In the last episode, I talked all about my two years spent as a prisoner in the small loans industry. And while I was building the back story, I mentioned my stint as a Walmart portrait photographer, which brought back memories I thought I’d like to tell you about those days. But then I started calling back to my entire work career and I realized I’ve got a whole barrel of stories to tell you about things that happened in a variety of jobs I worked before settling in as a professional artist. So in the heart of staying in the same lane, this episode will be me telling you those things - things that range from falling babies and football catches, smelling like a French hooker for two reasons at the same time, neither of which actually involves hookers, and an uncomfortable situation that included insurance, a woman in a leg cast, and hard core porn. It won’t be an explicit episode, but it will revolve around some adult themes, so if you don’t want to have to answer any questions you hoped you wouldn’t have to answer until much later, you might not want to have young kiddos within earshot while listening. Otherwise, by the time we’re done, you’ll probably agree that I’ve had some odd jobs. I’m Michael Blackston and this is my Funny Messy Life.
I’ve always wanted to be my own boss. I could tell early on in my working life because I never stayed in the same job for more than a couple of years before I got bored and moved on. I was constantly looking for that career that I could learn and then create a version of all my own. I’m naturally a hard worker, but I’ve never cared for anybody telling me what to do. Hence, I have a long history of flitting from job to job.
Now, let me just start off this first story by making the statement that as far as my research has shown me, babies can’t fly. Not even bird babies. They have to develop and then mama pushes them out of the nest on purpose to nudge them toward what they’re meant to be. The only two exceptions I can think of might be Superman and Jesus. But then again, Superman is an alien and Jesus is the Son of God and there’s no evidence that either one of them ever went cruising through the air as an infant.
Why, then, do human moms sometimes lose their sense of logic when it comes to babies and flight the very moment their little bundle of joy is stuck in front of a camera?
I did the Walmart portrait thing before cell phones had cameras and every bowel movement of some children was posted on Instagram. In the late nineties, we were still in the If I want a photo of my child’s number two to post on the church bulletin board, I better get myself a roll of 35 millimeter film and fish the camera out of the kitchen drawer days. That was also before everybody didn’t have a cousin who figured out how to use the portrait mode on their iPhone and suddenly considered themselves a professional photographer. If you wanted a professional photo shoot of your child, you made an appointment at Sears or Walmart or with that Mills dude.
That’s where I came in. I’d been extensively trained in the art of posing children, focusing an enormous dinosaur of a camera, and blowing bubbles or making silly mouth noises until the little thing made some sort of a face that half way resembled a smile.
One of the more interesting things they told us to watch out for in our training was the fact that when you pose a small child on the three foot high table behind the camera, you should stress to the parent - nine times out of ten it was mom - how important it is she stay seated next to the table with her hand holding the baby from the hole in the back of the baby-sitter-upper-pedestal-thingy so that the baby didn't fall over and crack its head on the cold, sue-able Walmart floor. They were adamant that we explain we would not take the shot unless mom had a good hold on the child and was on the seat beside them. They were also adamant that there would be plenty of moms that couldn’t seem to get that through their heads and would continuously get up from the table, leaving their wobbly-headed baby, to try and see what the photo would look like before I clicked the shot-taking-clicker-thingy.
Fast forward a few months and this fact was solidly tattooed into my reality because it was an issue every single day. There were a ton of close calls and it was eventually ruled that if we had to remind a mom three times to protect her baby, that we were to completely stop the shoot and ask them to leave for the child’s safety.
It was one of these close calls that was the last straw for me and I quit that day to head on over to the motorcycle dealership and try to sell motorcycles I didn’t know how to ride.
A mom came into the studio with a very small baby, really too small to be having its picture made while propped up on a three foot high table. When we sat it in the baby-sitter-upper-pedestal-thingy, it just sort of doubled over in a heap like a ball of squishy dough because it didn’t have the strength to sit up on its own. I positioned the baby as well as I could and showed mom how to hold it through the hole in the back of the thingy, then stepped back to the camera to focus and crop the shot.
Mom came right along with me.
No, mom! See how the baby is about to flop over onto the the table like that? That’s not good. I need you to stay with your baby, please.
