The Diabetes Hustle

The second most humiliating drinking story of my life starts with me getting my first real job.  The first one can be found here.

My sister Bonnie had been working as an inbound-sales telephone rep at a well-known contact lens replacement company.  Their corporate headquarters were in South Florida at the time, and they had a humongous call center and shipping warehouse attached to the building.

I was 18 years old and, besides cleaning doctors’ offices at night with my friend’s mom when I was 12, I had never held a job before.  My mom had forbidden me from having a job while I was in high school, because she was afraid that if I realized that I could be making money at a job instead of sitting unpaid in school all day, that I would quit high school and run off to a mall job at Sanrio Surprises (who wouldn’t want that sweet employee discount on all things Hello Kitty?).  She was right, too.  I totally would have.  Thanks for the high school diploma, Mom!

Bonnie had landed me a job interview with the manager of the contact lens place, a guy I would find out was, appropriately, named Lucifer.  Okay, it wasn’t Lucifer, but it was something similarly evil.

Bonnie had told Lucifer this was going to be my first job interview ever, so I arrived for it prepared to be handled with semi-kid gloves and wasn’t particularly nervous.

I walked into his office to find that Lucifer looked like every terrifying Eastern European/Eurasian villain from every action movie you’ve ever seen.  He had that sort of jaw that looked like he could crush rocks with his face, his tattooed muscles were nearly bursting from the semi-see-through-ness of his white dress shirt.  He had gel-spiked hair, wild eyes, and framed pictures around his desk of his many kickboxing championship wins.  I wondered how a man who appeared to be a cross between a pterodactyl and Ron Perlman ended up with such a cushy office.  He was firmly Cobra Kai.

Lucifer shook my hand, nearly crushing it, and invited me to sit down across from him.  I didn’t even have a resume’ in my hand, because there would have been nothing on it, and my high school grades were average at best, so I didn’t bring in a curriculum vitae, either.  Besides, come on, this was essentially a telemarketing job.  I figured if I showed up with one functional ear and a speaking voice that didn’t sound like Scooby Doo, I would be a shoo-in.

I sat down and Lucifer swung his chair to the side, leaned back in it, and put his hands together, but just at the fingertips, like he was in deep contemplation.  He stared out his mini-blind shielded window into the corporate office park.  I looked around to try to figure out what he was staring at, thinking maybe there was blood dripping through the ceiling or something, because it totally should have been, given how goddamned frightening this guy was.

He eventually, after approximately an eternity, said, “Tell me about…”

More silence.

I was now openly making a confused face.  Another full ten seconds went by.

“Tell me about…”

(Count it off – 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9, 10)

“…sales.”

This was a baffling request, seeing as this was my first real job, and I had no college degree, nor did I ever purport to have any sales experience.  I told him as much, as politely as possible, and told him I was there to learn how to do sales, seeing as this was my first job and I knew they had a training program.

He pursed his lips together in an exaggerated smirk, rolled his head on the back of headrest to face me and condescendingly said, “What?  You, uh, never sold Girl Scout Cookies or nothing?”

Oh, for fuck’s sake.  Was this guy seriously trying to play hardball with an 18-year old girl applying for a stupid telemarketing job?

I made up some shit on the fly about being persistent to get a sale, and added as many pauses as possible to make it look like I was thinking really hard, since I had no freaking idea what I was talking about.  Lo and behold, he hired me.  I guess he just wanted to establish from the get-go that it was his job to be the scary guy and my job to be the girl who was scared of him.  Mission accomplished, guy.  My training would start the following week.

Bonnie decided to take me out to celebrate with my new coworkers.  She drove me to the nearby bar where everyone hung out after work.  It was your typical working-class watering hole for South Florida, lots of fishing paraphernalia on the walls, friendly people and good prices.  I was so jacked up and nervous after that freakshow of an interview, I hadn’t eaten at all, but Bonnie told me that since it was happy hour, they would have a decent amount of bar snacks out.

