THE COLLEGE YEARS
Having grown up in the Burbs of Detroit, I started at the University of Michigan pursuing a degree in Business Administration. I wanted to go to work to earn my own money, against my father’s wishes. He preferred I dedicate myself to my studies. He all but begged me not to work. But I had to know I could make it on my own. I knew he wouldn’t be there someday and I needed that security. Besides, I grew bored too easily and I had to keep moving. I just couldn’t sit still. Like the wind, always restless and on the move looking for the next destination. A new experience, a new place to explore. I don’t think Dad ever understood that. His generation was different.
He had a horrible life as a child and like most parents he wanted to make sure mine was better. But like most children, that wasn’t enough for me. I wanted more out of life. That sounds so shallow to me now. He was so generous and loving, but kept himself from the world. A very private person, he never trusted people. I never understood that until much later in life. Dad’s childhood story is sad, but I find many parts of his life fascinating. He experienced a very special time in human history.
ARE YOU BEING SERVED?
My very first real job was in retail, part time at J.L. Hudson’s Department Store, during the Christmas season. The plan was to work there for the employee discount and to obtain some much needed job experience. Men’s Furnishings, behind the cologne counter, was my assigned position. Think, Are You Being Served? The BBC comedy. I was the top salesman in my department. I heard whispers, “How does the rookie do it?”
It was simple really. I came in early, applied the most expensive fragrance and wore the scent all day. As women approached the counter, lost in the mass of scents, looking for that special gift, I pulled my signature scent off the shelf. “Santos de Cartier is all I wear,” I proclaimed. It was the most expensive fragrance we sold helping to make my sales totals some of the highest in the department. Women never cared about the price, as they have been well trained to pay astronomical prices for their own products. The register would sing. I would later find out that the full time counter people worked on commission. They each were in charge of their own line of fragrances and by selling only one, I was disrupting the delicate balance of things.
Management would soon beckon, questioning how I amassed more in employee discounts than wages earned. Living at home made that easy. Added to that, my father gave me money to buy Christmas gifts. I sure took advantage of that discount. Employees were even allowed to use our discount on top of sales prices. Christmas was over the top that year. As the holiday season came to an end, so did my first job experience.