You know the one. The job you got when your education was finished.
And you thought, silently, well maybe this is what I will do with my
life. For many of us, it was just a starting point of course. But starting points
are intended to lead somewhere. For me, my first real job changed my entire life.
In 1974 I was spit out by the University of Georgia and presumed myself to be a business man. I even had a piece of paper that proclaimed me ready.
How I got my first real job is a story on its own, today we’re talking of the job itself. I was hired as Eastern Regional Advertising Director for Courselector
Magazine headquartered in Boston, MA. Really. By title alone I was at
the head of my peer group. I was also employee number five. Courselector was a magazine aimed at providing guidance to undergrads helping them choose specific classes on specific college campuses around the country. My job was to spend two weeks at mostly large campuses selling local ads to the bookstore and the pizza joint and maybe ROTC. My training consisted of a day in Boston and a week in Phoenix with the Western Regional Advertising Director. He had been hired two weeks earlier. His name was Matt and was a surfer dude just out of UCLA more intent on gettin’ high than sellin’ ads. We got along fine, but I spent the evenings without him.
So here was my very straightforward pay scale: $5000 per year salary sent via direct deposit to my bank account in Boston. $20 per day to eat and sleep while on the road. I was always on the road. $50 per month additional because I was using my own car (1974 sky blue VW Beetle) and 10% commission for everything I sold. I never felt so rich.
I’d pull into a college town and head right for the sleazy side of the village. Motels that advertised $9 per night were negotiated down to $7 ‘cause I was good for two weeks and we could skip the maid service. Some rooms cost an extra $.50 per night for the key to the fuzzy black and white TV. This luxury I could afford. So this left me $13 per day to eat and drink. Not a problem for a
twenty-two year old in 1974 when Big Macs were $.69 and draft beer four-bits. I bought one of those plug-in coils to heat a cup of instant coffee. Wonder if they have those in prison. Importantly, I was the same age as the kids in the bars and had cash in my jeans. Suddenly Count Raoul was the big spender.
No home, no bills , no cubical, not a single luxury…. A nomad’s life with a steady, if modest, cash flow. Almost forty years later and I remember my tour. After Arizona State I flew back to Atlanta and headed to Florida State. Two weeks in Tallahassee then two weeks at UGA (my idea) then two weeks at Penn State then the University of Maryland then Ohio University and Indiana University. Austin, Baton Rouge and Denton, TX. Then the University of Illinois and Michigan State and on and on. Boring? Very much so. But I made myself get up and make the sales calls and actually got a bit better as I moved along.
Every dime of commission and salary was going to the bank and I was
living the life of a jeans and T-shirt maharaja on my $20 per diem. After eight month on the road I was more comfortable in a Motel 6 than my parent’s home.
And when you’re drunk in Bloomington, IN and know the last name of absolutely no human in town, it’s amazing the stories you make up and how involved you become in adventures you will never (ever!) forget.
Maybe I should have mentioned earlier that the magazine itself was a stupid idea. But it wasn’t my stupid idea. Most editions never got published. The Boston parent company had to give much the ad sales money back but I fought for and won the commissions I had fairly earned. Ole Matt on the other
coast had been trading full page ads for cameras and kayaks. They never found him. The magazine closed the week of my brother’s wedding back in Athens, GA and that was good timing. But the apron strings had been forever snipped. Athens, my home town, was in my rearview mirror professionally.
Maybe I had done a good job or maybe I was seen as a cheap hire, but the parent company called a month later and brought me to Boston where another real job awaited. This was an office job opportunity that required a real apartment and the real rent and real utility bills soon ate up all my previous savings. But the summers were glorious and a good southern accent opened a lot of doors. Two years later a headhunter recruited me to a New York City job and life where I would meet the woman I call my wife and……….. No reason to tell you more. That would be my second job.