The Employment of Mr Worth
By John Pilling
“Unfortunately Mr Worth, If you don’t take this job opportunity, there is a risk that you may lose some benefits.”
“Well yes I do realise that,” he said hesitantly, “it’s just that I I’ve never tried to sell anything door to door before.”
There was a pause then the Job Centre manager cleared her throat and said briskly,
“Well I’m sure that you will make a success of it, it’s only a matter of confidence, just dive in and have a go.”
That conversation had taken place some two weeks before and Mr Worth was now facing his very first attempt at door-to-door selling. Taking a deep breath he pressed the bell and after a few moments the door opened and a harassed-looking man looked at him enquiringly.
“Can I help you?” he asked.
“Good morning Sir,” said Mr Worth, “I represent the Good Value Kitchenware Agency and I’ve called to ask if you may be interested…”
At this point he was interrupted
“The agency, come in come in.” The man led the way down a long corridor into a kitchen diner at the back of the house. It was a scene of total confusion with the sink stacked full of unwashed dishes, the worktops and table covered with breakfast plates, clothes, papers and shopping bags of food. On the stove a pan of milk was quietly reaching boiling point.
“By the way,” said the man, turning to him, “what’s your name?”
“Tom, Tom Worth.”
“Mine’s Jim. I’d be very glad of a helping hand Tom, my wife is ill in bed after her chemotherapy, I must get back to the shop soon and the children will be home for their lunch in a few minutes. If you could just knock something up for them, the kids like burgers I think, and maybe a sandwich or something for me, can you do that?”
“Well, yes I suppose I could”, said Mr Worth hesitantly, “but about…”
“Thank God for that, right I’ll leave you to it then…I’ll tell Sylvie.” With that he went back up the passage leaving Mr Worth to grab the milk pan off the cooker and stare round at the mess.
For the next half hour or so Tom Worth enjoyed himself more than he had for weeks. Clearing a space on the work top he filled Jim’s lunchbox with beef sandwiches, he made his wife a light salad then he put some burgers and cheese slices under the grill and started to fry some onions. By the time two anxious looking children appeared he had the table cleared and a meal ready. He was chatting to them and stacking the dishwasher when Jim reappeared.
“Good Lord, what a difference,” he said, staring round, “can you spare a minute Tom? Sylvie wants a word.”
Sylvie was on a daybed in the front room. She looked pale and wasted but her face brightened when she saw Mr Worth.
“Come in,” she said, “I just wanted to thank you. Jim says you are doing a great job. Do you think the agency can send you again tomorrow?”
“Well, thank you,” said Mr Worth hesitantly, “but the thing is, I’m not actually from any agency.”
“Hang on,” said Jim, “I’m sure you said the kitchen agency. If you’re not from them why did you call?”
“I’m a salesman from the Good Value kitchen agency. I called to try to sell you kitchen things.”
There was a long pause, and then Sylvie began to laugh.
“Trust you, Jim,” she exclaimed, “you’ve hijacked the poor man..”
“Oh my Lord,” said her husband, “I’m so sorry, I just assumed…”
“Please don’t apologise,” said Mr Worth, “you were actually my first call and I was dreading trying to sell you something, as it is I’m just glad I could help.”
“You’ve certainly done that,” said Jim, “but if you dislike the job so much why do you do it?”
Rather shamefacedly Ted told them of his position with the Jobcentre.
“My father died I was only sixteen,” he explained. “Mum couldn’t cope so I had to look after her. Now she’s gone I really need work, but I don’t have any skills.”
“No skills?” said Sylvie, “with your experience of running a household, cooking meals and looking after an invalid, you’re an absolute Godsend. It’s virtually impossible to get good reliable help nowadays. That’s why we have to pay such exorbitant fees to agencies”.
“That’s right,” said Jim, “if you set up your own agency and charged just below the standard fees, say fifteen pounds an hour, you’d be swamped with work.”
“I can really earn that sort of money” said Mr Worth in amazement, “are you sure?”
“We’ll be very happy to pay you that,” said Sylvie, “in fact we’d like to offer you your first job right now. I’m going to be laid up for months with this illness. If you could come six days a week from say twelve till four when the children get home it would be such a relief.”
“Thank you very much,” said Mr Worth.
Walking slowly to his car after taking the children back to school, Mr Worth suddenly chuckled to himself.
Dive in, eh? Well, he had certainly done that.