My first job the summer after graduating high school was a phone operator for Lowe’s Hardware. So you know how you’re shopping around and hear that voice paging for misc. departments over the loud speaker? My personal favorite was “Home Décor! Line 4!”…Yeah, I was that.
Regardless it was a pretty decent job and paid pretty well too. I worked there for two summers. Even got a promotion to bookkeeper. Anyway, fast forward a year and my family moved from Virginia to Lexington, KY. My manager at my job in Virginia was nice enough to put me in touch with the manager at Lowe’s of Lexington. I was excited at the prospect of continuing to work with a familiar company.
I landed the job of bookkeeper in the new locale and arrived for my first day of work. Greeting me on my first day on the job was a woman who was to be my boss. I never interviewed with her, but if I had, I likely would have had doubts about my longevity.
She was a squatty 4’2”…maybe in her 60’s. Her polyester pants straining under the girth of her stomach…her cheap belt looking as though it was a lasso reining in as much fat as it could muster. Her grey wirey hair was yanked into a ponytail. Did I mention she was a Marlboro red chain smoker? Yeah that added to her charisma too. As I entered the office she snuffed out her cigarette by grinding it to a pulp in her University of Kentucky Wildcat ashtray, then proceeded to waddle over to me.
“You the new gal?” she asked with a thick Kentucky accent, ignoring my extended right hand I prepped for a handshake. “I’m Angie. I’ll be yer boss. Have yearself a seat over thay-er” she indicated my desk by waving her crooked nicotine stained finger in the direction of a table set up in the corner. Dazed, I found myself following her direction and sat down.
In a vain attempt to break the glacier of ice between me and my new Appalachian friend, I turned to her as she lit a new cigarette. In my most upbeat voice I could muster, I smiled and asked, “So Angie, are you from Lexington?” as though her accent wouldn’t have tipped me off. “Yeah, bean heere all mi life.” she said as she waved the smoke away, “Ain’t no famlee of mine that ain’t fruum heere.”, then turned back to her work. All I could say was, “That’s nice.” As though I was really happy to get to know her in such an intimately special way.
By 10 a.m., the entire office was a cloud of second hand smoke. I’m not a smoker so the experience was awful. I felt as though I’d have emphysema by lunch. Gagging, thick smoke. Still I thought, “Maybe things will get better. It’s only my first day.” I was wrong.
Later in the day, as I sat gasping for oxygen at my desk, I heard her say through the wall of smoke that separated us, “You need to feeks the way you dray-ess.” Surprised, I waved away enough smoke to make out the outline of her body so I knew where to turn to reply. Confused, I said, “I don’t understand what you mean. What about my outfit is violating Lowe’s dress code?”…She swiveled in her chair, rolled over to my desk and proceeded to show me her bloated foot jammed into an orthopedic open toe sandal….her toes with nails not unlike ruffled potato chips stretching and writhing beneath a net of reinforced nude hose. She grabbed a pencil and used it as a pointer. “Thayse here”, she said as she tapped her foot with her pencil. As though I didn’t understand what footwear was, “Hose, nee-ude, wit thees tap of shooo. Yerra wearin’ them black sock and flats. It ain’t professional.” I half-heartedly agreed, as though I’d immediately go to Wal-Mart’s orthopedic sandal section so I could further my career with Angie.
I think that day was the longest workday of my life. 5 o’clock couldn’t arrive fast enough, and when it finally did, I grabbed my purse and proceeded to clock out. She looked up from her desk smiling. I thought she was going to tell me to have a good night, that I did well for my first day. “Year clocked out?” she asked. “Yep! It was so nice meeting you today!” I said, lying through my teeth. She held up her finger and said, “Now now, hold yerself fer jist meenit. I got suppin’ fer yas.”
A wave of relief came over me as I thought, “She was extra tough on me today and I passed the muster with flying colors.” Other thoughts that ran through my head? “Fruit basket”, “Cookie bouquet” “Job well done plaque”….Probably not realistic, but still optimistic.
No. She returned with a dirty grey mop, a rolling bucket of filthy brownish grey water and a yellow “Piso Mojado” sign…you know, with the stick guy falling? “Wet floor” I think it translates to. Confused, I stood there as she handed me the mop. “What is this for?” I asked. “Yer gotta clean dem bathrooms before you leave ya know.” “But I just clocked out.” “I know, yer gunna do it off the clock”.
She proceeded to take me to the store’s public bathrooms. “See this?” she asked pointing to the disgustingly dirty floor. “Jist take that there mawp and geeve eet a good washin’” I looked at her blankly and replied, “Sorry Ang, ain’t happenin’” as though my putting on a Kentucky dialect would bring some type of commonality between us. “Whatcha meen?” “I mean I quit!” I announced as I handed her the mop….And walked out.
Never did hear from her or the store. Probably made up some story about why I didn’t work out. Took me a month to get the smoke smell out of my car after driving home that night.
I’m sure a few of you have similar stories...