I was seventeen years old, working for a gift store in my hometown. My job was to be a “jack of all trades,” from running errands to wrapping gifts to encouraging customers to make a purchase. I was speedy at errands, terrible at gift-wrapping, and mediocre at sales.
Meanwhile, my employer was running out of money, dodging creditors, and avoiding invoices. My job began to include answering angry calls while she hid. Looking back, I can see that my boss had no time to be kind to a teenager—her professional life was falling apart.
The one bright spot that summer? My daily walk to buy a sandwich at the deli across the street. The owners were unfailingly kind to me, with a friendly hello or a warm word.
When the busiest day of the summer arrived—the annual “sidewalk sale” where retailers unloaded their old inventory for low prices—my boss had me running for 12 hours straight. My high point was selling a pair of very expensive cubic zirconia earrings during the rush—my biggest sale ever.
But when the hordes cleared, she pulled me into her office and fired me on the spot. I was devastated.