I’ve never had phone sex. Not the get-naked-and-give-it-your-all kind anyway. Maybe I just never dated women who traveled enough. Or maybe it’s because I always found talking on the phone to be irritating and impersonal. Never having been a twelve-year-old girl, I never got that itch to sit on the phone and just talk it out—and that goes for any subject. I used to worry that I wouldn’t have anything to say (if you can image that). If you ever got me on the phone, I’d do everything I could to get to the brass tax as soon as possible. And once I knew there was nothing left to gain from the conversation…click.
So imagine the horror that filled me when I went to work at the chop shop and realized I’d be selling mortgages to people over the phone. Sure, I’d eventually meet them in person to get the deal done, but all initial client contact was done via telephone. The company would send out direct mail pieces to entire neighborhoods to let them know that something was terribly wrong with their mortgage and that they needed to call us immediately. We’d sit back and listen to the phone ring—the digitized sound of devastation, embarrassment and fettered hope.
That’s how I came to learn something everyone else already seemed to know: people love to talk, especially when the topic is them. Too often, I’d try to get down to the business at hand only to be led down some long, tangential road about the oddest things of which they could possibly think. There was this one guy who told me he needed to take cash out of his home (you know, because they’re ATMs). The request seemed harmless enough. But then I made a crucial mistake: I asked why. He went on to tell me that he’d been in a car accident a couple years back and suffered slight brain damage. The net result was that he lost his sense of taste. Instead of eating the foods he loved, he’d take vegetables and whatever else the doctor told him to eat and blend them together into a frothy beverage that he could drink. His story was sad, and it certainly made me pity him. But mostly it just made my skin crawl. He’d been going on for a while and I was dying to get off the phone. A moment before I gave him the old click, he said something that grabbed my attention.
“I love pizza,” he said. “You know when you’re eating it and you’re full and you still go back for one more piece because it’s so god damn good? That’s what I want. I just want to taste that one last piece.”
I ended up talking to him for about 45 minutes. The subject of his mortgage didn’t even come up until the very end—and I got the deal. That day, my relationship with the telephone changed completely. I love deep interpersonal connections—to me, that’s what life is really all about. But for some reason I figured it was something I couldn’t accomplish over the phone. This opened up an entirely new world for me. I started engaging people on the phone. I became interested in what they had to say rather than how quickly they could say it. I steered clear of discussing their mortgage for as long as possible. It actually helped, since people like doing business with people with whom they relate and feel comfortable. It was a win-win for me.
Another prospective client had me on the phone for about fifteen minutes talking about barbeque. I was happy to discuss it. That sort of conversation is totally in my wheelhouse. I mean, I eat, right? When we finally got to the topic of his mortgage, I asked him where he lived.
“In the home,” he said.
Thanks, pal, but where?
“Right now?” he asked. “On I-94.”
It turned out that he lived in a mobile home. You can’t get residential mortgages for a mobile home. The only way you don’t know this is if you’re the sort of person who would never buy a mobile home or if you’re a moron. I couldn’t really tell if he was fucking with me or not. But at the same time, I didn’t really care. Probably just like him, I was looking for a bit of companionship on a slow day.
As the months passed, I got into a groove where I was chatting the hell out of people. I’d show up for work excited to answer the phone and wait for that first line to come out of their mouth. Those first words always said so much about the person on the other end of the line. It was like opening a present on Christmas morning. You never knew what would be inside.
One morning, I was sitting at my desk. The phone rang. I picked up. The stranger on the other end of the line was a woman. Her voice was smoky and smooth and it echoed in my ear like it came from the well of a North Carolina holler. She sounded like Susan Sarandon circa Bull Durham. I’ll never forget the first words that came out of her mouth: “What are you wearing, sweetheart?”
“Attack the illness, not the symptom.”
These were the genius words of my sales manager, Glen. I’m not sure why he said it. He wasn’t a doctor, and it had nothing to do with our business. Maybe he just thought it sounded like a smart thing to say. And I guess it was, if the goal was to say something that could easily end any conversation. Glen also liked to say: “You gotta hear no a hundred times before you hear yes.” This was a popular saying for people who were told no way too much. But those people, maligned and ignored, repeat the same words to others who suck at what they do. We can thank these same people for the battle cry: “Misery loves company.”