She said she was sorry and sat down next to the table. I repositioned them so that everybody was safe, then I walked over to the camera to focus and crop the shot.
And so did mom.
No, no, no, mom! You HAVE to stay with your baby. I can’t take the shot if you’re not sitting there with your hand on your child. Please … it’s the rules.
I repositioned mom and she apologized again. I thought we finally had an understanding. I walked back to the camera to focus and crop the shot.
(Sigh) … and so did mom. Except this time when I looked at the table, I saw the baby in the middle of toppling head first over the side. Without thinking, I dove like a ball player laying out to catch a pass and caught the baby inches before he hit the floor, one handed.
I was shaking like a leaf as I handed the baby back to the crying mother and asked her to reschedule for another time. As I recall, she also complained to management that our studio was an unsafe environment.
There was a report that had to be written and as my manager tried to console me because I was still a nervous wreck, I explained that this was my swan song. I wouldn’t be blowing any more bubbles for the Walmart portrait studio. Instead, I told her I thought I had the makings of a fantastic, profitable career as a motorcycle salesman. I just needed to figure out what a motorcycle was and I’d be good to go.
I’m not sure if where you’re from there’s the saying, “You smell like a French hooker”, but we have that one here in the Deep South, among lots of other color phrases. I never knew exactly what that meant - I mean, I got the picture for the most part, but it didn’t become real to me until I tried to become a perfume salesman.
I answered an ad in the paper for an amazing opportunity to get into the exciting world of Pedo Bouquet. I just made that term up and if you say it with a hoity-toity French accent, it sounds impressive. If you say it with a redneck hillbilly accent - Peddo Bow-Kay - it sounds like you’re using flowers to lure children into an alley.
I created the term to make it sound classier than it was. Pedo - meaning “of the foot” and Bouquet - meaning “of the stinky perfume.” In other words, I was a door-to-door perfume salesman.
This wasn’t long after Liz Taylor released her awful smelling White Diamonds fragrance that would run you about eighty buck a spritz if you’re the kind of person who likes to throw cash out of your car window while you drive.
Because I’ve always been a simpleton, I’ve never felt the need to be knowledgeable about colognes and perfumes. I’m good with Old Spice and a quick sniff around the crack of my jeans before a big nought out. So when the ad told me all about how much money I could make with their products, I was happy to give something new a try.
By the way, be aware of some of the tricks people use to hook you when you’re looking for a job. When the ad uses the words “up to” when describing what kind of income you might make, as in You could make UP TO $600 a week!, it also means you might get paid in green stamps and old batteries they cleaned out of their grandma’s house during the estate sale. The “Up To” amount is probably the number they came up with when they first crunched the numbers over beer at the karaoke bar. One too many and some guys says, “You know what we should do? We should sell knock off perfume to businesses door-to-door. I did some cla-koo-tashuns and I bet we could make $600 a week each, easy! You know what else we should do? We should go TP the sheriff’s house ‘cuz he arrested me last month for public incoksitation.”
The good news is, I tend to learn my lessons. The bad news was I had not had that lesson yet, and I be-bopped my self right into the interview. In the last episode, I made you familiar with a similar process, except this time, the office wasn’t impressive. It looked like they had hastily put up some cubicle walls and went to a thrift store for some cheap decor. They didn’t need glitz and glamour anyway. They knew all they had to do was sell me on the notion that women like to spend money and they like perfumes and colognes. Pair that with the lie that their product was the same stuff the brand names sell, only in a different package so it could be sold cheap, and I just KNEW I had what it takes to sell $600 worth of that crap a week.
Now, I do have to be fair … the products we were selling were good knockoffs and from what comparisons I could make, there wasn’t much - if any - difference between it and the expensive stuff. The problem was not the product, but something I didn’t see coming and something they conveniently never told the new recruits.
The businesses we were targeting had been targeted by the recruits before us approximately 15,297 times before … and that was just the previous week. They’d see us coming down the sidewalk with a duffel bag full of cheap Pedo Bouquet and they’d meet us at the door, saying something like, “Nope,” or “Uh uh,” or maybe something less short and to the point, like, “I will beat you down and leave you for dead. And then I will point and laugh at your smelly, bloody carcass until the police arrive. And then I will lie and tell them some thug attacked you in the street and left you for dead and that I’ll take care of you. And then when the police leave you to me, I will beat you again to make sure there’s no life left in you at all - just a stinky, rotting corpse that smells like a French hooker!”
