Retail, Management, Employees and More

There is something about the thoughts I have while making my morning coffee that can be either inspiring or painful.

I have worked in retail for years, either as a second job or as a means of earning an income while I looked for full-time work.

This morning, I thought of a man I worked with at Williams-Sonoma. He was then in his early 40s, tallish (5′ 11″ ?), handsome in a Ronald Coleman-early film-style way, outgoing and capable. I started working there in November, 1997 and he came a few months later.

Upper management finally realized that having someone full time in the stockroom was a good idea and he was hired. Now, the man I described does not sound like the usual stockboy.

I was 50 when I began working there. The manager was a pretty woman a few years older than me who seemed to be cursed. Her test pilot husband had died in a plane crash. She was also the most accident prone person I had ever met. In fact, not long after I was hired, she slipped on ice in the parking lot and broke a vertebra in her back.

One day, she asked me if I thought the stockboy had been in prison. What??? She said why would a man like that accept this kind of work? The economy was booming at the time. In fact, Williams-Sonoma’s chief competitor, Crate and Barrel, was drowning in business that Christmas and had called a television station to ask for a human interest/economics piece about how difficult it was to find people to work just for Christmas.

I had just handed in my thesis and knew I needed work and thought a Christmas job while I switched out of thesis writing to resume writing would be perfect. In other words, I wasn’t the sort of woman who would work retail, or, so one would think.

And, as my situation was irregular, I just assumed his was as well. I told the manager that I would guess he was between jobs and this was a filler while he sent out paper.

As things turned out, Corporate headquarters took notice of him and he was asked to move from the suburban store for the busier store in Boston, steps from the Freedom Trail.

Oh, The Joys of Internet . . . in any form

Stephen Colbert once did a small piece on LinkedIn when he was still on Comedy Central. He said he receives invitations to join, and, as soon as he finds out what it does, he will join.

I joined a few years back and I feel the same way. What does it do other than waste my time?

Granted, I have enjoyed a forum of Medievalists sponsored by Linkedin but is it worth maintaining a subscription for a single forum when there are other online sites through which I can chat with Medievalists?

I occasionally receive postings about jobs, none of which am I qualified for.

Today, the service sent me a list of 95 people I might know. I did know some. One person was formerly in my writing group. Another was my son whose last name is different than mine.

Interestingly, there were two people I encountered before through a different form of internet communication, dating sites.

I was active in the predecessor of online dating sites, print media personals, just after my divorce, 23 years ago. For about six months, I met men for coffee, occasionally for dinner. I had between one and three of these meetings a week.

I never wanted to see any of them a second time and always left the cafe or restaurant at a run.

After a six year relationship that began with a face-to-face encounter at a Cajun dance session at the late, lamented Johnny D’s, I tried the internet version of the personals.

I actually agreed to meet a man a second time. He was physically attractive, educated, intelligent and articulate. He was also a widower.

Both times, the conversation flowed easily. But the second time sent up a signal flair. I had suggested we meet at Tower Hill Botanical Garden. He called me and asked that I meet him instead at a hotel in Sudbury, MA. He begged off because of the heat but I wondered if he had weighed the price of admission.

Now, meeting at hotel does not automatically set off alarms because hotels have lounges where people can sit for hours undisturbed.

But . . .

This was a hotel where he and his late wife would go for weekend retreats. The problem for me is that it was a humdrum place on Route 9 in a town with no particular charm except for the living history museum and they lived in Vermont. Yeah, I always think of fleeing Vermont for Route 9.

We walked over to a bench next to the lake behind the hotel. By this time, I knew to hang my shoulder bad between us on the bench.

He emailed me later the same day to say how much he enjoyed my company and asked for a third meeting. I no longer wanted to wait for the classic “third date death,” although I did not respond for a week. When I did, it was to say no.

The other man, who I contacted years before via the Boston Globe personals, is much older than I am, a retired Harvard professor. In fact, I wonder if he is still alive or if his LinkedIn account simply continues without him.

I never met this man although we exchanged several emails. He, too, is a widower, although his second wife was much younger than he. They had two sons together who attended the high school where I was a permanent sub. He thought had we begun dating , he did not want one of his boys to show up in a class I was assigned for the day. Reasonable, I suppose.

Anyway, during the internet era, I received an email from him. He thought my profile matched the type of woman he sought. Besides, I was, to him, beautiful. I answered that we had had a previous history in which he declined to meet me.

Now, in terms of raw data, either of these men would seem to be “my type.” We were all lefties. We had all worked in education. We all held graduate degrees. They were reasonably attractive and younger in spirit than their respective ages.

But, who is to say what a type is. What about those qualities that are not reflected in personal appearance or on a resume? What happened to not judging a book by its cover?

Of course, I declined to connect, even on a ‘professional level,’ with either man.

As for LinkedIn, is it really professional? I am not trained in any medical field nor do I have an MSW. My resume is posted there. I could, possibly, work in television. But is someone going to hire a 69 year old woman for professional television work? I am seriously thinking of dumping LinkedIn. I receive an average of 150 emails daily. Cutting back on even one source would be a help.

Particularly, like Stephen Colbert, I am still not certain what it does.

There Are Wonderful Things on Your Bookshelf

Yesterday, I looked for a particular book on preparing vegetables in the traditional French manner. I had some Swiss chard, which I love but which is sometimes bitter and I wanted to blanch it in water with a little flour added, a process whose name I can not remember other than the phrase contains the word blanc.
Anyway, I could not find the book, but, in looking through my shelves, I thought of all the great books that I have neglected over the past few years, avoiding cooking because I hate being in my own house because my youngest son is here and because I was working two ill paying jobs to support myself and hadn’t the time to cook. I called my food prep warming although I never bought prepared foods.

How nice some cookbooks are. I still love my first mentors, Elizabeth David and Richard Olney. I loved the casual approach of David and the elegantly simple line drawings of Olney. More to the point, I love the France they evoke, the post war world recovering and rising from devastation. Their books, along with M.F.K. Fisher’s speak of recovery, reclamation, and healing.

There are other, newer cookbooks I love just as much but in different ways for different reasons because they are the products of different times. Ada Boni’s classic Italian recipes, printed like a dictionary without illustrations comes to mind because it so no nonsense, like dictation taken in the kitchen of your (a universal you, and certainly not my grandmother!) talented grandmother.