Glen, a lover of improvement and perfection and all things better, liked to put his sales force through training programs. It made sense. They have a ton of great mantras in those programs. Sales, to Glen, was a skill to be honed with practice, like a chef learning to bring meat to the proper temperature only by doing so time and time again. One day he brought in these two guys from a corporate sales training outfit that was coming through town with their circus tent and cheerleading ringleader. We sat in our conference room and listened as they made their pitch: pay $300 for a half-day of training and you’ll triple your business.
“If you can’t afford to do this program,” one of the clowns said, “then you can’t afford not to.” What an awesome line. It’s tough to combat that, especially when you suck as sales, which most of the people in the chop shop did. Their success was based on an overwhelming demand more than anything they did with great skill.
After the pitch was over, Glen got up and made his case for why everyone should go and why everyone should pay for it themselves. “It’s a matter of showing me you care about your own success.” So, of course, everyone signed up. Everyone but me.
“Oh, you’re going,” Glen said, pointing his fat little finger in my face in front of the rest of my associates. “You’re going.”
“But I can afford to go,” I told him. “So…I’m good. Right?”
He stared at me for a long thirty seconds. We had been in this situation before. I’m a stubborn bitch. I don’t like to be told what to do, and I hate listening to the advice of others. When Glen got angry or irritated, his huge head blew up like Violet Beauregarde, the girl from Willy Wonka who turned into a giant blueberry. His cheeks puffed and his eyes bulged out, as if little men were inside his skull pushing them out with all of their might. I suppose he was like a blowfish. And like those who have faced blowfish in the wild, most people shrunk back from Glen when he postured himself this way. I never did though. I liked to watch it. How do you turn away from the possible explosion of your boss’ head? That’s pay-per-view type stuff.
The stalemate ended, as it had before, when Glen exhaled (much to my dismay) and said, “Fine. I’ll pay, but I’m gonna take it out of your check.”
That was our little arrangement. He wasn’t taking anything out of my check. He said that to save face. He paid for my training, and what he got was much less than he had hoped for. Not just from me, but from the entire team.
The training was bullshit, as usual. A bunch of guys stood up and crowed about their grand success in the very same business in which we worked. The secret to their success? Well…you’d have to buy their cassette tapes for $400 to find out. But the basic premise, which they shared with us that day, was that they really believed in themselves. Completely ridiculous. The difference between these guys and the British guy that runs shells games for tourists on Michigan Avenue? Nothing.
So when our numbers didn’t change dramatically after the training session, Glen called us back into the conference room. He was pretty pissed. Purple face, eyes struggling for freedom, the whole bit. He screamed and insulted and paced and swung his short arms around like a third base coach giving signs to a blind person. And when he came unwound, which always happened because he was old and fat and always without breath, he wobbled back to the front of the room and looked out at us like a disapproving parent.
“I’m really disappointed gang,” he said, face now a light red, hands on his hips. “I expected so much more, especially after that training. Should I just give up on you guys?”
No one responded. He looked back at us, biting his lower lip. He was out of patience, out of ideas, and I’m pretty sure still out of breath. The silence began to steal the air from the room. Someone had to speak.
“Attack the illness,” I said. “Not the symptom.”
He looked at me confusedly.
“Take your own advice, Glen. Attack the illness.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean?”
“The way I see it, the symptom is your disappointment.”
“And?” He flung his arms up in the arm. Exasperated would have been a suitable word.
“Well, if the symptom is your disappointment, then it’s pretty obvious that the illness is your shitty expectations.”
The closest I’ve ever come to seeing a man’s head actually explode was in the sixty seconds that followed. But in the end, I was the one that was left disappointed. Poor me.
I wasn’t going to write today. I needed a week off. Thinking about my days in the chop shop tend to make me ill, and I was already battling a bit of the virus us whiskey-drinkers call hangover. But then I saw something, and I had to share it with you.
There was a woman sitting on a worn down orange upside-down milk crate where the highway off-ramp meets the wide street that I was turning on to this morning. She looked to be in her mid-twenties, and she was fairly attractive despite the obvious, which was that she was likely wearing someone else’s clothes and probably hadn’t showered in two weeks (this, during a heat wave no less). And of course, she had a sign. They all do. And by they, I mean those people we all ignore at the red light when they offer to wash our windows or sell us white gym socks or peanut M&Ms for their “varsity basketball team.” But her sign was different than most I’ve ever seen. It read: If you give me money, I’ll love you.
