It’s not as if Neil Schott had done anything outrageously bad to earn the wrath of his boss. There wasn’t a large sum of money missing from the coffers and he hadn’t killed the owner, with a candlestick, in the library. All Neil had done was say, “Okay, I’ll touch base with you again in a few months.” To whom had he uttered those unforgivable words? A long-standing client of the company who had called Neil, his sales representative, to let him know that he was going to take a break for awhile, for budgetary reasons. Neil, the easy-going type, wasn’t about to badger the man. If he said that money was tight, than money was tight; something that was completely understandable in this economy. However, Neil’s boss didn’t take too kindly to how easily Neil had given up and told him as much.
“You don’t just let a client ‘take a break’ from a one hundred thousand dollar a year contract!” Neil’s boss shouted, loud enough for people three offices over to hear. “What kind of sales rep are you? At the very least, you should have talked him in to staying on for fifty thousand dollars worth of services. Jesus, I bet my daughter brings in more money with her lemonade stand! Now grab your coat. I’m going out on your ten o’clock sales call with you.”
Neil did as he was ordered, and together the two of them drove in almost complete silence to his ten o’clock sales appointment. Neil had tried to engage the man in conversation. He reminded his boss that he was going to this client in particular to see about getting him to renew. He contract was worth about ten percent on Neil’s yearly budget, and he felt confident that he could get him to sign back up. His boss didn’t say a thing in return, he just stared ahead with his jaw clenched the whole time.
When Neil and his boss arrived at the client’s place of business, the usual pleasantries were exchanged. Neil introduced his lord and master to the client and the client said nice things about Neil in return to his boss. The words “You be nice to this one. He’s a keeper!” were actually used.
“Oh, I know,” Neil’s boss said with a smile that would rival any toothpaste model’s. “We don’t know what we’d do without him!”
A half an hour later, the papers were signed and Neil’s client had agreed to the same amount as last year. Hands were shaken, hearty slaps were delivered to various shoulders, and Neil’s boss promised to take the client out for a round of golf sometime. Once back in Neil’s car, something else entirely went down.
“You should have talked him in to another ten thousand. Have you no balls at all?” his boss said.
Neil then wondered whether or not he did have any balls at all. Someone with balls would have called their boss out for acting one way with the staff and another way with the clients. But Neil didn’t do that, opting instead to say, “Sorry, sir.” So not only did Neil not possess a pair of balls, he was just as phoney as his boss.
Neil went home that night and thought about all of the other times he had acted like a phoney over the course of his career. How many times had he sucked up to people he couldn’t stand? How many times did he pretend to like someone’s dumb idea only because that person was higher up on the totem pole? How many times had he had to bite his tongue and count to ten so as not to lose it with someone? Enough times to make Neil feel like the most disingenuous person on earth.
“If I’m this much of a phoney, and my boss is this much of a phoney, how many other people are phoney?” he asked himself. “How many more are pretending to like their job or the people around them simply because they need the money? What if money stopped being an issue, and we could get the things we really need in life without bits of papers and coins? You know, like in the old days when people used to trade stuff for stuff?”
It was a crazy idea, but you know what they say: crazy attracts crazy. In no time, Neil had found lots of other like-minded invididuals. People who had reached a point in their lives where they were happy with just the necessities and were over the useless stuff they were working night and day for; like the big screen televisions and the fancy smartphones.
“I’m really good at carpentry,” Neil said to one of his new friend, a roofer. “In fact, I built a lot of the furniture in my house in my spare time. How about I build you that new dining room set you said you needed in exchange for you reshingling my house?”
“It’s a deal,” his roofing buddy said. “I’ll come by Saturday. I’d do it tomorrow but I need to swing by my friend Jim’s place. He runs a hobby farm out in the country. He offered to give me a few bushels of apples and some bags of goat manure if my wife agreed to teach his how to make their own clothes. We’re going to spend the day out there.”
The whole world didn’t suddenly return to the days of bartering, but for those who did, for people like Neil, needing less money for things meant being able to turn his back on his phoney boss and his own phoney ways a whole lot sooner.