April 21, 2005

travelling salesman journal

This has since been superceded by some bad news back home which I'll write about later. Looks like I should head back to Melbourne today. In the meantime I finally got that bit of metal out of my disc drive - here's the last week or so's worth of postings.

14 April 2005

I enjoyed my Ďweekendí (Sunday). Had Ďone of those daysí on Wednesday though Ė the job just felt like an uphill battle.

I spent Sunday wandering around Brunswick in search of a shop that would sell me a small-size carton of milk Ė my flatmateís fridge is full of milk that the dates say expired a month or two ago, so I wanted some fresh stuff. I eventually found some at the Mediterranean food warehouse. Brunswickís a good food neighbourhood, though Iím disappointed that none of the fruit & vege shops seem to have feijoas. Then I went to look in the musical instrument shops Ė which were closed on Sundays. Iíve been looking at banjos through the window with my nose up against the glass. Melbourne looked autumnal Ė a sudden shower, and dead leaves blowing around the streets.

After that I went up to Thornbury and met an expat NZer Elise Bishop, whoís from Palmerston North originally and plays some kind of noise/rock stuff. Her name had been given to me as a contact to look up. So we had a very satisfying jam, with bass guitar, theremin and a drumkit minus sticks and cymbals. Slightly unconventional lineup Ė Iíd never played theremin before, had great fun, itís actually very expressive Ė but sounded good, and was especially good to break the musical drought. Since then Iíve been playing with Fruity Loops in headphones on my laptop and making up techno backing tracks for myself.

Hopefully putting on a gig around late May or early June should be feasible Ė but as for work, it takes up so much time thereís not much left for anything else. Weíre out to make sales in Sale (3hrs Southeast of Melbourne) and staying in a motel. Yesterday was a bit unpleasant Ė slightly too hot, unresponsive customers, wearing my only Origin t-shirt for the third day in a row and feeling seedy (itís in the wash now), delays with the phone verification system, had to wait a long time to get picked up at the end so didnít get back to the motel til after 9pm, whereupon we all got called into Leighís room at 9.50pm for a Ďteam meetingí. Leighís the team manager of this group, a 22 year-old Aussie guy making $3000+ a week Ė good at his job but on a completely different planet from me. At one point he asked where I grew up, I told him New Plymouth, he said heíd been there, I asked if he was visiting friends, he said no he was buying houses. Nothing personal against him, but to me thatís foreign investment Ė driving prices up so NZers canít afford to own our own country. The one thing for sure is that heís not doing it for the sake of doing us a favour.

As for the mega sums of money I was (OK OK) lured into the job by the promise of, they havenít materialised. Iím not completely useless at it, but not spectacular either. I can make a sale an hour if I stay focussed, so Iím probably earning $500-$600 a week. If I could make that on a wage in a job that would give me a proper weekend then Iíd be happy enough. I am actually quite interested in money at this point Ė I want (was going to say need but thatís a bit pretentious) $2000 to make a CD and get the record label up & running, and $4000 so I can get to the northern hemisphere next year. In theory a month or two more on this job and Iíd have it Ė if I make huge sales. As for getting a fast car, an iPod, some flash clothes and a few investment properties Ė theyíre not exactly top of my list.

I have been fairly productive with my spare time at the motel (while still finding time for beer & cards with the Oirish boys the other night Ė I acquitted myself competently at Last Card). Last week I did some editing work on my history of The Space Ė supposedly getting published this year, more than a year after I first wrote it. Iím also designing the layout for the Ďbest ofí compilation artwork Ė itís turning into an eight-page colour foldout thing, plus a black & white lyrics & credits booklet. Itíll be a deluxe package Ė if I can ever afford to get it made. And then I will have just made a lot of work for myself! How the hell am I going to sell 500 copies of a CD? Thatíll be a challenge to last me the next couple of years.

Iím also planning to upgrade my website, get my own domain name etc. Some of you might have noticed that http://fiffdimension.tripod.com hasnít been updated since December Ė it developed some kind of bug which prevents me from publishing new material to it. So maybe I should just start over again with a fresh site. Since I no longer consider myself to be based in New Zealand, and hope to visit several countries (India and Spain are high on the list) over the next five or so years, having an internet presence is probably the way to go. And if it takes me a few years of travelling around the world to offload my CDs, then so much the better.

