I worked in that most noble of professions of telemarketing . At the time San Diego seemed to be the telemarketing capital of the world . The first company that I worked for had me selling personalised stationary to small businesses throughout the states . The opening line of our cold calls had us telling absolute strangers that we had a six foot Margareta waiting for them on the beach . Whilst this sounded slightly ridiculous in a southern Californian accent , it just did not work at all with my strong Tipperary accent . As it was commission based and I had zero sales for the first week I knew that it was time to cut my losses and look elsewhere .
So , next stop was a company out in La Mesa . Here it was basic plus commission although there were targets to be met . Now I was selling domestic appliance insurance , i.e. twenty dollars a year to cover your toaster even though new ones were only fifteen dollars across the road in Target or Wal-Mart . I actually did O.K. here although I was called aside one day by my supervisor Mary-lee . Now, all confirmations had to be recorded and double checked by her and mine were taking ten to fifteen times longer than everybody Else’s . The reason being that whilst reading through the set script with the customer I was regularly informed that ‘ my great,great,great grandaddy came from couney cooork ‘ and if I knew any of the O Donahews . Rather than be rude I would spend a few minutes chatting with them trying to let them down gently in their impression that Ireland was a small village where everybody knew everybody else . These little chats had to be listened to by Mary-lee and were adding about thirty minutes to her workday so I had to shorten my little chats and everyone was happy .
Telemarketing wasn’t in my long term career plan but when the choice was this or sleeping on a bench in The gas-lamp district it didn’t seem so bad .
I was staying in an apartment between University Avenue and Balboa park when one day I was passing by the Salvation Army shop around the corner and spotted a blue twenty five inch 10 speed racer . It wasn’t quiet up to the standards of my dura ace equipped Razeza back home but at least it was a bike and there were lots of really nice bike rides around the city and along the coast . I bought it for fifty dollars and spent every Saturday and Sunday doing about fifty or sixty miles exploring everywhere from Tijuana up to La Jolla and all points in between .
I had been racing at a decent level the previous year back home and wasn’t long getting back into shape . Then one day as I was riding down towards Mission Beach a group of cyclists passed me off . They were all on Litespeed this and Merlin that with Campag , or campy , as they call it , everywhere . I was on my blue no-name ten speed with a sun-tour rear mech and flip-flops but decided to hop on the back of the group anyway . I thought that it would be nice to have a chat with a group of cyclists and see what the scene was like over there . I was chatting to a few of the lads , going up the line when one guy spotted me and told me to get out of there . All of the others were nice and friendly but this guy was an arrogant asshole .
I went back to the back and chatted away to a nice guy who had raced a little as a third cat . He told me that I was fine but that , just like the Ballymac spin here , they would be having a bit of a race towards the end and that he would say his goodbyes now and that it was nice to meet me .
Just about then one guy put in a bit of an attack , it was fairly harmless but the others all seemed to get excited and began shouting and sprinting after him . This was it, their version of a race . I was still in a 52 x 17 when I noticed my arrogant buddy from earlier letting the wheel go . When the gap opened to about twenty metres I rode up along in my flip-flops and as I was passing , told him to hop on and that I would bring him back up to the group . I dropped it into the twelve and towed him and two others back up , although they were gone again as soon as we got onto the back of the group . I was really suffering in my flip-flops but was trying really hard not to show it . I held on until the sprint and then sat up , glad of the excuse to take a break .
Now they were all a lot more friendly , asking me where I was from etc. They invited me to join them for lunch at my arrogant buddies Deli and I said ‘ sure I might as well ‘. When I said that I was from Ireland one of them asked me if i had ever seen Sean Kelly . I told them that during the winter Kelly would be out every weekend with the local training group so we would see him most weekends . They were amazed at this and said that even though some of the top American pro’s would come to San Diego for training camps during the winter , they would never train with anyone other than pro’s.
We had a good chat and they all turned out to be really nice guys . As I was leaving I went up to pay for my lunch . But , the owner , my buddy from earlier said ‘anybody who trains with Sean Kelly doesn’t have to pay for lunch in my Deli ‘.
So if you are ever in The Mission Bay area of San Diego and are feeling hungry , you know what to say !