Those who knew me in my youth assumed I wouldn’t amount to much.
A few years ago, a man from my old neighborhood I grew up in, asked someone what ever came of me. He was told that I was a lawyer. “I’ll be damned,” he’s reported to have said. “I would have thought that little son-of-a-bitch would be doing ten to twenty in the pen by now.”
It’s a good thing I was able to hit the re-set button on all my past foibles after graduating from college, especially insofar as my work resume was concerned. Of all the jobs I had as a teenager, I can only think of a couple that I didn’t get fired from.
Mostly I sacked groceries, mowed lawns and washed dishes. I tried my skills at being a waiter, once.
I have nothing but the utmost respect for waiters. That is not an easy job, and I was truly lousy at it.
I was hired by a chain franchise eatery called Garfield’s. I lasted about two months.
Part of the dress code was that all the waiters were to wear black shoes. All I had were brown shoes, and I didn’t want to spend my hard earned money—mostly by way of tips, of which I was rewarded few—on black shoes. I held out as long as I could.
One Sunday, a large party was seated in my area. They had just arrived from church. I engaged in my usual errancy of getting orders wrong, but eventually did bring their food out on a large oval tray. Feet from their table, the tray, loaded down with pounds of plates and food, went topsy-turvy on me. My attempts to stabilize the tray would not be realized, as the diners watched in horror as I fumbled it and all their food came crashing to the ground and across their table and in their laps.
I involuntarily blurted out, “Fuuuuuuuuu...!” I did eventually and successfully bring their orders to their table, and at least one soul there, probably feeling sorry for me, left me a tip of 75 cents.
During my next shift, my manager called me into his office. He had a habit of drinking too much on the job, and was generally in a sour mood. “Let me see your shoes,” he said.
I showed him my brown shoes.
“Go buy some black ones.”
“Right now?” I asked. It was seven in the evening.
“Yes, right now.”
I got in my car, and my brown shoes and I never came back, except to get my last pay check.
After you have walked out on a job, or have been terminated, coming back for that last pay check is always little awkward. Two weeks later I dropped in to pick up my last check.
“Couldn’t hack it, huh?” asked my ex-boss.
“Nope,” I said jerking the check from his fingers.
The most awkward moment of retrieving my last check after being fired occurred at a grocery store where I managed to keep my job for the better part of a year—a record in those days.
I sacked groceries and worked the register. On my breaks, I would sneak back to the produce cooler, and make a sandwich from meat, bread and mustard I had helped myself to in the aisles. Somehow I was discovered, most likely through Sherlock-like deduction on the part of my manager, a smart, but disgruntled fellow with a masters degree in English.
At the same time I was entering the doors to the grocery store, coming to pick up my last pay check, a short, heavy, round woman with a beehive hairdo wobbled in. Our paths crossed, literally.
Neither of us were paying enough attention to where we were walking. She stepped on my foot. I involuntarily blurt out a cry of pain. The woman stumbled forth a few yards, her arms outstretched. Her massive countenance finally succumbed to gravity’s pull. The woman tumbled to the ground and rolled. Her beehive wig ejected from her head and rolled out a few yards away from her and out of reach.
Struck with panic and fear, I picked up the beehive wig and tried to put it back on her head as she laid sprawled out on the floor wondering what in the hell had just happened. When she realized what I was doing she began to flail her arms, and beat me away from her. I dropped the wig and made straight to the manager’s booth, where my ex-boss was holding his head in his hands and shaking his head.
He held out my paycheck and muttered without looking at me, “Leave, leave; get out of here, please, I beg you.” I did.
Seven years ago, I slumped into a state of depression about my career choice to be a lawyer. The malaise lasted for two years. Through a mixture of exercise, deep and persistent introspection, and reflection on past job experiences I was able to pull out of my dark night of the soul and see the sun again.
Being self-employed is a tough row to hoe at times, but the most fulfilling row to hoe for me. With no one to fire me but myself, I am committed to doing the best job that I can do.