Some stories, particularly ones related to the theater, I save for myself. Perhaps for a memoir, perhaps a compilation of sorts- essays or something. Maybe even for a play I will write somewhere down the road. Anyway, these are not the tales that end up in the blog. If I were to share one, it would have started with: let me tell you about the worst job I ever had…
I was 20, and my mother told me to go look through the Yellow Pages to find a job. I thought this was a nonsense way to do things, given that most recruiters had started using email, but I gave it a go anyway and called up a costume store downtown and asked if they were hiring. Strangely, miraculously, they were. I had a pretty good interview and started right away, though in retrospect I don’t believe myself to have been the right fit. For instance, while I had a theatrical background which benefited the overall theme of the store and company, I didn’t have much in a retail background or any kind of customer service. But that wasn’t even the problem there- there were tasks involved in the job that were not brought up in the interview, such as ironing. I can tell you with great shame that I did not learn to iron until I was 20 years old, in the basement of this old store on Main St. They had special ironing boards, where you would press a pedal and the fabric was sucked down to the board, making it much easier to iron the wrinkles out. Another thing that I was not prepared for were the bunny rabbits. When I started working there in February, they were taking returns for Cupid costumes and such. I was told that soon would be the time for the bunny rabbits, as my boss gestured to the ceiling. The store has three racks stacked upon each other, costumes from floor to ceiling and wall to wall, and in the utmost back corner were dozens of bunny rabbit suits.
I spent the next two months with those bastards, renting them in and out in a way that is similar to my current job, and then washing them and preparing them for the next renter. If you ever wondered what was harder, renting automobiles or renting bunny rabbit costumes, I am here to tell you the rabbits win. I would rather wash the clunkiest Jeep driven through the dirtiest field filled with the hungriest kids who left the crunchiest crackers behind, than have to wash another bunny rabbit costume in my lifetime. I don’t know what it was about it, I just know it was miserable. They came back smelling terrible, and so into the washer it went, and you could only do one at a time. While it washed, I would Febreze and brush the head and wipe down any surfaces inside. You couldn’t put them in the dryer, so instead you used a hook on a stick to lift them from the washer and hang them to dry from the ceiling. It was a feat requiring strength that I did not have, as they swayed and bobbed up towards the roof and I clumsly hung them a bit of pipe.
I like the retail aspect of the job, when people would come in for makeup or costume accessories, and I would help them find what they were looking for. But a lot of it I didn’t understand, and a lot of it had to do with where my head was at the time. I left after only a few months, because I knew I wasn’t doing a good job, not to mention the fact that I was on the dreaded 14 pill cocktail at the time. I couldn’t hack it anymore, so one day I quit. I felt bad, but I am sure my employers knew it was for the best. Anyway, it gave me a fun little anecdote about bunny rabbit costumes that I tell at parties sometimes.
Then Wednesday last week I was on the way home from the hospital when my dad told me that the store was gone. I thought “gone” as in liquidated, so I didn’t think much of it, really. And then he said a firefighter was missing. I was woozy from morphine and Ativan, so it took me a minute to ask him if these two things were related and sure enough, they were. There was a massive fire at the store, and the structure fell on one of the firefighters, who ultimately lost his life. I have a lot of feelings. I don’t like that these people I once knew lost their livelihood. And more so, now an emergency responder has lost his everything. A Buffalo firefighter, like my grandfather.
I see a lot of posts on Facebook about this brave man, and I ache for his family. I also ache, perhaps strangely, because I know it is nothing in comparison, for the history that went up in flames. I believe this would be considered a great tragedy whether or not there was a loss of life. And now here we are with a man who cannot return home to his family – and while I feel bad for those beautiful handmade costumes, as well as the people that made them, I can’t help but feel broken for that family- that is so much worse. And yet, all I can think of is dozens of burned bunny rabbits heads.
It is an image in my mind, created simply by facts, and it brings forth a great many feelings. I poured them into a poem over on Patreon, because that is how I deal when I have a lot of feelings. And then I wrote this blog, about loss in many ways. Even the tiniest ways – for instance, I don’t think I will be telling the story of my worst job at dinner parties anymore.
One thought on “Losses, Big and Small”
A well-written post, the tension builds slowly and then the power of your message explodes into our consciousness. Wow! What a statement about comparative loss and community grieving. Thank you for sharing your experience.
LikeLiked by 1 person