My career had been on an upward trajectory for 30 years, and at age 50 I still anticipated a long career.“Romney is very, very comfortable, it seems, with people who are like him.
That’s one of the reasons why he seems so stiff and awkward in town hall settings …
I had landed in an alien environment obsessed with theft, where sitting down is all but forbidden, and loyalty is a one-sided proposition.
For a paycheck that barely covered my expenses, I’d relinquish my privacy, making myself subject to constant searches."If you go outside or leave the store on your break, me or another manager have to look in your backpack and see the bottom,” Stretch explained.
On paper, however, I’m just another overeducated, middle-aged, middle-class refugee whose last retail experience dates to the Reagan administration.
Not to mention retail employers these days have their pick of applicants: the Great Recession added countless numbers of desperate workers like me to the annual labor-market influx of college students and high schoolers.(I have chosen not to name the store or its employees here, because the story is intended as an illustration of what it is like to work in a low-paid retail environment, and not as an expose of a particular store or team.)Of course, I had no idea what a modern retail job demanded.I didn’t realize the stamina that would be necessary, the extra, unpaid duties that would be tacked on, or the required disregard for one’s own self-esteem.Luckily, Stretch bit on my fictional backstory—journalist-turned-community-college student, studying physical therapy in a mid-career change—and my real-life background as a lifelong athlete.It was a perfect fit—at least in theory.* * *The first thing I noticed on my first day on the job is that in retail no one sits. It didn’t matter if it was at the beginning of my shift, if the store was empty, or if my knees, back, and feet ached from hours of standing.Park your behind while on the clock, went the unspoken rule, and you might find it on a park bench scanning the want-ads for a new job.Another quick observation: Working in retail takes more skill than just selling stuff.So when Stretch, the laconic, 34-year-old manager of a chain store I’ll call Sporting Goods Inc.called to tell me I was hired, it was the best news I’d had in a long time.Although older job candidates bring experience and skills to the table, their job applications typically blink like red warning lights to retail managers: “Think about it, Joey—that’s why there are online applications,” my sister, a veteran human-resources professional, told me.“If you apply online, and you never hear back, they don’t have to tell you why they rejected you and face a discrimination lawsuit.” I soon realized the only way I’d have a shot in retail is if I dumbed down my job application, met directly with the person in charge before applying, and used my journalism story-telling skills to sell myself, stretching the truth past the breaking point. on an inspiration one day, asked for an application, and then asked to see the manager.