Sal’s office took up offices on four floors of a midtown Manhattan building. The floors (9th, 10th, 11th, and 12th) defined not only their distance from the ground, but also the employees who worked on each. It was much like segregated groups of people who could only touch one portion of the elephant with a blindfold on, as little communication between groups rarely made sense. The 9th floor was design (plus Sal), the 10th was production and public relations, the 11th was sales and the showroom, and the 12th was customer service and accounting.
You can imagine my dismay when I wound up on the 12th floor to start my first day of work. I was told that everyone started in customer service so that they could learn the ins and out of the business, and that I would assuredly be placed elsewhere if the time/talent were right. I received my first title: CUSTOMER SERVICE REPRESENTATIVE. I didn’t have a desk. The intern had the desk. This no doubt caused some sort of weirdness in the room when I had to ask her to look something up or to borrow something. I figured surely someone would address this and make it right, but I soon learned that whatever didn’t bother Sal didn’t bother anyone else, and he rarely surfaced on that floor. I read magazines as it was now a part of my job to read five magazines a month and write a synopsis on each. Woohoo.
I was finally placed at a desk and was in the middle of learning an incredibly boring computer system my second week of work when an impromptu company meeting was called. Sal, along with the rest of the floors suddenly surfaced. He looked at me as if he didn’t know me and asked how I was liking my experience (clearly evading the use of my unknown name). Before I could answer, he had scanned my entire ensemble and asked where I got my clothing. He loved my orange sweater, watercolor tank, and gold skirt, all from ‘Le Target.’ He announced that he liked my style to everyone and publicly asked if customer service was really what I wanted to do. I said no. He told me to write him an essay about what I wanted to do and have it in his inbox by the morning.
In the meantime, he made an example of my well-worn Sal shoes. I had beaten them to the ground, and the snakeskin along the edges had begun to peel up. He whipped out a lighter and proceeded to burn the periphery of the shoes until the extra had disappeared, just like some sort of magic show. I had never dealt with pyromania in the workplace, so I was intrigued. He was clearly fueled by everyone’s impressive looks.
I went home that night and wrote an essay about how I wanted to do trend forecasting. How I wanted to study what was coming–what colors, what silhouettes, what styles. The next day, Sal was so enamored by my piece (what can I say- I am a persuasive writer), that he insisted I be ‘moved downstairs’ next to him. I was to travel with him overseas, perform trend research, embark on his creative projects. I was given my second title: TREND FORECASTER. I wrote to all my friends and family back home; I had arrived. I was living a dream.
I got all sorts of cards in the mail congratulating me. I still have them. Including one from my parents stating how proud they were of me and how much I deserved this. Hah.