Nothing Up My Sleeve

Jon Gallagher

I Got a Job (Sha-na-na-na Sha-na-na-na-na!)


Someone once said that it’s easy to tell a recession from a depression.  A recession is when your neighbor loses his job.  A depression is when you lose yours.

For those who have been reading this column for any length of time will know, my personal Great Depression of 2009 started back on March 9 of this year when Circuit City closed their doors for a final time, sending me off to the unemployment line.

Over the past five months, I’ve interviewed with various companies on the average of once a week.  I submitted an average of two resumes per week via email, and I filled out countless online applications. 

I had several near misses.

An insurance company was ready to hire me and had everything set up.  I showed up for my orientation meeting and was asked if I had my check for $29.95 to cover the cost of my training materials.  I pulled out the check I’d written and the lady just laughed.  “Not twenty nine dollars,” she said, thinking that I was joking.  “Twenty nine hundred,” she explained.

That’s when I thought she was joking. 

But she wasn’t.  So I left.

I may have burned a bridge or two at that insurance company.  Heck, I may have blown those bridges to smithereens, come to think of it.

I’ve already written about the video store that wouldn’t hire me because I was too old.  We won’t rehash that.  Just for the record, I haven’t been back there to rent a video since.

A pizza restaurant in Peoria wanted to talk to me about a management position which sounded good.  When I got there, the manager told me that she would put me to work that very night if I could bring her a clean MVR (Motor Vehicle Report).  I told her I wasn’t interested in delivering pizzas for them and the interview ended about ten seconds later.

I interviewed with a car dealer in Peoria for a sales position.  I actually made it past the first interview with the Human Resources manager who recommended me for hiring.  My second interview was with one of the partners of the dealership and I ended up walking out of the interview before he was finished.

The partner had an overinflated opinion of himself, and he took every opportunity to remind me how rich and successful he was.  But he kept showing that he wasn’t up to date on reality.  One of the questions he asked me was, “Why don’t you go back to work for Circuit City?”

“Mainly because they closed, you know, went out of business?” I answered.

“Oh yeah,” was his response. 

He then went down my resume, listing the jobs that I had one by one, and belittling each and every one of them.  When he started personally insulting me, implying that I probably wasn’t qualified to be a teacher, I stood up and said, “Now I remember why I didn’t buy my last car from you.  It’s because you’re an ass.”

There went another bridge.

Actually, I didn’t know that he was an ass when I bought the car.  I bought it because the place that had it offered it at a fair price and it was what I was looking for and could afford.  This incident just made me extremely glad that I hadn’t purchased it from him.

One morning I walked into a retail store in Peoria just after they opened for the day, and told the manager that I was there for my interview.  He got a funny look on his face and asked what position I was interviewing for.  I told him that I assumed it was for a management position since that’s what I had applied for.

His facial expression got even more quizzical.  He asked who had set up the interview.  I pulled out my notes and gave him a name, who turned out to be his district manager.  The quizzical expression disappeared and was replaced by several hues of blues, pinks and purples.  It was during the color change that I caught on as to what was going on. 

The manager announced that my interview was cancelled because the store just closed.  He marched out from behind the counter, ushered me out the front door, following me closely and locking it behind him.  He pulled out his cell phone and started screaming into it.

I’m not much of a detective, but from what I was able to piece together, I was supposed to interview to replace him, only no one had bothered to tell him that he was being replaced.  The district manager had gotten delayed or had just plain forgotten about our interview and was now getting an earful from an irate former employee.

I pieced it together because shortly after the manager peeled out of the parking lot, the district manager called me on my cell phone to yell at me.  I guess I wasn’t supposed to tell the manager what I was there for.  He continued to yell until I stopped him and asked, “Are you paying me right now?”

The question took him by surprise.  He stuttered for a moment before saying, “Of course I’m not paying you!  What kind of idiot are you?”

“Not as big of one as you.  Since you’re not paying me, I don’t have to listen to this.”  I hung up and put another notch on my bridge burning gun.

A fast food restaurant offered me a job that paid minimum wage.  Several places offered me commissioned sales jobs selling everything from Pest Control Services to lightbulbs to anti-theft devices for automobiles.  None of them seemed to be a fit for me, mainly because none of them supplied any kind of leads.  I would have had to have gone out, basically door to door, and found my own prospects.  No thanks.

By the time the middle of July rolled around, I was ready to chuck it all in and check out the local truck driving school.    I figured if nothing else, I could drive around the country and get paid for it.

The night before I was headed for the school, an old friend from Circuit City sent me an email.  He figured that I already had a job, so he was just asking if there was anyone from the old store that I would recommend for a sales position at his new place of employment.  He listed off some of the benefits and expectations, and they sounded pretty good.

I sent him an email back recommending myself.

He sent me a link to an online application that not only asked for my employment history, but also gave me some sort of psychological test to fill out to make sure I was a good fit for their company.  I must have passed that test because a couple days later, the HR manager was calling me to do a telephone interview.

I passed that short interview and was set up with an in person interview the next week.  If I passed that interview, I’d be turned over to the department manager for a second interview (third if you count the phone interview).  If he liked me, then he would pass me along to the store manager who would have the authority to hire me.

Each interview lasted a little more than an hour.  After interviewing with the store manager, I was offered a job providing I could pass a drug test, which was no problem at all (I didn’t even have to study for it).  I was ecstatic when they offered the sales position because I was quickly running out of shirts and ties to wear to interviews, and I was going broke buying Tums and Pepto-Bismol to settle a very nervous stomach.

I had a week of in-store training and a week of training in the home office in Madison Wisconsin (which is why there was no column last week).  By the time you read this, I will be well into my fourth week at my new job.

I am now an appliance salesperson at American TV and Appliances in Peoria.  We’re a 145,000 square foot store located just west of the Shoppes at Grand Prairie between Peoria and Kickapoo.  We sell not only TVs and appliances, but also computers, car stereos, and furniture.  American TV has 15 stores in Wisconsin, Illinois, Iowa, Michigan, and Missouri and has been around since 1954.  Last year, their revenues totaled more than $450 million

So off I go on another adventure.  The Great Gallagher Depression of 2009 is over.

Here’s hoping the recovery for the rest of the area is on its way.