Back to Career School

Excerpt from CAREER SCHOOL
       On Tuesday Marty Nolan interviewed a young woman for the April program, then walked her out to the lobby where her boyfriend waited.  He watched them go out together and speculated on something that normally would not have crossed his mind:  he wondered what would become of her.  She had failed the admissions test with as low a score as he’d ever seen—twenty-eight out of a hundred.  When he discussed the curriculum she seemed to think him funny, and would laugh one moment and look on the verge of tears the next.  Like she wasn’t in control of herself.  Like she was...well, ​​​on something.  Who could know?
       He accepted her anyway, of course.
       Marty was no sooner back in his office when the phone buzzed.  Lily’s voice rapped in his ear.  “How’d it go?”
       “She signed up.”
       “For April?”
       “Did you get the deposit?”
       “I tried for the deposit.  She didn’t have a cent on her.  But at least she signed up.”
       “Fucking hell, Marty!  I’ve told you a thousand times that a verbal agreement means nothing!  What’s it going to take for you idiots to understand that—!”
       “I can’t do everything around here, you know!  Don’t you realize where our numbers stand?”
       “Lily, did you hear me?  She didn’t have a cent.  I tried, but she had nothing.  Not even a checkbook.  Just train fare.”
       “Ask me if I care!  Did you set up this appointment?”
       “Yes, but—”
       “Then you could have told her to bring a checkbook, couldn’t you?”
       “Lily, that might have put her off—”
       “Couldn’t you?”
       “Yes,” he conceded, and stifled his annoyance.
       “You could have reassured her if she suspected something.  You know how to do it.  Face it, you fucked up.”
       “All right, Lily.  I guess I did.  It won’t happen again.”
       “It better not, Marty.  The numbers are too serious.  April orientation is getting closer all the time, and we’re still twenty applicants short!  I am not going to miss this goal, do you hear me?  So get on the goddamn ball!”
       Marty banged his own phone down.  Christ, was it his fault the April numbers were coming so slowly?  Was it his fault those expensive TV ads didn’t pay off like Lily promised New York?  She shouldn’t be busting his balls like this.  He could leave, and then where would she be?  Stuck with those two namby-pamby girl reps whose combined recruitment numbers never even came close to his.  Marty was the best sales rep Lily had.  She should be more deferential to him.  Goddamn grateful.
       Marty buzzed Deirdre’s office, and when the junior rep answered he asked, “Say Dee, is there a new lead list for today?”
       “Yeah.  It hasn’t been run off the computer yet, but I saw it on the spool queue.”
       “Well, can you print it for me?  I need some fresh phone numbers fast.”
       “Steph’s working there.  She knows how to do it.”
       “All right.  Thanks.”  Marty went out to the work cubicles where he found the student employee sitting at a computer terminal loading lead cards. Stephanie’s spongy gray hair, always large and puffy, was pressed into bizarre funnels on each side of her head, thanks to a radio headset, and she bobbed to an invisible beat.
       "Excuse me,” he said.  Getting no response, he raised his voice.  “Hey!”
       She turned and stared vacuously.  She didn’t remove the headset.
       “I need you to run something for me.”
       She nodded without a word.  He could hear tinny rock music coming out of her hair.
       “Are you listening to me?  I need you to run a report.”
       “Sure.  Okay.”
       But she didn’t do anything, just sat there watching him.  Marty felt his blood rising.  “Look, kid, take that off and run what I want.”
       “Well, what do you want?”
       “I need a lead run.  Make it from March 5 to the present.  That’ll give me almost two weeks’ worth.”
       “Did you hear me?”
       “Sure.”  She looked at him like he was demented, then turned and punched the keys.  Marty returned to his office in a foul mood and shut the door.  He dropped behind his desk and rubbed his forehead.  Why the hell was some student loading lead cards, running reports, doing mail-merges, and the like?  Why wasn’t Deirdre doing it?  She’d done it before, and she sure was better doing data input than trying to recruit applicants.  He would have to discuss it with Lily.
