Metro-East News

Summer job was a life lesson about being told ‘no’

I have been reading about how the Islamic State is recruiting young people through videos and social media. It is scary.

This kind of recruiting has been around a long time, but ISIS has stepped things up a bit. It might seem amazing that they can attract recruits, but I know I once signed up for something for which I totally was not suited. But at least my brainwashing experience was not life-threatening.

Back in my freshman year of college I was thinking about a summer job.

Actually I wasn’t thinking. I knew I needed one but I was procrastinating. Then one of the guys in the room across from mine in the dormitory at Mizzou told me about what he had done the year before. He had sold Bible reference books in Pennsylvania.

I was skeptical, but he was a nice guy so I went along with him to some meetings. The meetings were fun with interesting people and a guy who was in charge of all the salesmen. I say salesmen because there weren’t any women at that time. I don’t know about now, or how the book company is doing in the Internet age; I don’t even remember the name of the company.

The pressure at the meetings was subtle. The emphasis was on how much money you could make. You got a commission on sales and the only limit was how long you had to sell before you had to go back to college in the fall.

At one of the meetings, in a motel room, I was sitting in a comfortable chair, pondering doing this. The recruiter, a man named Sam, I think, said to me, “Last year (so-and-so) sat right there and decided to go and he made $3,000.”

Back in the early 1970s that was a lot of money. It would more than pay for a year of college. That settled it for me. If he could do, so could I. Never mind that I had never enjoying selling anything in my life.

I signed up, and after finals went to sales training in Nashville, Tenn. We stayed in a cheap motel, surrounded by shops selling pornographic material. It was an odd juxtaposition for a group of guys selling books about the Bible. I was assigned to a territory around Chillicothe, Ohio, with a couple of other guys where the biggest industry was an awful-smelling pulp mill.

I was miserable. I hated being told no. Despite what I had learned, I was unable to get beyond all the no’s to a potential yes.

I should have known myself better. Throughout my younger years, anytime I had to sell something, like magazines to fund my senior trip, I did poorly.

But I let myself get swept up in the camaraderie and enthusiasm of the group. I think it was not unlike getting swept up in the glory of the revolution that these terrorists are pushing. Their stakes are quite a bit higher than mine, however.

I was lucky. I could go home and get a job in my brother-in-law’s garage and gas station. I was a lousy mechanic, and it was a dirty job, but at least I didn’t have to sell anything.

And nobody told me no.