It was plain and simple. It didn’t make me pity her or want to wash myself when I got home. It did, however, make me want to give her money, because in the end, like most people, I just want to be loved. But then I had a thought, and, as usual, I quickly became confused. Did she mean that she would be full of love for me if I helped buy her next meal? Or was her sign just a code for selling her body for money (i.e. I’ll love you for money)? Let’s face it: ever since Phillip Markoff left that poor girl dead in a Boston hotel, it’s a safe play for most prostitutes to avoid using Craigslist at all costs. Maybe highway underpasses are the new Craigslist.
This got me thinking about a girl I once knew who actually did prostitute herself on Craigslist. She lived with a friend of mine who worked with me at the chop shop. We’ll call the whore Candy (because she really was sweet and, of course, you could eat her). Candy worked out of her house as a freelancer. As you might imagine, her business model was pretty simple. She would post her offerings on Craigslist and wait for the gentlemen callers to roll in. And they did. I mean, who could resist this sort of marketing: Summer blowjob for 80 roses. The roses were code word for money. I assume that was the collective attempt by Hooker Nation to pull the wool over Johnny Law (no pun intended).
Candy saw anywhere from five to fifteen men a week. Some wanted more than others. There were those that came over for a few minutes, because, well, that’s all it took. There was something honest in the I’m-just-here-for-you-know-what-and-then-I’ll-be-on-my-way sort of guys. Then there were others who took their time, got to know her, shared some things about themselves and got the full girlfriend experience. These were the big spenders. The big spenders always interested me because they paid Candy the greatest sums of money, but they wanted to pretend as if the money didn’t exist, as if she honestly liked them for who they were. In truth, from what she told me, those were the guys that creeped her out the most. They bought her shoes, clothes and jewelry. One guy bought her a new Mercedes. That must be some blowjob.
Eventually Candy up and married some Mexican guy and they had some inexpensive yet elaborate wedding in Mexico with an obscene amount of lace and fireworks. They had the wedding down there because his family was too poor to come to Chicago. The husband also didn’t have much money. That always fascinated me. Here was Candy, a woman who loved money so much that she’d pull the semen out of strange men with her mouth just to get her hands on it, yet she married for love. What does that say about her? Or what does that say about love? Or about money? Probably different things to each of us. But what it says to me is that love and money are mutually exclusive. A whore is a whore. And a spouse is a spouse. You may be one at times and another at other times, but you will never be both at the same time.
That brings me back to my sweaty little flower of the causeway. Just as the light was turning green, I looked at her sign again and knew that we were never meant to be. I would find love elsewhere, and she her money. I still didn’t pity her, and I still didn’t need to wash myself when I got home. We were probably both the better for it.
What is greed? I asked three people that exact question this morning, and each of them included the word money in their response. I used to hear the word greed and immediately think of Gordon Gekko or Leona Helmsley or Scrooge McDuck. We’re trained to call it ambition and perseverance, and under those guises it’s sewn into the fabric of our nation. Some would have us believe that America requires it. We run on it. We wouldn’t exist without it.
By definition, greed is excessive desire, almost in a predatory kind of way. Since we’re capitalists, what we collectively tend to desire most is money. So we’re left with the notion that the only sort of greed is the insatiable appetite for money. But I have found that this isn’t really so. Case in point: what my friend Michelle desires most isn’t money at all. It’s to be loved by any and all men because her father left home when she was four. So she collects men after 3 a.m. like the Arapaho collected scalps at Little Bighorn, which I suppose makes her plight the battle of Little Big Whore. Take Heidi Montag for instance. She was never an ugly girl. But she had enough plastic surgery to open up a god damn spare parts center for IED victims. It’s probably not because she wanted better boobs or thinner eyes. More likely it’s because when she was twelve, some idiot told her she was ugly and she’s spent the rest of her life living like that twelve-year-old girl trying to make other people think she’s pretty. This is what she craves above all else. This is her thing.
Like Michelle and Heidi, we’ve all got our thing that we desire to excess. These things are our greed. For some people, it is multiple things. My friend Rose is a great example. Rose worked at the chop shop with me. She had been there for a year when I arrived, and she was at the top of the heap every month. She made about $35,000 every month. And she was only nineteen years old.
On my first day at the chop shop, a friend who got me the job introduced me to Rose. She was outside the office smoking a cigarette. She looked me up and down. Skinny arms, piercing black eyes, Psychedelic Furs t-shirt, get-the-hell-away-from-me look on her face.
“This business will kill you,” she said. I could tell she dug her tough exterior. She was a young girl in an older man’s business.
“So will that,” I said, pointing to her cigarette.
“This?” she said with a laugh. “This is the last thing that’ll kill me.”
