Book: A Life in the Day of a Lady Salesman by Diana Amann Cruzecategories: Book, Appalachia, Appalachian Mountains, Sales, Cold Calls, Humor, Self-Reliance, 1970s, 1980s, 1990s, Adventure, Sexism, Appalachian Language, Restrooms, Chemical Sales, Sales Women
Diana Amann Cruzeabout this book: The title of my book, A Life in the Day of a Lady Salesman, can be attributed to my many diverse customers:
I slipped through the back door of the school kitchen. Two cooks yelled, "Gladys, the lady salesman is here!" I heard that call often during years of selling to school lunchrooms and other accounts.
As one of the only traveling saleswomen in the Appalachian Mountains, my adventures afforded me with material for A Life in the Day of a Lady Salesman. As I traveled alone across treacherous, yet glorious mountains of Tennessee, North Carolina, Virginia, West Virginia, and Kentucky, thoughts of writing a book rode along with me.
Actually, thinking became my only past-time during many of my trips. Some of the vehicles I drove were without radios or tape players. When I did finally purchase a car with a radio, stations would be difficult to find in remote areas. Boredom induces sleepiness, so with nothing to do, aside from driving off a cliff, I day dreamed about writing a book.
I was certain that a national cookie company that hired me for my first sales position would provide a company car:
"Your company doesn't provide a vehicle for temporary employees?" I asked timidly.
"I'm sorry, you must use your own car," explained the interviewer apologetically.
"I'll be driving my own car, you say?"
My own car. My own car with no air conditioning. And it was summer. My own straight-shift car that would not go into reverse? My demon car without a radio or tape player? Well . . . yes.
A later job with a merchandising employer provided me with a cargo van with no radio:
After a week of training in Virginia, the company sent me home with a company car.
Well, not exactly a company car, but an elongated cargo van, loaded (by me) with cases of batteries, light bulbs, toys, and the always popular Goody Hair Care products.
Writing of A Life in the Day of a Lady Salesman took over two years, including editing and formatting, using notes I wrote when a certain sales call or a particular customer seemed unique or difficult. Sometimes a terrifying drive over a hazardous West Virginia resulted in a paragraph later to be written. My first experience with a CB Radio led to a humorous exchange:
I had acquired acrophobia since my tree climbing days, and driving the Appalachian Mountains terrified me. In order to have some company on these trips, I invested in a Citizens Band radio. A CB would also keep my mind off the dizzying summits of Virginia and West Virginia mountains.
CB radios were not my field of expertise, so I hesitated before using one. I usually just listened, thinking that if van trouble arose, this CB would provide a way to get help. After a few trips over mountains to Williamson, I gathered my nerve and held the CB microphone, daring to talk to truckers whizzing by.
"Does anyone have the time?" I asked timidly.
In a couple of minutes, a gruff male voice answered, "Time for what, Darlin'?"
Over and out.
If you enjoy humor, you will laugh. Want to know how to find a clean restroom on the road? Read Chapter 13, I Know Every Restroom in Every Town. Maybe you want to learn more about my battle with chlorine bleach, then read Chapter 12, "Rub-A-Dub-Dub, Suds and Bleach in the Tub".
"You don't bleach your underwear? Goodness me, I'd be afraid to wear underpants that ain't been bleached!" Other employees concurred.
"Them germs you pick up from toilet seats!"
Need sales tips? Cold calling tips? Read Chapter 4, "Selling Chemicals: Cold-Calls, Bold Calls, Old Calls".
Take a ride with me through the Appalachian Mountains and read about the beauty and wilderness in this area. Discover some oddities in Appalachian speech. The following is from Chapter 10, "Learning, Loving, Laughing—Appalachian Language".
My pastime during thirty-five years in outside sales was collecting pronunciations and idioms from customers and inhabitants in East Tennessee, Kentucky, Virginia, and West Virginia. I may have visited a company CEO in Knoxville, a school superintendent in Newport, a custodian in Pennington Gap, Virginia, or a police chief in Harlan, Kentucky. Wherever in Appalachia my customer lived, the dialect intrigued me.
