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It took a great man to fill the best job on earth-but even the greatest can get too much of a good thing.

"Satisfaction, Inc."

by William Garvin


Modern Man

Vol. 8, No. 10-94,  April 1959

HELP WANTED-healthy, personable male, 21-35, for exciting, well-paid work. Applicants should have no physical or psychic disabilities and must have recently returned to civilization after long absence in remote areas overseas. Apply Satisfaction, Inc., 350 5th Ave.
      “Venezuela?” the interviewer asked. “The oil business?”
     With a clipped motion, the interviewer made a neat check mark on his note pad. “Where did you spend most of your time there, Mr. Hestin?”
     “North of Maracaibo, usually.”
     “Out in the country, away from the cities?” “That's right.” Hestin said.
     “But you did go into the cities on occasion?”
     “Not too often. My father had a half-interest in some fields there, and we lived just a few miles away.”
      Again the interviewer's stylus dipped and made a check mark. “Why did you leave?”
     “Well. Dad had a 25-year extraction lease. It ran out last month. So…”
     “When did you get back?”
     “A week ago,” Hestin said. “Dad went to Milwaukee, but I decided to stay here in New York and try to get a job.” He smiled with noticeable embarrassment. “I've never worked for anyone but my father.”
     “How old are you?” 
     The stylus moved. Check.
     “How long were you in Venezuela altogether, Mr. Hestin?” 
     “Almost 26 years.”
     “Did you ever come back here for visits'?” “Only once. About 18 years ago. We used to go down to Rio or B.A. for our vacations.” 
     “So you actually haven't been here since you were eleven?”
     “That's right.” 
     Check. Check.

