I enlisted for this summerjob on the Algarve as an alternative to joining the Foreign Legion or the civil service in some colonial backwater - the desperado of love, etc. I was sure then I was one of those persons that would never be able to sell anything to anyone, least of all myself to a woman I really wanted.
So I became a 'promotor' on commission for a shark-fishing company. This entailed harassing tourists on the street, to make them buy tickets for an expensive day trip on a yacht. The trick was to have the male victims fancy a heroic, bloody Jaws-experience, while implying to their spouses that they were in for no more than a lazy day of sunbathing on the water.
I learned a lot in those 3.5 months - though hardly a word of Portuguese.
Selling is like seduction, a manic depressive business, and the life lesson I
took away from it is that if you allow yourself to be depressed by a couple of
'no's', you're not gonna sell a damn thing, and I don't mean just fish. Another
lesson for life: if you don't feel in the mood, fake it, and the mood will
become real. It was quite a revelation that I became actually a moderately good
promotor. Even late at night in the disco, you carried your voucher book with
you, so you could always try to score customers if other game was not at
The picture shows one of my fellow promotors, the Dutch owner of the company and a shark. The shark is on the left. The owner, on the right, was the archetypical self made man, dominant, egocentric, shallow, completely self-contained in his one-track money making philosophy. The promotor, Reilly, was a charming relic from the sixties turned alcoholic, who one night drove a company van into a ravine, but escaped with nothing but bruises. He was full of stories about his hippie life in the flower power era, for instance how he used to screw two or three girls a day on a regular basis when he was a water-ski instructor on the Turkish riviera. He was a really nice guy, a bit too nice for this world, which he usually took on with a few drinks in the morning. For some reason, I don't think he had it in him to ever stop drinking like that, so I suppose he's almost or totally wasted by now.
Rarely have I felt more like the perfect mix of Lucky Luke, Tom Waits and Slauerhof as when I roared down the road along the beach on my company moped, warm wind in my hair, smelling the sea, wandering from Albufeira to Portimao to Lagos and back, living on the street, living off the tourists that were not, like me, here to stay till the very end of the season. And how I mourned it, when the Algarve was finally devoid of tourists and there was nothing else to do but go back home....