When I was in my mid thirties, I unexpectedly found myself without a job. I lived in a small town at the time, and employment was a tough market.
I had been working at a photo shop, for the previous two years, and he decided, without telling his staff, that he was closing up shop. Great!
His way of telling us was by posting a note, written on photo paper, posted on the door. “Due to unforeseen circumstances, we will be closed effective immediately. Thank you for your patronage. Your film and photos will be available upon request” That was it! That was how I was told I was unemployed.
So, I began to search. I still didn’t know what I wanted to “be” when I grew up and knocked on a few business doors in hopes of getting hired on the spot. IT WORKED.
My mind was set on staying in the photography industry as I had started to develop, what my boss called, “a keen eye for it.” But, small town-small dreams- there were no other photography shops in town. Instead, I applied at a graphic promotions shop. It had an entire retail floor and the lower portion was all for orders, engraving, administration and embroidery.
The interview was 5 minutes long. My new boss was an old guy named Arnold who seemed funny, kind, and at the time, very generous. My starting wage was much more than the photo shop, so I was excited.
The interview went something like :
Arnold: So, do you want to learn a bunch of new skills? I can teach you a lot but you need to be driven to learn.
Me: Yes! I am a fast learner and love challenges!
Arnold: Do you think you would be interested in administration and billing? Or promotions?
Me: I would love to learn all of it! (Very enthusiastic with no idea what I was getting myself into)
My first year with Arnold was awesome. I learned so many new skills, as he promised. I learned how to do graphic designs, embroidery on huge commercial machines, laser engraving, trophy and plaque making, along with silk screening. He also taught me the billing and shipping/receiving, and over time, I developed strong relationships with his clientele. He took me out of town on conventions to learn new tricks of the trade and invited me to huge corporate Chamber of Commerce events. It was a fun, challenging year. I worked lots of overtime hours, but in the end was making really good money for my hard work.
Within the following year, Arnold determined that we were too busy for just him and I and he started hiring new girls to learn embroidery and silk screening, which gave me more time for the administrative role. I conquered monthly billing with shipping and receiving. I was at the point that he could leave for a month vacation and leave the shop in my hands. I loved it.
My new co-workers were fun and fresh to work with and life was great. Arnold took me out for a nice supper one evening and asked me if I would consider buying him out when he retired. At the time he was 63, so I knew it would happen fast, if I chose to take over for him. I was literally at the top of the chain and was coming up with ideas and plans for my potential new business.
In mid October, my mother in law went into palliative care in the hospital in our town. She had been visiting after my niece’s wedding over Thanksgiving, and had a relapse of stomach cancer. She stayed in our hospital for almost two weeks before she passed away. I stayed at the hospital many of those nights beside her and went to work the next day-every day- the entire time she was on her final bed. There were even days when my boss picked me up from the hospital in the morning and dropped me back there after work.I was an emotional wreck while my closest friend was passing away. He KNEW what I was going through, but I still did my work.
October and November were the crazy months for the business. We had orders with deadlines for businesses who gifted items with their logos screened or embroidered on them, and our team became busier than we had anticipated that year. I had found over 100 new clients throughout the previous months and they all wanted their Christmas orders done by mid November.
My mother in law passed away on a Sunday. October 29th. I called Arnold and let him know I was taking a few days off to go to her home with my husband to help him clear out her fridge and sort through some items she had discussed with him. He couldn’t make the 8 hour drive alone, and I didn’t expect him to. Arnold asked when I would return and I told him I would be back in town by the 7th of November. I didn’t say I would be back at work that day. In my state of mourning and grief and worry for my husband, I didn’t specify that I would be back at work on the 8th. I made an assumption.
So, off my husband and I went. bad roads and all, to clear his mother’s silent house. The week was an emotional train wreck. My husband and I cried for days on end, and visited with his siblings. The drive home was white knuckles and snow storms. We got home at midnight on the 7th.
When I got up the next morning, I was so thankful to go back to work and back to normal life. I missed my mom in law terribly and wanted to take my mind off my grief. I knew work would be busy and I couldn’t wait to jump in with both feet.
I pulled into the parking spot where my name was posted on the wall, in an engraved sign that I proudly designed. I walked down the stairs to my office and was greeted by a miserable old man, obviously awaiting my arrival.
“Why weren’t you here yesterday! You left me in a bind running all over the country! Look at the pile on your desk. You said you would be here yesterday and you saunter in here like you own the place. Now get to work!”
Now, I know these were his exact words, because I can still hear him yelling at me. It was the first time he had ever raised his voice at me, and was demanding and disrespectful.
