“Chase and Crawford Ladies shoes how may I help you? I say to the woman on the phone. Thank you for calling department store hell, I say in my head. I will never get used to taking phone orders but since it means a possible commission sale for me, I don’t ignore it. “Vincent Camutos Dacoma Pumps? What size are you looking for?” I ask her “Sorry ma’am we only have it in Black Patent Leather” She hangs up abruptly. What a fucking waste of time, I mumble. The other shoe salesmen of Chase and Crawford Department store would agree. There are about seven of us who work here, all men in suits, men of different ages, grown men who serve women for a 9.5% commission deal against a draw. Four of us are around the same age range; early to mid-twenties, fresh out of college, brand new adults who can’t find a job in the right field and stuck doing retail. We are the lost and unwanted, college debt ridden, millennial children of the 21st century, a pretty common demographic around here. The other three are old farts.
I never thought I’d end up working here. Just a little over a half a year ago I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Finance. I went through the whole ordeal of paying senior dues, going to senior formals, taking mid terms, finals, saying good bye to friends who will go their own way after graduating. Stuff every college graduate goes through to stay in denial from the inevitable truth that is an ailing workforce.
This is your life after college Michael, a life ridden with rampant anxiety and fear of the unknown. I’m here standing before a cash register waiting to make money for others while fidgeting with my anti-anxiety fidget toy affixed with a soothing on and off switch that makes a subtle clicking noise to calm me down.
From the moment you start pre-school to the moment you get your college diploma everything you do has a blue print. Everything afterwards is up to you and a lot of luck which somehow translates to who you know or who’s willing to give an unexperienced college graduate a shot, there aren’t many.
It took me about six months to land this job. I alternated between bumming around and looking for an office job as if the most expensive piece of paper I ever bought guaranteed me one. Eventually, after swallowing a cold bitter pill of truth, I started looking for whatever I could find. Office job or not, I was pretty desperate, blue collar white collar, experience required, entry-level corporate slave, I didn’t give two shits.
Then the holidays came when department stores hired just about anyone willing to do shitty work for shit pay, anyone who’s desperate like me looking for his first slice of bread and butter. I started out getting paid about $7.25 per hour as a seasonal stock associate who did behind the scenes grunt work from unloading freight trucks of merchandise to moving fixtures around from one department to another. The operations manager, Mr. Gianbi, was my boss. He was a nice but sketchy guy, like most people he was in between, questionably good natured. I could remember a time when Rosita from fragrances had to take a day off to go to her mother’s wake and he gave her his condolences only to follow with, “can I expect you at work the day after?”
I was lucky he wasn’t a hard ass to the stock associates, I always had a feeling he had a soft spot for us because he was one of us back in the day. When I met him I immediately knew he was the guy I had to make nice with just so I can keep this shitty job after the season and make the cut. When the holidays were over, I was one of the few they kept around, only this time as a Ladies Shoes salesman.