I got to know Rose pretty well over the next eighteen months. We hung out every once in a while on weekends or after work. What I came to learn about her was that she desired everything, though certainly some things more than others. First off, she had a voracious sexual appetite. She slept with at least three guys in our office (not to mention countless others). That accounted for roughly 10% of the staff. She slept with my married office-mate Billy the Vet in her office. It was next to mine, and it went on and on like a high school wrestling match. There were tales of her slut-dom that carried across almost every guy I came to know in the business, ranging from ages eighteen to sixty. She just loved to f-u-c-k. And she’d tell anyone that exact fact.
Rose also loved making money. It was never enough for her. No matter how much she brought in, there was always something she had left on the table, something that drove her into fits for missing this dollar or that. She bought a condo with cash. She drove a brand new BWM 5 series. But it wasn’t about the gadgets and glitter as much as it was about the actual paper money. She bragged about having more than $200,000 in cash stashed away in the condo. It was as if, when growing up with relatively little money, she had seen a movie with a bank robber who threw his plunder into the air and rolled around in a bed of cash, to which she must have screamed out, “That’s it! That’s what I want to be when I grow up!”
And because all good things come in threes (S’mores, BLTs, McDonalds meal deals), she had a third thing: drugs. Getting stoned before work or having a bottle of vodka in her desk or getting hammered at happy hour wasn’t enough for her. She smoked crack. She snorted heroin. She drank GHB. Cocaine was like popping aspirin for her. At any given time, she was on a cocktail of at least two or three drugs. And she’d do anything to stay that way. She ordered her synthetic drugs online. They would come via FedEx to the office. One time, a shipment was delayed by a day. She got a call from security at O’Hare Airport. They were calling as a courtesy. They had her package, they said, and she was welcome to pick it up at any time. She just had to come on down to O’Hare to get it. She was eager to go pick it up. She wanted it, needed it, and nothing was going to get in her way. She reminded me of Veruca Salt from Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory screaming, “I want an Oompa Loompa now!” It took three of us nearly two hours to convince her that it was surely a bust and she shouldn’t go.
After I left the chop shop, I didn’t see or hear from her for a good year or so. She had gone too far over the edge in every regard. I’d heard she found a way to combine the three things she desired most. She slept with people for money and drugs. Once she found a way to get money from that, she stopped working at the chop shop. She went on like this for nearly a year. Then, from what a mutual friend told me, she holed herself up in her condo with a supply of drugs for nearly two months. People would come by and sponge off her, and then one day she stopped letting them in. No one heard from her for nearly a week. Finally, a friend got into her condo and found her dead body in the bathtub, shower still running, plastic curtain collapsed atop her head. She overdosed. She had reportedly spent every dollar she had. And from what my friend said about what the drugs had done to her body, she probably wasn’t having much sex before she went.
This girl could’ve had it all. But when you want something so badly, the it, the thing, becomes the only thing that matters. And instead of you having it, it has you.
I might have mentioned before that there was a short phase of my life when I enjoyed parading around my parents’ house in my sister’s Girl Scout uniform. Or maybe it was the Brownies. I never knew the difference between the two when I was five, and I still don’t know thirty years later. But I do know it happened. And why did it happen? Probably because I was a nervous child without many friends, trying desperately to gain the attention of my older, cooler sister. A mild case of crossing dressing? Sure. Over the top? Probably. But it set a precedent in my life at an early age: when I want something bad enough, anything goes.
Life at the chop shop wasn’t much different. If we wanted something, there was always a way to get it. We just had to give up a piece of ourselves in the process. How much we had to give up depended on two things: (1) the richness of the reward and (2) the amount of shame or pride or whatever it was that a person could withstand losing.
There was Wayne, who we’ve already established was a liar, thief, and class act pervert. He’d convinced fellow church-goers that a percentage of his fees went back to his ministry, which of course was a complete lie. And in that process, there was a singular moment, when he’d urge them to give a little more, that his heart must have felt a twinge. Maybe it was excitement. Hopefully it was shame.
Then there was Bradley. What he wanted most wasn’t money. It was booze. It just so happened that he needed money to do it, so he lied, cheated and stole to get it. He’d drink himself to near death for three weeks, then come back to work and search for a desperate borrower (someone losing their home, almost no credit, sick or elderly) and spend the next month doing anything it took (read: committing fraud) to get the loan closed. He’d charge such tremendous fees on that one single deal that it’d be enough to feed his next multi-week binge. He always reminded me of a piece of advice my mother gave me before I headed off to college. “Binging,” she said, “is for losers. Binging and casino boats. Just avoid them both.”
