Looking around me I had to admit, that this was a meeting with a difference! I was in a large convention centre in Canberra, organised by a national floor covering organisation and all the different flooring companies, all competitors in their daily lives, had been invited.
The atmosphere was one of boisterous bonhomie as we all gathered in the refreshment room. The lecture we had just attended had been long-winded for many, I however, had found it quite interesting, with the topic being Time Management, a problem we all face.
In going about my work, I had always concentrated on organising my workload in such a way that the best results were being achieved. I viewed things as if I were my own boss and had to supervise somebody else and I always felt great satisfaction in knowing that I had extracted the best results out of my day.
Others had a different view on this subject. A competitor explained to me on our way out of the lecture room: ‘What do they want from me? I do my seven to eight calls per day…..’ He did not finish his sentence as other people shoved themselves between us.
Hostesses were ploughing through the crowd, with trays of food and beer jugs, to raise the rapidly sinking beer levels in the glasses.
There were a variety of types of salespeople, all very successful in their ways of achieving results. People have tried to define the essence of a good salesperson and have failed, except to state that they are people who make products change hands!
There were a few lady representatives there too all standing in a circle in a corner, quietly eating from their cold platter.
But most of the men had one thing in common – they were all extroverts and gregarious to varied degrees.
Standing there, taking it all in and having just received a platter of delicious food and a soft drink, I hoped that this gathering would not deteriorate into a common booze-up. Mainly, because I had work to do in my little room upstairs, preparing myself for another interstate trip. This would be the last of my travels before the end of the year and I wanted to maximise my success through careful preparation.
A fellow rep, I had never seen before, must have been in a discussion with his colleagues about something because he turned around and selected me as his witness:
‘Isn’t it so, mate,’ he said as a beery breath hit me, ‘it’s the commission that keeps us going, that’s what makes us work harder!’ And his pupils dilated at the thought of mammon. With my mouth full, I could only nod politely, even if this statement didn’t apply to myself.
Another man, carrying a glass of beer in each hand, bumped into me when trying to make it back to his mates. ‘Hey, how much do you make a year?’ This was shouted into my face with the confidence of somebody who was working for a company with a generous bonus scheme. But before I could answer, he realised that he was talking to the wrong person and was gone!
‘How yah doin’ Pete?’ Now, this voice was familiar! I found my colleague Ken Butterworth standing beside me, looking happy and with a red face like a stop sign.
‘I am very well, Ken, and how are you?’
‘Bloody bonza, mate!’ He raised his beer to his lips as if in salute.
‘Pete,’ Ken slurred on ‘Do you see that waitress over there, yes, the, er, dark one! She reminds me of my ex-fiancé back in New Guinea.’
‘What? You’ve been in New Guinea?’
‘Yeah, I was stationed there….(slurp)… wanted to take her home and introduce her to my parents….(slurp)…but no shoes would fit her, with her bloody big feet!’
I was taken aback. What sort of a conversation was that, I thought, but then I realised that I was the only one near and far with a soft drink.
‘A taxi driver, a fuzzy-wuzzy, and I became good mates and he asked me: ‘ You like pom pom? My wife very good pom pom!’
I was desperately looking around for a diversion when another person, whom I hade never seen before, joined us by simply laying a hand on Ken’s shoulder and bawling in his face: ‘If I now had an affair, could my wife find out about it?’
Ken was unperturbed: ‘Yeah, mate, she would!’ He said this with the firmness of a busy consultant.
‘But how would she now?’
‘She does mate! They have ways of finding out’
To my shock, this man now turned his worried face to me:
‘What do you think?’
‘Oh, they find out for sure! They always do!’ Whilst I had no idea what I was talking about, I did not wish to be encouraging adultery!
But that was not the answer this man wanted to hear so he addressed a passer-by with his concern and followed him through the crowd across to the other side of the convention hall. There was a kind of urgency in his pleadings for an explanation.
Ken suddenly had two more sales people to converse with, from a Queensland competitor, and they got on so well that I did not have to contribute a word and could concentrate on eating from my plate.
Suddenly, all three started to giggle and one chubby and balding man pointed over the crowd, saying: ‘She loves me!’ And laughing loudly.
When the hilarity had subsided, he pointed to another female colleague who had just obtained a drink from the bar and was pushing through the mass of people to re-join the other female reps unaware of anything:
‘And she loves me too!’ He laughed again, happily and exhaustingly.
A waitress came past, with food and drinks on platters and, yes again, he could be heard: ‘And she’s in love with me too! In fact, everybody loves me!’
A sense of unreality came over me, the world around me was warping and a kind of headache set in from trying to make sense of it all.
Suddenly, a sales manager from a company in Western Australia joined me and talked to me as if he’d known me all his life. I vaguely knew him by the name Harvey and that he lived with his family in Perth, near the beach.
There was no need for me to say anything as he was doing all the talking. He had a new girlfriend, he bragged, younger than his daughter, and to my disgust, he began to relay to me all the sexual details of his affair with her, and all in the most vulgar words. And whilst I desperately glanced around for a reason to disappear, he droned on and on with his filthy drivel, believing he had an empathetic listener.
Suddenly, I could not stand it any longer: ‘You better take good care of your daughter!’
He looked startled. ‘W...why do you say that?’
‘Well, somebody else may do to your daughter what you’re doing to somebody else’s daughter!’
That hit home and stopped him in his tracks. His mind started to try to absorb my advice, but his alcohol soaked brain would not let him.
I had had enough of this and sneaked out of the hall and went up to my room. After all, nobody would know whether I was in that beer-drenched hall or not. Besides, these people were neither customers nor clients and there was nothing to be gained by enduring the spray of their, rather liquid, pronunciations.
Making myself a strong cup of coffee from the mini bar, I started to work on my imminent country trip.