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The factory had been burglarized, our overseas shipment was lost at sea, and if the bank didn’t come through with interim financing we weren’t going to make payroll.
Basically, things couldn’t have been any worse.
The young entrepreneur looked at me with pleading eyes, hoping I had a solution to at least some of our problems. I’d had no experience in the manufacturing industry before he hired me. Not surprisingly, ever since I joined his team we’d been stuck in the weeds. Clearly I was out of my depth.
I glanced at the clock. It was 8:45 am.
“Listen,” I said, the gravitas in my voice reinforcing the seriousness of the situation, “It’s time for you to go to school. Let’s wrap it up for now, and we’ll sort all this out tomorrow.”
My son nodded in agreement. The game, and our increasingly melodramatic improvisations, would remain in suspended animation until another day of Grade 1 was done and The Widget Store could, once again, open for business.
Last summer, when I was weighing the pros and cons of quitting my job to experiment with simpler living, I wasn’t sure where the career off-ramp would take me.
The Sheryl Sandbergs of the world warn that this can be a one-way ticket to the dead-end life of a woman with too many gaps in her resume.
Most of my women friends, on the other hand, were supportive. They identified with my longing to be more physically and emotionally available as a mother while also having the freedom to explore flexible career options.
In the end, I decided to take the plunge. In one great cannonball leap I said good-bye to a steady paycheque and hello to an uncertain future.
September came and my afternoons were soon filled with a six-year-old boy, his school bus friends and loaves of freshly baked banana bread. My evenings were spent writing and my nights were occasionally sleepless, spent cursing whoever put the “free” in freelancing.
As for my mornings? Thanks to a vintage Fisher Price phone (one of my husband’s childhood treasures carefully preserved in his mother’s basement), they were quickly surrendered to the proprietor of The Widget Store.
I’ll never forget my job interview. I was making beds when the Fisher Price phone rang, summoning me: “Ring-ring, ring-ring.”
He was negotiating with a customer when I arrived.
“Your order will be there right away!” he said, motioning for me to take a seat at the table beside him.
The desk and chairs in his office were small and a bit uncomfortable for a woman of my size and build. With my knees scrunched up to my chest, I took a seat, feigning nonchalance.
The Spiderman poster taped to the wall contrasted with the yellow-and-white gingham curtains on the bay window. The room had gone from a baby’s nursery to a little boys’ play zone to the centre of operations for a manufacturing operation. It had all happened in the blink of an eye. There had been no time to redecorate.
As I listened to the tail end of his imaginary conversation, I figured out that there had been a mixup between green and blue widgets on a recent order. Clearly, the young CEO was doing a lot of problem-solving around the supply chain. If I got the job, an overhaul of logistics and distribution would be my first order of business.
The character of man-in-charge my son conjured up was just what I would have expected: cheerful with a dollop of megalomania.
He hung up the phone and turned to me. “As I said, I have a job for you here at The Widget Store ... if you want it.”
“What kind of a job is it?” I asked.
“Well, I need someone to work in my office with me. I will be the boss and you will be my helper.”
“Do I need to do a lot of math?” I asked, “I’m not very good at math.”
“No, no, no,” he said, quickly brushing aside my apprehensions, “we have a computer that does all of that stuff!”
“Don’t you at least want to see my resume?” I asked.
“Just a second,” he said, making a “T” with his hands – the universal sign for “time-out.”
That’s when Joseph leaned in and whispered, “Mommy, what’s a resume?” To which I replied, “It’s the piece of paper that says all the important stuff I’ve done in my life.”
I slid my imaginary resume across the table. Talk about gaps.
“When do you want me to start?” I asked, signalling a return to the game.
“Right away!” he said.
In due course we talked about salary and benefits. That, of course, is the only downside to my morning shifts at The Widget Store.
But, aside from that, it’s the best job I’ve ever had. I can’t shake the feeling that it’s one of those once-in-a-lifetime opportunities. You know – the kind of long-term venture with a really bright future.
Michelle Hauser lives in Napanee, Ont.
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