Retail Days – One of My Many Misadventures at The Gap
I think if you took a poll, you would find that a pretty large percentage of people in this country have at some point worked for The Gap or one of it’s sister companies (Banana Republic, Old Navy, Pottery Barn or PiperLime). I am one of those people – I started right around the time I was attending community college and wound up working at three different stores during my time there. That’s the nice thing about working for a chain; you can request a transfer or communicate a desire to move into management and you can still have a job within a distance you are willing to drive.
At my third posting (where I was a junior assistant manager), I worked with a store manager who had trained in a store where I worked before and I liked her so I was pleased to be placed in her store (even though it was in sort of a dodgy area).
I had gotten settled in as a manager and liked the other managers and staff, so I was happy that I had asked for and received my promotion. Our store was sort of the district’s outlet store so we got an interesting variety of merchandise from all over the area which had been marked down (not good for me since I was never good at saying no to a great deal, especially with a 30% discount on top of the low price). Needless to say, much of my take home pay went right back into the store’s profit margin.
Of the holidays I worked at The Gap, the Christmas season of ’95 was the most memorable. Our store manager started to have pain in her back starting right after Thanksgiving prompting several doctors appointments and a trip to the emergency room when the pain became excruciating. She had painful steroid shots to help ease the pain but it did nothing to ease her discomfort. It took almost a month for her doctors to determine that she had a severe bladder infection (which was causing all the pain) instead of muscle pain in her back. The delay in treatment kept her at home and in bed for much of the holiday rush leaving the other assistant manager and me in charge of the store during the busiest shopping season of the year.
Of course this meant a lot of overtime for both of us and the constant need to shift inventory around the store as new shipments came in and older stock was sold. We would have been busy anyway, but being short our store manager made it especially challenging. I logged 83 hours for the week before Christmas.
Finding time to do my own holiday shopping was almost impossible and I did what I could at the mall where I worked during my breaks, but finally I got an evening off and went to a larger mall where I knew I could find everything I needed which was also closer to home. I was so fatigued from all of my hours at work and wanted nothing more than to finish my shopping and get home to rest.
As I pulled up to an intersection at the mall, I was preparing to turn right when I saw a car coming. In my exhausted state, I hit the gas instead of the brake and wound up hitting a Volkswagen. I was mortified at what my bonehead move, and even more so because a group of punks had witnessed my stupidity and were laughing loudly at my expense. It was horrible.
I exchanged information with the driver whose car I had hit and went about finishing my shopping. It was not a joyous experience (okay, it never really is, but I was bummed about the accident) and I drove home in the dark with my bags of presents feeling pretty low.
I barely noticed the small shadow in the road in front of my car before I heard the thud of a small body under my tires. I looked back into the rearview mirror to see that I’d run over and killed a possum just a couple miles away from my home.
It was too much and I began to cry. I walked into the house sobbing. My mother poor mother had no idea what was wrong with me. Through the tears I told her that I’d had a horrible day and had just killed a possum on the way home. “That’s terrible sweetheart.” she said consolingly.
“That’s not the worst part.” I said. “I also hit a rabbit.”
“Oh, no. Honey, I’m so sorry!”
“Me too. It was a Volkswagen Rabbit!”
As it turns out, the cost to repair the man’s car came out almost to the penny what my paycheck for the 83 hour workweek was. All that work and overtime was lost because in my exhausted state I hit the gas instead of the brake.