Sunday, January 23, 2005

Big Empty

About two years ago, I joined a toy store company. I love toys like you would not believe. Whenever I had to shop for toys, I would seek out little, independent places where you have people who actually understand customer service and toys. This store was a total blast to work in. This store was really about playing. The store hired people who actually knew about toys. We did puppet shows, arts and crafts. There were certain “experts”. A 20 year old Emerson film student who knows more about Legos than anyone you have ever met. Ever, and he’s hilarious!

When first I wandered into this store, I was so impressed by how things were set up, and by the obvious positive philosophy. I started talking with a guy behind the register who turned out to be the owner. A week or so later, I had a great job offer. More than the paycheck (three times what I had been making) was the excitement of working for someplace young and new. I loved the vision. I loved that it was about the kids, that it was about quality and fun and actually enjoying being there. We were going to Providence to open the second store. We, the employees, hammered in the shelves, and moved the massive boxes of stuff around. It was long (18 hour work days) it was exhausting (MDF...even one shelf weighs a ton) and it was so exciting.

Here’s the thing about the guys who own the stores. They are brilliant visionaries. They are not brilliant businessmen. They actually aren’t very good business men. After six months the store that I had literally invested blood sweat and tears in was not doing all that well. They grew too fast. They planned for a different type of consumer. The downfall of the store was handled really badly. People were told about losing their benefits right before they lost their benefits. Avoidance and procrastination reigned. I would come home crying, with my husband and Sam Costello telling me that I was being too soft, that I was being too meek, that I was investing too much emotionally.

I’m always being told that I invest too much emotionally. Once somebody actually told me that I love too much. I didn’t think that was even possible.

I digress...

That December, I was laid off. Well, that’s not entirely true. My position was dissolved. I was offered a sales clerk position, but it was a gigantic demotion, and I could not afford it.

This past Thursday I was at the mall and I wandered by the massive, empty space that was once the store I helped build. I looked at a spot on the floor and remembered when Heron, Nadia, and I sat on the floor and opened boxes and boxes of stuffed animals. We found the adorable monkeys, and the cats so unbearably ugly we couldn’t believe anyone would buy them.

I saw the place where I set up the "Book of the Week" and storytime. The first storytime was to If You Give A Pig A Pankcake. The kids loved it. They drew pictures of pigs for the artroom door.

I saw the place where we carefully set up the die cast cars and trucks, trying to figure out where they would be visible and not get swiped. The place where I was scared out of my wits because the store was all dark and I thought there was some big dude hiding around the corner. It was a life size Lego statue of some famous basketball player (whose name I have forgotten).

I really believed in it. I really loved what I was doing.

Looking at that giant empty room, I got kind of misty eyed.

My husband did not understand that at all. He didn’t see how I could still have good memories of a company that handled itself so poorly.

I’m not mourning a relationship, I’m mourning a feeling and an ideal.

That’s even more painful, because those things can never be repaired.


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