Well, I’m ready to continue my story. The one you’ve long forgotten about. Here’s a hint, think about Decemer 07.
“I need you to unpack some boxes,” said the drawling voice. “I’ll give you $40 each.”
“Sure,” Jamie and I responded.
After a short walk we arrived at 359 Springfield Avenue, also known as “La Jolie Maison,” a storefront I had passed by countless times before but had never noticed. Upon entering La Jolie Maison I immediately noticed that I was surrounded by absurdly expensive things. Beds, tea cups, harpoons, all sorts of things.
We made our way to the store’s back door, where we encountered six large crates set out in a patio area.
“Here’s a drill boys,” said our Southern friend who later introduced herself as Diane. “There are mirrors inside, they’re $10,000 each, so be careful.”
I don’t think that price was accurate, but the mirrors were framed in gold. And thus began my year-long run of after school work at La Jolie Maison. It may very well have been the greatest high school job anyone has ever had.
Jamie and I simply became known as the “worker boys,” or “tweedle-dee and tweedle-dum,” depending on who was referring to us. Our co-workers were as colorful as a rainbow on LSD, and the entire staff was led by our boss, Kevin Clark, the happiest man I’ve ever met.
Generally work was “scheduled” on Monday and Wednesday afternoons from 3:00 pm to 5:00 pm. The thing is, maybe 15% of the time there wasn’t any work to do, but Kevin would pay us $40 in petty cash just for showing up. The rest of the time work almost never really went to 5:00.
When there was work to do it mainly consisted of things like folding and measuring fabric, polishing silver, unpacking crates, and moving large pieces of furniture.
When we weren’t doing any of those things we were usually “organizing” the basement storage closet. Once while doing so we accidentally broke a tea cup with a $500 price tag. The good news? No one cared!
Our “overtime” work sessions were perhaps the most memorable. The owner of La Jolie Maison, named Laurie Finn, once had us help her move from one home to another in a neigboring town. She had moved within the same town on an annual basis for over 20 years, just for fun.
Another time I came in early on a Saturday morning to help with a sidewalk sale. I gave popcorn to children (and moved some trinkets) for maybe six hours. My compensation? $100 in petty cash.
Then there were the strange objects they allowed us to take home. It seemed like the fun would never stop.
After a while, of course, the fun did stop. About six months into our tenure our hours were pared, and over time our wage slipped to $10 an hour. Evenutally, Jamie and I were laid-off so Laurie Finn could hire her brother to do what we were doing full time. Full time!
At this point I’d like to draw your attention to the fact that La Jolie Maison is the small business model I most closely observed during my formative adolescent years. More evidence that the fact that I’ve managed to keep my own business open for more than a year is nothing short of astonishing. Thanks for helping with that!