In all of this mess, there was one truly innocent person at the chop shop. Her name was Melissa. She was twenty years old when she started working with us. It was clear from the start that she wasn’t very smart, but as fortune had it, whatever the gods cheated her in brains, they compensated for tenfold in looks. Tall, blonde, and shaped like Jessica Rabbit, she was beautiful in a you-make-me-feel-like-I’m-fourteen kind of way. It was embarrassing for everyone, including her. Making fifty-year-old men drool is only entertaining for so long. But what endeared her to me was that she didn’t have a presumptuous or egotistical or superior bone in her body, even though most men expect women who look like her to be exactly that way.
As the months went by, she struggled greatly getting business. She complained of late bill payments, being behind in rent and so on. I felt terrible for her. The rest of us were closing anywhere from five to twenty-five deals in a month, and she couldn’t even muster one. This, despite the endless stream of help she received from a long line of my co-workers who lent her a hand hoping and praying that she might return their kindness with any kind of sexual favor. It was a completely unreasonable thing to expect, but when it comes to women like this, men allow themselves to forget reason. The reciprocation, however, never came. And why?
“I’m saving myself,” she told me one day. “I’m a Christian.”
As a Jew, I just assumed people who called themselves Christians were everyone else. But it turns out, as you may know, that this isn’t the case at all. I still don’t really know anything about Christians, other than this: they don’t have premarital sex. Or, from what Britney Spears taught me, they at least pretend that this is the case.
When I asked her why, she said: “I know it sounds stupid, but I was raised by my parents to believe that my virginity was the most precious thing I have. I can’t just give it up for nothing.”
That was good enough for me. I was raised by my parents to believe that the only way to tie my shoelaces was the old two-bunny-ears way and that wiping from front to back was an acceptable way to clean after going to the bathroom. So who was I to judge?
Over the next few months, I truly grew to like this girl. We were office friends. So when I walked by her office one afternoon and saw her crying, I stopped to see what was wrong. It should have been a celebratory day. It was the day she finally closed her first deal. It had taken her six months, and this one wasn’t a big fee, but it was something with which to pay her rent.
“He was going to cancel,” she said.
“But he didn’t,” I said. “So who cares?”
She started crying harder again. It became a bit uncomfortable. I mean, the loyalty of an office friend only goes so far. For me, crying was never part of the deal. And I was newly married, so sexual favors seemed to be inappropriate to wish for. I let her go on for a minute, and then walked up to her and put my hand on her shoulder. She looked up at me with those Bambi eyes and said: “I slept with him.”
The guy was going to cancel the deal, so desperation brought her to his house. She hadn’t planned on doing anything untoward, but the guy—a married man with two teenage daughters—made the first move, and she didn’t stop him. He took her right there on his living room couch in a small town soon to be completely demolished by a growing O’Hare airport.
I didn’t know what to say. So, of course, I said the worst possible thing I could. “Well, it was a good time, right?”
“I barely remember it,” she said. “I just remember crying all the way home.”
“Did he hurt you?”
“No,” she said. “Not at all. It was just that all these years, I stopped myself from having sex with guys that I really cared about. And today I realized that it was a total waste of time. I’m not crying because I feel sad or alone or any of that crap. I’m crying because I feel absolutely nothing.”
Part of me pitied her. But part of me envied her. After all, she found a way to give it up, without actually giving up anything at all.
Every team needs a good leader. Leaders inspire courage and strength and bring out the best in us. Without leaders, where would the rest of us be? The Indian independence movement had Gandhi. Women have Oprah. Stupid people have Sarah Palin. And the chop shop had Glen. Being the circus it was, he was perfect as part-ringleader, part-clown. He was five feet long in both height and circumference. His ears stuck out to the side, and his generous cheeks and many chins framed a smile that, when it came, held the joy of a ten-year-old boy. He looked exactly like Shrek.
