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...

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.

Lyrics Here


  1. I know what you mean about your former job. I've had quite a few like that one. Even to an extent, I still have one since I also work at a restaurant. Even though I hole myself away as an artist and enjoy my solitude and quiet, there is part of me that loves people and talking... so having a job that exposes me to a lot of people fulfills that aspect and staves off loneliness.

    But I've had some pretty horrible jobs. One of them was being, what I can only describe as a "host" for a nightclub party. I would take care of the VIP section, would make sure everyone was drinking, and once people were drunk... try to get them to open tabs at the bar (the bar had a minimum, so even if they ordered one drink for the rest of the night, they would be charged something like $125). Shady... I know. I had to deal with drug addict and alcoholic bar tenders, bouncers who were trying to start a mini drug ring with psychopharmaceuticals, and dealing with uppity and snobby VIP guests - always wanting free champagne.

    I don't even think that was the worst job I've had. But then again, like I said... I've had a few.

  2. Andrew, that job sounds really terrible! Ick, shady. But you gotta do what you gotta do, ya know?

    I really am lucky that this was my worst. Honestly, it was mostly the humiliation of being duped by a crazy, charismatic, lying lady that hurt the most. Because I totally fell for the whole thing. I am more skeptical now when it comes to dealing with people in business when they make promises. Lesson learned.

    ooh...more job horror stories, please!

  3. Aw, you're so sweet!

    I totally laughed out loud here:

    This is the story of how I met Lauren, also known as my worst job experience ever.

    because for a brief second I thought, OMG, I was her worst job experience ever!!! lol.

    That was such a crazy job. She got more and more squirrelly after you left, and then EVERYTHING was blamed on you...*rolls eyes* I'm so glad to be away from her. Talk about a horrible experience...she infected everyone with her evil, bleh! It really was my worst job.

    I am so grateful to it, though, because I met you!

    I also learned some valuable things about myself--such as never accept other's morals as your own--work them out yourself. ;)

    *giant hugs* You're the sweetest person ever, y'know that?

  4. One of the worst food service places that I worked at was this chain called, Cosi. When I first started working for them they were actually really great. The owners still came in and knew people's names, the food was excellent and there was a standard for quality. It seemed nice and was one of my first "real" jobs in New York and I was happy to have it. However, after years of working there and having seen a merger and new upper management, the company went public and there were lawsuits on how the investors were promised projected returns. Everyone knows that you can't bank on projections. All the same, the company was locked in lawsuits and the quality dropped drastically. At one point, one of my managers asked me to help them "de-slime" the chicken. No joke. I got food poisoning from them on an almost weekly basis and knew of several regulars who had gotten REALLY SICK. Not to mention that eventually my manager was stealing from my paycheck, they tried to "promote" me, but for less pay, and they were all involved with illegal drugs like crazy. Not to mention that some of the restaurants in the chain were down right filthy.

    It wasn't all bad though. I had some really great customers and co-workers and I made some really wonderful friends in the long run. All the same, it was pretty bad.

  5. Lauren!
    Oh I am sorry, LOL! It does sound like I am going to give the horror story of how I met you with that quote. That's funny...especially since it is completely not true. You were one of the only things that kept me sane at that time!

    That's so funny that I was blamed for everything. I am so glad you ladies who stayed actually knew better. What a nut!

    Good to see you!

  6. Andrew,
    Blah, food service~ I am 100% sure my worst stories would be so much worse if I had to work in the restaurant industry. I salute you and will leave an extra tip for my next waiter or waitress!

    I have been watching that Gordon Ramsay show where he cleans up kitchens, and it is really sickening!

  7. Clowns + Mass produced "sculpture" = HELL

    Possibly the shortst worst job ever. One shift and I was done! Ron Lee World of clowns http://www.ronlee.com/catalogue/hobo_joe.htm. Be afraid! Very afraid! My supervisor was pulling the pieces she had painted as my examples as my "problems" That was a worse job than the year I worked cleaning rooms at a Motel 6. How wonderful you met a great friend!

  8. Gaea~! OMG, that is terrifying! Clowns are scary. I am glad you only made t through one day, lol!