One afternoon in the summer of 1992, I was out delivering newspapers like usual when suddenly, a large woman I did not know came charging at me.
Her name was Ellen, and she told me she saw me delivering papers everyday and she wanted to offer me a job. I was a little creeped out at first, but she soon informed me she owned a store I walked by everyday. Her store was called shoes ‘n Bags and it sold, well shoes and bags, but also women’s clothing and other gifts.
Anyways, she wanted to hire me to work after school at the office. See, the office part of the business was across the street from the actual store. So each afternoon I would be at the office pricing the shoes, the clothes, and the other stuff. Part of the job would also be to load the stuff into bins, take to the store and unload it there. I would also be taking the trash out of both places, and helping out wherever else I was needed.
It was an entry-level gig for sure, but there were some pluses: the hours were better, the money was better, and I wouldn’t have to deliver papers in 6 foot snow drifts during the winter. I thought it over for about a day, but I gladly accepted the job
at Shoes ‘n Bags.
Taking this job was a decision I would soon regret.
Ellen turned out to be absolute nut. She would scream and yell, not just at her employee’s, but at customers as well. I once saw her tell two older ladies that they wouldn’t find anything their size at her store. But that I’m afraid, was just the beginning.
During a double shift, she wouldn’t let me take a break or even get a drink. I probably would have dropped from dehydration had it not been for my aunt who threatened to report Ellen. Once, while I was changing lightbulbs, Ellen turned the power on while I had my hand in the socket and it didn’t go well for me. She even forced me to help move her parents to a new house, with the threat that if I didn’t do it, I was out of a job.
I desperately needed a break, and the following summer I decided to go away from late June to late August. Ellen wasn’t too thrilled at the news, but she agreed to it as long as I found her a replacement. This is where my fellow TNU member Laneit came in. The poor bastard took over for me that summer, and he suffered much of the same treatment from Ellen.
Once I was back, Ellen decided to keep both of us on. This lead to Laneit and me spending a lot of time together, including a Christmas night sleepover that December. As it turned out, we had a white Christmas that year, with a couple of feet of snow on the ground. On the morning of the 26th, my house phone rang around 5 in the morning, and it was Ellen. I was mostly asleep, but she told me I had to be at work at 7 to shovel at the office and the store before going to shovel out her parent’s house. I told her fine, and headed back to bed.
I was barely under the covers when the phone rang again. On the other end was a screaming Ellen, demanding to know why I hadn’t told her Laneit was there with me. She told me she had called his house and they told her he’d spent the night at my place. Well for one thing, Ellen didn’t ask me about Laneit whereabouts the first time she called. Second, it was 5 in the freaking morning!
All that shoveling took several hours and we were beat by noon. Ellen however, wasn’t done with us. She told us to go to the storage room and get some glass shelves for her. Laneit grabbed a few shelfs, which slipped, and cut him in the arm. I ran with him to the store hoping to find some band-aids at least, but Ellen saw us, and the only help she offered was this: “Don’t bleed on the clothes.”
Shoes ‘n Bags should have been an easy after school job, but it was a nightmare. There are many other stories to tell about our days working there, but I don’t have the time to write about them. Instead, here are a few of the highlights:
- Ellen had a son in his twenties, he was a decent guy to us, but we always called him Rico Suave. Oh, and he was clearly having an affair with one of the managers.
- When I helped move her parents, another friend of mine was hired for the day. When we got back into town, my buddy was nowhere to be found. Ellen’s dad simply said “I knew I forgot something.”
- After a good quarter of sales, Ellen had a pizza party for the employees. Laneit and I were not invited.
- Ellen’s husband spent a lot of time alone with the Victoria’s Secret catalogs.
- One December night, an employee accidentally drove her car into the store. When I got home, the cops and fire department were there. The girl’s car took out several display units, and thousands of dollars in merch. When I called Laneit to share the news he said: I just built that unit a couple of hours ago. I could be under that car!”