Recently, I showed you the line-up of amazing bloggers who committed to sharing their most embarrassing moments over the course of the year. If you surf Twitter, you will be able to find the series under the hashtag #SoWrong. And a lot of other crazy shizz, too. Probably. Last week it occurred to me that it wouldn’t be right if I didn’t share one of my own heinous moments. Gulp. Here it is.
During high school, I worked at a department store in a local mall. At its peak, the chain had ten locations, and I spent many afternoons, weekends and vacations behind the costume jewelry counter, helping blue-haired ladies decide between faux-pearl earrings and plastic white clip-ons.
When I came home from college in the winter of 1985, I learned I’d be working in fine jewelry where black surveillance cameras hovered over the display cases.
One day, a man in an expensive gray suit leaned against the glass case where the 24k gold was kept and flashed me his whitest smile.
My heart beat loud in my chest. Gray Suit was cute. I wondered if he was single.
“Is there something you’d like to see?” I asked, hoping he would say something like: You. I’m here for you.
“Didn’t Carol tell you?” Gray Suit asked, invoking the name of my supervisor.
When I shook my head, Gray Suit frowned. My teenage heart dropped.
“Let’s start over.” Gray Suit outstretched his hand.
We shook hands the way my father always said was indicative of a person with character: firm and not too quick to release.
His lips moved. “I’m John Stevens, the gold rep. I come to swap out the inventory occasionally.” He set a hard, silver briefcase on the floor, bent over and produced several, rose-colored velvet bags, which he set on the glass countertop, careful not to leave messy fingerprints.
“I need you to get the keys from that drawer over there and put everything inside these bags.”
John flashed his dimples.
I bit my thumb. “I think I should probably wait until Carol gets back from lunch…”
John glanced at his watch. “I still have to get to North Syracuse, Camillus and Clay.” I could feel his frustration. “Carol should have told you I was coming.” John shook his head. “I guess I’ll go see Mr. Big Boss…” He leaned over to lift the handle of his briefcase.
And I should have let him go.
Oh, I should have let him go.
But I was 18-years old.
And I didn’t want my supervisor to get in trouble with Mr. Big Boss.
And there was this small stupid part of me that hoped that John Stevens, the hot guy with the great smile, might want my phone number. Or something.
So I did as I was told.
I drifted over to the drawer where the key laid waiting inside a small white cup. And somehow I was pushing the tiny tarnished key into the lock. Once the lock was off, I slid open the doors, dropped to my knees, dragging all the gold into one clunky pile.
John handed me a velvet bag, which I filled and set atop the empty display case. He smiled as he flipped open his briefcase and placed the bag inside. He tapped the top of the tall earrings tower with his fingertips.
“I’m going to bring everything out to the van, and then I’ll come back with the new inventory.”
I nodded. Of course he would.
“We don’t like to leave the cases empty for long.” John explained, shifting his weight from one foot to the other. “Every minute the case is empty, we lose potential sales.”
He promised he’d be right back.
When Carol returned from her break, I told her John had been there.
“Who?” she asked absently as she tidied up around the cash register.
“The gold rep” I said. “You just missed him. He took the old gold, but he should be back with the new stuff any minute.”
Carol looked at me with big eyes.
And then I knew.
I was a stupid girl.
My idiocy was confirmed when Carol stood in front of the empty display case and held her hand up to her throat, like something was burning there. “How long has he been gone?”
The words caught in my mouth. “About five minutes.”
Notoriously unflappable, Carol stomped her heel on the floor and swore.
I had done something really bad.
In Mr. Big Boss’s office, I sat in the naughty chair and wept. As he questioned me, I remembered something. “The cameras! He was standing in front of one of the cameras the whole time!”
I was elated. Thank goodness. We could get the footage and give it to the police. We would be able to catch the bad guy.
Mr. Big Boss rubbed his huge palm over his bald head and looked at me with soft eyes. He could probably tell I was confused. “The cameras aren’t real. They’re there to deter theft, but there’s no film inside. That guy probably knew they were fake. He seemed to know everything else.”
And, I thought, he knew how to work me.
I was sure I was going to be fired.
I braced myself for it.
Instead, Mr. Big Boss called the day “a learning experience.”
It was not the first time nor would it be the last time that a boy would trick me.
But it was a very embarrassing moment: the day I swapped nearly 10K in gold for a phony smile.
The fancy department store where I worked opened its doors in 1896. In 1992, the corporation filed for bankruptcy and four stores closed. Under pressure from creditors, Mr. Big Boss, grandson of the founder, sold the company and its remaining stores in 1994, just two years short of their 100-year anniversary.
I have always felt partially responsible.
Have you ever done something incredibly stupid at work?
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