I would work in the footwear section of a sporting goods store for free. I actually had this job for awhile while I was in ROTC. I loved every minute of it. I got to try on all the shoes I ever wanted to try on and I bought a bunch more of shoes that I didn’t really need but loved anyway.
What I really loved about it was connecting to people, like the kid whose mom didn’t realize he needed to be wearing shoes three sizes bigger. Or the guy who wanted to start running but wasn’t sure where to start with shoes. Or the kid whose parents were so proud to take him to the “big store” instead of KMart to buy him new shoes. They bought the cheapest shoes we had on sale, but it was a step up from what he had been wearing. If I could’ve bought him the shoes he kept looking at, I would’ve. He was such a good kid. His parents kept saying things like, “Isn’t it great to buy shoes here? Isn’t it great that you could get these?” He just kept agreeing with them while silently admiring all the other shoes. He never once threw a fit or did anything to hurt his parents. I hope he’s doing great now and has a great job. And that he can buy whatever shoes he wants.
I always knew the job would be temporary because I was going back into the Air Force no matter what. My manager, Erik, kept dangling the carrot of key associate over my head if I performed well. It never mattered to me because I had to leave. Even if I didn’t successfully complete my ROTC program, I would’ve had to go back in as enlisted. There was no staying in NY after that. When I gave my notice, he was devastated. I told him repeatedly that I was going to be leaving and he didn’t seem to mind that it would be so short term. I often wonder where he ended up as well. He knew shoes and he was great at customer service, but he also didn’t take crap. We had a guy who obviously shoved a pin through the gel cushion in a pair of 5 year old ASICS. The guy started screaming at Erik when Erik told him they were absolutely not defective and he could see the pin pricks in the gel. The guy exploded and Erik told him to pick up his shoes and get the hell out of the store. He told the guy that those shoes were at least 5 years old, and had reached the end of their useful life, especially because they were so beat up. But the guy left, with his shoes, no refund and no new shoes. I admired that about him. He knew his stuff.
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