My First Job


She pushed back her rolling chair and glided toward the whiteboard. She uncapped a dry-erase marker and drew another check mark next to her name. Like this: BRIANNA ✓✓✓. My knuckles went white as I grabbed the phone receiver and made yet another unsuccessful call. At 16, my best friend and I got our first jobs as telemarketers for Statefarm Insurance and, boy, was she great at it. She earned checkmarks the way I got freckles. Effortlessly.

Our boss, Mr. DiCarlo, kept us hidden in a back room with illuminated with what I remember to be a single candle. Sure, it might have been more, but I was tempted to ask for my phone numbers to be printed in braille because of how dark it was. We were paid minimum wage, but every checkmark (a cold call that resulted in an insurance meeting with Mr. DiCarlo) meant a bonus in our paycheck. Weeks of cold calling and I didn’t have a single bonus.

Jasmine: Good evening, Mr./Ms. ________, my records show your car insurance is about to expire and I’d be more than happy to set you up with your local and trustworthy Statefarm insurance agent, Mr. DiCarlo, to take care of all your needs. May I ask when you’re available?
Mr. #1: Hey, kid, you just ruined my dinner!
Mr. #2: Take me off your list!
Ms. #3: Shouldn’t you be out playing or something, sweetie?
Mr. #4: Shut THE HELL UP!
Ms. #5: …click…

Years later and Brianna is still getting checkmarks…on the track. She’s one of the nation’s top long-jumpers and traveling the world competing. And, well, I’m happy to say I’m now getting checkmarks of my own. Sure, I give them to myself, but every time I make it happen, I think back to Mr. DiCarlo and pat myself on the back for being terrible at telemarketing. Had I been great, I wouldn’t have become a photographer. Duh.