For a couple of years my job was really pleasant, with very little hard selling. I was able to finish most days in time to watch the children’s sports, do the orthodontist appointments and bake for ‘cake and candy’.
But nothing lasts for ever, and the business was struggling. They decided to drop the retail range and concentrate on commercial and industrial, so after an intensive crash-course from the director, I was re-directed into the heating and air-conditioning department. At first it was a challenge, but as time wore on and business became more and more competitive, I dreaded getting up in the morning. I avoided difficult calls and visited the customers that had time for a coffee and a chat. Then I felt guilty because I wasn’t bringing enough new business into the company.
Guilt, I believe, is a girl-burden. Like a shadow, it is always with us. I felt constantly guilty that I had taken the children so far away from their grandparents. When I was working, I felt guilty that I wasn’t at home checking the homework and monitoring afternoon TV. When I wasn’t working, I felt guilty that I couldn’t contribute to the family budget. I felt guilty when I bought myself a new outfit, and ended up buying more for the children so they wouldn’t feel left out. Then I felt guilty because I had spent so much money. I felt guilty when I drank too much, guilty when I ate that extra slice of chocolate cake, guilty when I was too tired or lazy to write to my parents, and guilty when I didn’t go to gym.
So I didn’t need work guilt and it was with great relief that I was able to accept a job offer with one of our air-conditioning suppliers. For the first week I did nothing except sit in the office and read chiller manuals. I was no engineer, and the information was so far over my head, I was bored to tears, and thought I had made a terrible mistake. But eventually they allowed me out on the road to meet the customers, and life wasn’t so bad.
I was organised, methodical and persistent, and soon got results. Our sales were improving, and I was earning a good salary. But once again, business didn’t stand still. The company was bought out and we were sold like slaves to the Americans. Our new general manager would glide through the offices like a shark navigating the depths, looking for prey.
It was good to be out of the office because when I was there I got The Look, which said ‘You should be out on the road selling our product’. However, when I was out on the road, there was always the feeling of suspicion that I was wasting time, meeting friends for coffee. In the days before mobile phones there had to be a lot more trust. And we like sheep, all wanted a cell phone when they became available, but all it did was to increase stress levels. The first questions from the office were always ‘Where are you? What are you doing?’