Nineteen days after the world changed forever, I started my second job out of college. The first job had spiraled downward only three months in, and with nine months left to pay on an apartment lease, I had opted to take a job selling furniture at the retail Thomasville gallery in Addison, Texas.
There were two big pros to the job. The first was that the store was literally four minutes from my apartment, which made the commute a dream. The second was that I figured that I could sell pretty much anything I was genuinely interested in, and truth be told, I was genuinely interested in furniture. The cons to the job were that it was 100% commission pay, and that I’d have to work weekends. A job is a job though, and you’ve gotta do what you gotta do, so I went into the whole thing with a pretty good attitude.
The whole world still remained visibly shaken over the events of September 11, and the old-timers on the sales floor welcomed me with a respect and appreciation that’s rarely found in competitive sales environments. There were about fourteen total sales people on staff in the store, and about half of that team was new. The handful of newbies and I would start training just a few days in, and training would last for about a month.
We were smorgasbord of oddballs. There was another girl my age, who didn’t know a thing about furniture or fabric. There was an older lady who loved decorating and was just so precious, a middle-aged mother of two who was dynamic and had a background in furniture sales, and another guy with several years of furniture sales experience, and a few others. When I walked into the storage space where they held training, and looked around at the lot of us, I couldn’t find one common thread, except for the fact that we’d all just been through the most horrific events of our lifetime within the past three weeks. Not surprisingly, that was all we needed to make a connection, build trust, and respect, and we quickly fell to good times, quick laughs, and figuring out this post-September 11 world together.
Life immediately perked up. Having friends to laugh with made all the difference in the world, even if it was just sitting around the tables at the store, waiting for customers to walk in. I started going to dinner with co-workers after work, and even kept in touch with my manager from my last job. My friend Jennifer arrived in Dallas around this point, and we found time to grab dinner as often as possible.
And then, towards the end of training and October, that guy with several years of furniture and sales experience asked little ol’ me to go to a pool party with a rather unfortunate Halloween theme. I’m not going to tell you what the specific theme was, but I can tell you it involved purple zoot suits for the men and that I can’t remember a single female in attendance participating in the women’s suggested costume. I wore something from Harold’s, no doubt: little black dress or the like. Halloween costumes weren’t in the budget.
After that, the nice guy and I started hanging out. Dallas got a bit more friendly, and that nice guy’s friends in the scary zoot suits turned out to be the nicest people in the world with the worst Halloween fashion sense ever. It turned out I was pretty good at selling furniture, and that I was pretty good at getting dates. The older gals at the store started setting me up with their decorating clients (single guys in Dallas hire decorators, turns out) and friends, and I started to have a really good time, building a tiny community of people whom I still call dear friends.
By April of 2002, however, the enchantment had worn off. I was tired of working nights and weekends, and while I had totally developed a crush on that nice guy, he wasn’t interested in returning the affection, and was going to be leaving the store to take on another job at the end of April. The unity that we’d all felt after the impact of 9/11 had faded. One of our teammates couldn’t make her numbers, and was let go. Another leader in the store was moving to California. A third co-worker and friend had been fired, and none of us knew why. Yet another guy was transitioning to the real estate world. There had been some drama in the back office, and they had hired a really annoying new sales lady who made it very clear from day one that she disapproved of and disliked me a great deal. My apartment lease was coming to an end, and that was the only push I needed to decide to wrap things up and head back up north, move in with my parents, and try to figure out where life was going to take me next.
My mom came down to help me pack, and I emptied my apartment into my GMC Jimmy and said goodbye to new friends: my best friend Jennifer, who taught me the art of frugality, my friend Suzanne, who had taught me all about the traditions of Dallas living, and that really nice guy who I’d sold furniture with for nine months.
It was definitely a short chapter, and not particularly a happy one, given the shadows surrounding it, but it was a pretty important chapter, because six and a half years after October 1, 2001, I’d end up marrying that really nice guy with the crazy zoot suit friends.
I said my goodbyes, and hit I-35 to head back to Oklahoma, my family, and back to the only job I’d ever know outside of furniture: selling wedding invitations at a stationery store.
Side note: he doesn’t look very happy in that picture, but I’m pretty sure he wasn’t unhappy. He’s one of the happiest guys I know, still! It’s one of the only early pictures I have of us, unfortunately. Cell phone cameras hadn’t been invented yet. How weird is that?