I tried to explain, in a calm manner, that we had to deal with shitty roads and that I never actually got home until midnight. All I managed to get out of my mouth was, “Oh, I am sor……” And he let loose again.
“These are your clients and your responsibility. You cannot just up and run off, gallivanting around the province, and leave me stuck with your work. Expect to be working straight through until this shit is done. Do you understand me?”
He was so angry, his little bald head was purple and his eyes tried to bulge out of their sockets. I tried to speak again and he interrupted my first word with, “I don’t need your excuses! Now get to work!” By this time my fellow co-workers had come into the next room to eavesdrop. He had yelled at them before, but never at me. I could almost hear the embroidery lady’s jaw hit the floor in astonishment.
I tried to sit down and weed through a stack of orders, holding back my tears of frustration and shame for disappointing him. Order after order, invoice after invoice. I was overwhelmed so I went to pour a coffee before I dove head first into the mess he left for me. He saw me in the kitchen.
As I poured the java into my cup, with my name engraved on it, I could hear him stumble into the kitchen behind me. I could feel his bulging eyes staring me down from the back. I stirred some cream into y cup and he went ballistic on me, “This is not working. I don’t pay you to stand around and drink coffee!”
THAT WAS IT
I spun around on my heel and took almost a full minute to glare at him, with all of the fire in my eyes that I could muster. I am typically a very quiet, forgiving and intimidated person, but at that point, my emotions from the past month became unleashed.
“Look, Arnold. I will get the orders done. You need to stop yelling at me. I am exhausted and overwhelmed and just need to take a fucking coffee to help me sort out your mess. Do you understand what I am saying?” My voice was raised. I was not yelling, but definitely wasn’t being my shy, professional self. I was stunned that I dropped an F bomb in his direction.
“It’s not MY mess! It’s yours! You will do as I say and get the shit done, or you can leave. I have run out of patience!” Purple head was glaring at me defiantly. He stood a full inch shorter than me, and I swear a new vein was bulging in his neck. He was challenging me to make my next move.
I don’t know what came over me. To this day, I look back on the event and shake my head with a grin. It was so out of character. People had warned me that he was an asshole to work for and I always stood behind him like a compliant, right hand employee. I never once gave up on hoping that he wasn’t the asshole everyone else saw. Co-workers referred to the shop as the A-Hole and I never understood why they thought he was so horrible to work for. I was never on the receiving end of his purple headed anger, so it never dawned on me that they may have been right.
I took my coffee, poured it down the sink and “sauntered” to my office with all of the grace I could portray. I never looked back at him, as he followed me, stomping his old man shoes on the concrete floor. He stayed on my heels the entire way to my desk, expecting me to sit down and sort through the stack of papers.
Instead, I grabbed my coat off my hook and slung my bag over my shoulder. I stared straight into his old man, watery eyes and peered at his purple bald head with 5 grey hairs growing out of it. “Where do you think you’re going?” He demanded.
“I am going home Arnold. Fuck you. Fuck this business. Fuck this mess. And most of all, Fuck your attitude. I am gone. Have fun figuring out these orders”.I flicked the stack of papers with my index finger. I never flinched. I never raised my voice. I didn’t even feel bad.
As I approached my car, I peeled my name plate off of my parking spot and threw it in the backseat of my car. I still have it hanging in my home office. I drove away and never answered his phone calls, that relentlessly went on for days, following our blowout.
Since then, I have graduated from College with an Early Childhood Diploma (my original passion) and have landed the career I always wanted, working for the government. Losing that job motivated me to do what I wanted to do when I grew up. I have been working in my position for over 5 years now and have been out of Arnold’s grasp for over 10. In between, I had the honor of being headhunted to open and operate a childcare center while I finished school.
Ironically he added me to Facebook a couple years ago. He is still working in his shop and his is close to 75 years old. Apparently he never found anyone to fill my shoes, or put up with his shit. He idly chats with me occasionally and tags me in silly memes. I click the “Like” button, but never respond with words.
I have never spoken to another human being like that since. The emotions that erupted out of me from the turmoil, grief and sadness I had endured, along with the lack of sleep and normality of day to day life, just got to me. His insistent nagging and demands made my blood boil with a rage I haven’t felt for a very long time, and since then have never felt again.
Goodbye A-hole. It was nice for awhile until your true colors were exposed. Thanks for the new skill sets and for the life lesson. You showed me my limitations like no other. As much as I could handle the crazy business I ran for you, I just couldn’t handle you.