      The interviewer swiveled in his chair and jabbed a red button on the videophone affixed to the wall beside him. In a moment the screen activated: amid a haze of flickering light-distortions a girl's face appeared dimly. “Damn it!” the interviewer muttered. “Vera, tell Service my vid's on the blink again. Rut first look up Venezuela, will you?” 
      The girl's image disappeared for a half minute, then returned to the screen in an electronic snowstorm. “Venezuela,” she said, “Forty percent of adult males still unaffected.” She hesitated. “Do we have an applicant from there. Mr. Ott?” 
     “None of your business, Vera.” 
     “Is he nice'?”
     The interviewer frowned. “Vera, I've told you a hundred times--if you want clientele information about our applicants or representatives pay the fee like anyone else,” he pushed a black button and the screen went blank. “Well, that just about wraps it up,” he said to Hestin, “I think you'll do, young man.”
     “You mean I'll get the job?”
     “Go down to Dr. Lowland's office at the end of the hall and take a physical. If you pass it, you're hired.” He gave Hestin a thoughtful look. “By the way, are you a virgin?” 
      Astonished, Hestin stared at the man. Was this how people were interviewed for jobs in the States? During the past week he had seen and heard many startling things, but somehow he had expected a business office to be different, to be normal. 
      Hestin colored slightly. “I'm not a virgin.”
     “All right.” the interviewer said, his expression neutral. “Go take your physical.” 
     Hestin stood up; wrinkling lines of confusion and concern made his forehead a corrugated pink. “Forgive me, Mr. Ott, but--I mean, could you tell me what the job is?” 
     “You'll like it,” The interviewer added curtly. “Go get that physical.” 
     In the ninth floor shower room of the 38th Street YMCA, steam swirled against the green tiled walls like morning mist in a jungle. Soap in hand, Hestin stepped inside and turned the faucet to warm.
     “Hey there. Hest!” Dominic Pezzuti, a young man who had the room next, to Hestin's smiled at him from ten feet away. Next to Dominic a redheaded boy was dancing, teeth chattering, beneath a needle spray. 
     “Good morning,” said Hestin.
     “Mitting guch Hest?” Dominic asked. 
     Dominic and the redhead grinned. “Ol' Hest just got hack from Ven-zoo-ayla,” Dominic explained. To Hestin he said: “How yon getting along?”
     “Well, I got a job.”
     “Who with?”
     “A company called Satisfaction, Incorporated,” Hestin said, soaping himself vigorously. "It's in the Empire State Building.”
     Dominic stepped from the shower and stood speechless for a moment, his dripping body immobile. “Mar-rone!” he said wonderingly, shaking his wrist. He glanced at the redheaded boy. “You hear that? This joker's back from South America one week--and he steps into the greatest job on earth!”
     Mrs. Grenville's apartment was done it, quaint Mid-Century Functional, with antique Mondrians and faded Jackson Pollock spatterings dominating the walls. They were sitting before an enormous lucite window overlooking the East River's midnight calm, and Mrs. Grenville was laughing merrily “Oh, you're simply delightful!” she kept saying. “’Where's Mister Grenville?’ he says. What a droll sense of humor.”
     Hestin sipped his Martian Mule with satisfaction. He had decided that the assignment was turning out well. Fantastically easy way to make money, too: just visit lonely people, and then go back to the office next day to collect your fee. He didn't know what to make of her husband's absence, but probably lie had been detained by business. “Mr. Grenville will he coming in soon, won't he?” lie asked. “I'd like to meet him.”
     For some reason this made Mrs. Grenville virtually split her sides.
     “You say these things”--gasping, she tried to control her hysterics--"with  such a straight face! You don't think he'd want to be here tonight, do you?”
     Hestin took another drink and regarded her blankly “Why not?”
     Mrs. Grenville collapsed, shrieking. 
     “Wish I knew what's so hilarious,” he said. 
     “Oh my,” she said, recovering. “I'll have to stop this or I won't be fit for anything.” With sudden decisiveness she stood up, and then she giggled. “Are you ready, darling?”
     “Ready?” he echoed, wide-eyed.
     “I want to show you the rest of the apartment,” she said, pulling him to his feet. “Especially the bedroom.”
     His second assignment took him to a bleak attic on Bleecker Street. Ruth Morrisey wait thin brunette who smoked Latakia tubes incessantly and could not sit still tot more than two minutes at a time. She worked for a Greenwich Village avant-garde publishing house and, judging from the cheap furniture in the attic and her frayed lounging-sacque, did not make much money. Her extreme nervousness made him fidget. It would mot be easy to carry on a sympathetic loneliness-dispelling conversation with a girl like this.
     “What sort of work do you do at the publisher's? He venture.
She did not answer. Black eyes sullen, she pulled her tube in brooding silence. “Where's Mr. Scott?” she asked suddenly. 
     “That tall blond in your company. They sent him a few times. One of your so-called representatives.” 
     “I'm sorry but I don't know him.”
     “I hope they fired him.” She said bitterly. “The last time he visited file he was a complete failure. She eyed Hestin with suspicion. “You'd better not turn out the same way--I've been saving up for this for a whole god-damn month.” 
     “I hope my talking will be worth the money,” he said. 
     “Talking! Who the hell care, about talking?” Jumping up, she abruptly wriggled out of her lounging-sacque and flopped down on a sagging cot. “C’mon, c'mon!” she said irritably. “What are you waiting for--an engraved invitation?” 
      Coincidence is an occurrence of pairs, Hestin knew; it cannot continue beyond the reasonable limits of probability. When his third assignment ended in precisely the same manner as the first two, he understood. Understood; and yet did not. He decided to call on Armitage. Residents with emotional problems, the booklet in Hestin's room stated, may avail themselves of the free services of our Counselor, Mr. Rodney H. Armitage, at any time. You will find Armitage in Room 126. West Lobby. 
     “I can't get any help at the office,” Hestin was telling him next morning. “They're noncommittal about everything.” 
     “Your work bothers you?” Armitage asked. He was a mild little man of perhaps forty with the air of professional solicitude. 
     “I don't know,” Hestin said. “I don't know what to think.” 
     “These satisfaction agencies are supposed to be illegal,” Mr. Armitage said, “but all the authorities look the other way. If you're worried about that aspect of it--” 
