Commentary: Never skip a business
1:00 pm
Tue May 25, 2010

Commentary: Never skip a business

In one of my previous lives, I worked in a cubicle farm where I wrestled paper jams and wasted weeks on end replacing empty toner cartridges. Currently, I'm a door-to-door outside sales representative.

Boring? Never. No two days are ever alike. I've met people from as far away as Sydney, and visited every type of business at least once - even the ones my mother told me not to.

Think you might enjoy being an outside sales rep? Oh sure, working unsupervised comes with multiple enviable perks: you can create your own on-the-spot flex time and enjoy lunch on a blanket under a spreading chestnut, or maybe squeeze in a mani-pedi during business hours. However, for most outside sales reps, we have to accept the bad with the good. Oh, and there's that minor inconvenience called a sales quota.

Part of the fun is meeting the unexpected, head on. When I open the door to a business, I never know who or what will greet me. Since my job began a year-and-a-half ago, I've encountered wet dogs, security guards, children, rap music, padlocks, and counters so high, I could barely see over them. My nose might be assaulted by anything from mildew or sawdust, to burned popcorn or varnish remover. I've had to breathe in machine shop fumes, spoiled cantaloupes, and second-hand smoke so thick you need a GPS to find the exit. But, not all aromas I encounter are deadly. More than once, I've enjoyed the fragrances of orchids or fresh cut roses, expensive perfumes, cinnamon and vanilla air fresheners, or how about cream cheese puff pastry with streusel?

Life is good.

Since I don't know who's behind that next door and I therefore never skip a business, I've seen it all. Indian, Vietnamese, and German restaurants, tattoo parlors, law firms, storefront churches, strip clubs, and bait 'n tackle shops. In the winter, I tip-toe through ice and snow, freezing rain and wind, while in the summer, I dodge mosquitoes, swat flies, and pray for a shady spot to park my car.

What's the best part about my job? It's being outside when the sun is shining, the humidity is low, and you can drive from business to business with the windows down. It's meeting friendly, considerate people who invite me in, offer me a sample of their creamy shrimp and corn chowder, or treat me to an exclusive tour of their fine arts gallery.

Could I ever go back to working in a cubicle? I hope I never have to make that choice. Not when the next door I open could be a flower shop. I can't wait to bury my nose in a big bouquet of fresh cut roses.

Shelley Stout is a freelance writer who still has a day job, and is the author of Radium Halos, a Novel about the Radium Dial Painters.

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