In the meantime itís Thursday, time to go to work. Thereís a new challenge to come to terms with today Ė working in the rainÖ


Well I didnít get that wet, mainly because I spent the first hour or two over at the internet cafť sending off CVs to recruitment agencies. At about quarter to four there was a text message from Leigh saying that if it was still raining at 5pm he would pick everyone up and we could go ten-pin bowling. Then an hour later was another message saying that since the rain had stopped we would have to keep going. Leigh was in Maffra, 15km away Ė in Sale it was pissing down. I texted him this information, but it didnít help. I got three sales after that though, so from one angle itís just as well I had to stay. The mind-games are a drag though.


We finished in Sale and moved over to another motel in Morwell, where a couple of the other sales teams are staying. There are a few NZers here. We went out for some drinks & dancing with some of the Oirish lads. I ended up dancing with a potted plastic tree, and also did what I could remember of the New Plymouth Boysí High School haka in response to some Oirish faux-Riverdance moves. Not a bad night.

Today I was feeling quite positive about the job and looking forward to getting out there Ė but in the end I made a mediocre four sales. Looks like Iím not on target for 31 sales this week (though a strong comeback on Saturday could still save the day), so Iím looking at $400-$500 pay Ė which I still have to pay tax out of. Not great for a 60+hr week. If Iím going to be earning that kind of money Iíd be better off getting it on a wage from a 40hr week that would let me keep a life on the side. Ideally I should get a job that Iíd actually be good at.

Iíve got further than a lot of people and avoided quitting in the first couple of days. It is a high-turnover occupation Ė probably owing in part to their dodgy recruitment practices. On the other hand they are offering an equal opportunity to all comers, which some people thrive on. It is a bit frustrating seeing 18-19 olds with no qualifications raking in more money than Iíve ever made though. At this point Iím thinking Iíll give it one more week, just to prove to myself and everyone that Iíve given it an honest effort, and if the numbers donít improve then call it a day. One big problem is that Iíve watched how Leigh deals with customers, and itís not that I couldnít do it the way he does Ė itís that I donít want to. Iím happy to spend a bit of time chatting with people who take the offer rather than rushing on to the next sale always, and I donít like ordering people around. Iím still asking people whether theyíre interested, rather than taking it for granted Ė thatís holding me back.

Morwell is near a couple of big coal power stations Ė huge smokestacks occupying the horizon. And people complain that wind farms are ugly? I donít get it.

Tuesday, 19 April 2005

New town today Ė wasnít even sure of the name. Trafalgar maybe? Like being on tour. What if the singer shouts GOOD EVENING (INSERT NAME OF THE WRONG TOWN HERE) and the crowd start bottling him?

This time I took it upon myself to explore a patch of Australian bush on the hillside above the town. I met a landowner & got his permission, had a friendly dog tag along for a bit. Looked at trees, ants and birds. Two and a half hours after being dropped off I started work. Got a sale within ten minutes, on the second door, and then after that only a wasteland of AGL contracts (Originís kryptonite weakness) and people who just didnít give a shit. Even when I explained & they understood that theyíd be better off with the (modestly not bad) power deal. Iím not closing apparently.

Also met a Vietnam War vet yesterday and stayed a while talking to him, even went back round with a beer later on and he let me use his internet. He said heís on holiday 365 days a year, with an extra day off every four years. Potentially not a bad lifestyle Ė the flipside is the serious (debilitating and maybe life-threatening) lung and skin problems that come from Agent Orange exposure.

Iíve been having an interesting time, and so needless to say my numbers are slipping Ė far from the carrot they dangle of a grand to a grand & a half a week, today I worked five hours, not counting travel time, and earned twenty bucks. Nevermind, today felt like half a holiday, or maybe just claiming a bit of tino rangatiratanga over my weekend. Who knows if I should come back to this job next Tuesday? Power games always going on. Iím happy enough to be the black sheep of the team, just like Iím the most downwardly mobile member of my family. Just getting into my stride these days. I snubbed the bosses a little at the award ceremony by being away in an internet cafť as the awards were read out. I got one for Ďscoring a rootí at the nightclub aka the tree story which is even now taking on the shadowy beginnings of myth. Living in heroic daze. I turned up just as they were finishing, went up to the balcony to get the certificate and gave a wave.

As for Saturday night from thereon, there was Kylie who works selling newspaper subscriptions. She flirted with me for a while and then later seemed confused as to whether she should be joining Cynthia & I for a threesome. I got separated from the others and was left with Kylie as she went to get a taxi. The trams had finished and so I needed a place to stay and asked her if she had a couch I could sleep on Ė no, itís her motherís place. Psychoanalyse as you will. We got to two St Kilda nightclubs which were nothing special, downright lame in fact, and closed fairly early.

