My Final Day Sign-Spinning – Origin Story Part 23

Published March 13, 2017 in Uncategorized - 0 Comments

On March 15th, 2014, I ambled outside for my final shift as a sign-spinner.

On the southeast corner of Wadsworth and Mississippi, in Lakewood, Colorado, I listened to some music… a bit of an audiobook… and finally pulled down my headphones so I could take in the din of traffic.

I teared up, drowning in the dreadful knowledge that this chapter in my life was over.

Earlier in the day, two other guys and I closed the second-to-last store. I’d developed quite the reputation for clumsiness, and somehow managed to spill about fifty paper cups while loading a drinking fountain into the Uhaul. The guys couldn’t stop laughing. We ate some breakfast – our last meal together – and drove back to the final store.

After unloading everything, I headed outside to sign-spin one last time. If nothing else, for nostalgia.

I thought about the amazing people I’d met

One woman who’d overcome cancer in her teens, without chemo or radiation…

A man raising a child as a single father, who worked his way up from sign-spinner to buyer in the store…

Someone who’d immigrated from Russia as a teenager, and was working on a second Master’s degree here in the states…

The sign-spinner who did real-estate and dabbled in deejaying part-time…

The functioning alcoholic…

The ones who partied… meditated… smoked weed… were going to school…

… and too many more to list. I vividly felt how we weren’t exactly on the same wavelength, but I cherished my time with them, and listening to their stories.

Over and over I checked the time on my MP3 player, relishing every minute I had left

With about 2 minutes to go, I turned north to see the crosswalk light flashing the number of seconds left for pedestrians.

“Funny,” I thought, “It’s almost like a countdown timer for me.”

10…

9…

8…

The world around me quieted as I stared at the numbers.

3…

2…

1…

Huh.

It was over

Well, I had two minutes left…

… but then a new feeling washed over me.

“Oh. It DID end.”

Everything felt flat. The noise of traffic was jarring and somehow alien. I felt so… out of place… standing there. The grief was gone. I knew I had moved on. A tiny bit ahead of schedule.

I said my goodbyes and walked back into the store.

There were still a couple hours left in the official workday. For no good reason, the remaining half-dozen people lingered around. The owner sat on the floor, legs crossed, distracting himself by playing with his German Shephard.

I may have been done with sign-spinning, but I still soaked up every moment I could inside the store. Because what faced me on the other side made my stomach churn:

Unemployment

But there was nothing to do… except frantically search through Craigslist for another job. I was back to where I started almost three years before. Nothing in the section for Marketing seemed to fit.* From the General Labor section, I could only find a few prospects…

… and one stood out. Actually, it was a post I’d seen a few weeks earlier, and had considered applying for back then. It was a job loading trucks for a commercial laundry company. From the description, it sounded like I could do it, and it seemed like the hiring process gave me an above-average chance of success. But the surface logic I was imputing, wasn’t my real attraction to the post.

The real reason was… something about the job listing felt right. A slight calmness came over me when I first saw it. I got the same reaction – although stronger – when I saw it a second time.

So I wrote down the info.

Finally, 6PM arrived – the usual time we closed for the day.

As good a time as any to leave forever

The owner and his girlfriend planned to hang around and pack some stuff. The rest of us shuffled past them as if to give our condolences, and said our goodbyes, one at a time. I was last.

The owner’s girlfriend gave me a couple gift cards for PayLess, and made me promise I’d use them to buy a new pair of shoes. I said I would (a promise I would keep… which would lead to an odd “leap of faith” turning point in my life).

I shook the owner’s hand and thanked him one last time. He quickly thanked me too, barely able to look me in the eye.

Outside, the Uhaul truck waited for me. As I latched the back shut, I choked back my tears so my co-worker wouldn’t see me crying.

Then came a weekend in limbo…

 

*If I weren’t in such a chronically-high cortisol-induced haze, I’m sure I would have been more creative in my efforts to get marketing gigs (apart from my constant testing in my direct mail business). This experience has given me a new appreciation for the mental challenges when raising one’s self out of poverty.