Abe Froman, You’re My Hero

“If we were playing by the rules, we’d be in gym class right now.”

 

These are the words of Ferris Bueller, one of my many childhood heroes (along with He-Man, Jeff Spicoli, and Fred Jones of Scooby-Doo fame). I find myself using that quote a lot. That’s probably a symptom of rarely doing what I’m supposed to be doing. And why would I anyway? Truly great things only happen to me when I’m completely off task. My father, an accountant with a penchant for deregulation, once told me: “Son, breaking the rules is what we’re doing when our dreams come true.”

 

At this very moment, there is webinar training session going on. I’m supposed to be paying attention to it, but it’s not up on my computer. I have it playing on the spare computer that sits about 10 inches from where I’m typing these words. I could be partaking in the webinar, but then where would that leave you and I? I’d be half-asleep and drooling on my keyboard, and you’d be reading some other blog written by some other narcissist.

 

And let’s say I was doing what I was supposed to be doing. What would that involve? For starters, I’d be watching this woman on a tiny video screen. Let’s call her Victoria (because every Victoria I’ve ever known—other than that hot slice Victoria Principal from the show Dallas—is scratchy and abrasive and makes me shiver just like this woman does).

 

She is in her mid-fifties. She’s got what looks like an orange and teal Pucci scarf tied around her bony neck, has chestnut hair that looks like it came out of a box, and is wearing so much lipstick that she looks like the Joker. As everyone signs on and waits for the show to begin, she’s warming up the crowd, snapping her fingers and shaking her head from side to side while Cheeseburger In Paradise plays in the background. She probably picked that idea up while on an exciting team-building retreat in Orlando a few years back when Marriotts were nice places to stay—oh wait, that was never.

 

The call, as always, starts out with a request for feedback on one question: “HOW DO YOU FEEEEEL!!!” The answers poor in, streaming down the screen too fast to read like a chat trail on a porn site or the credits of a TNT movie. Victoria calls out some responses, “Excited! Ready to go! Energized! Full of possibilities!”

 

I’m typing away and listening at the same time. I’m starting to feel nauseous. Did I eat something I shouldn’t have? Or maybe I forgot to eat at all. Oh, wait. It’s Victoria. Duh.

 

She’s droning on about her sales technique, the foundation of which she sums up in one simple sentence: People do business with people they like, people they trust, and people who make them money. I sum it up this way: Everything I need to know about sales I learned in kindergarten. Basically, she has turned a no-shit-Sherlock idea into what I can only assume is a prosperous training business that corporations pay her solid coin to administer for them. I have to give her credit for that. It’s a total racket.

 

Checking in with Victoria again: One of today’s tips is to identify a client’s hobby and win over his heart with inauthentic fervor for the same topic. Example: Doug likes to play old school video games. Her solution: send him articles related to Atari and Donkey Kong. My solution: buy him a hooker because he’s probably a virgin.

 

She’s encouraging a hundred mortgage professionals to fabricate friendships with their clients in order to win over their business. It doesn’t sound far-fetched. Any good salesman knows that this is how to get it done. But you don’t need to talk about it. And you certainly don’t need to sit through eight 90-minute sessions to figure it out. If you do, then you’re a moron and you need to go work at GameStop, where I’m sure you’ll run into Doug this Saturday evening. It’s like having a training session on lighting a match in the bathroom to cover your scent or instructing someone on how to throw your trash in your neighbors’ garbage cans in the alley because yours are already full. It’s sales 101. Everyone already knows this stuff. Some pictures just don’t need to be drawn.

 

The session goes on and on. I know I’ve referenced Willy Wonka a lot lately, but this is sort of like that boat ride he takes everyone on that goes on and on and when it will stop nobody knows. To me, it’s like the forth circle of hell. There’s worse, but not a whole lot. Then I hear something that I’m sure I misheard.

 

“If your client is of the opposite sex…” she says. I kind of lose her at this point. My mind wanders. What is she talking about? It’d be easier to just listen to what she’s saying, but I’m a terrible listener. She gets up and takes off her two-button shoulder-padded taupe jacket, throws it across her desk at the webcam, and bends over to hit play on her stereo. The sweet sounds of Jimmy Buffet fill the room again. The online chatter flows. Have I moved into the fifth circle of hell? No. Not at all. I’m not even seeing any of this. In fact, I’m not even at home any more. I’m eating an Italian beef sandwich down the street with a friend while my computer sits open atop my desk absorbing Victoria’s pain. There was no opposite sex talk, no stripping, no Wonka-ish maelstrom. I left about 30 minutes into the session and met a friend for lunch at the Vienna Beef factory outlet down the street from my house.

 

Why?

 

Because I’ve always wanted to be Abe Froman, the Sausage King of Chicago. And if I was playing by the rules, my dream would never come true.

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