My optimism errs on the edge of stupidity. It is not a gallant, shiny and bright optimism that makes people want to slap me, oh no, Polly Anna I am not. No, my optimism is like that gothic cab driver who makes snide remarks at stoplights. My optimism takes no prisoners and makes me feel like an asshole for believing the hype anyway.
One summer I found an ad wanting a person “self-motivated with good people skills”. I called the number at the bottom of the advertisement. A man named Jerry answered the phone and hired me in the same breath. I arrive to work the next day, where I am issued a red “Brinks Home Security” system salesperson shirt. I am to go get a khaki skirt or pants to wear with the red standard issue IZOD-esque top. I go to K-Mart and purchase a khaki pair of pants and a khaki skirt.
I train for a few days in which I watch videos on home security and sales. I learn the difference between an up-graded system and a premium system, and that I always want the customer to purchase the premium install. Like a soldier, I assimilate information. I can quote up to the minute crime statistics. I am so paranoid by the time Jerry drops me off in a neighborhood development that I am conniving to have a premium installation in my house with my first commission check. Oh, I forgot to mention that I don’t get paid for training, walking around subdivisions or for the customer calls. No, I will not make a cent until the first installation that takes place because of my salesmanship.
I am not a good salesman. In spite of this, I go door to door. I have my little red collar popped and my khaki skirt pressed. I have an official clipboard on which I have clipped many order forms so that I don’t run out after I make all those sales.
Day one of walking through neighborhoods with my red “Brinks Home Security” uniform shirt and clipboard I do not make any sales. The second day does not yield hope of making a sale, either. The following week, Jerry takes me with him to an appointment to sell a family on a home security system. He gives me the commission, I think just because I tried so damn hard.
I do not stay in home security sales.
I try my hand at real estate. Never mind I have no talent or finesse when it comes to sales. Property sells itself, right? I go through the torturous real estate agent weekend school (but that’s Real-TOR to you buddy) and then I sign up to take my state licensing exam, which I fail. I proceed to fail the thing 5 times.
That’s right. Five. Times.
I go in there five times and I walk out of the facility without having a license FIVE times. Years later when I trade in my Kia, there is still makeup pressed into the center of my steering wheel from where I cried pathetically in the parking lot after the fifth fail. I pass the sixth time (the administrator said he would pray for me), but my morale is so low it takes me another three weeks to actually go register as a Realtor. Apparently, it’s not enough to just have the license, I have to go get a trademarked title along with my state licensure.
Several hundred dollars later (for becoming a bonafide Real-TOR one must pay!) I am ready to put my license with a broker. I borrow my mother’s car to go on listing appointments, because my new broker tells me my car isn’t pretentious enough to show clients. Ah, now what’s wrong with a Kia?
The housing market is in turmoil because of hurricane Ivan. I am nonplussed. My broker assigns me an open house. I wear a tea length skirt with a soft blue blouse (the first blouse I have worn since I left parochial school) and a strand of pearls. No, I am not kidding. When I get to the open house, I turn the air conditioner down and I turn the oven on. I bake dozens of chocolate chip cookies because the smell is supposed to be inviting, which will make people want the house I am showing. I greet would-be buyers like Donna Reed, yet no one makes an offer. I do not understand!
The people who stop at my open house are neighbors and they are just being nosy. No one is really interested in the house I am showing. During my “career” as a Realtor, I gross seventy-five dollars, which is the commission on a rental I lease one Saturday when I am the only person in the office.
There has been a time in my life I have been so broke that I used my last dollar to buy a scratch off. I know this makes no sense. I have one hundred cents to my name and I use them all to purchase a little piece of cardboard that may or may not represent a winner. At the time of this post, I have yet to win money on a scratch off. Please refrain from leaving comments reading, “I won one hundred million dollars on a twenty cent scratch off. If I can do it anyone can.” I try not to threaten readers, but I would be hard pressed not to lash out at such a comment.
I have had plenty of money, and when I have extra money I sink it into sending short stories out to literary magazines that are not going to publish anything the likes of which I write. Once, I sent a short story to Francis Ford-Coppola’s literary magazine Zoetrope, I thought I might have a chance there. Glimmer Train was a bust, as was Tin House and Black Clock. Do not despair for me, as I did not give up on the second or even third try. Oh, no, I have paid these publications repeatedly for opportunities to reject my work.
The coolest representation of my abject optimism is One Story. This cool publication sends out one short story every three weeks. They don’t have some big literary magazine they send out quarterly, oh no. Subscribers get a fresh taste of new talent once a month. I submitted a short story to them the first week of January. I logged into my account every few days, as there is an update module that tells me my work is in process. My short story went from received to in process to rejected in less than two weeks. Wow.
But I’m the kind of woman who puts on a khaki skirt and a red shirt and loiters around developing neighborhoods with the sole purpose of scarring the crap out of residents by relating up to the minute crime statistics. I am the kind of woman who fails a real estate licensing exam five times only to go back and take it and pass, all for the opportunity to pay more money to the Realtor association for the honor of being among the ranks of opportunistic elitist assholes. For this, I get to serve homemade cookies to nosy neighbors. I am the kind of woman who will spend her last dollar on a scratch off because this might be the one!
I believe in that one second that changes everything for the better. I believe there is that one story someone will like. There is that one agent who will listen to my pitch. There is that one moment in which everything makes sense. And until then, there is my audacious and spiteful optimism that will continue icing cakes and backhanding naysayers.
I am the kind of woman who sent a new story to One Story six months after the first rejection because not all tastes are the same, and I have a cache of material someone is going to like. My short story was received on May 29th and has been in process ever since. Hey! This is good news. More than two weeks, at least, which means perhaps they are considering my work.
While I let that story simmer at One Story, I have been editing a short story collection to send to Milkweed Literary Magazine. My collection is titled The Nature of Confession; it captures and displays moments in the human condition. Like those sometimes-inelegant glimpses we wish no one else saw that someone usually sees. Some of the stories are telling, touching, some are dark, I hope all of them entertain. Having my story in process with One Story for so long has given me some real confidence with this new collection.
And then I did what I wish I hadn’t done. I went back to One Story. No, my work is still in process. And I will tell you why. From June 1 through August, no one is in the office. I just barely made it in under the wire before they cut off their submission manager. My work is not still in process because they are so ardently mulling over which issue should debut my work.
No one is there to read it.
But when they get back into the office at One Story, I am hoping mine will be on the top of the pile. And everyone will be so refreshed from their summer vacation that they will be feeling particularly magnanimous, seeing fit to take a chance on an as yet un-published unknown like me. Because such is the nature of even my brand of bastardized hopefulness.