Humor came from customers' curious words, which I jotted in a confidential notebook during the years of meeting and greeting the folks in my territory.
When my career in chemical sales was in its infancy, I called on a county highway department, determined to make a sale. I showed every product I could think of before noticing tar on all of the vehicles. "We have an excellent tar remover," I began.
Henry, an ancient, tobacco-spitting mechanic, told me in his deep Tennessee drawl, "Honey, we have a man with a machine removes them tars." Tires.
Are you looking for a place to eat while on your road trip? I'll tell you about my restaurant experiences in these chapters:
"Cuisine in the Country"
Iced tea, our "Chablis of the South," was drunk heartily with each country meal.
Get the inside scoop on public school lunchrooms:
I know how school lunchrooms function. The unsung heroes with burns on their hands and arms, sweating in kitchens without air conditioning, have gained my respect.
Alice, a seventy-year-old cook, whispered, "They's a jar of home brew hid back of them metal shelves. It's mine, so please don't go tellin' the manager." I kept her secret.
Experience life on the road in the '70s, '80s, and '90s:
Overnight stays again found me in Appalachian towns with few motels or eateries. Many people may not remember those days before cell phones, faxes, phone cards, or e-mails, but these were those days. Pay phones? Tricky to find one that worked. ATMs? Not yet in these areas. Charge cards for gas? Nope, never had one. Eating alone at night in a restaurant? I must be looking for a man.
Have you ever dreamed of working for yourself or perhaps you already do. Learn the hazards and rewards of small business ownership in Chapter 8, "I Was Once Owned By a Small Business".
By the late '90s, computers began to appear on my customer's desks. When the company I worked for closed, rather than work for another sales manager (Chapter 6, "Sales Manglers (Managers) and How They Mangle Their Sales Teams"), I bravely or naively opened my own small business.
Master Card, Visa, and I were ready to begin, though I was not prepared for countless expenses: office furniture and supplies, county and state licenses, company pamphlets, and a second telephone line dedicated to the business. I purchased batches of promotional items displaying our company logo.
I finished my book while still working; therefore two years of working and writing gave me the chance to add photos of a few customers. Sales trips to Brushy Mountain prison contributed to a "Deliverance" story. The book is filled with photos of Appalachian scenery, restroom oddities, customers, and dotted maps chronicling cities and counties where I worked.
My editor declared A Life in the Day of a Lady Salesman ready for publication. The book demanded a cover, but what? During my small business ownership, I delivered the majority of products to customers. Pushing a hand truck, along with a case of grease, citrus degreaser, and boxes that we then labeled cookies and batteries, my daughter-in-law photo'd me pushing the cart and products. I sent the photo to a graphic artist, asked her to draw mountains in the background and nice clothes on me. A book cover was born!
The last step involved rechecking my research. Had I checked and rechecked my facts on chlorine and other chemicals? Did I properly attribute epigraphs to the speaker or author?
In Chapter 15, "Retrograde Retirement", I quoted lyrics from a Grateful Dead song.
So many roads, so many roads
So many roads I know
All I want is one to take me home
—Robert Hunter, Grateful Dead
My editor rightly insisted that I obtain permission to use these lyrics. After a few weeks of searching, I found Ice Nine Publishing Company who graciously granted permission.
(Grateful Dead lyrics copyright Ice Nine Publishing Company. Used with permission)
So then, why did I want to push aside barriers, determined to find a sales position? My childhood adventures in the Great Smoky Mountains National Park, my tree climbing days with an older brother, fishing, arrowhead hunting, as well as parents, who never said, "Girls can't", molded my independent character. Childhood freedoms and a taste of office life that meant punching a time clock, I knew a career on the open road was the best choice for me.
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