Down the Hall

I’d banged around the southeastern United States for three weeks attending endless collegiate job fairs in search of bright-eyed, entry-level go-getters to feed the corporate maw.

And now, all that stood between me and the deepest recesses of my well-worn La-Z-Boy were 21 freeway exits and a quick detour to the boss’s alma mater where I’d pass out a few brochures, grab a quick lunch and hit the road for home.

I set-up our tabletop display inside the student center, sandwiched between the local marine corps recruiter, a hardcore square jaw by the name of Sgt. Booty, and a dental supplies distributor whose sales rep looked like Jimmy Hoffa.

“You guys are doing a bang-up job,” I said to Sgt. Booty. I didn’t know what to say to Jimmy Hoffa, so I gave him one of our new promotional giveaways, a fluorescent tournament-certified, pro-style yo-yo, The Yo-Yo Show Pro™ from Show Yo®.

Most of the kids passing by seemed more interested in lunch than career planning, which gave Jimmy Hoffa and I time to chat.

“I tell the youngsters there’s money in dental supplies and they say, ‘Not sexy enough.’ Ha!”

“Yeah,” I said, “our line of award winning industrial compressors doesn’t do much for them, either.”

I wandered down the hall to see who else was exhibiting. There was a financial services company, a software developer, a department store– and an outfit that rented cheap furniture to gullible people with bad credit.

And, of course, down at the end of the hall, where all the action was, were the big boys… with their fancy booths, expensive giveaways and attractive benefits packages.

A human resources guy from AT&T was knee-deep in applicants– young, vital people inexplicably eager to work for the phone company. The UPS, Coca-Cola and Home Depot booths were likewise under siege.

I gave the company pitch to the few students who came my way, but the traffic was definitely down the hall. I nibbled a Payday bar, tossed back another Dr. Pepper… and recalled the summer evening years ago when Maggie Muldowney and I went skinny dipping at good old Lake Spivey. She eventually married Artie O’Donahue, the mortician, and every so often I see them driving a van with a bumper sticker that reads: I’d Rather Be Embalming!

“Compressors, huh?” A young fellow in a t-shirt and baggy blue jeans was perusing our product catalog. “Man, look at that rascal!”

“Biggest in its class!” I said proudly. “You know, that particular model–”

“Awesome. Well… bye!”

“Would you like a yo-yo?” Too late– he’d upchucked the plug and disappeared into the lily pads.

That did it. “Well, young sergeant,” I said to Sgt. Booty, “time to pour the coffee on the campfire and call in the dogs. Good luck to you, son.”

As I rolled down I-75 toward Atlanta, I dictated the closing passage of my travelogue into a micro recorder.

“And so it goes… from Beale Street to the Natchez Trace… from the Great Smoky Mountains to the hard-scrabble peaks of Appalachia… from the tidewater plains of the palmetto state to the frenzied spectacle of metro Atlanta… we find students dazzled by the lofty promises of the Fortune 500.

“Yet, smaller companies such as ours offer breadth of experience… greater responsibility earlier in one’s career… visibility… and the feeling of accomplishment known to those who build rather than maintain.

“It is therefore incumbent upon us to enthusiastically tout the advantages which define a career within the smaller business enterprise. Plus, we might want to pop for a decent booth and lose the yo-yo’s.

“And so, as the nurturing springtime sun slips into the bosom of the north Georgia foothills… with heart soaring in anticipation of home and hearth… and collegiate job fair duty purged from this humble man’s to-do list—from somewhere near Chickamauga… I bid you good night… and God-speed!”

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