Like Telemarketing Backwards: A Porniversary

My first job out of college was as a telemarketer.

I worked for a small tech company, making calls to clients on behalf of the sales team. My job was to plant a seed in the client’s mind that our sales rep was going to call in the near future, so please be aware of the company name and look out for us soon. My co-worker in the next cube eavesdropped on my calls and occasionally popped over the partition to tell me what I could be doing better. The first phone sex line I worked for did this, too.  

My supervisor said I was “good on the phones.” This meant I sounded sweet and uncomplicated. I put strangers at ease quickly. Sometimes I even made them laugh. I got to work on my own writing while navigating company directories. I judged companies by their hold music. It was a dull job, but never a miserable one.

Sitting in my cube on the phones, I was frequently horny. That rarefied early-twenties kind of horny. Some of the clients flirted with me, and I was always happy to add their voices to my erotic Rolodex. (Surprisingly, I've always had a thing for voices.) When one client said he would enjoy getting to know me better, I had enough material to last a week--fuck, I still think about that guy. Then there was the afternoon I got held up at reception because I was mistaken for a mistress (“You were told never to call here again,” the receptionist hissed at me; it was my first time calling the company). 

Many of the men I spoke to seemed to be dealing with their own barely sublimated work-a-day lust. The stuff office audios are made of. Eventually, I thought how much more interesting my job would be if I could actually talk to these guys about sex instead of software sales.

Then I realized there was a job where you could do exactly that. 

Over the next few years, it became a joke I told myself. “Well, if all else fails, I bet I could be a good phone sex operator. I bet, but I can’t actually do that. Could I do that? Why does this suddenly seem more fun and more suited to my interests than any other job I’ve had? Could I actually do it?”

Finally, I went to my local hardware store and bought a landline phone, because most phone sex lines recommended I have one. I had not lived in a home with a landline in almost ten years. As soon as it was installed, I knew I was going to find a way to do it. Just to see if I actually could. And to justify this purchase.

I did not have to audition. The first line I worked required only that I prove I was over eighteen. That’s all. My employment commenced when I was assigned an extension and told to record a greeting. Welcome aboard, good luck, and that’s it. I took a shot of whiskey and waited for the phone to ring.

That first call was terrifying. Probably any call would have been, but looking back on it now, I can’t believe I started with that. The call itself was neither good nor bad, but it was….intense. I had to expand my graphic vocabulary tenfold on the spot. I had to dabble in violence. I’m no stranger to extreme content now, both on the phone and in audios, but that night, I thought dispatch was fucking with me, training me by pushing me in the deep end, first thing. This can’t be a real call, I thought. This is a trial by fire. Of course, it was a real call.

When I hung up, I was flabbergasted that I’d gotten through it without laughing or crying. I was also fucking elated. The job was mine and I could do it.  

That first caller went on to become a regular. Later on, he couldn’t believe it when I told him that was my first call.  

Because I’m good on the phones.  

At some point, during that first week as a PSO, I made a client laugh. He had just asked me the question many clients ask me. Essentially: “what’s a nice girl like you doing in a place like this?” My voice has a “nice girl” quality, especially when I first answer, before the scene begins in earnest. If I’m not careful, I don’t sound like a PSO. I sound like a PSO’s younger sister who answered the phone by accident. Which is what some clients are looking for. Sweet and uncomplicated.

“Nice girl” in this business, as in life, is a relative term.

I told him I’d been a telemarketer, which was good experience because professional phone sex was "like telemarketing backwards.” The sale has already been made; now get ready for the pitch.

The guy found this funny, apparently, so he laughed. A good laugh, too. There was a pause--audible surprise--and then a true, full-bellied guffaw. The laugh of someone who was not expecting to laugh.

It probably happened because I was pleased that even though the “sexy” part of the chat was over, the client still wanted to talk. I felt loose and relaxed, and he seemed truly interested in my life and what had brought me here. Sharing a laugh with a stranger can be a quietly beautiful thing. And sharing a laugh with a stranger at work? On the phone? After one of you has come?

I thought of how an improv teacher of mine had said that the best laugh is the first one you get without trying. How it can stop you on stage, in the middle of your sentence, and all you can do is stare into the dark and blink at the audience.

If I wasn’t already in love with the job, that laugh tipped me over the edge. 

March 12, 2018 marks one year since I started talking dirty professionally. What a year it’s been.