So, yeah. I smelled like a French hooker … I guess. I can’t say that I’ve ever been in the presence of a real hooker, French or otherwise, so I’m not sure if that’s really an accurate description, but it’s probably pretty close. It was because when we did make it through the doors of a business, part of the sales pitch was to spritz the stuff on ourselves and let the ladies smell it on us instead of stinking them up with it. After a day of spraying yourself with twenty different perfumes and colognes, you basically smelled like a walking, flowery chemical plant.
I didn’t last more than two weeks in that job before I realized the scam it was, which today I figure was exactly two weeks longer than it should have taken me to realize it, but it’s history and a lesson learned.
There was one other time I smelled like a hooker, though, and I had some ‘splaining to do.
One of the most rewarding jobs I ever had was being the overnight DJ on the weekends at a large market radio station. Being the overnight weekend “Personality” has its drawbacks and its perks. The perks were things like getting to eat whatever was left over in the break room after the Saturday afternoon remotes, having the station all to yourself all night long, and having a few adoring fans. The drawbacks were things like the aftermath of eating the leftovers from the remotes, like the time I tried to see how many of the remaining 56 Taco Bell soft tacos I could eat at 3 am - tacos that had been sitting there since noon the previous day, the loneliness and, frankly, spookiness of having a radio station to yourself all night long, and the fact that a bunch of those adoring fans were either drunk, crazy, or thought they were in love with you because you were the one voice they could count on being there for them no matter what and although you didn’t feel the connection yet, it had to be there … yes, it was there, they just knew it and one day - ONE DAY - you’d feel it too. They’d see to it … whatever it takes.
Those kinds of drawbacks.
Well, one of my adoring fans called every shift. Actually, I had several of those and some of them were dear to me, but this one was desperate and she took a liking to not only me, but also the guy that followed me on Saturday and Sunday mornings.
There were a few weeks when she called and I couldn’t seen to get her off the phone. I didn’t want to hang up on her because that would have been rude and I had the sinking sensation that doing something like hanging up on her might trigger the thought that I was rejecting her and that might be bad. I’m talking boiling live rabbits in big pots bad. So I talked to her and the more I was nice, the more she fell in love with me. I don’t remember her name and wouldn’t give her actual one anyway, so I’ll just call her Vanilla Fields. You’ll understand why in a minute. Here’s an example of the kind of conversations we had that led her to thinking she was in love with me:
“WESC, who’s this?”
“Hey, Mike, it’s me - Vanilla.”
“Hey, Vanilla. Can’t talk long tonight - I’ve got a ton of radio guy stuff to do.”
“Well, I gotta play the songs and then I gotta give the weather forecast. There’s the commercials and all, you know, and the Public service announcements.”
“Ooooooh. Sounds like fun. Can I come over and help?”
“No, we’re not supposed to let anybody in the building after hours. And I might have to run a test of the emergency broadcast system and whatnot …”
“I won’t tell anybody you let me in.”
“Um, I’m married.”
She also thought she was in love with the guy who relieved me and she did the same thing with him. One night he came in early and we were shooting the breeze when Vanilla called. She was head over heels when she realized the had us both in the same room on the same call at the same time. She eventually convinced us to let her in and she promised to sit across the control board like a nice groupie while we worked. She claimed she just wanted to see how it all worked and thought it would be neat to be in the room while her favorite jocks played her favorite songs.
Joe and I looked at each other and thought it couldn’t hurt since we were together and could probably fend off any advances she might have in mind. We agreed she could come over for half an hour if she promised to behave and soon, we were face to face with her, letting her in the building.
To her credit, she was perfectly well behaved. The only problem was, she had decided that filling her bathtub with undiluted gallons of Vanilla Fields perfume was what it would take to impress us with how awesome she smelled. And she insisted on a hug.
I really like the smell of Vanilla Fields perfume when it’s applied with common sense and sobriety. I don’t think she was drunk when she came into the radio station, but the common sense factor was not in play. You could smell her from the other side of the locked door. Joe got excited at first because he thought she’d brought ice cream.
