Today's Video is a real treat, a demo version of XTC's Dear Madam Barnum. I know Andy Partridge was going through what was probably a terrible divorce, and this song is probably about that, being mistreated by his wife. But I always related it to my experience of the working retail, and the feeling of having to put on a performance and be the sales-clown for some terrible boss. The experience above was one of my only female bosses, and the environment of the Venetian carnival masks and finery always reminded me of being in a circus. So I did think of her as Madam Barnum.
October 2, 2007
I put on a fake smile, and start the evening show...
random Murano glass clown sculpture I found on Google. This one is not as scary as some that I have seen, you know the real CLOWNY ones! eek!
This is the story of how I met Lauren, also known as my worst job experience ever. Ok, I should say that as far as terrible jobs go, it was really not as bad as it could have been. There are horrible jobs and horrible bosses much worse. But this is *my* worst.
So I was working at a family jewelry/bead store for a long time, all through college. It was ok, but it really was going nowhere. And the family dynamics were way too intense to deal with anymore. I was graduating college and felt that I needed something that could teach me something and prepare me for my career better, which I was still figuring out at the time. So this opportunity came along to be the manager for a mail order catalog dealing in Venetian glass beads. That sounded perfect, because I wanted to run my own mail order catalog for my beads (hey, and I *do* now! cool!). So after interviewing and being woo-ed by the seemingly positive, creative, and knowledgeable woman, I left my old job and started working for her.
It seemed good for a while, we had an office space in a mall, which was attached to the store that would be opening soon. I was not crazy about the mall part, but I had been assured that I would be running the catalog behind the scenes, teaching classes, shipping, and doing computer work, not working in the retail area. So I had some freedom getting organized and learning the computer system and the shipping system and the inventory for a few weeks. The inventory was all hand crafted artisan lampwork beads from Venice. They are the gold foil variety, very skillfully made. They had modern shapes and colors and lots of foil, and some millefiori. This was back about 10 years ago, before there was the huge rush of Indian and Chinese glass that is made to imitate the Italian lampwork, but with much less skill.
So I was excited for a while, and really liked the product at the time. All was well until the store actually opened. At that point I was immediately put on the floor, almost always the sole salesperson for a whole shift. The duties of the mail order manager quickly vanished, or had to be done while working on the floor. The store was beautiful, dimly lit except for the spotlights on the glowing cases of Venetian glass. It was beautiful, I should say, for a customer visiting for a few moments, but for someone sitting in the dark space all day long, listening to the gratingly annoying happy Italian music playing while I worked all day doing something I was promised I wouldn't have to do was miserable for me. I remember, since I was often alone, the embarrassment of having to pull the mall gate to the store down and put up a sign to run in the back to pee. I felt so alone and miserable, and duped.
The only silver foiled lining was that another gal was hired, and she became a lifelong friend. This is dear Lauren! She gave me all the scoop and gossip, and commiserated with me, even though I only saw her for a little while a day, and that made things better. There were two other cool gals who I later got to work with a bit, both named Emily I believe. Although I haven't kept in touch with them as much. Lauren stayed on for a long time, as I think she must have the patience of a saint, and afterwards continued to be a major bead personality, which she remains.
The crazy lady boss got crazier and I caught her in many lies both to myself, the other staff members, and customers. She also developed an intense dislike for me, probably because I would call her out on the lies and didn't kiss butt. Crazy stuff. After a couple of short months I knew I couldn't stay, so I began looking for another job. It turned out to be another positive thing because I was so desperate. I was given the opportunity to apply to fill a high school ceramic teacher's maternity leave. If I was not so intent on getting out of my current situation, I don't know if I would have had the courage to apply, but I figured, what the heck? A rejection from the school was better than the daily rejection at that job, so I figured I should at least try. At the time I was so disenfranchised about the mail order thing, I thought I might want to teach, is this was a good opportunity. I went for the job with all my strength, and got it, without teaching credentials or experience teaching high schoolers. So I left the crazy Venetian place and taught high school for a few months.
Thus is the story of my worst job. As you can see, I try to think of the positives of it, because it was so terrible for me. I got a great friend and the confidence to teach, directly because of it. But today, I cannot look at Italian glass, without feeling a sickness deep in the pit of my stomach, even though I know it is beautiful. I have a box of lovely gold foiled beads, hidden in my stash, that I can barely open. It is an irrational fear, but all those memories flood back to me, and I don't know if they will ever leave...