This is in the center of downtown Montreal. Seriously. Photo by Deliniated
Montreal is a harsh mistress if you don’t speak French. Until I learned, the only jobs available for the Anglo population of students, artists, and Jews were telemarketing. I’ve sold everything from credit cards to herbal supplements to these weird chairs that hunters use to sit in trees (TreeLounge 3000). One company went under and I showed up to find the locks taken clean off the doors and all my pay gone. Another time I got fired for cursing on the phone and this Gino floor-boss in a gold chain and Mercedes truck offered me a raise to work at a seedier outfit (cause crazy people always sell the best). Ummm, this was going to be about Google Search and perfect information, but I think I have enough stories for a post on telemarking. We can start with Gino (his real name) – the strip club doorman and Tourette’s afflicted telemarketer.
We were in training at some bullshit nameless place and Gino was the oldest guy in the room. Grey hair and a constant smoker’s cough. Telemarketing is a fucking horrible and soul-deadening job and people in Montreal only do it cause you don’t need to speak French. As soon as I learned a little French (and got fired) I left to work at a nightclub (horrible) and finally scooping ice cream at Ben and Jerry’s (awesome, I embezzled like 14 kilos). Gino was odd cause he was still telemarketing, which meant his life must really be fucked up. During training I’d notice that Gino would sorta talk to himself, which I guess was OK. Later, on the floor I’d occassionally hear ‘nigger’ or ‘fuck’ and look at him a little suspiciously. Turns out that Gino had a pretty full blown case of Tourettes Syndrome. That is, he would say really innappropriate things uncontrollably, like verbal seizures. The management didn’t seem to notice, but I saw him all the time coughing ‘spic’, ‘nigger’, and ‘motherfucker’ into the microphone, to customers. Gino also worked nights at a strip club on Ste Catherine’s, Octopussy. I’ve never been but I met a girl who worked there named Sherpa or something – because she was dating the next character in our story. She has a few stories of her own.
Sherpa said she was a dancer and I was like, oh, cool. Later Jon (my asshole friend at the time) tells me she’s a stripper and I was like, oh, cool. I was 19 at the time and more interested in weird stories than anything. She told us stuff about work, how they have little booths where you can basically do anything you want. She said one client came in a business suit, changed into diapers and asked to be spanked. I guess you could sorta have sex there too, Montreal is pretty, um, French in that way. Jon and her were doing something innappropriate with peanut butter and a disposable camera. Then he had the brilliant idea to ‘visit her at work’ and Sherpa got really really pissed. She came back, took the peanut butter and the camera and I never saw her again.
Jon I met cause he was ostensibly in school, studying Jazz Piano. He never graduated and he was like 23 or 4 when I met him. He was a fucking weirdo but we started hanging out, and it was kinda fun. He knew the clubs where musicians would jam after the Jazz Fest and we could hang outside while the old black guys smoked their joints. Jon would fiend to play piano sometimes and crash Hotel lobbies, sing show tunes and harass guests until they threw him out. That sounds charming, but he was a real anti-social fuckup and I had to stop hanging out with him because he’d hit on all my square friends. I was working at this telemarketing place round Laurier, selling MBNA credit cards, and Jon got a job there. Being completely fucking nutters he turned out to be really good at selling, until he got fired.
Jon was a good salesman, but he was also borderline offensive. He’d argue with customers and use really stupid fake names and stuff. I mean, we’d all use fake names (I was ‘Andrew Samuels’) but he’d do shit like pretend to be a girl. The list one day was Nova Scotia, a province that is technically Scottish. Jon does his best Lucky Charms accent and pitches the whole day in a thick brogue. I think he sold the most, but the management was like wtf. He’d been fucking up big time and they fired him. Then he bikes to my house for dinner and asks if he can crash there cause he’s getting kicked out of his squat. Hell no.
Jon is charming for like 5 minutes, but he’s actually a really sketchy character. One time he took me to this bar called the Coca Loca, full of aging prostitutes and and Quebecois trash in mullets and jean shorts. The place was, literally, a cocaine bar, but I never touch the stuff and was just sipping watered down beer in a paper cup. I think the place is only locatable when you’re fiending (as Jon was) because I was never able to find it again. We both went to the bathroom, of which the door was torn off the hinges. Then this pouffy blond chubby middle-aged coked-out ex-prostitute mother of fourteen comes in (to the men’s bathroom) lays down a line of coke on the back of the toilet and asks us if we wanted a bump. This, to me, is a no-brainer. Jon says sure. That is when I knew he was sketchy.
Anyways, the next day Jon calls me in the morning like, wtf, someone locked my bike to a tree. I should mention that Jon also fenced stolen bikes part-time, including my sweet Nakasomething. That bike, sadly, got stolen again during the Le Tigre concert. Anyways, Jon was riding a stolen bike, and the owner happened to see it locked to a tree. That owner runs home, gets his own lock, puts it on the bike and leaves a note to the effect of ‘Give me back my bike, asshole’. Jon doesn’t want to give back the bike and he asks me if we should cut down the tree. I think he’s serious but by cut down I know he means find any sharp object in the house and hack away at the thing. I don’t feel like trying to cut down a tree with a bread knife so I just raise an eyebrow. He gives the bike back.
And those are all the telemarketing stories for today. More people than you can imagine have the last name ‘Butt’ and a whole lot of Americans have really bad credit and fucked up lives, and that’s who you end up talking to. The work is evil, the pay sucks, the management sucks, and the industry is half-controlled by the mob. The only plus side is the characters you meet, but I guess you could say the same about jail.