Wednesday, July 24, 2013

One Man's Junk is Another Woman's Job

Like many people of her era, Val has a checkered employment past. Gone are the days when one could start an entry-level job with The Company right out of school, and work one's way up through the ranks until retirement. In these times, Frank Rutherford would be unable to get his son Clarence a job down at the office. Poor Lumpy. Nor could Mike Brady let Greg deliver blueprints across town on his bicycle. Unless Greg worked for free as an apprentice, of course.

Reading around the internet this week, I realized that I have a relatively lackluster job history. Blog buddies Linda and Sioux have toiled in some interesting arenas. I cannot begin to compete with a national champion photo film biller, an Ernestine-style telephone switchboard operator, a door-to-door casket saleswoman, or a pill-presser who cut off the tip of her finger. Alas, my jobs were not nearly so interesting and unusual. Just a variety of teaching assignments, convenience-store cashier, five years with the state unemployment service, softball umpire in a teenage fast-pitch league, and the piece de resistance...pricer/clerk/cashier in a junk store!

Technically, the establishment was an insurance salvage store. It had name recognition in the minor metropolis of Springfield, Missouri. I had returned to my college town after several years of teaching, in order to finish my Master's degree. I was looking for a part-time job to defray the drain on my recently-amassed savings. I fondly remembered shopping for various oddities at this store. I saw an ad in the paper, and headed out to put in an application.

The lady in charge was perched above the sales floor, in a fake-wood-paneled, waist-high aerie of sorts. I was later to realize this was so she could keep an eagle eye on the workers. She even had a pair of binoculars. Nobody messed's call her Flora. Flora dressed like a country-singing opening act at a county fair. She favored blue jeans, women's cowboy boots, patterned shirts, and a red bandana neckerchief. Which is not to say that she slacked in the make-up or bouffant department. It was a look that worked for her. She had a what I thought might be a slight speech impediment, but turned out to be simply an affectation. At the end of each verbal paragraph, she would say, "Uh huh." But not in a creepy way like Billy Bob Thornton in Sling Blade saying, "Mm hmm."

Flora climbed down from her perch to show me into the break room next door, where she let me have a clipboard to fill out my application. The break room was a long shelved room, unfinished, with a myriad of shoeboxes lining the walls. It was, after all, located in the boot department. The store did a large amount of business in boots. Exotic skins that were supposedly regulated. Several-hundred-dollar pairs of boots. The guy who ran that department was The Old Man's right-hand man. It was good to watch your Ps and Qs around him. His workers had the highest status of all the employees.

I shook hands with Flora and left. I didn't really think I would get the job, because at the time, I had no retail experience. Flora called me the next day. "We'd like to hire you. When can you come in? We'll start you at 20-30 hours a week. We can work around your schedule."

To be continued...


  1. Stuff like big hair and snake skin belts can be dangerous. Glad you made it out of there and didn't die with your boots on, Uh-huh.

  2. This sounds like quite an experience. Can't wait to read more.

  3. Flora/Vera sounds like a real character. I'm looking forward to the end of the story.

  4. I wonder what it was about you that made them hire you...Was it your sharp witty responses? The yearning for education in your eyes? Or did they desire to brush elbows with greatness, and they KNEW that someday, Val would be a published writer?

  5. This is a very interesting post, so far I think the part I like best is...

    Comment to be continued.

  6. Leenie,
    But I did get out of there with a pair of boots. Elephant skin, supposedly. They were the most comfortable shoes ever. Uh huh.

    How's that dose of "continued" working for you? I know I'm lengthy, but even I'M not THAT lengthy. Thus the two-parter.

    Well, she was a real character who was a real character.

    You know dang well, Madam, what made them hire me. Cleanliness is next to employableness. If they had ever dreamed that I would one day be a published writer, I'm sure my application would have been placed in the circular file forthwith.

    I think that dirty water has gone to your head, Sir!

    With your wackadoodle magnet, Flora might find you yet on your many travels.