This is part of my “Firsts” series I started last week. If you didn’t read My First Kiss on the Beach…Highway (Under a Street Light), go check it out.
I never had a job, other than babysitting a few times and mowing my grandma’s lawn, until my first year of college. I claimed it was because the market was bad, which to some degree, was true. But, mostly it was because I was so painfully shy and insecure. It was uncomfortable to go into retail stores to inquire about jobs, especially when you had zero experience. And I knew there was no way I was going to work in an uncool place, like McDonald’s, where someone could possibly see me. I made sure I chose a place far from my high school and didn’t involve coming home with a sheen of grease on my forehead.
My first job was at Wild & Wooly. A yarn store.
I mainly took the job to get the ‘rents off my back. Otherwise, I would have been content to continue the remainder of my summer sitting on the couch, eating Bugles, watching re-runs of The Flying Nun and Mister Ed. They weren’t too hip on that idea. The nerve.
I was hired to run a six-week store-closing promotion. So, as you can see, there was enormous growth potential with this job. The benefits included a 25 percent discount off anything in the store, which was all being clearanced, so that was a pretty hefty discount. Unfortunately, I didn’t know how to knit or crochet or even hook a latch rug thingy. However, I could make a mean god’s eye out of popsicle sticks thanks to all those summers spent at camp. So, I was able to stock up.
|This beautiful god’s eye was made by my sister, Melissa.
Mine typically looked like a combination of a god’s eye and knotty macrame mess.
My job was to sit inside the front door of the store at a card table in the rays of the hot sun and run the store-closing promotion. For each ten-dollar purchase a customer made, they were given a promotion slip they could turn in to me to get coupons mailed to them for the following week. The more they spent, the more money off the following week. Kind of like Kohl’s with their spend $50 get $10 for the following week, because we want you back in our store promotions. See, it wasn’t Kohl’s that started that mess, it was Wild & Wooly.
Each person recorded their name and address into the official promotion record book (a college-ruled spiral notebook) and I transferred their names to an envelope. I don’t know why they didn’t just fill out their own stinking envelope. Would have saved me a lot of embarrassment.
I shared the job with another woman. She worked the hours opposite of me. I can’t remember who she was now. Probably someone better qualified to work at Wild & Wooly, perhaps an Octogenarian.
I remember on my first day I didn’t ask for a lunch break because I was afraid they would fire me – because of my selfishness. I think I’ve done this for all my jobs. “Look at you and your cocky teenaged self, all gragimitated from high school, come walkin’ in like you’re queen of the Wild & Wooly, thinkin’ you need a lunch break on the first day. You a college-girl, ain’t you? All ‘spectin’ a lunch break. You a hoot!” That’s what I imagined my boss would say anyway. My 60-year old knitting and crocheting grandma-ish boss.
I began transferring the addresses to the envelopes. I copied address after address after stinking address! To make the time go faster and to keep my head from nodding in the setting sun, I set up an assembly line. This was my line (left to right):
(far left) Box of empty envelopes
Stack 1 – Envelopes with customer names only
Stack 2 – Envelopes from Stack 1 plus Street addresses
Stack 3 – Envelopes from Stack 2 plus City, State, Zip
Stack 4 – Envelopes from Stack 3 plus Store return address
(far right) Stack 5 – Stamped and ready to go
(directly in front of me) Official promotion record book
I went through the envelopes, 25 at a time, matching up the name and address with the record book. Sometimes I skipped around, working on stack 2, then stack 4, then back to stack 1, then licking those stupid stamps (no, there was no such thing as self-adhesive stamp in 1989). It made the time go by faster.
The following week, a woman came in and stopped at my
card promotion table. She pulled out three envelopes. “I received all of these in my mailbox this week. They’re all addressed to different people, not one of them is me. But they all have my address on them, so can I still use the coupons?”
It suddenly got warm in Wild & Wooly. “Um…yeah. Of course.” Oh crap. I shook my head and shrugged my shoulders as if wondering how that Octogenarian could have let this happen.
As she walked off to shop, I hoped and prayed my boss wouldn’t see all those envelopes and fire my gragimitated butt. Then another woman came in. She waved her receipts at me and claimed she didn’t receive her coupon after several purchases. So I apologized and slipped her a 3-spot coupon across the promotion table.
This became a pattern. How did this happen? I really focused on matching up the name and addresses on my assembly line. But I continued to tell myself and anyone who asked that it must have been that Octogenarian working the opposite shift. Blame, blame. Go away. Come again another day, and I’ll still blame somebody else for my assembly line mishap.
I can’t say that there wasn’t some relief when that six weeks was up. My next job didn’t happen until the following summer when I became an assistant tennis instructor at a summer camp. That was a better fit for me. I spent all morning playing tennis and making fart noises on my arm with 20 grade-schoolers. And I got paid $10/hour. In 1989. Of course, the following year they reduced my pay to $6/hour. I probably started some assembly line or something.
And sadly, I haven’t exactly learned my lesson about the assembly line. I still do our Christmas letters like that. And a few people have received multiple letters while others have claimed they received nothing.
I just shake my head and shrug my shoulders as if wondering how my husband could have let that happen.