To Amazon’s unending horror, I hate color. My wardrobe consists of neutrals, black and the rare splash of color – sort of like how often you’ve seen a unicorn walking into the Senate. If that ever happens CSPAN will finally be able to justify it’s costs.

On this particular day, I decided to wear something upbeat and perky: black pants, black shoes and a black lace button down shirt covering a turquoise top. It’s more color than I usually wear. I walked into a small, locally owned retail store and was hired on the spot for my “fashion sense”. Considering that I almost never shop and frequently wear clothing from five years ago, first impressions aren’t everything. Remember that, people!

I began working in this store that advertised it was for “mature” women who desired all-natural fiber clothing. We had loyal local clientle as well as out of town women who forgot a scarf or wanted something cooler to wear during their vacations.

On my first day I told my new boss, SoSo (it’s close to her real name, which was also the name of the store) that I recognized the register as the same type that I had used for two years at the Discount Store. I noticed that she input prices manually, used a calculator to figure out tax and break bills given to her by her clients, then did a long work-around to open the till to give change. All of that could be done on the register. I thought I was being helpful, but I was immediately banished to the back room to steam.

Ahhhhh steaming – have you steamed clothing before? If you’ve ever been in a sauna and poured water onto the hot coals or rocks with your face directly above the steam…that’s what steaming clothing in a small closet sized room is like. It sucks. If you hold your hand the wrong way, you burn it. If you stand the wrong way any area of your body could be hit by steam. Since I was in a small enclosed room, the hot steam had nowhere to go, except directly into my pores causing me to sweat. There are people in labor camps that sweated less than I did, although their work is more physically challenging.

I was going to put a pic of the industrial steamer I used, but it searching for it caused PTSD flashbacks...so here is a cute bunny instead.

I was going to put a pic of the industrial steamer I used, but searching for it caused PTSD flashbacks…so here is a cute bunny instead.

After a month I learned that as long as I didn’t question any of the existing policies and quietly put clothing away, I would only have to steam for the last half hour of my shift. The minute I asked why we did things a certain way or suggested moving stock in any way, I would spend the rest of my time soaking my clothing and smelling to high heaven.

A month into my stint at SoSo’s, I was counting down the days until I graduated high school and left Hometown forever (funny, huh? Since I had to move back after college. Friggen HILARIOUS!). I hadn’t told SoSo this yet, but it was my eventual plan…probably when I gave my two weeks notice. I only had three weeks of high school left then the summer and finally freedom in college.

It was a slow day and I was hanging up a new shipment when SoSo asked about my career path. I had applied for college with no degree plan, assuming I would figure it out as I went along. I asked for clarification.

“Well, what kind of business do you want to own?” She asked, folding a shirt and placing it in the window.

“Um, I’m not sure.” I said, confused. At the time I was looking at teaching or accounting, neither of which would involve my own business.

“Well I’m glad I’m able to give you a taste of what it means to be a small business owner.” SoSo said brightly, “I love being a mentor. You were born for retail!”

I took this as an insult, after two years of working for Discount Store.

SoSo cleared her throat, “It’s just that I realized that I haven’t really been giving you guidance on how this store runs. I want you to feel free to ask me all owning a business since you have first hand experience with me.”

“I guess I never considered owning my own business. I’ve been researching a few different majors.”

SoSo stopped folding and turned to me slowly. “So you aren’t interested in owning your own business?”

“I don’t know, I haven’t really thought about it before.”

SoSo asked me to go steam the new shipment of cotton pants in the back room, and I knew I’d said the wrong thing. At the end of my shift, she wrote out a check for what I was owed and fired me.

“I thought I was mentoring you, I’m interested in an employee who wants to own a business. This is not working out.”

I was fired for not having the same dream as my boss. On my way out I gave one last kick to the steamer and realized that I would need a new job for just the next three months that would give me a good recommendation for one in my college town, since the last few jobs I had let me go or I quit in a fury. I thought I was screwed…

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