown is a very down-at-the-heels blue-collar burg. As I drove in to the district I'd been directed to, white boys in full ghetto drag hung on street corners -- on an early Thursday afternoon, you'd think these guys'd be at work; you'd of course also have to remember that there is no work for them. I suppose I was still expecting to find a major insurance company's regional offices in this neighborhood -- maybe a repurposed warehouse, lotsa cool exposed nineteenth-century brick, saggy wooden floors, leftover milling machinery tastefully incorporated into the design scheme....
No. The structure I was directed to was a blue-painted Victorian triplex. The side-panel of a cardboard box had been ripped out and suspended over one door: inscribed in black Sharpie pen, [Annoying Duck Company] and a couple of arrows pointed to the rightmost of the three doorways. Setting the digital audio device that I carry on "Record," I crept up to the indicated door. A bay window next to the door lay in the early afternoon sunlight.
And there in the window was Willie Loman. Man pushing, if not already having pushed beyond, sixty. White hair. Business suit. Carefully filling out a form in the window's light. Behind him, several other candidates sat, all equally carefully attired, each equally absorbed in clipboard duties, filling out details of their lives, past jobs, education, salary ranges. I was suddenly struck with the realization that the bait-and-switch employment crap to which I had only now been exposed, was a daily reality for these poor saps. They had no power of discernment; they had no ability to say "no!" in a resounding voice of indignation. For them, "employment" literally meant an opportunity to take it up the ass from Mr. Reg. Sales Coord. Followed by a life of daily torment at the hands of younger frat-boy sales creeps, continual frustration with recalcitrant buyers (and who can afford insurance in these times, eh?), and permanent tsuris with the Company Store over what constitutes salary and what commission.
This system, this humiliating meat-grinder process, is what I thought I was going to go in and sweep away, with one heroic denunciation of the BossMan. I would scatter these poor rubes to the four winds... For what, exactly? So they could apply for equally shitty jobs in Frederick, Martinsburg, Winchester?
Jesus, this world.
My imagined denunciation of bait-and-switch sales-recruitment fell in ashes at my feet. What was I going to tell Willie Loman? "Willie, let's you and I join forces and start a... a..." what, exactly? An insurance company? A revolutionary new-economy insurance company that tends to the needs of widows and orphans while stalwartly eschewing the blandishments of evil corporate money? How'm I gonna set that up?
Willie Loman got no investment in that shit. Me and Willie, we understand. We're on our own.