I didn't want to acknowledge the fact that my entire three weeks of vacation hours were used up already. They had been wasted to supplement my weekly hours up to forty since my transfer to this crappy store. When Albertsons bought out Buttrey in town, they were allowed by the feds to only have so many stores, and with the old Albertsons and the newly acquired stores, there were too many. That's why my old store got sold to Smith's. Since the Buttrey people got to keep their jobs, the Albertsons people had to "float" until positions opened up for them within the other open stores. I was a bookkeeper, so when I got moved with my store director to the crappy store down the street, my hours went way down. When the sales aren't high, the bookkeeper has much less work to do. Hence the reason my vacation was used up.
It was time to look for other work.
I had very little job hunting experience. I was hired at age 16 by Albertsons who had called the art department at my high school. They needed someone to make their signs, and figured an art student would have good handwriting. When I got to what I thought was my interview, the assistant store director walked me fast through the store for about five minutes. He showed me where the signs had to go and where my supplies were kept and could I start tomorrow? Not exactly an ideal interview experience.
I looked through the paper and found nothing there that looked like something I wanted. Then my sister in law showed me one she had found in the paper, posted by an employment agency.
Office Help Wanted. Competitive Wage.
Construction Experience Preferred.
Please Contact ____ Employment Agency.
Company Will Pay Fees.
I had no construction experience but I thought, "What could it hurt?" I called the employment agency and made an appointment to see them that day. I decided to wear my black slacks and white sweater to make a good impression.
I walked in to a dingy little office that smelled of old cigarette smoke and dead leaves. The chairs and cubicle wall panels were cheap plastic. The discolored window blinds looked like they could possibly have been the first ones ever made, and probably once matched the dated wood wall paneling, but their faded color gave no clue. The woman who sat at the front desk looked as though she had been in her chair for thirty years with the same beehive hairdo and same dark red lipstick running through the wrinkles around her lips. I expected she would have the voice of a trucker, but she never acknowledged me.
Suddenly a woman emerged between the cubicle panels. She could have possibly been the sister of Ms. Silent at the desk. She was immediately too close to me and talked in a loud voice.
"Hi, I'm Shirley. Follow me."
I followed her through a short maze of empty cubicles to the office she used. It was darker than the front office and smelled no better. Before I could sit down she had already sat and pushed a clipboard toward me.
"This is a questionnaire I need you to fill out. It will help us to place you in a job." I said, "I'm here about the construction office position you had in the paper." She said, "Fill out the form first." So I filled it out. Name, personal details, work experience. Then I reached the part on the form that describes how if they find you a job, they expect you to pay them a percentage of your new salary, such as the first month's salary. The form asked if I agree to this. I circled NO. I was only here to apply for the construction job where I knew the employer was paying the fee.
Shirley described the job. As we were talking she said her client preferred someone with construction experience, although it was a job keeping the books for them, and I knew that was something I could do. I watched as her eyes scanned down the page, and I knew the precise instant she came to my circled NO. She looked up mid sentence and told me that she didn't feel I had quite the experience her client was looking for and they'd call me if they had anything else that would fit my experience.
Immediately my heart began to race. I may not have had interview experience, but I knew when I was being fed a line of crap, and the taste and smell were overpowering. I stood up and put ten fingertips on the top of her desk.
"Listen, Shirley. I may not have construction experience, but I know books, and I'm a damn hard worker. I'm also a fast learner, and I know I can do this job. If I go there and I GET this job, Shirley, it can only benefit ME, and it can only benefit YOU." I said this last YOU with a finger pointed at her minimal chest. I also said her name with no small amount of condescension, so it was no surprise that by this time she was leaning way back in her office chair with a stunned expression on her face.
After about ten roaring seconds of silence, she said, "OK, well, maybe you can have a shot at applying for this job. You seem to have moxy and that may be something that you'll need working with a bunch of construction workers. Be at the construction offices on Saturday at 10:00 a.m. for an interview." She stood up and fixed her sweater that had become twisted as she leaned away from me.
"Remember: Don't chew gum, don't wear makeup, don't wear perfume, and DON'T embarrass me!" Too late, Shirley. You've already done that for yourself.
It wasn't until after I'd been working at the construction office for six months that I finally confided to my boss that he'd paid $1,600 to an absolute shrew to get me as an employee.