(Note: This is number three in a series detailing the fall of my small retail music store followed by a one-year vacation fueled by the funds derived from my going-out-of-business sale. Part one was: My Shemp Howard Obsession. Part two was: Fly Like a Buzzard.)
After the fiasco at the Ford dealership and my outrage at the scam employment ad they placed in our local newspaper, I was still reluctant to follow my wife’s (now friendly ex-) advice to enroll in truck driving school. Once again returning to the help wanted ads, I saw that a local pawn shop chain was hiring and, despite my disdain for such businesses, decided to give it a try. I was a good salesman so it should be easy for me to fit into this environment…as long as I came to the realization that I was no longer in charge.
I called the number and was given an appointment the next day. The guy who interviewed me said: “When Can You Start?” I confidently replied, “Yesterday!” He gave me a big thumbs up and said that enthusiasm was just the attitude they were looking for. I started the next day as a trainee. There were three other guys who were hired at the same time and we were going to be trained as a group.
It was routine stuff…learning store policy, handling pawn payments, observing experienced employees buy items, cleaning counters, vacuuming the floor, etc. I had a difficult time figuring out the computer system when I sold an item and needed help with that. Every time I had to log on to complete a sale the person who helped me would enter the item as his sale. I thought this was pretty seedy behavior but kept my mouth shut so as not to make waves.
Behind the sales floor there was a large storage room with labyrinthian rows of ten-foot tall metal shelves where pawned product was arranged alphabetically by the customer’s last name and subdivided by category…sporting goods in one spot, hi-fi equipment in another, and so forth. This room was not just dank and gloomy, it was confusing as well.
Every night upon returning home and going to bed, I experienced nightmares about this storage room. In these dreams, I was involved in an escape attempt with a small entourage of terrified souls, none of whom I recognized. This was a place of fear, foreboding, and flight. One minute we would be running and the next minute we would be clambering up the tall storage shelves to escape the huge/deformed/fanged/clawed beasts that were patrolling the aisles of a seemingly endless, poorly lit storage room.
I was hopelessly trying to escape from the room as my companions were ripped, one-by-one from the safety of their perch next to a set of stereo speakers, or dragged from behind a rack of guitar cases. By the end of these dreams I was alone…still running from the monsters, seeking the dubious safety of the tall merchandise racks, and hopelessly trying to find an escape route. Dreams of pursuit rarely end in a comforting, satisfactory manner.
I figured that my recurring nightmare was an omen of sorts so I began to look for an exit from what was obviously an unwise career move. I didn’t care much for either the environment or my coworkers, nor could I escape the image of myself genetically devolving into a vulture perched on a grave stone. We parted company after two weeks. It was mutual. I wasn’t going to pawn my soul and they got tired of listening to my Curley impression: “Look at the grouse! Look at the Grouse! Nyuk, Nyuk, Nyuk!” I did not expose them to my Shemp impression because they were unworthy. I walked out the door and never looked back.
I had finally come to the realization that I needed to heed the advice of my wife and enroll in truck-driving school. After some inquiries I determined that the best deal available was a six-week state program operated by Orangeburg-Calhoun Technical School about 70 miles up the road from my home in Hollywood, South Carolina. I applied and was accepted.
The course instructor, Tim, was an amiable and knowledgeable gentleman with a great sense of humor as well. He suffered through the students as they ground up gears, constantly stalled, made illegal turns, and committed a host of other truck driving no-nos. At the end of the course everyone received their Class A CDLs. I was enthusiastic and more than ready to go out into the world as a truck drivin’ man.
Note: The next article in this series is titled: “Is Your Pee-Pee Jug Half-Empty or Half-Full?”