     “Oh, it's not that so much. I mean, what's it all about? What happened? The way women dress. Or don't dress. The pictures in magazines. Those movie scenes of men and women--” Hestin stopped, slaking his head incredulously. “Even the things girls say to you on the street. Was it always like this?” 
     Armitage sighed. “For the last twenty years. And it's getting worse all the time.” 
     “But why? What caused it?” 
     “My boy, you tell me you've been away practically all your life,” he said. Consider how I feel. I've never been away--I stayed here and saw it happen. Oh, not overnight, mind you. Gradually, And I still don't understand it myself, although I've read as many scientific explanations as the next man. If you want socio-medical theory, visit our library and read Beckheim's Studies of the Sexual Revolution. It's as informative as any.”
     Hestin got to his feet. “'Thank yon, sir,” he said. “You've been a great--well, thank you anyway.”
     “One thing more,”  Mr. Armitage said. He hesitated. “In my position of Counselor, I can't condone the, un, work you've been doing. While I do envy your ability to, uh, provide this service, it's morally wrong, and I hope you'll stop.” He added, not unkindly, “In fact, if you don't discontinue it well have to ask you to leave.” 
     “I understand, sir,” said Hestin, swallowing. 
     He spent the rest of the morning in the library. Dr. Beckheim's massive book made difficult reading. In addition, the introduction said, we must not overlook the significance of neural mechanisms in the civilized female's intensified eroticism and the corresponding decrease in male potency. Hestin flipped through the book. This unprecedented reversal was considered in some quarters to result from overexposure to psychosexual stimuli emanating from all mass-communication media, while other authorities single out the early experiments in nuclear fission. He opened another book. There can be no doubt that such female behavior-patterns indicate an international libido-regression to the narcissistic stage. He squirmed in the chair. Nothing in his education, which had consisted entirely of correspondence courses, equipped him for this. He turned to an old new--magazine. There was a great deal about oestral-imbalance tests, the Federal Semen Bank, Pregnancy Applications and Green Light Districts, but it was all too confusing and he finally gave up.
     After lunch he went into the first employment agency he could find. 
     The interview was not very satisfactory. “Oil industry!” the agency man boomed derisively right at the start. “Where the hell have you been, fella'!” 
     Hestin told him.
     “Well, you gotta realize one thing buddy,” the agency man said with a pleasurable kind of condescension, as if he were enjoying Hestin's disappointment. “Atomics have taken over, but good!”
     “You mean there's no oil used anymore?” “Sure, sure, Buster. Maybe in South America. And it's still used a little here, in certain industries. But if you're thinking of it as a career, forget it” He gave Hestin a sly look. “You're just back from the jungles, so why not try a satisfaction outfit?” 
     “Thanks a lot,” Hestin replied. “I've been working for one.”
     The leer froze, then melted, on the agency man's face as he realized Hestin was telling the truth.
     “How much do they pay you?” he asked more respectfully.
     Hestin told him.
     “And you wanna quit?” He leaned across the desk and draped a ponderous hand on Hestin's shoulder. “Listen, fella, don't you know there's a billion men aching for a deal like yours? Wishing they were capable of it, for Chrissake? Get wise. Hang on to that job as long as you can!”
     An hour later, Hestin moved from the Y into a Broadway hotel.
     Fourth Assignment: Mrs. Sadie Miller, housewife, Manhattan.
     Tenth Assignment: Renee d'Anjou-Brevain, artist, Queens.
     Thirtieth Assignment: Mrs. Rose Karpp, beautician, Bronx.
     Fortieth Assignment: Cynthia Whitney, attorney, Manhattan.
     Forty-Second Assignment: Mrs. Louise Fr—
    “Sit down. Hestin,” said Mr. McGill, the Vice President in Charge of Client Relations. “No need to be formal around here.”
     “Thank you, sir:” He lowered himself into a plastoid chair and waited anxiously. He had not been summoned to the vice president's elegant office since the day he was hired, and he felt sure Mr. McGill didn't want him now just for an aimless chat. Little crabs of fear began nibbling at his stomach. 
     “Should've asked you in sooner, Hestin,” McGill said cordially. “I always take a personal interest in our people, especially the representatives. But you know how it is. A firm as busy as this. I can't find time to talk to you boys often enough.” He smiled. “Are you getting along well?”
     “Fine, sir.”
     “No worries or troubles?” 
     “Everything's fine.” 
     McGill had stopped smiling. “Hestin, you visited one of our best clients last night. Mrs. Louise Friedlander.”
     “That's right, sir.”
     “She called us this morning. Said you had some inadequacy problems.” McGill's face hardened. “We've had a pleasant relationship with Mrs. Friedlander for many years, Hestin. She doesn't complain without cause.”
      Hestin flushed, “I was adequate, Mr. McGill.”
     “Yes, finally. She admitted that. But unfortunately, these close shaves make the clients lose confidence in us. Now, I don't want you to act upset"--he raised a hand--"but I did want a talk with you. You haven't been going to the movies or watching those video girl shows, have you?”
     “No, sir,”
     “Because some psychiatrists think those things speed up inadequacy. They claim if you watch too much of it, especially that Asian stuff, you lose your ability faster. Personally, I don't know. What about passion books and magazines?” 
     “I never look at them.” 
     “Well, we're not working you too often, are we?”
Hestin squirmed uncomfortably.
     “You did have a three-day rest before Mrs. Friedlander, after all.”
Hestin was silent.
     “It's odd,” Mr. McGill said. “Personnel tells me you've only been back to civilization about three months. You shouldn't be affected so soon. I'll tell you what.” Hunching forward, all beaming cordiality again, he snapped his fingers. “There's nothing wrong with you a change in scenery won't fix. Hell, New York gets on my nerves once in a while, too. Take a week off, get away from the city. When you come back you'll be a new man, Hestin. And ready for plenty of action!”
     A murmur: “Any time you're ready.” 
     “Wait a minute.”
     “All right now?” 
     Forehead damp with sweat. “I'm trying.” 
     “Come on. Now:”
     “Maybe if you just wouldn't talk.” 
     “What's wrong?”
     “I'm sorry. I can't seem to--” 
     “What's the matter with you? Huh?” 
     “Maybe if we waited a little while.” 
     “What's wrong with you? Huh? What kind of a gyp deal is this, anyway? Huh? HUH? I gotta work hard for my money, mister, and if you think--”

HELP WANTED—healthy, personable male, 21-35, for exciting, well-paid work…
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