This pandemic inspires reflection, right? So, slogging around in personal history got me to thinking about how trial and error was perhaps more influential in my life than other things that ought to be the driver of a person’s ultimate fate. Like education, training, and parenting. Surely, one trend that stands out for me over these months of enforced introspection is the number of times I’ve been fired.
Please take this confession in context – I am 75 years old and, counting all the jobs I can recall (some I am sure were so short-lived I sent them to the memory trash heap), I’ve held 55 jobs (far more jobs than marriages, BTW, and don’t ask). Here’s a peek at jobs from which I was dismissed:
Among the first was behind the counter at McVey’s Ice Cream shop in my hometown of Winona, Minn. I was about 17 years old with very low self-esteem and a desperate need to be liked. Behind the counter, building ice cream cones for neighborhood customers was ideal for making friends. Ask for a single scoop and get a double. Whipped cream on your butterscotch sundae? Picture Mt. Everest. For two days, I had folks lined up to be served by me, briefly the most popular ice cream jerk in town. Jerk Fired (justifiably).
Next was a stint as a factory worker at a meatpacking plant. My job was to grab a 4 foot long, skinny stick from one bin, wipe it down with a cloth soaked in something smelly and then place the stock into a second-round bin. After 6 hours, my feet hurt, and I removed my work boots. A burly boss noticed and ordered me to “Put them dang boots back on. Now!” I did as directed, laced them up, and I sang to him” “These boots are made for walkin’, and that’s just what they’ll do. One of these days, these boots are gonna walk all over you.” He shot out a muscled, hairy arm and pointed to the door. Fired.
Some of you may recall that I was also fired from a job as a radio announcer (a job I’d rather liked) after swearing on a live mic during a national news broadcast. I felt the boss was justified. But when I was hired in Minneapolis, Minn., to layout a magazine for an early multiple listing real estate publication, I thought I’d found a calling. Layout and paste-up was a boring job for university students who worked on my small crew. They paid little attention to quality, took lots of coffee breaks, and talked incessantly. So, I suggested replacing that crew with one that would not only appreciate the work but also focus on the job. With one cute college boy left from the original lot, I recruited workers from a program for the deaf. I learned some Sign Language and also wrote lots of notes. We got on silently and well.
The plan was a grand success. I felt proud – of myself and my crew. Then I got a glimpse of the department payroll. I made slightly more than my deaf crew members, but the lone, hearing, college lad made more than his colleagues on the layout team and one-third more than me. I marched into the supervisor's office and demanded an explanation. Fired. (The company later won a national award for its inclusion of workers with disabilities. I am still a little pissed off, but I think some statute of limitations for complaints has passed).
I briefly held many jobs in food service as I tried to become a theatrical star, and waitressing at Mr. Frimples in Santa Barbara stands out. The cook standing in the pass-through window from the kitchen whistled at me and hollered, “Hey you! Honey! Pickup!!” I had a bowl of warm butter in my hand, scooped out a fistful, and threw it in his face. “My name is not ‘Honey,’ you jerk!” Fired.
While studying archeology at the university in Santa Barbara, I tried retail sales in an exclusive fashion store that catered to wealthy women (what better place to find dinosaurs). Since we clerks could not possibly afford any of the clothes, we were allowed to try on the designer duds when they first arrived. My turn came, and I chose a sleek, shimmery long satin gown. It was a pink-gold satin and elegantly low cut with rhinestone-studded straps. I made my graceful turn on the little podium, with the manager and staff sighing and drooling over the elegance. As I swept to again face my audience, I raised my arms over my head and reached up to the stars. First, there was silence, and then I heard something that sounded a lot like gagging. The manager shouted and gestured at me, “Put your arms down, this minute!” In keeping with the Age of Aquarius, I did not believe in shaving my body hair. Fired.
Of course, this brief confession does not begin to accurately represent my total job history. And, upon reflection about my self-righteousness and unfiltered sense of justice, I’m kinda surprised I’m here sharing words with you today. But I am comforted by the fact that I’m now the only person who could fire me – if I wanted to.
Thanks again for sharing your time with me. And I would love to hear about YOUR most memorable experience with being Fired! Just use the link on this page and send me an email.
In light of the daily challenges, we now face I often try to offer moments of lightness and humor in what I write for you. This week was extra difficult to rise from the literal smoke in the air. I hope you are safe, well, and experiencing some of life's daily gifts.
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