I married a man who has the best voice I’ve ever heard. To listen to him gives me great joy. To hear his comforting tone is to nestle immediately into the safest place on earth. To hear him laugh gives me untold pleasure. To hear him whisper sweet nothings? Well! You can only imagine!
In South Africa, I had a very average voice and a very average tone. Just plain b-o-o-o-o-ring if I have to be honest. But my first job should have given me an indication that my voice raised unrealistic expectations.
Two minutes after we’d finished school our parents required us to get a job. There was no free ride where we came from. Not yet old enough to be trusted with a set of car keys, one of our mothers would drive us into the middle of large industrial townships and wait in the car outside grey asbestos buildings as we interviewed with dull personnel managers in grey suits.
“What are you hoping to achieve” they’d ask pompously as we leaned eagerly towards him. We were young, you see, eager and trainable but that was the sum total of our attributes. (Yeah, and maybe we were cute too – it was after all, long, long ago.)
“We want to work in a hotel” we’d say in unison.
They’d look at us strangely and glance around their dull surroundings knowing full well on the other side of their office wall, sweating people pounded out steel tubing or smelted iron.
“Unfortunately, I don’t think we can help you,” they’d say and we’d smile and shake their hands and thank them profusely, then report to our mothers that they had no vacancies.
Well, our elders weren’t stupid it turned out, and we were separated for interviews after a few duds. And so it was that I applied for a Girl Friday position at a small one-man show ceiling company. In my not-so-humble opinion, hardly the glamorous job I deserved.
After my interview, my mother said “Phone him to show you’re interested. That’s how you get a job,” as she thrust into my reluctant hand the communications tool that was a black phone mouth/ear-piece combo. Much to my great surprise, the owner said “Sure. Job’s yours. See you on Monday.” I hated when my mother was right.
As I pushed open that very un-hotel-like-door on Monday morning, my new boss’s mouth dropped open. “Good Grief! What a disappointment!” he fairly shouted, looking me up and down, “I thought you were that cute blonde girl. You sounded like her!”
I couldn’t go home. My mother would kill me. So I sat down at the typewriter and stayed for two years.
That I at least “sounded” like a cute blonde girl was my first clue that I should have gone into business. But I was too pure, too prudish, too stupid.
When I came to America I was beyond delighted my accent was “different”. An 8,000-mile distance had rendered me “interesting”. Me? WOW! This was my second clue.
I started 2 real estate careers in 2 states by cold-calling in the 90’s – all pre-Internet, by the way. Relevant because my voice made me get appointments but not necessarily the listing. OH, NO! Another dose of what you hear is not what you get? I was catching a complex.
The universe was saying “Your voice seems to be worthy - the rest of you? Not so much!” But, in hindsight, it was hitting me over the head with a get-rich-quick scheme, but I refused to listen! You see, the world turned from audio to audio-visual and I missed the boat.
Not just the dingy. The feakin’ Carnival Dream!
I could have been the girl in curlers, painting my nails and drinking creamy hot chocolate as I ooh’d and aah’d to a man on the phone with sufficient enthusiasm as to fool him into believing I was enjoying his odd attention. No fuss. No muss. I could have been proverbially raising - ahem – expectations: “Just call 1-800-CUM&LISTEN! $100 for 1000 Seconds!” What a retirement plan!
Hell! It could have been the family business. My Athol has this rich tone of his like a giant Cadbury’s Milk Chocolate bar laced with honey. One could lustily consume that voice in one sitting. Now he could easily have serviced lonely old ducks with a penchant for his strong foreign timbre - telephonically speaking, of course!
Pre-video we could have been rich. Dammit. We could have been rich.
Now, if I don’t want to live under a bridge or commit a white color crime to ensure adequate accommodations, I have to show houses long after I need a walker - that is - until someone buys my book and makes it into a movie!
P.S. Long after the boat sailed and the cursed invention of cell phone cameras, video/Facetime/etc., I was chatting to someone in a bank queue. The woman in front of me turned and said: “You talk funny.” I smiled, I’d heard that before! But “funny” was a good thing – right? “Ah, it’s my accent,” I said coyly. Her look was disdainful. “Girl!” She exclaimed. “You don’t have an accent. You have a speech impediment!”
So! Maybe my voice wasn’t as fabulous as I thought – accent and all!
P.P.S. AHA! THAT’S what they mean by improving with age! As you get older you think you were cuter/thinner/more alluring/golden-tongued, simply because time has erased the fact that you were just plain unremarkable. How very fortunate!
P.P.P.S. (Sigh) Oh, well. Walkers may just go on sale this November. Roll on Black Friday – if you’ll pardon yet another pun!