Wednesday, January 4, 2012
Montgomery Ward paint supervisor
One of the first - and worst - jobs I had (I was 16 years old) was working in the paint department at Montgomery Ward. It was a horrible job and I lasted one day - a six hour shift. The job required mixing paint in one of those paint shakers.
Easy right? But the few customers I encountered were not only rude, they were cruel. One man spent a couple hours bickering with me about the inaccuracies of the color that I was trying to achieve through painstaking, wildly imprecise blending (I had no real training. My supervisor, probably 17, sat in the breakroom and smoked). The customer became so pissed that his face turned blood-red as he he leaned toward me demanding that a manager do the mix job.
My supervisor - with slicked back black hair, red silk shirt, tight black bell bottoms, Kool dangling from the corner of his mouth - strutted out from the break room, grabbed a can of white and a small can of base, and measured - eye and hand - the exact amount of base color to add to the white and placed the can in the shaker and let 'er rip. He was grinning and proud.
After the shaking was done, my supervisor opened the can, showed the contents to the customer who slapped him on the back and laughed, "Well its about time!"
The customer walked out of the store a happy man. Me, on the other hand? Miserable. The next day I called the store and quit.
A few nights later, mid-December 1977, I was standing in line with a couple friends to see Saturday Night Fever. As the theater was emptying from an early showing of the film, out walked my old Montgomery Ward paint supervisor. He recognized me. He smiled and held out a hand.
"That," he said, jerking his thumb over his shoulder back toward the theater, "was the greatest movie you'll ever see. I've seen it 10 times."
I settled in one of the theater's fabric seats as the film started.
Tony Manero strutting down a crowded NYC street. Struts to "Stayin' Alive." Paint can in hand. Strut. Hot chick toward him. Paint can. Strut. Silk shirt lay away. Strut. Music. Another hot chick. Strut. Paint can.