I ended up sleeping on the floor of Dariaís apartment Ė Daria being a 21 year old NZer for whom the jobís working really well, with insane amounts of money coming in. On waking up in the morning I found an acoustic guitar there and played a bit on the balcony. Someone yelled ďyouíre terribleĒ and then another woman came out and asked me to stop so I did. I thought Iíd sounded alright, a bit rusty but trying out some valid ideas.

After that I got the tram back to Brunswick with Cynthia. We got boarded by the ticket inspectors Ė nothing like the friendly old guys on the Wairarapa train. These were solidly-built no-bullshit types, like mob enforcers. The chances of getting caught without a ticket are slim so you can usually get away with it, but if they do catch you thereís a serious fine. We would have got busted Ė but the ticket validation system wasnít working so they had to leave. Close call.

Once again, I suspect the jobís falling apart because Iím working on an album. Iíve been spending my evenings working on the track-listing and the art layout for the compilation CD. Itís coming together well, I just have a couple of tracks yet to record to go on the end. And then of course thereís the scraping money together to make the CD. I should get the music mastered and make 500 copies of this one, colour packaging, lyrics booklet Ė the works. Itís a familiar feeling though, working on an album and the rest of my life getting fucked up by it. I am pleased to say the last album, Swansong (for the Huia) had no such consequences. Like its predecessor Parataxes, it was a collaborative effort that came together with remarkable ease. Those two seem to be exceptions to an otherwise general rule Ė I lost a girlfriend to Mantis Shaped and Worrying, my integrity to Loose Autumn Moans and my journalism diploma to Live 2004. Is Gleeful Unknown: Compilation 1997-2005 going to cost me a potentially good job? At least by this point the planning of the album is mostly done Ė next comes organisational work, making music contacts (Iíll need dozens more), getting back into playing, and of course scraping the money together. So by working on a job I am working on the album Ė try and think of it that wayÖ

Meanwhile, one of the 18 year-old sales prodigies I talked to in the evening had had a great day Ė sales in the high teens somewhere. He said he felt pretty good about his hairstyle that day. It was eerie how he had the same voice and mannerisms as Leigh.

Wednesday, 20 April 2005

On target for $200-$300 pay this week Ė ie less than my living expenses, and also less than what Iíd be earning as a dishwasher, labourer etc. The shower was cold this morning. Iím just hanging out for the long weekend Ė obviously the tension Iím carrying around reveals itself in my body language and speech, and the customers pick up on it. Three sales today was two better than yesterday though. Selling is one of those things like writing, seduction and athletics Ė easy to do well, and doing badly takes huge effort. If I can relax a bit Iíll be alright.

Next week is acquisition Ė cold calling doors in Melbourne. I will give it a go, purely because there the main selling point is the green electricity. I might just be able to pull that off if itís something I believe in. Out here the main selling point is getting people to stick with an Australian company Ė which is pretty much a crock of shit since Origin is 40% owned offshore anyway. Iím not going to lie to customers and tell them itís all Australian-owned, so that narrows down an option. And as for the best power prices Ė Power Direct beat us hands down as they keep costs low by not spending on advertising. Another problem out here is that a lot of people work for the coal power stations so theyíre not remotely interested in green power. Some get almost angry about the whole concept. Although I did get one guy who said no but pointed out that solar panels for individual homes were the way to go Ė bypass the electricity retailers (middle-men parasites) entirely. Big initial outlay, but pays for itself within a decade and then the home is self-sufficient.

Another thought about the job that stops me from throwing in the towel just yet Ė if I do 500 copies of a CD, my biggest task is not making the product but selling it. Iíve got to somehow make people want it. It is good music, Iím confident enough about that, but how to get it across? There are skills I need to learn, for my own lifeís purposes as well as purely for survival in a foreign country Ė if I run out of money then I have to go home early. My Australian bank account got set up finally and I have enough funds to last three or four weeks, so Iím through the immediate danger. Tomorrow I will have been on this side of the Tasman a month. Iím having a shitty week so far with work, but itís only a temporary blip on my life. Canít be any worse than shorthand classes, which I have to look forward to again in August.

As for the others, everyone else had a good day today (Scott made zero sales but that was because he basically took the day off). So I canít blame the territory. I asked one girl (her second day today, eleven sales) what she was going to do with all the money Ė turns out itís going into paying off debt. Actually, come to think of it, Iíve got a student loan to pay off tooÖ


Posted by fiffdimension at April 21, 2005 12:07 PM | TrackBack
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