Unfortunately, she insisted on a hug from each of us.
After she left, our noses had adjusted and we forgot about the smell until we each got home and our wives had questions. Try to imagine explaining this to a woman who knows you have a radio station all to yourself and have a few adoring fans who would happily make you their baby daddy. Luckily, we were together with Vanilla and could verify each other's story. I also suggested my wife go back to the station with me right then and she’d see how the foam sound treatment on the walls of the studio had curled up and disintegrated as soon as Vanilla walked in.
I plan on an entire episode dedicated to tales from behind the walls of radios stations I’ve worked for, but I still talk with my dear friend Joe about that night.
And then there was the time I had to immediately call my manager and file a report upon leaving a customer’s house.
I was an insurance agent who sold and collected premiums door-to-door. We cold called for customers and once we sold a whole life insurance policy, it was up to us to collect the premiums each month. It’s called Running A Debit and while it’s a stressful living, it did teach me a lot about running my own business.
I had a client who lived in a filthy trailer out in the middle of absolute nowhere and she’d taken a liking to me. She flirted big time every month as I marked up the booklet that was her record of having paid her premium. I’d been told by the management that she didn’t like to pay her premiums and that the guy before me used to have to go out to her trailer several times a month before she would. I was worried that she might try that with me once I realized she liked the fries that came with my shake, if you know what I mean, so that she’d get lots of chances to see me. So I told her that I would come out once a month and if she didn’t pay her premium the first time, I’d have to set her up on a mailing system. She wanted to see me at least once a month, and the bacon that comes with my eggs, if you know what I mean, so she ended up being one of my easiest customers to collect.
One afternoon I knocked on the door of her trailer and the door popped open a little because the lock was broken and doing stuff like fixing broken locks on her trailer door wasn’t a priority, I guess. And there she was … sitting on the couch in a dingy tee shirt with food stains on it and shorts WAAYYY to tight and high, with her left leg hiked up in front of her in a cast from the top of her thigh all the way down to her ankle.
“Hey, baby! I thought you’d be comin’ by today!”
I can’t remember her name and I wouldn’t give it anyway, so I’ll just call her Indecent Exposure.
“Hey, Indecent. Is your premium in the folder like normal?”
“You know it is. You see my leg?”
“Yeah, I see your leg. What happened?”
“I was bein’ bad. I was DRUUUNNNK and fell off the back deck. Can’t hardly get around and don’t got nobody to help me. You want to help me change out of these dirty clothes?”
“Gonna have to throw you a no on that one. I’m not allowed to do that.”
I went to take the record booklet off the wall and started to fill it out. I was standing between her and an enormous big screen tv, which she turned on, but my back was to it and the sound was apparently down at first.
Behind me, I started to hear the sounds of - how can I put this mildly - male/female engagement - getting louder and louder while she turned up the volume. Porn.
It was porn on the enormous big screen tv behind me. She was hoping the porn and the leg cast would be enough to entice me into, um - how can I put this mildly - helping her change those nasty clothes.
I looked at the tv, then I looked back at her. My eyes were wide and I didn’t know what to say at first.
I looked back at the tv.
I looked back at her.
I looked back at the tv.
I looked back at her.
“You ever watch nekkid movies?” She asked me.
“I’m gonna go now.”
When I got to the car, I pulled out my flip phone and started dialing my manager before I left the driveway and explained that I didn’t exactly know what just happened, but I think I just offered dessert, if you know what … never mind.
I’ve done a lot of things for work over the years and every one of them has given me good stories to tell. Eventually, I hope to get to them all, but I hope this was a good start. Let me know how you felt about it by leaving a comment at funnymessy.com. There, you can also share this podcast with a friend, a loved one, a stranger, or that flirt that randomly shows you porn. If you like it a bunch, do me a favor and leave a rating and review of the show on on your podcast player. It helps others see what they can expect from the show and your good rating helps convince folks it’s something worth checking out.
So thanks for listening (or om this case, reading). I’m Michael Blackston and if you have a funny or even messy work story you’d like to share, then contact me and we’ll talk about it. And until next time, keep your your legs in their casts and your clothes on your body, at least when you’re listing to stories about my Funny Messy Life.
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