Nobody at the bar seemed to notice that I was underage.  I was dressed semi-fancy for a job interview and in the company of a group of regulars, so the door guy didn’t ask me for ID when I entered the bar, and Bonnie and her friends were buying, so no bartenders asked me for ID, either.  I sat down with a group of about ten of my soon-to-be coworkers, and Bonnie brought me a beer.  I snacked on some carrot sticks and pretzels from the happy hour mini-buffet.

Everyone was super friendly to me, and shared funny stories of the kind of customers I would run into on the job, and it sounded legitimately awful.  I was so shy, I knew the last thing I would ever be good at was sales, but I had no work experience and this was the only way for me to get any.  They told stories, I drank.  They told more stories, I drank more.

After about two hours, I had around three and a half beers in me, which for me on a mostly empty stomach was roughly the equivalent of 150,000 beers.  My vision blurred, and I could tell that hurling was imminent.

I didn’t want my new coworkers to see how sloppy drunk I’d gotten on so few beers, so I got up from my bar stool and whispered for Bonnie to point me to the ladies room.  She pointed across the room, and I staggered my way towards the ladies room, trying to keep myself in a straight line as best I could.  I probably looked like that guy in the Jamiroquai video for Virtual Insanity.  I was walking at a full sideways slant.

I was halfway to the ladies room when something whacked me on the back of the head so hard that I thought someone had pulled one of the wooden oars off the wall and attacked me from behind with it.  Everything went completely black.

I opened my eyes and found myself staring at the ceiling.  I hadn’t been hit in the head by an oar wielded by an angry fisherman.  As it turned out, I had passed out drunk while actively walking to the ladies room, and the crack I felt on the back of my head was my skull hitting the wood floor.  Good and hard, too.  I went down in one sharp motion, like someone had pulled a rug out from under me.

Bonnie and my new coworkers (great band name possibility there!) jumped up from the table and ran to my aid.  Bonnie got to me first, thank god, because what happened next was the best hustle I have ever come up with on the fly in my entire life and, thankfully, Bonnie loves a good hustle as much as I do.

Still lying on the floor, I motioned for her to come close to my face.  As she leaned down, I grabbed her by her shirt and whispered desperately, “Tell everyone I’m diabetic!”

Bonnie did as I had begged her to do and yelled, “She’s okay!  She’s just diabetic!”

I figured nobody would make fun of me for being a lightweight teenager who couldn’t hold her liquor if they thought I was having a “legitimate medical problem”.  I was right, too, but had forgotten two crucial problems with this diabetic play.

First, if you’ve ever been around a diabetic who’s suffering from low blood sugar, then you know what’s coming next.  Mia, one of the coworkers, yelled to the bartender, “We need a glass of orange juice here right now!”

Knowing that I had been teetering on the brink of hurling to begin with, I said, “No!  I’m fine!  I just need to get into the ladies room!”

The bartender ran around from behind the bar with a glass of orange juice and gave it to Mia.  She said, “You have to drink this, honey!  You have to drink this NOW!”

She put the glass to my mouth and tipped my head back.  Bless this woman, she thought she was trying to help a poor diabetic girl instead of a drunken teenager who was too afraid to admit she was drunk.

She poured the orange juice into my mouth.  I responded by immediately projectile vomiting.  All over her and my new coworkers.

Bonnie and my new coworkers (band name – seriously!) dragged me out the back door of the bar, where I continued to ralph up orange juice, carrots, and Budweiser in the bushes for the next thirty minutes or so.  When Bonnie decided that my stomach was empty enough that I wasn’t going to throw up in the footwell of her sweet-ass mid-1990s Ford Probe, they loaded me into the front passenger seat and belted me in for her to take me home.

I slur-apologized and went on and on to everyone about how embarrassed I was over the whole incident.  One of my new coworkers, Rachel, knelt down next to the open passenger door and said, “Oh sweetie, you have nothing to be embarrassed about.  It’s not like you’re some kid who got shitfaced.  I mean, you have an actual medical problem.  You’re diabetic!”

Second, I started work with all of these people the following week, which meant that I then had to spend every single day of my employment there pretending I had diabetes.

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