The seminar was held in a room in the local union hall opposite the college and I was only one of five people to show up. We sat in a horseshoe of foldout tables as we waited around in a room painted a long forgotten yellow until a man walked in wheeling a cart with a television on top of it.
“Welcome!” the man said in a loud, professional, nasally cocksure voice. “My name is Will Warbutton and I own The Magic Writer Pen Company!”
His offhanded confidence added a gawking mystery to the room.
Light brown hair shaped like a Canadian hockey helmet, penetrating eyes the color of green ice, square jaw, snoutish nose, thick, stubby fingers adorned with big, garish rings, stalky build, squat legs he looked worldly, ready for action, and at peace with his decisions.
After asking us our current job situations — three out of five at one fast food joint or another — he scratched his head like an educated gorilla and clapped his hands together.
“Does everyone know what a pen is?” he asked, looking seriously around the room. A couple of us laughed. Will Warbutton smirked as if to say: “You think you know!”
He continued by asking us if we hated door-to-door salesman. None of us said anything.
“Well, what I do, is like the arena rock of door-to-door selling!”
Without further ado, Will put a tape in the VCR and pressed play.
No intro narrative, no build of any kind, just a home recording of Will Warbutton standing on a podium in some Zellers selling his pens! Ruthlessly! Hilariously! Charmingly! Menacingly! Dictatorially! Hellishly! What sort of devil had spawned him?
When the spiel was over, the crowd, because there was a crowd, all had twenty dollar bills raised in the air!
A description of the pen: when flipped upside down The Magic Writer Pen would automatically hide the ink nub, and when flipped back to writing mode it appeared again and the writing could commence without any clicking or turning necessary. Two of these came in a gold-sprayed cardboard box reaching a total of nineteen ninety-five. He said with a twinkle in his eye and slight smirk across his lips that for an extra five cents, he’d throw in a third “dialer” pen to make it a neat twenty. He pitched this last pen like it was a woman’s saving grace:
“Now ladies, when you are out on one of those nights when only you are allowed in for free and the drinks are half price, there sits your husbands at home either climbing the walls or watching the hockey game, or both, wouldn’t it be nice to at least give them a call! Laughter, sighs, hearty chuckling from the men. Will heard it all! It was a two-cent pen with a flat top! I had found an idol!
When Will stopped the tape I rubbed my eyes in disbelief I looked over at the others in the room. Personally I was sold and ready to follow Will to the ends of the earth but as for the others who were squinting and all seemingly dumbfounded I wasn’t sure.
Will proceeded to give an outline of his business. He told us there were twenty-five give-or-take-a-few people in his employ and that most of them were under thirty and if they had been with him more than fours years could quite possibly pack it all in and retire. They travelled the country in his private jet…
“Private jet?!”chortled one of the French fry minions.
Will shot him a look with narrowed eyes and the smirk was back. He pulled out his wallet from the back pocket of his jeans, which looked like he needed pliers to put on. He didn’t dress rich. A plain white t-shirt complete with pocket tucked in. Nothing like questionable fashion sense to pull off the eccentric rich guy look. He removed what seemed like a business card, walked up to the kid who had spoke and careleesly dropped it in front of him. When it got to me I almost choked. There it was. The Magic Writer Pen jet! Magic Writer Pen written in blue right on the side of it.
Seeing that everyone was satisfied and much more attentive, and confused for that matter, Will Warbutton continued to speak:
“Like I was saying, I have a couple dozen employees criss-crossing the country from department store to department store, usually groups of five per town, we stay in all the best hotels, we eat in all the best restaurants and we enjoy life! If anyone is interested and thinks they have what it takes, I’m looking to hire two or three more people. I’m having a meeting with one of my crews right here, same time tomorrow, we will see what you’re made of then. The pay is commission with bonuses. We wear suits to every job. Our objective is to provide the public with a gift idea and to make it fun! There are presentations and then there are performances. When customers are gathered together the salesman really gets to play the actor. As you have seen from the tape. Right? With me you will learn the power of captivation. You must have an inborn love of public speaking. Shrinking violets need not apply! There also needs to be an ambition to create your own style. No two pitches are the same. I’ve been running this business for ten years now and I could retire three times over. Any questions?”
Questions?? I had about a hundred. I looked over at the others: a small herd of deer caught in the headlights. I decided to keep quiet until the meeting was over.
As it happened I met Will Warbutton in the parking lot. I wont relay the conversation verbatim, it included some stumbling enthusiasum that’s for sure, but I will say my first tete-a-tete with the boss man sealed my fate indefinetly. I was honest about my situation. About how I was giving up at school and how it was starting to wear me down. I told him with hurried excitement how he’d made an extraordinary impression on me, that his “performance” was exactly what I was looking for. After a couple anxious and awestruck comments, Will put his hand on my shoulder and said: “We’re gonna take care of you kid, I got a good feeling about you. Let’s get to work!” Just like that! My immediate thought being I obviously couldn’t have been the first one to hear these words but like I said, my fate was sealed. Will Warbutton was taking me under his wing and I had to quit school.
Continued next month in The Sound