Celtic Illumination, part 271, Et tu, Brute?
One new trick I had learned while operating as a publishing executive was to always have a small dictaphone, or tape recorder, with you. From the very second that you entered an area, where you would be working, you had your eyes open. If you saw a van, or truck, with someone’s details emblazoned on the side, you would not just record the name, telephone number and trade of the person, or company, but the colour and make of the van. Later when you telephoned them, you would explain that you saw one of their vehicles that morning and it made the call seem more personal rather than you picking a random telephone number from a page. So it was that I returned on the Monday to Birmingham, for my final week of training as an audiologist in my little executive run around, with my tape recorder.
I had no specific use in mind for the tape recorder, but just brought it along. We knew that at the end of the week we would have both practical and written exams. I knew that I was doing very well on the course, not only could I read and write but, I could count to ten without using my fingers. I’m not saying anything detrimental about the other three students on the course but they were the type of fellows who really do need to be warned not to iron a shirt while wearing it. Had I kept my wits about me I might have started to connect the niggling little gremlins I was encountering along the way, such as the not so executive company car, the not so competitive salary, even the hotel we were staying at was breaking the trade description act by calling itself a hotel.
As expected, well; at least as far as I had expected, I was top of the class in all of the exams. We were all called in. individually, to be debriefed by someone who was head of some department or other. I know I often make jokes about how clever I am or how jaw-droppingly gorgeous I used to be, but it is quite a burden to have to carry. Rather than return home and once again tell Irene that I was top of the class, which is to be expected from one of the cleverest fellows in the universe, I decided that the fellow debriefing me, the head of some department, could tell her himself. So I put my tape recorder in the inside breast pocket of my jacket, switched on to record of course, and went in for my interview.
It was nice to return home and when asked how I got on, to pull out the tape recorder and press play. For the nit pickers among you no, there was no need to rewind it as I had already done that. Many times in fact, as I listened to the tape a couple of times, in the executive company car, on the way home. It’s nice hearing people tell you how good they think you are. Not only did this fellow say how good he thought I was and how they had expected me to ace all their exams, but he added that If I performed, as they hoped I would, out in the field, that after twelve months experience in the field that they were willing to offer me, there and then, the position of training manager for the whole company. I didn’t really want to go home and say all that to Irene, as my present position didn’t really indicate any level of success at all, so it was nice to have this fellow say it all for me.
What was even nicer was the fact that the tape recorder, which I had placed in my left, jacket, breast, pocket, was next to my heart and in the background you could hear my heartbeat. To be sitting in a formal interview taping the person that was debriefing you was quite a stimulating experience, but to listen to the steady controlled beat of my heart, indicating that I was relaxed, told me that I was indeed one cold calculating mother fecker. Tony, down in Ipswich, was pleased to hear about my success and told me that there was decent money to be made in hearing aids, seems that hearing aids and spectacles worked quite well together, and you can take that whatever way you want, but if you look about, you will see that most opticians offer the services of an audiologist and if you Google ‘Scrivens’ you will see that they have moved their focus away from hearing aids and are now concentrating on optics but still offering audiology.
I was to begin my first week of training in the field with a fellow who was operating in Wigan. This was a senior audiologist who had been brought in to the area to specifically train me. Rather than meet fresh, first thing on the Monday morning, he suggested that I come over to the small hotel he was staying in and we could meet and have a beer. I don’t think I have ever been known to turn down the offer of beer so Irene and I drove over to Wigan on the Sunday evening and had a few drinks with him. He seemed to think that he was a very important fellow and rather than meet, chat and begin to establish a friendship, this chap seemed to want to show me that our relationship was teacher and trainee.
Luckily for me I was well used to idiots who suffered from Napoleonic complex, from my time in the air force, and of course with me now being a highly qualified medial man, after my intensive two week training course, I could identify such complex psychological phenomenon at a range of up to thirty paces. What I wasn’t so competent at was realising just how dangerous these idiots could be, for first thing Monday morning I was contacted by head office in Birmingham who were concerned that I was quite possibly driving a company vehicle the previously evening and could have been over the drink driving limit. I’m sure the fellow, the senior audiologist, who had reported me, and who I was to spend the whole following working week with, had given his actions some serious thought.
He would have been proving his loyalty to the company and his seniority to me, he was a senior man, he knew his stuff. What he didn’t know was that I was a great believer in the old adage about what goes around comes around, so that in twelve months’ time, when I became training manager, his employment status might come under discussion. But I ask you, what sort of an idiot would do such a thing, well done Ken Clare, I can hear you shouting out Joe, look at me I can march, Pearson and yes you are correct. You probably think that I was beginning to believe that Civvie Street was full of back stabbing underachieving idiots, but I’m not that stupid. I know that when you believe that you find you are surrounded with idiots there’s a good chance that there is only one idiot there and that idiot is yourself. So now I began to wonder if everyone else was right and in fact it was me that was wrong. It’s not an idea that I dismissed out of hand and it did cause me some concern.
It was an interesting week but you can be sure that I let the fellow know exactly what I thought of him. Initially I watched from a close distance but as the week passed by I began to do more of the work so that at the end of the week I was completing the whole process from the testing to the fitting. The money was very good indeed and you really did control your earnings, the sixty pounds per week competitive salary suddenly became pocket money. Every Monday morning you would be given twelve clients for the week. Your job was to book an appointment with each of the twelve and then go test their hearing, take a mould of their inner ear and have an appropriate hearing aid made for them. There was a range of hearing aids you could offer them from the very basic lump of plastic that sat over the ear, although appearing cumbersome it was light years ahead of the old hearing aids that used to be clipped to the front of the persons clothing with a wire connected to a mini speaker that was jammed in the ear.
The top of the range devices were the ‘hidden’ or ‘invisible’ hearing aids that fitted right inside the ear, the very top of the range device was gold plated and of course earned the best commission. So depending on what you sold the client determined how much you earned. I suppose the minimum commission was about one hundred and fifty pounds for one hearing aid while the gold plated inner ear jobs could net you three hundred and fifty pounds commission. And don’t forget, most people have two ears. I was glad that the first week of on the job training was over, it was a bit of a disappointment having done most of the work l that I would still only be given sixty pounds for the weeks work, but from the glass being half empty or full perspective I only had one more week to go and that was with a fellow in Liverpool. I mean what could possibly go wrong?