When you get to be as old as I am, every day can be the anniversary of something momentous. On the other hand, my own personal life hasn't veered off on new courses all that often. I worked at my first real job after college for four years, the second one for eight and a half years, and the third one for fifteen years. Throw in a year or so of other activities, add in some rounding errors, and you could figure out my age, if you didn't already know I was 52.
My favorite job started on this date in 1977, almost half my life ago. It was the first time I'd been recruited for a position. I'd worked in a small town family shoe store until the owners retired earlier that year. I was there long enough that I got to know most of the customers, and they got to know me. It was a comfortable situation, and I developed a self-confidence with people that I'd never felt before.
When the owners were selling out their inventory and fixtures, a man who owned another shoe store came in to look things over. R talked to me about the possibility of my coming to work for him when he opened his second store in August.
Between March and August of that year I worked in the shoe department of an upscale clothing store. I had to dress in a sport coat and tie, and I dealt with people with whom I had nothing in common. They were the kind of customers who expected to be treated as if they were above everyone else.
It was a tricky situation, because the store was gradually being run into the ground by poor buying decisions and lack of inventory. I didn't have what people wanted, and it wasn't in me to convince them that they wanted what I had. It was especially difficult because, having worked for a quality operation the previous four years, I knew I was selling overpriced junk.
I hated that job, and as soon as R opened his new store, I was ready to move on. Now I was dealing mostly with mothers and children, and I loved going to work. For some reason, I related to the kinds of people who were interested in having their children properly fitted with quality shoes. I believed in what I was doing, and I grew to believe that I was good at it.
At first, though, I was the new guy. It was almost as if I'd married into a family and had to find a way to fit into a network of existing relationships. As I grew more familiar with how things worked, and more at ease with the people I worked with, I became part of that family. I thought I was set for life, and I often wish it had worked out that way.