He was huge. His vast, expansive girth somehow managed to exceed his tremendous height, peeping down at us, as he was, from behind his glazy spectacles with a head that tapered to a point like a cartoon bird. Sliding a layer of sweat from his brow with a clumsy backhand he entrusted the nearest bench with his arse, landing with much huffing and puffing.
This is how I met Daniel, and the rest of the motley Charity fundraising team, as he broke the comfortable ice we’d let crystallise in the waiting room before our induction day officially began. Located in an old factory building in hip, trendy Dalston, there were admittedly many stairs but also, it seemed, a collection of contrived “characters” who’d turned up for training. This job attracts and rewards the confident and the eccentric. More’s the pity as it wasn’t long before Daniel was telling us yet another “funny” anecdote in his nasal Essex drawl, replete with Sylvester the Cat Thpeech impediment.
“That’ths juth’t hith way, moi mayte, like’th to have a laugh, ooh e’s a funny one. Thith one time…”
He was a writer, by trade. And by trade I mean unemployed. It was actually sublime, really, to start one’s day at 9:30 in a renovated factory, having an enormous, verbally unstoppable man-child regale an awkward gathering of inductees with his own terrible poetry. My own Vogon.
During the training another character managed to stand out, by the name of Z. Z was 27 and an Indian salesman through and through and I had taken note of him earlier due to his snappy dress sense, waist-coat and gold watch. He had been let go from a sales company that’d just gone bust and was just using this job to float. Despite his formidable resume, he stood out as man-child #2, constantly whining about undertaking simple tasks, refusing to listen and asking the question “When we are[sic] getting our break?” every ten minutes in the patois of a six year old boy who’s had a very long day.
With every new person who came to give us a new skills workshop or pitch training I delighted in seeing the moment they twigged something just wasn’t quite right about these two and having to resort to tactics of control I’d not seen since primary school.
There’s no such thing as stupid answers, just stupid people.
I was the odd one out in the room as being the only male not married or engaged. Andre, a delightfully sane Canuck had just married a girl he’s known for about a year, Z’s set to move to Poland to be with his pregnant, 19-year-old Bride to be (which has never stopped him from gathering as many girls’ phone numbers on the street as he can) and Daniel, well Daniel met his fiancé online, possibly in his Star Trek role-playing group. That man gives a bad name to Star Trek role-playing groups.
The funny thing is, despite their glaring inadequacies as normal, rational human beings and their inability to hold a conversation with someone without wearing the other party’s patience thinner than Bible paper they still manage to get leads out on the street. Z does especially well with his wheeler-dealer, sleazy salesmanship raking in the sign-ups with aplomb. And I still manage to flounder somehow.
Perhaps I’m just not heeding the advice of my Team Leader, who’s name I shan’t disclose- suffice it to say he’s named himself after a geological formation. Imagine, if you will, Simon Pegg’s character from that episode of Black Books; “Yeah, hey, guys just want you to have a good time out there, bounce around, talk to people in the sun,enjoy yourself but you really need to get thirty-five sign-ups today to make up for yesterday’s performance.” He consistently manages to raise you up for a fall in a one-step-forward two-steps-back management style so that your self-esteem flatlines by the end of the day. And he even sounds eerily like Simon Pegg.
“Imagine that in one hand you have the sign ups that you’re collecting and in the other you have all of the charity’s money, and it’s blowing away in the wind. You need to get as many as you can to make up for the blown away money.”