For the life of me


 People figured I'd end up no good, me being no genius and all, and growing up downtown.

 I'm not saying I did a whole lot better, but I'm not crook or drunk like many other folk.

 Maybe I shocked people when I came looking for work here, most people thinking me crazy for believing somebody like me could ever work in a store like this.

 You should have seen the faces of folks when you hired me. Hell, you even shocked me, though I must admit I was pretty grateful, and I got this silly idea that I could climb right to the top given enough time.

 I'm not saying everybody liked me here. Most folks looked on me like some hill-billy with hip boots clomping into work every day, leaving a trail of mud behind me on the rug. My clothes were clean enough, but down deep, I knew I couldn't wash off what they didn't like about me -- not even in all the 25 years I've worked here now.

 Nobody can say I didn't work hard or anything, harder than most of those who looked down at me over those years. Most of them are gone, while I'm still here.

 Maybe I was trying to prove something to you, them, and myself. Selling isn't art, but it made me feel good -- and most of the customers came to like me after a while. Hell, you promoted me like I really was someone important, gave me a little office back here, trusted me with some of the paper work and ordering, and that sort of thing.

 I was as proud as a rooster when I walked downtown, with many of the people I grew up with saying I was an example to their kids.

 Sure, I got stuck here.

 Maybe I liked being here so much I didn't make any serious decissions, never wanted more than this little piece of the world when other people kept telling me I ought to climb to the top. Maybe I could duck the blame for things easier here than if I was another notch up the ladder. Or maybe I just didn't have the spark in my for something higher up, or the need to have bigger and better things that most people need now. I had a job and an apartment and that seemed enough.

 Besides, I felt needed here.

 Most bosses came and went the way the workers did, never caring enough about anything but their own careers, not one stopping long enough in his climb to learn more about the folks who worked for him than their last names. But I got to see it all, got to know everybody. I got to see the rhythms of the place, and how over time, bosses and workers came and went in waves, how the company impacted the neighborhood -- providing people with jobs that let them move on, while the neighborhood providing the company with customers to keep up profits.


 Yeah, that's as good a way to say it as any, comfortable the way the small shop owners used to be downtown when they did their business, sold their goods, neither too hungry for profits nor thinking they should get too big.

 Maybe that's my big mistake, believing in that kind of life, where a man can set himself up, and not have to move, where a man can caome nd go from work each day, satisfied with what he's got.

Hell, I figured I was going to retire here, or if you let me, work on until I dropped.

 But business isn't like that any more. Someone downstairs called it a treadmill, o which you got to run just to keep up, and if you don't think about getting ahead -- well, I guess that's why I'm in here talking to you.

 You don't have to spell it out. I got eyes and ears. I know as well as anybody there's been trouble in the company. Sure, you say, its the economy, and when it picks up, I'll be back. Maybe that's true, or maybe its the way we do business these days, where a man who works 25 years for one company, doesn't account for much, just a smile and a pat on the back and a shove out to the street with everybody else....


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