Greg Triggs, Boy Solicitor
It was a time without options. Certainly, no good ones. So, I became a solicitor.
A telephone solicitor.
I was reminded of this today, when I got a marketing letter from Renewal by Andersen, offering windows on a fantastic sale, just for my neighborhood. Time is limited. Call now. I didn’t even have to read the whole thing. I could’ve performed the script by heart.
When I was 12 years old, I was too young to get a work permit. Instead I became the first nepo baby. I asked my dad for a telephone sales job at Triggs Home Improvement Company selling aluminum siding. Or vinyl. Which is final. I knew that because it said so on the company pens.
Ray Triggs was no fool. He hired me on the spot. I was thrilled when he handed me my tele-sales script. Upon first reading I was dismayed. It was overwritten and way too long. I rewrote it and made it better. At 12. First professional task ever. I found my path early. I’m still doing variations on it.
Dad gave me a special phone book, organized by location rather than name. When I called and got a no, I was to cross out the number in red. When I got a yes, I was to cross it out in green. I used a ruler and a fine point marker. It looked more professional.
These were my concerns at 12. Earn money. Be professional. What adults say about me was true: I was in a hurry to grow up. Why was there judgement in their voices? My maturity, my agenda, was considered a bad influence on other kids.All these years later I find myself wondering why none of those adults ever asked why.
Why was a 12-year-old boy in such a hurry?
I remember feeling something I haven't felt as an adult - helpless. I was 12. 7th grade. Big dreams. Small reality. I was a fat, gay kid with a drunk dad. Scared. Alone. I was in a hurry because I had more than enough evidence that besides myself there was very little upon which I could count.
I was Reba's Fancy, but instead of a hooker I was a telephone solicitor. Instead of a king, a congressman and an occasional aristocrat I was talking to middle class, hard-working, working class people looking to get a deal, and maybe save "untold money on energy efficiency" for their homes.
Money meant independence. Need creates reality.
I was good at my job.
I learned not to pause at the beginning of a call. No asking how the customer’s day was – make assumptions. Tell them you hoped they were having a good day. Make sure they could hear the smile and pride in my voice. Stress feelings or analytics depending on the tone of the caller. Track which hours got the best results.
I’ve never been the type to let someone take away my power. If someone told me off, which happened often, it didn’t let it affect me. If they were rude I’d call them back and tell them I’d be on welfare were it not for this job. Did they want to put up with an occasional call or pay the bills for me and my kids?
Ballsy. A little sociopathic. An outlet for my anger. So many things in play during each call.
Now, decades later, the world having changed so much I couldn’t help but marvel at how much the Andersen letter sounded like my Triggs Home Improvement script. Perhaps I set a new industry standard. More likely, the rules of the game have remained the same.
I’m proud that I was a kid who knew how to take care of himself. I’m sad and sometimes ashamed that I felt the need to. Today, I pondered all the adults I felt so criticized by. The energy they spent on judgment could’ve been spent on compassion. They might’ve helped instead of pushing me further into a sense of being alone.
But that didn’t happen. It could be argued I’m stronger and more independent for having grown up in an Edward Hopper painting. Those afternoons, in a florescent lit basement, pushing the dial of a rotary phone, inspired a work ethic of which I’m proud. It taught me how to use language efficiently and well.
Perhaps it made me kinder.
The next time I get a call from a telephone solicitor I hope I’m patient and kind.
You never know who’s on the other side of the line.