Glen ran away from home in Ohio when he was 16. He lived on the streets of Chicago for a few years. When he grew tired of being regularly robbed and beaten up while sleeping, he jumped a boxcar train (yes, like a hobo from the 1940s), and saw America, one mail depot at a time. Eventually he returned to Ohio where for a couple decades he sold anything and everything door-to-door. Bibles, vacuums, knives, windows and siding. At our office, he wore a coat and tie every day, even though both were worn and outdated and stretched beyond reason. But at his core, what guided him in life, were the most holy tenets of door-to-door sales:
1. Everyone is a sucker.
2. The word No is only and always a precursor to the word Yes.
3. What you sell doesn’t matter, but only how you sell it.
4. Make your pitch and shut the hell up. Whoever speaks first loses.
5. Don’t leave anyone’s home without the check.
He used these rules that were made for knife salesmen and applied them to the sales of financial instruments. He was relentless and vicious, but he was mostly ineffective. It’s not that we didn’t sell the hell out of the stuff. We did. But it was the force of the market, the lowering rates and the spiking home prices that drove the business. And the rules of his game were no doubt used by most of the people in the chop shop. But in reality, we succeeded despite him. The reason for his general failure, which he would probably never admit, was that behind his gruff exterior and no-bullshit-rhetoric was a soft and sad and endlessly sweet man who would scold you for not ripping someone off and then cry for doing so once you’ve left the room. Our fearless leader was sensitive, and I loved him for that. It reminded me—after seeing someone give two months’ salary to save $63 on their monthly mortgage payment or after hanging up on someone who wouldn’t stop calling me even though I told them a hundred times that there was no hope and they would be losing their home—that I was human, too.
I’d see him on my way out of the office each night sitting at his desk. Usually I’d keep walking, ready to get out of that disgusting place. But sometimes I’d sit with him, knowing he had nowhere to go or no one to go with. One of those nights, he was sitting at his desk, staring at the computer he barely knew how to use. A bottle of Glenlivet looked on with him from its perch on his lap. He saw me looking at it.
“Tastes like crap,” he said. “But they say it’s the best. I was always a Wild Turkey guy.” He then went on to explain to me why bourbon is a real man’s drink, and scotch is for homosexuals. Pretty ignorant stuff, but vintage Glen.
He seemed down, and I asked him why. He told me about a client he had seen that day. The woman was a seventy-three-year-old widow. She lived on a small pension from a lifetime of loyalty to her city job and a meager social security check. She was behind on her mortgage, and the lender was looking to take her home. She had nowhere to go and no one to help her. And then came Glen to the rescue.
He surmised that the last mortgage broker she had had the bad fortune of running into had put her into a loan that allowed her to make payments that were so low it created a negative equity in her home. She signed the papers, and she should have read them. We’re all responsible for ourselves. But nevertheless, she was now in a bad spot. She owned more than her house was worth. She should have just walked away. It would have been her best move. But Glen was there to sell, and that’s what he did. He found a way to save her house, much to her financial detriment. And a woman in her stage of life had more use for money than she did for a 30-year fixed mortgage that would cost her ten times what she probably paid for the dump 30 years earlier.
Glen laid out her only option, which included a fee slightly more than $10,000—paid for by the new lender who would lock her into a long-term commitment at an above-market rate. He said his peace, and then he just sat there. She looked back and him, probably knowing that the deal sucked. But it was the house her husband had bought for her, the one in which she lost pregnancy after pregnancy, the only one she ever knew. She needed him to stand up and say Don’t do this! or Forget about this place! But he didn’t. It would have broken every rule about sales that he lived by.
After ten long minutes of utter silence, she reached for the pen and signed the paperwork. Glen then left her home, came to the office, and found himself sitting with me, recanting this tale. He knew what I thought. It was the same thing you’re probably thinking. Without saying a word, I stood and started to walk out of the office. Before I reached the door, he said, “I couldn’t not do it.”
“Why not?” I asked.
“Because I ask you guys to do the same thing every day. What kind of leader would I be if I didn’t?”
I’ve received several requests for more information on what happened to Wayne, the evangelizing, mortgage-brokering pornographer. For those who are interested, here is your closure: The “what happened to him,” in some ways, is the best part. Our friendship continued for the year-plus that I worked there. I came to learn that he was a former drug addict. He picked up a nasty heroine habit while incarcerated in a federal prison, the result of a series of assault and battery charges of which he had been convicted in what he liked to refer to as his “dark years.” He also claimed to be a recovered homosexual, which I assume was the impetus for his interest in my acting skills. I’m guessing he picked up that habit in prison as well, but I never thought it polite to ask. A few years after I left that company, he ended up going back to prison (parole violation and additional charges). He was doing some legwork for God, who we’ve already established needed boatloads of money to do his thing. It turned out that Wayne had a hard time differentiating between the charity coffers and his own pocket. Thou shall not steal, Wayne. Duh.