I'm currently seeking work, and every day I trawl the internet job sites. Occasionally, an unusual job title catches my eye, and I'm intrigued as to exactly what the job involves. This week, an energy company announced their vacancy for a 'Wind Commercial Manager'.
A commercial manager is, of course, another term for a salesman1. Forget double glazing. Forget vacuum cleaners. We now have a new breed of rep to watch out for...
The scene is a quiet suburban terraced avenue somewhere in Middle England. It's 4:30 p.m. on an autumnal day; the last vestiges of watery sunshine are retreating rapidly as a chilly dusk clocks in for its shift. A couple of children ride their bikes up and down the pavement; others are collecting conkers, or just kicking over piles of swept-up leaves.
A Ford Mondeo estate turns the corner and quietly cruises the street. Finding a convenient parking space outside number 42, it pulls over and ratchets the handbrake. The engine purrs quietly for a moment while the single occupant, a smartly dressed middle-aged man, consults some papers on the passenger seat. He switches off the ignition, picks up a fat briefcase and eases himself out. His polished brogues crunch on the gravel path as he approaches the glazed front door. He notices a few flickering lights in the living room. Good, they're watching TV. He rhythmically raps the door knocker four times, then waits.
A small dog goes ballistic. A glow eventually appears in the hallway, followed by a shapeless shadow, which appears to kick the dog into the under-stairs cupboard, before unchaining, then opening the front door. A brogue wedges itself inside.
"Good afternoon, Mrs Roberts?", announces the salesman, "Wind Commercial Manager. May I come inside?"
"Yes, of course", replies the occupant (a slight lady in her fifties, looking and sounding not unlike Monty Python's Terry Jones) not realising that the salesman has already manoeuvred to the other side of her and is flashing his laminated "EG Utilities" identity card in her face.
Marching confidently into the lounge, the salesman manages to switch off Deal Or No Deal before Mrs Roberts arrives.
"Have you ever considered a world without wind?" he pronounces, gravely, and seeing her temporarily struck speechless, continues. "No rotary dryers... No bamboo wind-chimes... What about stale smells? It's no good opening a window."
"Well, no, now you come to mention it", admits Mrs Roberts, her face contorted as she grapples with the seriousness of the issue. "Is it likely to happen?"
The salesman ignores her question. "Have you seen one of these before", he asks, handing her a photograph.
"Is it an aeroplane? No, I mean it's one of those Dutch oil-rig things."
"It's called a wind turbine," replies the salesman, mercifully. "As we speak, hundreds of these machines are sprouting up like toadstools all over both land and sea. They take the wind and convert it into electricity. Your last night's television was probably powered by a light gust on the Solway Firth. Yet, what do you think will happen when they've built thousands, or even millions of these?"
Mrs Roberts' face grimaces as the penny begins to drop. "You mean... no more..."
"Yes, go on."
"No more wind!" Mrs Roberts suddenly feels breathless with empathy.
"No. More. Wind. You've got it in one." The salesman pauses for effect.
"But what? ... What will we? ... What can we do?"
"Well, all is not lost. You see, it's only natural, wild wind that we're going to lose. My company, EG Utilities, has dedicated itself to preserving our endangered winds. We have developed a way of cultivating wind, using special sites."
"Cultivating? You mean, like a farm, for wind?" Mrs Roberts is now hopelessly hooked.
"Exactly - a wind farm! Like any other farm really, except there are no cows, no sheep, no turnips, only..."
"...only wind!" Mrs Roberts is now euphoric, but her expression gradually settles itself into a thoughtful pose. "So, how do I get it?"
"Well, I'm the man to help you, Mrs Roberts. EG Utilities can provide you, the domestic customer, with the complete range of winds and wind-related products for any occasion. It's all in our brochure – please have this complimentary copy."
Mrs Roberts starts to thumb through the glossy pamphlet. "So, what about my clothes dryer?"
"The Scirocco, naturally." The salesman opens the brochure at page 15. "This wind, gently warmed by the deserts of North Africa, is guaranteed to get even heavy cottons bone dry within 90 minutes. We will even incorporate, for an additional small charge, a Saharan dust filter."
"And those stale smells?"
"Ah, the Mistral – see page 6 – our top-selling product. Cooled by the snow-capped peaks of the French Alps, this cheeky little breeze is guaranteed to leave any room tingling fresh in seconds. Oo la la!" The salesman chuckles, unnecessarily.
"That sounds a bit chilly to me. Do you have anything warmer?"
"Well, some customers prefer a light Italian Bora, or, for those romantic occasions, why not go for a sultry Calima, from the Canary Islands -–see page 30. Some say it reminds them of that special holiday moment." The salesman indulges in an oleaginous smile.
"And when my little nephew comes to stay, and wants to fly his kite?"
"Ah yes, such an absorbing pastime for the young. We at EG Utilities have developed a fine blended constant wind – around 60% Tropical Passat and 40% Gibraltan Vendavel, with all those annoying gusts removed. Perfect for all outdoor sporting activites."
"Well, I'm not sure I could afford all those exotic ones. What's this one here, the Elephanta?"
"Ah, that's very much a specialist product for industry. The Elephanta is an Indian wind which blows away the monsoon rains, but it's considered a little too humid for the domestic market."
"Still, they must all be very expensive."
"Well, these are without doubt, Mrs Roberts, the best winds that money can buy. Normally, a six-month supply of the Scirocco, Bora, Calima and Passat/Vendavel would be the preserve of the rich, but for this week only, we can offer you all four for the unbeatable price of..." The salesman taps random buttons on a switched off pocket calculator, carefully angled away from Mrs Roberts. "... three nine nine plus VAT. We also offer interest free credit. Just add your signature here." He offers a clipboard and pen.
"I may need some time to think about this." Mrs Roberts feels somewhat pressured, yet the situation is broken by the tinkling of the salesman's mobile phone (ringtone: 'The air that I breathe').
"Hello... Oh Mike, hello... What's that? ... Oh, that's marvellous news... Are you sure you've got that right? ... No, that's amazing, thank you. Speak later. Ciao."
"Give me that piece of paper, Mrs Roberts, because I'm going to tear it up. That was my area manager on the phone, and he's agreed to do a one-off special promotion, of any four winds for just £150! Now, I think he's gone raving mad, myself, and I can't see how we can do it without making a huge loss, but there it is. I suggest you order now before he realises what a massive mistake he's made."
It's 6:30 p.m. and lights twinkle in homes throughout the suburbs of Middle England. Night, in its dark security guard's uniform, has relieved dusk of its duty. Playful eddies scatter the contents of leaf piles back whence they came. Buffeted by a moderate north-westerly, chestnut seed cases fall from the trees, then, on hitting the pavement, split to reveal their shiny, semi-precious treasure.
Watching the scene is a man sitting in a parked Ford Mondeo, making a call on his mobile phone.
"Yes, Mike, I said 'Gravity'. I need to know all the varieties."