       A knock on the door.  He raised his head and adjusted his bow tie.  “Come in.”
       The student strolled in with a very small computer run.  He despaired at the thinness of it.
       “Thanks.  Just give it to me here.”
       “Okay.”  Stephanie plopped it on the desk and walked out.
       Marty grabbed the list.  It consisted mainly of phone numbers pulled from inquiry calls.  Part of the April problem was that at this late time of year the reps had to rely solely on phone contacts and walk-ins to generate business.
       Running his eye down the list, some of the names seemed strange.  Like people he had talked to a long time ago.  Why would that be?  Marty double-checked the upper left corner of the first page and his heart stopped.  The report was from March of last year!  The names were inquiries for the previous July class!  Blood rushed so fast to Marty’s head that his vision clouded.  He was out the door in a flash.
       “Goddammit!”   He whisked the report before Stephanie’s wide eyes.  “Get that damn thing off your head right now!”
       She complied.  “What’s wrong with you?”
       “You couldn’t take that thing off to listen to me, and now you’ve run the wrong report!  This is last year’s inquiries!  A fat lot of good it’s gonna do me!”
       “All right, I’m sorry.”  She shrugged.  “I’ll fix it right away and get you another.”
       “You better!  This is worthless, you stupid bitch!  I don’t care if you are a student!”  He slammed the pages into the wastebasket.
       Stephanie’s little body straightened and she crossed her arms.  Her small face pinched in a tough grimace.  “You watch what you call me, mister.”
       “I’m not apologizing to you!” screeched Marty.  “Do your job and you won’t get called names!”
       “It’s probably not good strategy to yell at somebody you’re asking a favor of.”
       “I’ll get you fired!”
       “I’d like to see you try.”
       Even in his anger he realized she probably had him there.  Students were little gods around here.  “Just run the report.”
       “Run it yourself.”
       “Look you,” he shouted.  “You’re paid to do a job.  This is your job.  Now run that damn report.”
       Stephanie stood and stretched.  “Gosh, I think I’ll go get a soda.”  She started to walk past him.
       “Hey!”  He took hold of her arm.
       “Oh, you don’t want to do that,” she remarked.  He let go immediately, and she sauntered off.
       Marty stared at the computer terminal in baffled fury.  He had absolutely no idea how to run the report.  He let fly a vitriolic stream of profanity and headed back to his office.  Passing Trudy’s open door he looked in and saw the senior admissions rep seated at her desk, chatting on the phone with a large computer printout of names and phone numbers spread across her desk.  Marty lingered in the doorway until she finished the call.
       “Hi there,” he said with his best grin.
       Trudy leaned back in her chair.  “What do you want?”
       “You mind if I make a copy of that report?”
       “Yeah, I do.”
       He was caught off guard.  “You do mind?”
       “Sure.  This is my report.  Go get your own.”
       “I just tried.  That little—that kid Louise hired won’t run it for me.”
       “I know.”  She smiled.  “I heard you out there.”
       Marty was baffled beyond belief.  “What the hell kind of attitude is this?  Give me that report.  I’ll bring it right back.”
       “Christ!  You want me to go tell Lily that you’re—”
       “Oh Marty, shut up.”
       “This is totally unprofessional!”
       “Look, this isn’t fair!  You give me at least a page off that report or I’m going to Lily!  You hear me?”
       “All right, all right.”  Trudy stood up.  She picked up the computer run and approached him.
       “Good,” said Marty.  He squared his shoulders.  “I don’t want to see this kind of attitude again.  We’re supposed to be a team, you know?”
       “Yeah,” said Trudy.  “Ain’t it the truth.”  Still holding the report, she shut her office door on him.
       Marty’s “GOD DAMN YOU, YOU LOUSY BITCH!” could be heard all the way out to the lobby.

Copyright by Mike Colahan