The Salesman The Salesman was an older gentleman with a smoker’s cough and a bad gossip-site habit. He read Perez Hilton every day at 4 p.m., for one hour, while cackling and reading tidbits out loud over my cubicle wall. He left the office promptly at five, often with his manager, a brusque but nice woman with a penchant for pantsuits, usually off to a bar around the corner to have a cocktail and dish before getting on the BART and heading back to San Francisco’s East Bay. As bosses go, he was one of the best I’ve had: low maintenance, trusting, out of my hair. His teeth were the worst I’ve seen, jagged and brown, but he had a nice smile, a quick laugh and shared my passion for sotto voce gossip, shared in quick bursts every hour. Usually, our subject was the head of sales, a pompous jackass who spent the entire year I worked there calling me Heather. The Salesman used to joke that he came with the building, and for a while, I believed him.
In many respects, the skills that we learn in school are not very good preparation for work. Success at work often doesn't involve being obedient, following instructions, or even necessarily completing assignments on time (all the abilities that school achievement is built on). There is one way, though, in which being in school and being in the working world are quite similar: having to collaborate and work closely with different, sometimes non-compatible, personalities.