Thursday, July 7, 2011

Yes, That's My Husband ~ My Lost Job

I forgot that I went to Fashion college in Fashion Valley - how fitting! The neat thing about the college is that local stores contacted the director all of the time, so it was easy to find a job. I got to do inventory at Saks Fifth Avenue in La Jolla - it was so much fun and the employee lounge was larger and nicer than my apartment!

I had worked in retail in Maine, and even did some visual merchandising. When a women's clothing store near my home was hiring, I applied there and got a job immediately. It was the beginning of December, and the store was really busy because of Christmas coming up. The manager trained me for a few hours one day and was pleased that I caught on so quickly. She thought that I was a great salesperson and customers liked my cheerful attitude. After I had worked there for about a week, I was assigned to work until closing with two other employees. Before that, I had left around 7 pm or 8 pm, but that night I was staying until 10 pm.

There was a couple of chairs by the front door, where husbands of female shoppers sat. When my co-worker's husbands arrived to take them home, they sat in the chairs. It had been busy, so the men talked to us after we closed the shop, locked the front door, and put merchandise away.

After a bit, one of my co-workers said, " I am going to call the police. There is a black guy out there casing the store, and I think he might try to rob the place or attack us." The husbands got up and we all peered out of the windows.

"That is my husband - he must be here to pick me up," I said, after seeing that it was Buzz, standing calmly in the parking lot. He did not look threatening. He is 5'6", is always clean, and dresses neatly in conservative clothes. At the time, he weighed around 130 pounds and both of the husbands waiting in the store were much taller and outweighed him by at least 30 pounds.

Even after they knew that, my co-workers would not let Buzz come inside the shop. They would not unlock the front door and let me tell him that we were still putting things away. I could not believe their behavior, but I did not say anything and quickly finished what I was doing.

They let me out of the shop and Buzz walked me to the bus stop, because we did not own a car at that point. "I was worried about you getting out late, so I came down to pick you up," he explained. "Who were those guys in the store?"

"Those were my co-workers' husbands, and I can't believe that they did not let you come inside and wait!" I declared hotly. I was angry and decided to go by the shop the next day when the manager was there and ask her if it was all right for Buzz to come inside and wait until I was done with closing.

However, the next morning, the phone started ringing around 8 am. It was the manager of the store. She told me that she had changed her mind and she could not use me after all because there wasn't enough work to do. When I politely protested that the store had lots of customers and everyone on her staff had been very busy that past week, she hung up on me.

I was upset, because I strongly suspected that the manager was told about my interracial marrige. I went to my classes at the fashion college, but before I left for the day, I dropped by the director's office and told her what had happened. She came to the same conclusion as to why I was let go. She got out her rolladex (this was the 80's after all) and took out the card for not only that shop, but all five of the stores in the chain. "They will never get another reccomendation from me," the director said as she ripped the cards up. I felt much better.

It has changed the way my husband and I let people know about our marriage. Whenever we have moved to a new place and started a new job, we did not say anything about our interracial marriage until we felt comfortable and accepted by our co-workers. There are a few places that we worked where either my husband or I did not let anyone know about our marriage.

I think back now on what a tough time we had finding an apartment in San Diego. Since then, I went apartment hunting by myself and my easygoing husband decided that if I liked it, he would, too. Even when we bought our house, we worried that the neighbors would not accept us, but they have. It has gotten easier over the years because we have lived in the same place for 12 years and people get to know us - we do stand out, I suppose.

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