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Entry date: 10-7-2022 - I was a shoe hustler - Letters to My Friends

Dear Friends,

As I was accustomed to working on a regular basis when I had to leave Sears due to being “removed” from the DECA program at Camelback, I applied for and got a job at Marshall’s, which was also in the Colonnade mall. This was right around Christmas in 1986, if I remember correctly, and I recall thinking that the interview process was way too easy. Something must have been wrong with the job.

I was assigned to the shoe department, and I worked with an interesting German fellow named Daniel. He was about ten years older than I was, I think, so he seemed pretty old. He may have even been something like 28. Daniel showed me the ropes, though, and was a cool guy. We ended hanging out a bit over my time at Marshall’s and he even dated my friend, Lauren, who also worked there.

Daniel was sort of a goth guy, in a way, and had this sort of wild, sweeping grayish black hair. He was very intense and reminded me a bit of Roman Polanski. Some of this was because he was clearly interested in the younger women and some of it was his accent. It was fun to watch him turn the accent on a bit to get a gal’s attention.

There were a fair number of Camelback students that worked there and even a few from other schools that I became friendly with over time. I worked at Marshall’s until not too long before I left for the Army. The job was pretty simple.

I would walk around the shoe department and straighten the shoes. There were on big racks, probably at least eight of them, that were about 20 feet long and six feet high. The customers would often leave them in a mess when they would try things on and I went around and fixed them. If Daniel and I were working together, we would talk about music and life and such and it would make the day go quicker.

Since I was in school full-time again and didn’t have the easy schedule anymore thanks to DECA, I worked nights a lot and often both Saturday and Sunday on the weekend. Like Sears, Marshall’s closed around nine, so I didn’t miss out on too many things because of it other than the under 21 shows at the Mason Jar. Usually, I could get off for those, though.

I’m thinking I probably averaged about 20 hours a week as I would get checks for about $60 or so each week. There wasn’t too much in taxes taken out of $3.25 or so an hour and I didn’t need much. I wish I could say that the days would go by fast, but often there was not a lot to do. As usual, I learned how to make a game out of a boring task and would keep track of my shoe straightening stats in my head to pass the time.

There were some regular customers who would keep me entertained, too. One was the elderly woman who would come in and shop for hours at a time. She’d fill her cart up and then just leave it for one of my co-workers to put it away. The manager of the store didn’t mind as she didn’t cause any problems and the only complaints would be from whoever was tasked with returning the fifty or sixty items in the cart.

There was another dude who was either a drag queen or just a crossdresser who always came in looking for the size 12 women’s shoes. I would put the big sizes aside for him in the back and we had many an interesting chat. I think he appreciated Daniel and I looking out for him.

When the shoe department was under control, I would sometimes help out on the registers, but not very much. Usually, I would walk around and bother the other people working there or hide out in the back. We were always getting in a lot of shoes, there was boxes to sort out and such before filling a cart with the new shoes and putting them out for display.

I became friends with a girl named Amy who worked in the layaway (yes, we had one of those) department. She was really funny and nice, and it was fun to be her friend at work. She wouldn’t talk to me much at school because of the crowd she hung around with, but whatever. I wonder if anyone else had those similar relationships where you were friends at work but acted like you barely knew each other at school because of what your friends would think.

I never really cared about that stuff, but some people did. I liked being able to be friends with whoever wanted to be my friend, regardless of the social network they moved in. Amy ended up introducing me to a girl named Cheryl who also worked at Marshall’s who became my girlfriend towards the end of the school year.

Cheryl was also from the jock world, so dating was a bit of a challenge. I had several members of the wrestling team who already hated me for some unknown reason and her ex-boyfriend was one of them. Nothing ever happened, of course, but the drama was there. Cheryl’s mom also didn’t approve of me, so that was interesting, too. She was a somewhat regular customer of Easy Street and had heard too many things about me from my mom that were unflattering.

Looking back, I think Cheryl liked the idea that I was kind of a “bad boy” in comparison to other guys she had dated. She was fascinated by the punk world and liked going to the parties I knew of and I even took her to a couple of shows, I think, too. She even took me to the barbers to get my end of the year mohawk.

My manager at Marshall’s, another person whose name I can’t remember, was tolerant of my mohawk because I was going in the Army at the end of the summer. I liked being able to go to work with it and on the weekends, she would even let me stand it up sometimes. 1987 was a funky year, for sure.

See you tomorrow.

The back of the shoe department kind of looked like this. I could straighten this in no time.

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